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

Sunday, February 20, 2011

February 21, 2011 Major News Stories (

February 21, 2011 Major News Stories
February 21, 2011 Major News Stories

Kidnap-slay victim buried

CEBU CITY -- Ellah Joy Pique was buried Sunday, 12 days after she was abducted and killed allegedly by a Norwegian national and Filipino nurse.

Pique was laid to rest at Pardo Public Cemetery in Cebu past 2:30 p.m.

Amid the hot weather, several people came to Pique's burial, including her relatives, friends and classmates.

On Saturday night, the family and relatives of Pique held a final mass for her.

Fr. Brian Brigoli, who celebrated the mass, said he hopes Pique's real killers will be arrested.

Pique, 6, was last seen around 4 p.m. of February 8 waving goodbye to two friends and classmates at the Calajo-an Elementary School in Minglanilla town, as she boarded a black sports utility vehicle, joining a Caucasian man who drove it and a Filipino woman on the passenger seat.

At 7:55 a.m. of February 10, her naked body was found at the foot of a cliff along the national road in Barangay Sayaw, Barili, more than 40 kilometers away from home.

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

The discovery ended a frantic search by her father Renante, 40, who began looking for her at 5 p.m. of February 8 when she failed to come home from the Calajo-an Elementary School in Minglanilla town.

Pique is his youngest child and only daughter.

Police have filed criminal complaints against Sven Erik Berger, a Norwegian computer engineer, and his Cebuana fiancée Karen Esdrelon, a nurse, in connection with the abduction and death of Pique.

The suspects, however, denied being responsible in the abduction and murder of the girl, with Berger saying he is worried that by focusing on them, the police may end up letting the real killers go scot-free.

Pique's camp, for its part, worries that authorities aren't doing enough to bring her killers to justice.

"Morag way hustisya diri kay kwarta may palihokon (There doesn't seem to be any justice here, because money gets certain things done)," said Adelaida Caparada, the girl's grandmother.

Caparada confirmed that Pique's father, Renante, is discouraged by recent developments in the case. She referred to reports that evidence has turned up to support the alibis of Esdrelon and Berger.

A provincial task force against crime will present to the prosecutor's office on Monday some findings unearthed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that support the couple's alibi.

These include security camera footage showing the couple checking in at 4:45 p.m. last February 8 at the Waterfront Hotel in Lahug, Cebu City.

Renante, the girl's father, has lamented the progress in the investigation of his daughter's death.

He asked for help from the Minglanilla town hall last Thursday, specifically for a vehicle to ferry his daughter's remains to Barangay Pardo, Cebu City for the burial.

Meanwhile, the municipal council has put a P100,000 bounty on the heads of those responsible for the abduction and murder of Pique.

Apart from the cash reward, the municipal government has also given P10,000 as aid to the family.

Witnesses said the six-year-old was lured into a black SUV by a Filipina and a Caucasian man, just outside her school in Calajoan, Minglanilla.

The local police are still conducting investigation to bring the girl's killers to justice.

Pique laid to rest Quest for justice goes on

by By Mylene P. Manto and Ria Mae Y. Booc/FPL

CEBU, Philippines -The six-year-old girl, who was allegedly abducted and killed by a Norwegian national and his Cebuana fiancee, was laid to rest at 2:30 p.m. yesterday at Pardo Public Cemetery with over 6,000 people in attendance.

Amid the hot weather, the people, aside from the family and relatives of Ellah Joy Pique, joined the funeral march. Among the people who came were Pique’s classmates, friends, police officers from Minglanilla and Cebu Provincial Police Office, members of the Philippine Street Watch Incorporation of Minglanilla, Boy Scouts of the Philippines Cebu Council and New Guardians for Freedom and Democracy.

Banners and posters emblazoned with words calling for justice to the child were placed on the hearse. One of the posters read, “Jail the killer; protection of school children.”

Father Eliseo Gaballo who officiated the funeral mass at the Pardo Parish Church emphasized in his homily not to put revenge in the heart and justice in the hands because only God has the right to punish the perpetrators.

Gaballo prays that the soul of Pique will touch the assailants’ heart and admit to the crime.

“Dili unta ta manimawos kay ang Diyos mismo ang muhatag og hustisya,” Gaballo said.

Magpale on police probes: Let psychologist assist minors

by By Gregg M. Rubio/JMO

Board Member Agnes Magpale is requesting the Cebu Provincial Police Office to provide a well-trained psychologist and/or psychiatrist to assist minors who are called to help identify suspects during investigations.

DILG chief to LGUs: stop the increase of squatters in urban areas

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines--Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo has placed on barangay officials the primary responsibility of controlling the proliferation of squatters in urban areas.

Robredo issued the guidelines in a memorandum circular to all governors, mayors and barangay captains (town captains).

Robredo was tasked by President Benigno Aquino III to address the problem of informal settlers in view of his success in Naga City when he was the mayor.

In his memorandum, Robredo directed all barangay captains and barangay councils to adopt measures to curtail the proliferation of squatters and mendicants in their communities.

He also urged barangay captains to find ways to relocate existing informal settlers with due regard to their welfare.

Provincial governors and city and municipal mayors meanwhile were tasked to support barangay leaders' initiatives to prevent the proliferation of squatter communities or to spur them to take action.

He asked governors and mayors to give their barangay officials technical, financial and other possible forms of assistance to address the problem.

"It shall be the concern of the city or municipal mayor to prevent any elective or appointive local official from interfering with the lawful efforts of a punong barangay (towns chief) or of any appropriate government agency personnel to rid an area of informal settlers," Robredo said.

He reminded local officials that tolerating informal settlements along esteros (inlet canal), creeks, waterways riverbanks and shorelines is a violation of law, while permitting informal settlements along railroad tracks sidewalks, landfills, public cemeteries or in parks and playgrounds is an utter disregard of public safety and an affront to human decency.

Robredo at the same time directed all regional directors and field officials of the Department of Interior and Local Government to monitor compliance and submit a monthly report on the actions taken by concerned local officials.

Tomas to the mayor: Reveal 300 concerns

by By Jessica Ann R. Pareja/BRP

CEBU, Philippines - Cebu City Representative Tomas Osmeña dared Mayor Michael Rama to reveal the “300 concerns” that Rama said the previous administration was unable to solve.

If the mayor will continue to refuse to be “transparent” Osmeña threatened to reveal most of it, and then he said he will let the people decide if his administration has indeed failed to do anything about them.

Boundary dispute Labangon, Guadalupe ask council to mediate

by By Garry B. Lao/FPL

CEBU, Philippines - The barangay captains of Labangon and Guadalupe have asked the intercession of the Cebu City Council to settle their boundary dispute.

Barangay captains Michael Gacasan and Victor Buendia of Guadalupe and Labangon, respectively, made separate requests to the City Council to solve the conflict between the two barangays.

13T senior citizens have yet to get aid promised by City

by cebuweb

AT least 13,000 senior citizens in Cebu City have not yet received their P4,000 financial assistance from the City Government, an official said.

Ten months after it was stopped, the Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs (Osca) head Guillermo Casinillo said the City has not yet resumed the financial assistance to the elderly until now.

Of the 50,000 senior citizens in the city, Casinillo told Sun.Star Cebu, only 37,000 were able to get their share of the financial assistance.

“So daghan pa gyud kaayo ang wa natagaan (Many of them have yet to receive the assistance),” he said.

As per his request: Cop chief relieved over "harassment"

by By Ryan Christopher J. Sorote

The Cebu Provincial Police Office has granted the request of Talisay City Police Station chief Supt. Henry Biñas to be relieved from his post following allegations that he sexually harassed a female reporter of Cebu Daily News.

Cardinal Vidal ‘would’ve wanted’ to keep security, but thanks military just the same

by cebuweb

FOR many years, two members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) served as security guards to Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal during his pastoral visits.

But since the 80-year-old prelate stepped down from office last month, his security detail has been reassigned.

Balili children want P7.4M from sale of lot

by cebuweb

THE four children of the Balili couple want the court to order the release of their P7. 413 million share in the sale of their parent’s property in Naga City, Cebu.

The heirs – Louise Therese, Ma. Carla, Pocholo and Janette –asked Judge Ester Veloso on Feb. 14 to release their share of the proceeds of the sale of the Balili beachfront property.

Dave Villarin, counsel for the four Balili heirs, filed a motion to release a check worth P7,413,996.88, which represents the share of the petitioners in the estate of their father, the late engineer Luis Balili.

HRRAC,CATO: Restroom ordinance "anti-business"

by By Garry B. Lao/FPL

The Hotel, Resorts and Restaurants Association of Cebu as well as the Cebu Association of Tour Operators are strongly opposed to the proposed ordinance in the Cebu City Council that compels all business establishments to open their comfort rooms for public use.

'Oldest' woman political prisoner freed on 3rd day of peace talks

On the third day of peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), a Misamis Occidental court ordered the release of a 66-year-old woman, believed to be the country’s oldest political prisoner, after almost six years in prison.

In a statement released Saturday night, the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) said peace advocate Angelina Bisuña Ipong was released from the Misamis Occidental Provincial Jail in Oroquieta City, after criminal charges against her were dismissed.

UPLM said Judge Bernadette Paredes-Encinareal ordered the dismissal of charges of double murder, double frustrated murder and arson against Ipong, a lay missionary and teacher who has been in prison since 2005.

She was subsequently released on February 17, the third day of the peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP commenced in Oslo, Norway.

The cases were filed against her by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), according to UPLM.

Arrested on Women’s Day

The UPLM said Ipong’s release came a few weeks before March 8, International Women’s Day, which also marks the sixth year since her arrest in Aloran, Misamis Occidental.

“UPLM hails the dismissal as a victory in the fight against massive human rights violation committed by state forces, as the cases were fought mainly on the merits by Ipong and her counsel in the past six years," the UPLM stated in its release.

According to UPLM, earlier repeated calls by both local and international groups and individuals for her release on humanitarian grounds had been ignored, especially during the time of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The release said that UPLM vice chairperson Emiliano Deleverio, who served as Ipong’s counsel, received a copy of a letter from Pablito Sanidad, a member of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) peace negotiating panel and himself a human rights lawyer, sent to the court asking to expedite its decision on Ipong’s cases.

“UPLM… acknowledges the critical importance of Atty. Sanidad’s letter to the court, and the overall significance of the peace process in her eventual release," the group said.

Ipong was a graduate of the Ateneo de Naga University and a member of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Mindanao.

She was arrested by policemen and soldiers on March 8, 2005, and was accused of being community organizer for the communist-led New People’s Army (NPA).

She was likewise linked to bus bombings and murders in Mindanao, but she and various groups had maintained the charges were fabricated.

“She was blindfolded by elements of the 1st Tabak Division of the Philippine Army and held incommunicado for a week; she was also tortured and sexually molested," UPLM alleged in the same statement.

UPLM is now calling on the Aquino administration to order the unconditional release of other political prisoners all over the country, estimated by various groups to be over 300, as a goodwill gesture from the government in light of the peace process. (See: Bayan to Aquino: Have a heart, release all political prisoners)

“Political prisoners are prisoners of conscience for any repressive administration. Anyone espousing a political belief should not be imprisoned," the group said.

Two others earlier arrested

Just three days before Ipong’s release, however, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leader Alan Jazmines was arrested in Baliuag, Bulacan on charges of rebellion and murder.

The CPP has maintained the charges were trumped up, and that Jazmines is an NDFP peace consultant and is therefore granted covered by immunity under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) that both sides are supposed to observe. (See: Jazmines: My arrest is a sabotage of peace process)

Apart from Jazmines, Ericson Acosta, another suspected leader of the CPP, was likewise arrested on February 13 by the Philippine Army, but his arrest was announced only three days later. (See: Army: Another CPP official in govt hands)

On the other hand, the NPA, CPP’s armed wing, released retired Master Sergeant Mario Veluz of the Philippine ArmyandPO3 George Sabatin of the Philippine National Police on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Government forces and the NDFP are currently observing a ceasefire to mark the resumption of peace talks from February 15 to 21 after nearly seven years.

Talks between the NDFP and the government crumbled in 2004 after the Philippine government under then President Arroyo rejected the NDFP demand to urge the US and the European Union to take the NPA and the CPP off the list of international terrorist organizations.

Communist rebels to free Davao cop

MANILA, Philippines – The New People’s Army (NPA) announced Sunday that they will release a police officer to support the peace between talks between armed communist rebels and the government.

The NPA’s Merardo Arce Command in Southern Mindanao said Police Officer 2 Jerwel Montecillo Tugade, whom they called as a “prisoner of war,” will be freed.

GMA welcome in EDSA celebrations, but…

MANILA, Philippines - As far as Malacanang is concerned, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo can join the 25th anniversary celebration of the People Power Revolution at EDSA.

This does not mean, however, that the current leadership is ready for a reconciliation.

In an interview with radio dzRB, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said “respect is accorded to every person who has become president of the country.”

She said “[the celebrations] do not solely belong to one family…we should all partake in the celebrations.”

If indeed Arroyo partakes in the celebrations, however, Valte only said: “[President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III] has, in the past, said ‘there can be no justice without justice.’”

Asked to explain further, Valte stressed “there are a lot of things that happened in the past administration that are not good.”

The EDSA People Power Commission has prepared a series of activities to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the People Power.

The celebration started last February 17 and will end on February 27.

Aquino will have a “boodle lunch” with some 2,500 people along an Edsa strip on the 25th.

CoA sounds alarm on roster of military pensioners

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Audit has asked the military to scrutinize and verify its pensioners' records, after finding that there were 184 beneficiaries between the ages of 95 and 110, while 18,000 other pensioners do not have birth dates on record.

In its 2009 report on the Armed Forces of the Philippines General Headquarters, the CoA also recommended that the military impose strong record management controls to monitor the existence of pensioners, and regularly update the data for each beneficiary.

According to the audit agency, it was not discounting the possibility that there really are centenarian pensioners.

But since the average lifespan of Filipinos, as revealed by the National Statistical Coordination Board, was 71.6 years for women, and 66.1 years for men, the AFP should be make sure its records are accurate, the CoA said.

It found that 42 pensioners were in the 100-110 age bracket, while 142 were in the 95-99 bracket. These pensioners received P2.3 million in 2009.

“Since the above pensioners fall beyond the said average lifespan, it is extremely important that the agency should have strict procedures of confirmation/validation to prove that they are still living,” it said.

The AFP, for its part, said that the average lifespan of Filipinos is one of the factors it takes into account when validating records of pensioners, but added that it can't ignore the fact that some pensioners do live to be centenarians.

But it admitted that some of the recorded data was inaccurate, and this was attributed to erroneous encoding. The data was being reconciled, it added. It said that pensioners who are 70 years old or older are being asked to adopt the passbook account.

The CoA also raised a red flag on the presence of over 18,000 surviving heirs or beneficiaries of military retirement and separation benefits who have no birth dates on record.

The 18,051 pensioners or surviving heirs had received P196.526 million in 2009.

According to the audit agency, the age of the beneficiaries is vital to determine their entitlement to pension benefits.

“Considering the magnitude of pensioners with no information as to their birth date, there is a possibility that their ages will fall beyond the said limitation,” it said.

The AFP, for its part, said that the number of beneficiaries with no birth dates has already been reduced to 11,746 due to the encoding of the Pensioner's Update Form.

The AFP Finance Center also said that it inherited the incomplete data from the defunct AFP Computer Center when it accepted the responsibility of Pension Processing. But the incompleteness of records could also be blamed on the complacency of pensioners who do not fill out the forms properly.

It said that the date of birth does not affect the release of pensions except those classified under guardianship. It said only 992 were under this classification, and the records would be updated in the next pension cleansing activity.

The CoA also called the AFP's attention to the existence of 4,220 beneficiaries with no mailing addresses. Out of these, 22 have the option to receive the pension through mail.

“This situation poses the issue on how the agency could possibly send/mail the pension checks of those with no addresses and therefore, casts doubts as to the validity/propriety of the disbursements,” it said.

But the AFP said there was a mislabelling, and that the allotments of the 22 pensioners were being picked up by an authorized representative every month.

Under the AFP Military Personnel Retirement and Separation Decree, retired officers or enlisted men are entitled to receive a gratuity either in lump sum or in monthly payments.

The survivors of officers or enlisted men are also entitled to a monthly payment equivalent to 75 percent of the monthly retirement pay.

Binay: Nothing offered to China on Pinoy drug mules


MANILA, Philippines  - Vice-President Jejomar Binay said nothing was offered to China in exchange for the postponement of the execution of 3 Filipinos convicted of drug trafficking.

Jinggoy: Find brains behind heroin smuggling

Government authorities should start looking for certain individuals or groups of people who prodded the three convicted Filipinos to smuggle drugs into China, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said Sunday.

Migrante asks gov’t to help others on death row


MANILA, Philippines - A group advocating for migrants’ rights has asked the government not to waste time in seeking the commutation of the sentences of 79 overseas Filipino workers on China’s death row and 120 more in other countries.

Palace appoints Roxas as emissary to Taiwan


MANILA, Philippines - Former Senator Mar Roxas will be leaving tomorrow for Taiwan in a bid to explain to officials a decision to deport 14 of its nationals to the People’s Republic of China.

Fil-Am, buddy face 50 years to life for Pinay 'Black Widow' slay

A Filipino American US Navy enlisted man and his buddy were convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder by a Los Angeles jury on Thursday for the killing of a Filipina hairdresser dubbed by the US media as the “Lomita Black Widow."

In a telephone interview, Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said that either 31-year-old Filipino Eric Santander De la Cruz, or his fellow Navy man Fernando Romero, 27, will likely be sentenced to 50 years to life, while the other will get 51 years to life in prison.

“Because one of them pulled the trigger, an additional one year will be added to the sentence," Lewin explained.

The Navy men were convicted of killing De la Cruz’s grandaunt, Sonia Rios Risken, based on “complicated circumstantial evidence that involve cell phone and bank records, and emails although the gun was missing from her home." Sonia was found dead on April 26, 2007 in her home in Lomita, California, a suburb south of Los Angeles.

De la Cruz testified during the trial that Sonia, whom he called “Grandma," had raised him and was expecting to inherit her money and property.

Prosecutors believe greed motivated De la Cruz and Romero to kill Sonia.

“Mr. De la Cruz just wanted the money that he thought was coming to him, and he didn’t want to wait," Lewin said.

‘Lomita Black Widow’

The slain Sonia Rios Risken, 60, herself was earlier suspected of masterminding the deaths of her first husband, Earl John Bourdeau, and her second husband, Larry Risken, prompting media outlets to dub her as “Lomita Black Widow." (See: Trial begins for Pinay's murder in California)

In 1987, Bourdeau, a retired Marine, was found shot to death inside Sonia’s family home in Cavite in the Philippines. He had planned to divorce her.

Nineteen years later in April of 2006, Sonia’s second husband, Larry Risken, was also shot in the head during a visit to his wife’s family in Cavite. Larry had also wanted to divorce Sonia. His body was immediately cremated.

On both their respective final trips to the Philippines, Bourdeau and Risken were not accompanied by Sonia.

Crime details ‘unraveled’

During the trial of De la Cruz and Romero, it was disclosed that Sonia was the likely killer of Risken. The US Embassy in Manila wrote Risken’s father on March 10, 2009, saying that the Philippine police investigators had suspected Sonia Risken of having been behind his son’s killing. Police did not pursue the case following her death.

Things unraveled when De la Cruz set up a ruse pretending to be Bordeau’s son, John, by creating an email account under John’s name in 2007. De la Cruz e-mailed the sister of Risken, saying he could retrieve her brother’s remains in the Philippines for $35,000.

In a subsequent email, De la Cruz also offered to kill Sonia for a sum of money, according to prosecutors.

In his email, De la Cruz said that he has a friend who can kill Sonia, and all he needed was her permission for the contract-killing “first and then [Risken’s sister] can pay him later."

At the time of Sonia’s killing, both De la Cruz and Romero were supposed to be on duty aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. De la Cruz asked Romero to be “trigger man" because he could not pull the trigger himself.

When Romero failed to kill Sonia at her beauty shop a week before her death on his first try, De la Cruz went ashore to help Romero finish the job.

Sonia let her grandnephew into her house with Romero because she trusted him.

“Fernando Romero… had to be the one to pull the trigger," Lewin said. “She was executed… Never saw it coming."

Incriminating evidence

Investigators traced the emails to the aircraft carrier and ports where De la Cruz was serving. The bank account where the money was to be sent is under the name of Maria Perez, De la Cruz’s girlfriend, who is now his wife.

Romero and De la Cruz’s calling cards and cell phone records placed them together in Lomita at the time of the shooting. Romero’s phone number was reflected in Sonia’s caller ID before the beauty shop shooting.

A few days after her death, De la Cruz went to Sonia’s attorney, asking if he was listed in her will.

Donald Levinson, De la Cruz’s defense attorney, and Ludlow Creary, Romero’s defense lawyer, however, claim that the evidence against their clients was “too weak to convict the men of murder," saying, probers found no physical evidence, gun, fingerprints, or DNA to directly tying the men to the crime.

The defense lawyers said that after Torrance Superior Court pronounces sentences on their clients on March 16, they are going to mount an appeal their conviction.

Over 29,700 pass nursing board exams

A total of 29,711 out of 84,287 passed the Nurse Licensure Examination given by the Board of Nursing in the cities of Manila, Baguio, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Dagupan, Davao, Ilocos Sur, Iloilo, La Union, Legazpi, Lucena, Nueva Ecija, Pagadian, Pampanga, Tacloban, Tuguegarao and Zamboanga in December.

De Lima inspects remains of 'chainsaw massacre' victims

Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima arrived here Saturday to personally inspect the skeletal remains of 2 individuals that have been excavated by authorities in separate sites last week.

The remains were those of supposed victims of the Ampatuan clan's "chainsaw massacre."

The first site excavated on Thursday was in Sitio Tabadiya, Barangay Timbangan. Skeletal remains were found at the corn field plantation owned by Zaldy Ampatuan.

De Lima told ABS-CBN News that authorities have an idea as to who could be the victim. She said, however, that the remains will still have to undergo forensic laboratory examinations, including DNA testing.

The second site was in Barangay Limpongo, Datu Hoffer, found by authorities Friday morning.

Based on the testimonies of families of the victims, they were allegedly killed by Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr, or also known as Datu Unsay.

"It’s a credible source kasi natukoy ang exact location ng mga skelatal remains. Hindi madaling makakuha ng search warrant," she said.

After the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre, de Lima said families of other victims of atrocities done by the Ampatuan clan have surfaced, including those of the chainsaw massacre victims.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has a list of these alleged victims but would not divulge it for now.

De Lima is optimistic that, one of these days, authorities will find the skeletal remains of these other missing persons.

Meanwhile, the DOJ is set to file charges against other members of the Ampatuan clan who may be involved in the so-called chainsaw massacre victims.

DOJ OKs bill on registration of SIM cards


MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice has given its sanction to a proposal by Congress for the registration of prepaid subscriber identification module (SIM) cards in order to discourage crimes, such as kidnap-for-ransom and terrorism activities.

BOC to get P12M from sale of 'Philippine Dream'

by By Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon/WAB

The Bureau of Customs will soon be receiving the P12 million as payment for demurrage fees and customs taxes and duties out of the proceeds of the sale of Philippine Dream, that has reportedly escaped or released from Customs’ custody few years ago sans payment of taxes.

Malacanang sets dialogue with RPN-9 union


MANILA, Philippines - Presidential Communications and Operation Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. is set to hold another dialogue with the labor union of the Radio Philippines Network (Channel 9) as part of the government’s privatization blueprint.

DFA urged to issue travel advisories to Bahrain, Libya


MANILA, Philippines - Senator Manny Villar has called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to issue travel advisories against travelling to Bahrain and Libya amid escalating tensions there.

Libya Muslim leaders tell troops to stop 'massacre'

TRIPOLI, Libya - Libyan Muslim leaders told security forces to stop killing civilians, responding to a spiralling death toll from unrest which threatens veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi's authority.

Libyan forces have shot dead dozens of anti-government protesters in the eastern city of Benghazi in the latest violence, according to an Al Jazeera television report.

The broadcast came after Human Rights Watch said 84 people had already been killed over three days in a fierce security crackdown mounted in response to protests that seek to emulate uprisings in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia.

Britain's Independent on Sunday said the body count in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, may be as high as 200.

"Dozens were killed ... We are in the midst of a massacre here," a witness told Reuters. The man said he helped take victims to hospital in Benghazi.

Benghazi and the surrounding area have been the focus of the unrest, but posts on social network sites referred to minor clashes in the capital Tripoli and of overnight gunfire in Nalut, to the west.

Al Jazeera on Sunday reported some security personnel captured by protesters appeared to be foreign mercenaries. Earlier, the channel said security forces fired at mourners at a funeral killing at least 15 people.

The bloody crackdown prompted about 50 Libyan Muslim religious leaders to issue an appeal, sent to Reuters, for the security forces, as Muslims, to stop the killing.

"This is an urgent appeal from religious scholars (faqihs and Sufi sheikhs), intellectuals, and clan elders from Tripoli, Bani Walid, Zintan, Jadu, Msalata, Misrata, Zawiah, and other towns and villages of the western area," said the appeal.

"We appeal to every Muslim, within the regime or assisting it in any way, to recognize that the killing of innocent human beings is forbidden by our Creator and by His beloved Prophet of Compassion (peace be upon him)... Do NOT kill your brothers and sisters. STOP the massacre NOW!"

Libya watchers say an Egypt-style nationwide revolt is unlikely because Gaddafi, in power for four decades, has oil cash to smooth over social problems, and is still respected in much of the country.

Witness accounts have been hard to independently verify because Libyan authorities have not allowed foreign journalists into the country since the protests against Gaddafi erupted and local reporters have been barred from travelling to Benghazi.

Mobile phone connections have been frequently out of service and Internet service in Libya has been cut off, according to a U.S. company that monitors web traffic. A Benghazi hospital doctor said victims had suffered severe wounds from high-velocity rifles. Comments on social network sites suggested one man was hit by an anti-aircraft missile and a city resident told the BBC that mortars were being used.

"Gaddafi will find it hard to make concessions in order to survive. I think the attitude of the Libyan regime is that it's all or nothing," Sir Richard Dalton, a former British ambassador to Libya, told the Independent on Sunday newspaper.

'Out of control'

A Benghazi resident said security forces were confined to a compound from which snipers were firing at protesters.

"Right now, the only military presence in Benghazi is confined to the Command Centre Complex in the city. The rest of the city is liberated," he said.

"Thousands and thousands of people have gathered in front of Benghazi's court house....All of the revolutionary committee (local government) offices and police stations in the city have been burned," he said.

The account could not be independently verified and a security source earlier gave a different version, saying the situation in the Benghazi region was "80 percent under control".

The private Quryna newspaper, which is based in Benghazi and has been linked to one of Gaddafi's sons, said 24 people were killed in Benghazi on Friday. It said security forces fired to stop protesters attacking the police headquarters and a military base where weapons were stored.

"The guards were forced to use bullets," the paper said.

Italy's Ansa news agency quoted an Italian witness in Benghazi as saying the city was "completely out of control".

"All the government and institutional buildings and a bank have been burnt, and the rebels have ransacked and destroyed everything. There's no one on the streets, not even the police," said the witness, who declined to be identified.

The government has not released any casualty figures or made any official comment on the violence.

The violence has been largely concentrated around Benghazi, some 1,000 km (625 miles) east of the capital, where support for Gaddafi has traditionally been weaker than elsewhere.

In Green Square in the centre of Tripoli, next to the walled old city, several hundred people gathered on Saturday, waving portraits of Gaddafi and chanting "Our revolutionary leader!" and "We follow your path", a Reuters reporter said.

A state-controlled newspaper said the violence was part of "the dirty plans and the conspiracies designed by America and Zionism and the traitors of the West."

Thousands demand change in Morocco

RABAT – Several thousand people rallied in Moroccan cities on Sunday demanding political reform and limits on the powers of the king, the latest protests demanding change to have rocked the region.

China web users call for 'Jasmine Revolution'

BEIJING-- Postings circulating on the Internet have called on disgruntled Chinese to gather on Sunday in public places in 13 major cities to mark the "Jasmine Revolution" spreading through the Middle East.

63 killed in Afghan east ops – governor

ASADABAD – Military operations and airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan have killed 63 people in the past week, mostly civilians including 20 women, a provincial governor said Sunday.

Pinoys proud of Donaire's win


MANILA, Philippines – A 2nd-round knockout win by Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire, Jr. over Mexican foe Fernando Montiel wowed boxing fans and experts alike.

Pacquiao runs late, misses Donaire's 'moment'

MANILA, Philippines – It seems that the boxing world didn't see Nonito Donaire Jr.'s 2nd round knockout win, over Fernando Montiel, coming.

Neither did Manny Pacquiao.

According to ABS-CBN News North America correspondent Bev Llorente, Pacquiao missed witnessing how Donaire toppled his Mexican foe as he was late for the Mandalay Resorts fight.

"Manny Pacquiao was supposed to [go to the] fight but he was too late already because it was too short. It was 25 seconds in the ring when the referee called it a TKO," Llorente said Sunday via phone patch on ANC's Headlines.

Donaire threw a right hook at Montiel, knocking him down in the second round.

Montiel struggled to stand up but fell once more.

The "Filipino Flash" attacked his defenseless opponent again, prompting the referee to halt the bout.

With the feat, the 28-year-old Donaire seized from Montiel the the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization bantamweight crowns.

Donaire has been eyed to follow the footsteps of boxing superstar and compatriot Pacquiao, after stunning earlier the boxing world via a 4th round stoppage against Ukranian Wladimir Sidorenko last December.

Pacquiao himself called Donaire "impressive," saying that the bantamweight champ may also rise to superstardom.

"Saludo ako at sana ipagpatuloy mo at sana masundan mo ang yapak ko," he had said.

Meantime, Pacquiao is in the US to promote his bout with "Sugar" Shane Mosley this May.

The Sarangani Congressman has also dropped by the White House to meet with US President Barack Obama last week.

PH's Melligen beats Mexican foe by unanimous decision

Filipino welterweight boxer "Mighty" Mark Jason Melligen defeated Mexican foe Gabriel Martinez by unanimous decision in their undercard clash held at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, Saturday night (Sunday morning in Manila).

PNoy urged to back anti-smoking campaign


MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III should support a global campaign against smoking, doctors said.

Jinggoy holds star-studded b-day party

MANILA, Philippines – Naging star-studded ang 48th birthday celebration ni Sen. Jinggoy Estrada noong Sabado ng gabi.

Ang mga personalidad mula show business at pulitika ay dumagsa sa selebrasyon. Pati ang military corruption whistleblower na si George Rabusa ay nakisaya din. Kabilang pa sa mga bumati sa senador ay ang mga Aquino sisters na sina Ballsy Cruz, Pinky Abellada, at Kris Aquino na naging sentro ng attention dahil sa pagkikita nila ni Makati Mayor Junjun Binay sa okasyon.

Nagbigay pugay si Jinggoy sa bonding ng Estrada family sa mga Aquino; at tinawag pa niyang "madam" si Ballsy, na sinabing napakabait na tao ng mga Estrada.

Imbitado din daw sina Estrada sa 25th anniversary celebration ng People Power Revolution ngayong Linggo.

Napaiyak naman si Jinggoy sa pag-alay ng kanta ng "Awit ng Barkada" ng malalapit niyang kaibigan na sina Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, Phillip Salvador, at Lorna Tolentino na nagbalik alala sa yumaong actor na si Rudy Fernandez na best friend ni Jinggoy.

Kabilang pa sa dumalo sila Vice Ganda, Christopher de Leon, dating House speaker Jose de Venecia at ang asawang nitong si Manay Gina De Venecia, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile at Franklin Drilon, Armida Siguion-Reyna, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board chairman Grace Poe-Llamanzares, at marami pang personalidad.

Kinumpirma na din ni Revilla na tuloy na ang pagtatambal nila ni Toni Gonzaga sa isang romantic-comedy film sa ilalim ng ABS-CBN’s Star Cinema.

Ayon kay Bong, matagal na niyang kinokonsider si Toni bilang leading lady at ngayon natupad na ito, makikita daw ang kakaiba nilang chemistry.

Natatangi ang story concept ng project na iikot sa mga pangyayari sa loob ng isang araw at isang gabi.

Pinagmamalaki naman ni Tolentino ang kanyang television comeback sa “Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin” sa Marso. Tiempo na napapanahon ang teleserye na tungkol sa drama ng buhay ng mga taga-military at kani-kanilang mga pamilya.

Asawa ni John Estrada si Tolentino na may psychological disability.

Kris: No more baby James, Bimby

MANILA, Philippines – Baby James or Bimby no more?

Kris Aquino and James Yap have been instructed by a court judge, who is handling the annulment case filed by the actress-television host, to stop calling their 3-year-old son, James Jr., baby James or Bimby.

Aquino herself made this disclosure shortly after emerging from a Makati court room where she and Yap attended a hearing last February 18. She did not say though the reason behind Judge Cristina Sulit's order.

She told “The Buzz:” “Binilin ni Judge sa amin na hindi na siya dapat tawaging baby James, huwag na daw Bimby. James [na lang].”

Both parties also declined to discuss the annulment case as what has been ordered by Sulit of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 140.

Instead, they  just wished each other well.

“Gaya ng sinabi ko, I really wish James so much happiness and peace and I wish him freedom as well,” Aquino said.

“Peace nga,” Yap chimed it.

The 2 are now on good terms again after their much publicized separation last year.

Aquino said they no longer harbor ill-feelings toward each other. She also wished that their newfound friendship will stay “peaceful.”

She added that what they want is to be good parents to Yap Jr.

Melai flattered by Azkal player's admiration


MANILA, Philippines – Comedianne Melai Cantiveros doesn’t mind if Jerry Barbosa, one of the members of the Azkals Philippine football team, asks her out on a friendly date.

Shrieking teenage fans pack Taylor Swift show

MANILA, Philippines—Traffic on roads leading to Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City, moved at a snail’s pace on Saturday night, as people were swept by anxiety on their way to country-pop superstar Taylor Swift’s concert.

Bangladesh judge sacked for hidden bedroom camera

DHAKA – Bangladesh's highest court has removed a judge for setting up a hidden camera inside the bedroom of another judge, the state-owned news agency BSS said Sunday.

The Supreme Court passed the ruling on Saturday after finding Illyas Rahman, a lower court judge, guilty of an "immoral act", the agency said.

Rahman set up the camera in the bedroom of a fellow judge in the southern district of Bagerhat in August last year after "being influenced by adventure movies", it said.

The agency gave no further details and did not report the gender of the victim.


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