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

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February 23, 2011 Major News Stories (

February 23, 2011 Major News Stories
February 23, 2011 Major News Stories


Search begins for new police chief

SENIOR Supt. Erson Digal resigned yesterday afternoon as chief of the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO), which his superior described as “a good move.”

“Limpiyo akong konsiyensiya. Way hocus-pocus ug way hinanakit (My conscience is clear.

I have done no hocus-pocus and I have no ill feelings),” he told reporters.

Digal submitted his resignation letter to Police Regional Office Director Ager Ontog Jr., after a meeting with Ontog and Regional Logistics Chief Orlando Ualat.

Digal’s resignation will take effect as soon as PRO 7 can find a police official to temporarily replace him, Ontog said.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said she has some names in mind as possible replacements, based on her observations of how police officials conducted themselves in the years she served as chairperson of the Regional Peace and Order Council.

But first, she said she will consult several sectors. There were also suggestions from Regional Director Ontog, but Garcia said will also “ask around quietly.”

Digal also visited the governor yesterday to formally inform her of his decision and to thank her for recommending him to head the CPPO. He said she had helped make his promotion possible.

In a meeting with Ontog last Monday, Governor Garcia said she lost confidence in Digal because he withheld information from her in the case of Ellah Joy Pique.

Ontog said the governor’s reason is valid and he respected her decision “for it is in the best interest of the public.”

He also said Digal’s voluntary resignation was a “good move” since it would spare his office from investigating Digal.

“We don’t want him to continue his job without the full support of the honorable

governor,” he said.

Garcia said that since she was first elected governor in 2004, the provincial police director who stands out, in her assessment, is Senior Supt. Carmelo Valmoria, who “worked without much fanfare but with much industry.” She said she is looking for these qualities in Digal’s replacement and advised the outgoing CPPO chief to stop being “a publicity hound.”

Garcia said it would be nice to have a Cebuano replacement but standards such as competence and trustworthiness take precedence.

She said the developments in the case will reassure tourists they can expect fair and just treatment in the province.

“If you’re guilty, then you will be charged. If you are innocent, then we will do everything that we can,” she said.

Digal’s letter will be forwarded to Camp Crame.

Ontog said the selection of the full-time CPPO director will take time, since the Regional Senior Officers Placement Board 7 will have to come up with a list of three qualified police officers for Governor Garcia to choose from.

(In Digal’s case, was designated officer-in-charge in January 2010, but it wasn’t until July that the PNP formally endorsed a list of the qualified nominees to the governor.)

He further said Digal will be given a position in PRO 7. Digal, according to Ontog, has done well in fighting criminality in the province.

9 SUVs match kidnap vehicle

CEBU CITY -- The Land Transportation Office (LTO) in Central Visayas found nine Mitsubishi Pajeros registered in the region with license plates ending in 679.

It gave the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in the region the owners' names and addresses, as part of the continuing search for proof in the kidnapping and murder of Ellah Joy Pique, a six-year-old girl from Minglanilla.

None of the nine is registered in the name of Karen Castro Esdrelon, 24, a Cebuana nurse who is being held along with her Norwegian fiancé for the February 8 kidnapping.

Esdrelon and her lawyer, Salvador Solima, said they are planning to file administrative complaints against outgoing Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) Director Erson Digal, if the complaint against her and Sven Erik Berger is not dismissed.

"Di kabayran ang among sakripisyo ug among kauwaw (Nothing compares to the sacrifices we have made and the shame we have been subjected to)," she said.

Esdrelon and Berger submitted their joint counter-affidavit last Monday and asked the Provincial Prosecutor's Office to dismiss outright the complaint for kidnapping with homicide.

The Pique family's lawyer opposed the counter-affidavit on Tuesday.

"Their (NBI) findings have no binding effect. It must be tested by cross-examination as to its truth by the opposing party during trial," said lawyer Roque Amante Jr.

Renante Pique, the child's father, still suspects Berger and Esdrelon of having a hand in the crime.

The duo has said it was "impossible" for them to commit the crime because their "movements were only confined" to the Norwegian School and the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City when the crime was committed on February 8.

But Amante said the child-witnesses have no motive to "falsely testify" against the couple since they only know the victim and not the respondents.

He also said that Cebu City is just a few minutes away from Minglanilla town, especially when one uses the South Coastal Road.

"It is not impossible for the respondents to be at the scene of the incident on that afternoon that the school children were dismissed at 3 p.m.," he said.

Esdrelon appealed to Ellah Joy's parents and relatives not to judge them, and said it was the police force's fault that the family blamed her and Berger.

She said the police gave Ellah Joy's family "false hope" that they are about to get justice.

Berger told reporters he is happy that Governor Gwendolyn Garcia told the NBI to look into their alibis. (The NBI is part of a provincial inter-agency task force against crime.)

"She knew something was wrong," Berger said.

Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Marlon Atillo said on Tuesday that he will resolve the complaint next week.

The prosecutor's office is only waiting for the written comment of Lamberto Masana-Hibaya, officer-in-charge of the Provincial Investigation and Detective Management Branch, on the verbal manifestation of defense lawyer Salvador Solima.

Solima, during the filing of his clients' counter-affidavit Monday, told Atillo a clarificatory hearing is not needed, since the complaints ought to be dismissed outright.

For his part, NBI-Central Visayas Director Eduard Villarta said they will begin tracking the registered owners of each vehicle "as soon as we are given the go-signal."

Any further investigation will depend on how the Office of the Cebu Provincial Prosecutor resolves the criminal complaint.

Villarta said there is a need to verify, given how the witnesses were all children who described the vehicle as a black Pajero, though they could have actually meant any dark SUV.

The list LTO-Central Visayas Director Raul Aguilos endorsed to the NBI included nine Pajeros colored black or blue.

Aguilos said that Stradcom, the LTO's information technology provider, finally released the results of their search. At least 266 SUVs have license plates ending in 679. Nine are Mitsubishi Pajero registered in Central Visayas.

The police, for their part, want to resolve the case "as soon as possible," said Senior Superintendent Louie Oppus.

A task force was formed by the Police Regional Office last week.

"We will go deeper into the case," Oppus told reporters on Tuesday. "We are continuing the case."

Couple to sue cops if not released today

by By Ria Mae Y. Booc and Mitchelle L. Calipayan

CEBU, Philippines - The couple accused of abducting and killing six-year-old Ellah Joy Pique plans to file an administrative case against the PNP and some airport personnel if they will not be cleared and released today.

The couple’s lawyer Salvador Solima said the administrative case will cover grave misconduct, oppression and moral damages against the liable persons.

“There is no way authorities can hold them since they are already proven innocent few days ago pa,” Solima said.

Sven Erik Berger and Karen Esdrelon decided to file a case after a long time in detention without the resolution of their case. They have been detained since Feb. 12 after they were apprehended and arrested in the Mactan Cebu International Airport.

Both were tagged by three child witnesses as the ones who kidnapped Ellah Joy right after class dismissal last Feb. 7. Ellah Joy was found dead in Barili town the following day covered with blankets. Her belongings were found a few meters away from her body.

Esdrelon got mad after she was told of reports that Cebu Provincial Police Office director Sr. Supt. Erson Digal allegedly hid information in favor for them.

She said she is in favor of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia’s position to have Digal relieved as the provincial director.

“Dili lalim nga kami iyang gamiton in expense aron ma-close na ang case,” she said.

Esdrelon questioned the competence of the PNP after what happened to them.

Berger questioned why it was taking so long to release them.

“NBI released their report few days ago showing evidence that we are innocent and I don’t know why we are still here,” Berger said.

Berger said they also have to wait for Esdrelon’s visa before they can leave for Norway.

“I know that we are no longer safe here, I want Karen to go with me to Norway and live there,” he said.

Meanwhile, the father of Ellah Joy, through his counsel, branded the defense of the couple as an alibi.

Amante, citing the case of People vs. Sotes, said that the defense of alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused by the eyewitnesses who had no improper motives to falsely testify against them.

In their joint counter-affidavit, Berger and Esdrelon denied the allegations contending that at the time of the alleged kidnapping they were not in Calajoan, Minglanilla, but in Cebu City.

Their affidavit further stated the NBI had proven their presence at a Norwegian language school and the Waterfront Hotel at the time that the child was abducted.

But Amante countered that the pictures and reports presented by the NBI, under the Rules on Evidence, are legal conclusions and not conclusive.

Amante even cited that there are many of the NBI's findings and recommendations to the Prosecutors Office that were not taken and dismissed as having no binding effect.

Councils for kids need work

by cebuweb

ONLY four of Cebu City’s 80 barangays have no barangay council for the protection of children (BCPC). Those that do were encouraged to improve their services.

The 2010 monitoring report on child-friendly barangays showed that the BCPC of Barangays Day-as, Inayawan, Capitol Site and Mabini are still not functional.

It also showed that of the 80 barangays, only 19 barangays have been classified to have “ideal” councils, which means they have complied with all the requirements for all indicators of a child-friendly barangay.

Panel wants Ecleo’s arrest

by cebuweb

THE prosecution in the parricide suit against Dinagat Islands Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr. will move for the arrest of the cult leader if he sets foot at the Palace of Justice today.

Ecleo, who is facing arrest following his conviction in three graft cases filed at the Sandiganbayan First Division, is scheduled for re-cross examination by the defense panel in his parricide case at the Cebu City Regional Trial Court Branch 10.

Sandiganbayan to ignore Ecleo MR

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - The Sandiganbayan will no longer entertain Dinagat Islands Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr’s  new motion for reconsideration of the anti-graft court’s resolution upholding his graft conviction and arrest warrant.

CIDG 7 cops nab ‘gunsmith’, seize firearms in Danao City

by cebuweb

POLICE arrested suspected illegal gun maker in Barangay Tuburan, Danao City last Monday at 10 a.m.

Suspect Roger Giango Hermoso, 41, was arrested for possessing a push drill machine, 10 metal patterns for assorted calibers, a magazine for .9mm pistol and a cylinder for a .38 revolver.

Hermoso, who said he is a motorcycle-for-hire driver, denied he owned the confiscated items, saying he already stopped making guns for two years.

3 councilors told to come up guidelines on cash assistance

by By Garry B. Lao/FPL

CEBU, Philippines - Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama has directed three city councilors to come up with a program and guidelines in the granting of financial assistance to informal settlers who will be affected of the city’s continuous clearing of the creeks and riverbanks.

Rama tasked Councilors Alvin Dizon, Sisinio Andales and Joey Daluz to formulate the guidelines after he already agreed to give assistance on a case-to-case to affected families.

There are close to 500 houses along the creeks that are scheduled to be demolished. Rama agrees to give them assistance on condition that they are city residents and have not been given financial aid before.

“Daghan ang nakadawat og financial assistance before pero namalik. Government should be circumspect, government should know where to stand kay ma-abusaran man ta. Kung mohatag man ta kinahanglan atong klarohon,” Rama said.

Aside from the financial assistance, the mayor also wants programs for them especially in the purchase of relocation lots. Rama observed that the city has been buying lots for relocation but only half of them were used for the purpose because of its location.

“My office is aware of this problem,” the mayor added.

In line with the effort to address the problem of informal settlers, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) already released the guidelines for the prevention and control of the proliferation of squatters in the country particularly in the urban areas.

The guidelines were embodied in a memorandum circular issued by DILG Secretary Jesse M. Robredo to all provincial governors, city and municipal mayors and punong barangays.

In his directive, Robredo has enjoined all   punong barangays, as well as the   sangguniang barangays, to adopt measures to effectively curtail the proliferation of squatters and mendicants in their communities.

The DILG urged punong barangays to find ways to relocate existing informal settlers to a site with due regard to general welfare and well-being and called on the city and municipal mayors to closely monitor the actions or inactions of the punong barangays relative to the prevention and control of the proliferation of informal settlers.

The mayors were also prevented from interfering in the lawful efforts of a punong barangay or of any appropriate government agency personnel to clear an area from informal settlers instead provide them with technical, financial and other possible forms of assistance to the concerned punong barangay in addressing the problem of informal settlement.

The rampant proliferation of informal settlers has been a nagging perennial problem that besets, particularly urban local governments, and despite government efforts, it thrive and, by necessary implication are the unsightly manifestations of urban decay and intergenerational neglect, he said.

Tornado destroys 136 houses in Sarangani

SARANGANI, Philippines – More than 100 families were left homeless after a tornado destroyed 136 homes in Sarangani province early Tuesday morning, officials said.

The twister struck Barangay Burias in Glan town, which has now been placed under a state of calamity.

The tornado also toppled trees and sank small fishing boats.

There were no reported fatalities.

“Nawalan kami ng bahay, nasugatan pa ang anak ko,” said one of the victims, Rosetta Ebba.

Antonio Aguis, who was one of the affected villagers, said his family lost everything.

The twister came from the sea, according to witnesses.

Heavy rains struck the village Monday night before the tornado occurred before dawn on Tuesday.

The affected families have sought temporarily shelter in a public elementary school while they await help.

Phivolcs warns of lahar flows from Bulusan volcano

Sa Bicol, pinag-iingat ng Phivolcs ang mga nakatira malapit sa Bulkang Bulusan sa posibleng pagragasa ng lahar sakaling umulan ng malakas. Ito'y matapos maipon ang tone-toneladang abo na ibinuga ng bulkan kahapon.

COA to CPA: Refund P2.3M

by By Rene U. Borromeo/JPM

CEBU, Philippines - The Commission on Audit (COA) has recommended that officials of the Cebu Port Authority (CPA) who participated in the illegal disbursement of the P2.3 million for the health benefits of all CPA officials and workers in 2009 be made to refund the whole amount.

COA 7 Director Delfin Aguilar insisted that the granting of medical health insurance to 162 officials and employees of the CPA is contrary to law, even if the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) thinks otherwise.

Records showed that the CPA entered into a one-year contract with MEDICARD Philippines Incorporated to provide a corporate health care program to all CPA officials and employees. The P2,351,754 contract started April 1, 2009.

COA also learned that the CPA also granted the same benefits to its officials and employees in the early part of 2000, but it was stopped with the state auditor’s advice.

But the CPA restored the granting of said health benefits on the basis of the government counsels’ legal opinion that CPA is not covered by the prohibition.

Aguilar said the OGCC legal opinion is contrary to the provisions of Article 9-B, Section 8 of the 1987 Constitution, which provides that “No elective or appointive public officer or employee shall receive additional, double or indirect compensation, unless specifically authorized by law.”

The Department of Budget and Management supported the argument of the state auditors.

“Using government funds for a separate health care insurance, aside from PhilHealth, would mean double provision for the same purpose which is contrary to the principle of prudent spending,” the DBM stated in a letter to COA.

Aguilar explained that COA’s tasks include “those for the prevention and disallowance of irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant, or unconscionable expenditures or uses of government funds and properties.”

But because of the conflicting views of the government lawyers and COA, the state auditors are planning to bring up the issue before the court for final resolution.

CPA officials said that the grant of health care benefits to their employees is based on the collective negotiation agreement between the CPA and the CPA Employees Union signed last August 8, 2007.

It states that “the CPA shall continue to provide all its employees an annual comprehensive medical program.”

But Aguilar argued that it is clear that even before the passage of such agreement in 2007, the CPA already granted health care benefits and ignored the state auditors’ advice for them to stop such practice.

“It is noteworthy to state that agreements entered into by the CPA must be in conformity with relevant laws, rules and regulations,” the COA report said.

The CPA officials, however, said they will issue a memorandum for their personnel to refund the amount that they have received.

Senate subpoenas Ligot's wife to corruption probe

The Senate blue ribbon committee has subpoenaed the wife of former military comptroller Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot to Thursday's hearing on the alleged corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In an ambush interview Tuesday, committee chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said that the subpoena was delivered by the Senate sergeant-at-arms and was received by Erlinda Ligot's lawyer.

The senator had earlier said they want to question Mrs. Ligot about her foreign travels and pricey real estate purchases abroad while her husband was still in the AFP.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada had earlier revealed that Mrs. Ligot traveled 42 times to Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United States from 1993 to 2004, 13 of which were with the wife of the late Defense chief Angelo Reyes, Teresita.

Reyes, who committed suicide Feb. 8, was accused of receiving payoffs amounting to millions in pesos when he was chief of the AFP, a position he held before he was appointed Defense secretary.

Estrada said Mrs. Ligot purchased several expensive properties in the United States, which include a house in Anaheim (reportedly worth $504,000) and Buena Park ($183,868) in California.

Guingona said they will have Mrs. Ligot arrested if she fails to show up on Thursday.

Overhaul of COA audit rules and regulations pushed in Senate

An overhaul of the audit rules and regulations of the Commission on Audit (COA) amid allegations of collusion between state auditors and former high-ranking military officials to cover up massive corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is being pushed at the Senate.

Prosecutors lament Aquino desire to charge them over plea bargain

Government prosecutors expressed disappointment over President Benigno Aquino’s desire to file charges against them for entering into a plea bargain with former military comptroller Carlos Garcia, but they said they are ready to face any complaint squarely.

PNoy: Poverty alleviation is new EDSA ideal

Pagkakaisa laban sa diktadurya, iyan ang diwa ng EDSA People Power 25 taon na ang nakakaraan. Ngayon, People Power din ang inspirasyon ng isang grupo para labanan naman ang kahirapan at suportahan ang maliliit na negosyante sa bansa.

Marcos: PH should have been a Singapore now


MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines should be on the same economic levels as Singapore had the EDSA People Power 1 not prospered, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. said.

Sen. Marcos: ‘We did not leave the country. We were kidnapped’

“We did not leave the country. We were kidnapped!” was how Senator Ferdinand “Bong-Bong” Marcos Jr. described his family’s sudden flight from the country after his father, then president Ferdinand Marcos, was ousted by the first People Power in 1986.

Marcos compensation fund to be released March 1

MANILA, Philippines—Dead, dying, aging, sickly, poor. Many had waited for so long until time overcame them. But the surviving generation, the strong, who are still able-bodied, need wait no more.

Twenty-five years after the dictator Ferdinand Marcos fled after he was ousted by People Power uprising on February 25, 1986, and almost to the day, victims of the Marcos martial law regime will at long last receive some payment for the suffering they experienced.

In a letter dated Feb. 7, 2011, the Kohn Swift and Graf law office in the US informed class suit claimants that the settlement fund will be paid starting March 1.

The letter was sent from the law of office of class suit co-counsel Rod C. Domingo Jr. Signed by class suit lead counsel Robert A. Swift, the letter said: “It is my great pleasure to inform you that your claim is eligible for payment for the Peso equivalent of US$1,000 from the Settlement Fund in this litigation. On January 13, 2011 the Honorable Manuel L. Real, who presides over this litigation, approved payment to all eligible class members.”

Last January, US federal district judge in Honolulu Manuel Real approved the distribution of $7.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by thousands of victims and families of victims of torture, execution, abduction and harassment under the Marcos regime. The distribution will provide the victims their first opportunity to collect since they sued in 1986.

A total of 9,539 victims had joined the class suit but this number has been reportedly reduced to 7,526 because of questions of eligibility. Claimants should have submitted both the 1993 and 1999 claim forms in order to be considered eligible. This writer and an editor from the Inquirer are claimants.

The payments will be distributed at the office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) at SAAC Bldg, UP Complex, Quezon City from March 1 to 7. The letter clarified that the CHR is allowing class counsel use of space but CHR is not participating in the distribution.

Class counsel listed instructions for claimants that they should comply with.

1. Payment will only be made in person. Claimant must appear at the CHR office on the week of Feb. 28.

2. If the claimant’s last name begins with the letters A through E, he/she must appear on Tuesday March 1. Those with last names beginning with the letters F through J must appear on Wednesday March 2. K through O will be served on Thursday March 3, P through T on Friday March 4, V through Z on March 7. Those who cannot appear on the said dates can come in the afternoon of Monday March 7.

Claimants may not come on any other day. The office will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

3. Claimants must bring with them the original of the Feb. 7, 2011 letter and two of the following forms of identification: voter's ID, GSIS, SSS, driver's license, TIN ID, NBI clearance with picture, Seaman's book issued by Marina, senior citizen ID, postal ID and other government issued photo ID.

4. No one will receive payment unless his/her identity is verified. No power of attorney will be accepted. If the class member/claimant is deceased, a death certificate must be presented by the next of kin.

5. After receiving payment, payees will sign a receipt of payment, the photographs will be taken and kept by class counsel to be used to verify identities should there be future distribution.

The check will be in Philippine pesos in the claimant's name drawn on a local bank so that the payee may deposit or cash the check on the same day the payment is received.

Swift clarified that class counsel receives compensation through the court so there is no obligation on the part of claimants to pay class counsel. He added that there is a court ruling that if the claimant is represented by a personal counsel in the litigation, personal counsel may not receive more than five percent of the payment. No human rights organization or other group is entitled to any portion of the claimant's payment.

"Litigation to collect on the Class 1995 Judgment continues," Swift said. "If funds are collected there could be additional distributions. Therefore, it is incumbent on (claimants) to notify class counsel of any future change in their addresses."

Despite victory in the courts, thousands of victims of human-rights violations during the martial law regime had remained empty-handed for so long and continued to hope for their just compensation. Four administrations after Marcos had not helped in dispensing justice and had instead stood in the way.

Speaking for the victims-claimants who are mostly poor, former chair of Claimants 1081 and now chair of CHR Etta Rosales had lamented: "The Republic of the Philippines has succeeded in blocking the Marcos victims from the partial enforcement of a judgment they had won in US courts."

The amount to be distributed looks like a miserable pittance or "loose change" compared to the claimants' claim against the Marcos estate that is in the billions of ill-gotten/hidden wealth. But no one is protesting, because: One, there should be more where it's coming from and this amount could just be the first tranche. Two — and this is even more important, a claimant stressed —"this is not about the money but a historic victory that would vindicate the human victims of an evil reign."

Still, the money is also important especially for those who are poor and infirm who have long waited for justice to come their way.

Aquino eyes next Armed Forces chief

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday that he is close to choosing the next Armed Forces chief of staff.

The President, however, declined to name the official.

Aquino said he is still assessing the issue thoroughly and will need up to 2 weeks more to finalize his decision.

He said the next Armed Forces chief need not be youthful.

"Pag pumili ka ng sobrang junior, inilagay mo sa pinaka senior na posisyon, What happens to the most senior? You would have to have subordinates that are more junior than him. May chain reaction yun,” he explained.

“That should be weighed.  The end point should be and the only primordial detail that has to be settled is who will best serve the interest of the state? Who is the best candidate at this point in time to become chief of staff?" the President said.

Housing for soldiers

Aquino, meanwhile, said an initial batch of 20,000 soldiers can move to their own homes in 6 to 8 months.

He said the beneficiaries of 20,000 rent-to-own houses and lots in Luzon will be chosen through a “draw lots” system.

The housing projects are located in Bocaue, San Jose del Monte, and San Miguel in Bulacan; Biñan, Calamba, and Calauan in Laguna; Trece Martires in Cavite; and Montalban and Baras in Rizal.              

He expects the housing program to benefit more than 120,000 soldiers and their families within 3 years.

Bill to include NGOs in budget deliberations gets backing


A Senate committee is determined to endorse a bill seeking to institutionalize the participation of accredited non-government organizations (NGOs) and other people's organizations in budget deliberations in Congress and local government units.

Impeach proceedings vs Ombudsman set in March

(UPDATE) Impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez is set this March, the chairman of the committee at the House of Representatives tasked to hold the hearings, said Tuesday, shortly after his members voted to pursue the complaint filed against Gutierrez.

SC’s go signal to Congress on impeachment case not yet final—Ombudsman

MANILA, Philippines—Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez reminded Congress that the Supreme Court’s decision allowing Congress to push through with the impeachment case against her is not yet final.

Vizconde allegations an indirect attack on SC: spokesman


MANILA, Philippines -  Allegations that Chief Justice Renato Corona relayed information about moves to acquit the group of Hubert Webb in the Vizconde massacre is an indirect attack on the Supreme Court, the spokesman of the high tribunal said Tuesday.

Reinvestigation of Vizconde massacre could end ‘much’ earlier—De Lima

The reinvestigation of the Vizconde massacre could end much earlier than the June deadline due to a breakthrough in the investigation.

Bill postponing ARMM polls goes to House plenary

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

The House of Representatives joint committees on suffrage and Muslim affairs approved Tuesday a bill postponing the August 2011 ARMM elections to 2013 and empowering the President to name officers in charge.

Govt, NDF eye end of hostilities by 2012

by By Danny Buenafe, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau Chief

OSLO – The Aquino government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) negotiating panels have agreed on a general time frame for completing the comprehensive agreements which seek to address the root causes of the armed conflict.

De Lima admits mistake in probe of scientist’s death

MANILA, Philippines- Justice Secretary Leila de Lima admitted Tuesday that an error in oversight was committed by her department when it appointed assistant state prosecutor Bryan Cacha to the panel that will conduct a preliminary investigation into a murder complaint filed by the family of slain ethnobotanist Leonard Co against officers of the Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion.

De Lima said Cacha has now been removed from the panel because he was the one who did a fact-finding investigation into the incident that exonerated officers of the Army's 19th IB on the killing.

The Co family claims that troops from the 19th IB were responsible for the deaths of Co, Sofronio Cortez, and Julio Borromeo in Kananga, Leyte on November 15, 2010.

The victims, along with 2 of their companions - Ronino Gibe and Policarpio Balute - were conducting biodiversity research in the area when the incident took place.

The military claims that the victims were caught in a crossfire between government forces and New People's Army (NPA) rebels.

Named as respondents in the murder complaint filed by the co family are: 1Lt. Ronald Odchimar, 2Lt. Cameron Perez, Cpl. Marlon Mores, Pfc. Albert Belmonte, Pfc. Michael Babon, Pfc. Elmer Forteza, Pfc. Roger Fabillar, Pfc. Gil Guimerey, Pfc. Alex Apostol, Pfc. William Bulic, and 28 other soldiers from the 19th IB.

During a closed-door meeting with the Co family upon filing of said complaint in january, de KLima assured the preliminary investigation will be assigned to a different panel.

However, Cacha was later designated as part of the panel that will conduct the preliminary investigation, much to the dismay of the Cos and their supporters.

"I already issued a D.O. [department order] replacing him, it's a case of plain oversight, hindi napansin," de Lima said.

PH stops workers bound for restive states

The Philippines said Tuesday it had stopped sending workers to Bahrain, Libya and Yemen because of safety concerns in the revolt-hit nations.

185 OFWs leave for Bahrain despite ban


MANILA, Philippines – A total of 185 overseas Filipino workers left for Bahrain on Tuesday afternoon despite a ban set by the government on deployment to the restive Middle Eastern state.

Filipinos in Libya can seek voluntary repatriation—DFA exec

(UPDATE) Filipinos in strife-torn Libya can ask for voluntary repatriation after the Philippine Embassy in Tipoli raised alert level 3, as the unrest in the country worsened, according to Foreign Affairs undersecretary Esteban Conejos.

PNoy orders crackdown on drug syndicates

by By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang wants to get to the bottom of how drug mules are able to depart Philippine airports with contraband in tow.

De Lima orders hunt down of Nigerians over illegal drugs

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima ordered the National Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Immigration to hunt down the Nigerians who were reportedly targeting Filipino workers to be used as drug mules to China.

DFA hopes to conclude prisoner swap deal with China

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday hopes to conclude a prisoner swap agreement with China that would allow more than 200 Filipinos jailed there for drug trafficking to serve their sentences in the Philippines.

PNoy: We did right in deporting 14 Taiwanese to China

President Benigno Aquino III reiterated Tuesday that the Philippine government made the right decision in deporting the 14 Taiwanese nationals to China, and that he will not apologize for sticking to that decision.

Miriam: PNoy correct for not saying sorry to Taiwan

by By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Tuesday defended the Philippine government's decision not to issue any apology to Taiwan, saying the country is bound by its “one-China” policy.

Roxas returns from talks with Taiwan leaders

Nakabalik na si special envoy Mar Roxas na ipinadala sa Taiwan para ayusin ang gusot sa pagitan ng Taiwan at Pilipinas. Naninindigan ang Taiwan na dapat humingi ng paumanhin ang Pilipinas dahil sa pagpapa-deport ng 14 na Taiwanese sa China.

17 maltreated OFWs arrive home


MANILA, Philippines – Seventeen overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were maltreated by their employers in Dubai arrived in Manila Tuesday morning.

Romulo to pass DFA baton to Del Rosario

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo on Tuesday confirmed to reporters that he is relinquishing his post, and that former ambassador to the United States Albert del Rosario will take over the position on Wednesday.

Santiago files bill on regulating crematories

MANILA, Philippines—A bill that seeks to prohibit the establishment of crematories near a residential community has been filed at the Senate.


Senate Bill 2707, also known as an “Act of Regulating Crematories” was filed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago to ensure that this would not pose hazards to public health.


While cremation was cheaper than traditional burial services, Santiago pointed out a growing body of research, which indicated that it has a significant impact on the environment.


“The major emissions from crematories are nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, mercury, hydrofluoric acid, hydrochloric acid, NMVOCs, and other heavy metals, in addition to persistent organic pollutants (POP),” she said in her explanatory note of the bill.


“According to the United Nations Environment Programme report on POP Emission Inventory Guidebook, emissions from crematories contribute 0.2 percent of the global emission of dioxins and furans (colorless heterocyclic organic compounds),” she said.


So to promote and protect the right to health of the people, Santiago proposes in her bill that “no crematory shall be erected near a residential community where it would pose a hazard to health and air quality.”

“The erection and maintenance of crematories shall be regulated in order to promote the public health and public order,” said the bill.

The location of such crematory, under the bill, should be within the confines of an established cemetery containing not less than eight hectares, which cemetery should have been in existence and operation for at least five years immediately or within the confines of a plot of land approved for the location of a crematory by the Sangguniang Bayan [town council] or the Sangguniang Panlungsod [city council] of the municipality or city.

“Provided, that no crematory shall be located within 150 meters of any residential structure or land used for residential purposes not owned by the owner of the crematory,” it further said.

A crematory, the bill said, should also be open at all times for inspection by the Department of Health.

The proposed legislation also provides that “No body shall be cremated until at least forty-eight (48) hours after death, unless such death was the result of communicable disease,” and that “No body shall be received by any crematory unless accompanied by the permit provided for in this section.”

Any person who makes any false statement in procuring any permit required by the proposed measure or who violates any provision stated under the bill will be fined not more than P5,000 or will be imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

$1: 43.685

$1: 43.685 (P43.40)

Euro 1: 59.3425

PHL oil imports not from conflict-ridden countries - DOE

The Department of Energy said Tuesday the present unrests in the Middle East and North Africa is not going to disrupt the local oil industry as the affected nations are not oil supply sources of the Philippines.

Official: Napocor to get paid P4.2B for BNPP

State-owned National Power Corp. will get reimbursed by the national government for P4.2 billion it spent in maintaining the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, a Napocor official said Tuesday.

Pagcor posts close to P3B in gross revenues in Jan.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) posted close to P3 billion in gross revenues last month and some P182 million savings for the same period, its official revealed on Tuesday.

Kadhafi vows to 'die a martyr', orders revolt crushed

TRIPOLI—(UPDATE) Libya's Moamer Kadhafi ordered his followers Tuesday to crush an uprising against his 41-year rule and vowed a fight to the death as he swatted away growing outrage over a bloody crackdown on protesters.

White House offers condolences to Libya victims

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE—The White House Tuesday offered its condolences to the victims of "appalling violence" during the crackdown on protesters in Libya, President Barack Obama's spokesman said.

Iran forces raid Karroubi homes, arrest son: website

by Agence France-Presse

TEHRAN, Iran - Iranian security forces swept through the homes of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi and his family, arresting one of his sons and confiscating several documents, his website reported on Tuesday.

Thailand, Cambodia agree to accept observers: ASEAN

by Agence France-Presse

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Thailand and Cambodia agreed Tuesday to accept Indonesian observers and avoid further clashes over a border dispute that has claimed at least 10 lives and displaced thousands, officials said.

Donaire overtakes Martinez in P4P ranking

MANILA, Philippines – Following his sensational 2nd-round knockout victory over Mexican superstar Fernando Montiel, Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire is now ranked among the world’s best just behind fellow Filipino Manny Pacquiao and undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.

According to latest rankings issued by The Ring magazine, the "bible of boxing", Donaire has overtaken middleweight champion Sergio Martinez of Argentina and world lightweight king Juan Manuel Marquez to become the Top 3 pound-for-pound best.

Pacquiao is the reigning pound-for-pound king at No. 1 followed by Mayweather, who is ranked No. 2.

Donaire’s climb in ranking relegated Martinez to No. 4 and Marquez to No. 5. The Filipino Flash used to occupy the No. 5 spot.

Ex-champ Montiel: I lost to a better fighter

Like a true sportsman, former world bantamweight champion Fernando Montiel admitted he lost to a better fighter in Nonito Donaire Jr. during their title showdown over the weekend at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas.

Azkals undergo high-altitude training in Baguio


MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Azkals have begun their high-altitude training in Baguio City ahead of the second leg of their AFC Challenge Cup qualifier versus Mongolia.

'Bata' weaves magic anew in World 8-Ball tilt

Efren "Bata" Reyes is continuously weaving his magic in the World 8-Ball Championship at the Fujairah Exhibition Center in Fujairah United Arab Emirates. On Tuesday, the double world champion outlasted fellow Filipino Dennis Orcullo, 7-5, to lead the Pinoys' charge in the winner's side.

Survey: ‘Bata’ is 3rd most influential in world of pool


MANILA, Philippines – Billiard legend Efren “Bata” Reyes has made it in the list of pool’s most influential, according to a survey among billiard personalities.

Azkals player de Jong joins Indonesian club


MANILA, Philippines – Azkals midfielder Jason de Jong has reportedly signed with Indonesian professional football club Persiba Balikpapan.

House panel OKs tax perks for local music industry

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - With Filipino artists in attendance, the House Ways and Means Committee subcommittee on local government, finance and taxes today approved a bill granting tax perks for the local music industry.

Kris, Annabelle Rama now on good terms: Ruffa


MANILA, Philippines - Television host-actress Ruffa Gutierrez confirmed that her mother, talent manager Annabelle Rama, and television host-actress Kris Aquino have kissed and made up.

Think 'miracle juice' can cure cancer? Think again, lawmaker warns

MANILA, Philippines - A party-list lawmaker is preparing a measure to increase the government's regulation of sales presentations of food supplements now flooding the market.

This as more and more people end up in hospitals after replacing their regular medicines with "miracle juice" drinks, herbal tablets and other dietary supplements, according to Carol Jayne Lopez of the You Against Corruption and Poverty (YACAP) party-list.

Lopez hopes to change the "No Approved Therapeutic Claim" tag in products and advertisements to avoid misleading the public, particularly the masses.

The tag, she said, should be made more "understandable to all by printing it in plain English to the effect that health supplements have no curative effect, (that they are) not for treating disease and that they should not be made a substitute to regular medicines approved by the Food and Drug Administration."

The lawmaker also wants to amend the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act (TAMA) of 1997, which created the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC), to give the agency more teeth in regulating food supplement companies.

The health supplement business in the country has grown into a P150-billion industry as poor Filipinos who can't afford medical care turn to these products in the hope of getting cured, Lopez said.

She cited a cancer-stricken carpenter who spent more than P10,000 for boxes of "miracle juice" instead of undergoing chemotherapy, which costs around P20,000.

"Not only did the carpenter lose his last money in questionable health products, the sweet-talking health supplement agents also convinced the carpenter that he no longer needed to undergo chemotherapy because their wonder juice would suffice," the lawmaker said.

Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral earlier proposed to have health statements in labels on herbal supplements written in Tagalog. She said the tag should include the warning: "Ito ay hindi gamot, at hindi dapat gamitin sa panggagamot."

"Some [of the products] are not registered as drug products, but as food supplements. That's all it is: dagdag pagkain," Cabral explained.

She added, "Hindi namin sinasabing 'wag bumili ang tao ng health supplements. Ang gusto lang namin, alam mo kung ano ang binibili mo, na hindi mo ito dapat bilhin bilang gamot para sa sakit."

Select public grade schools to use tablet PCs

Grade one students of selected public schools will get a chance to study math and science on tablet computers next school year, an official of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on Monday said.

Engr. Roberto Dizon, DOST assistant secretary for strategic plans and programs, told GMA News Online that the agency will pilot-test at least 20 tablet computers in selected elementary schools in the National Capital Region and Regions IV-A, V, VIII, and X.

He said the locally-produced computers will cost the government P5,000 each.

“We want to find out the most effective way of using this new technology as a teaching tool," Dizon said at the sidelines of the launch of the DOST’s “Search for Innovative Practices in Managing Large Classes" held in Pasay City.

Interactive math, science lessons

Dr. Leticia Catris, deputy director and officer-in-charge of the DOST Science Education Institute, said the agency has prepared interactive lessons for math and science topics “that are rather difficult to teach."

In another interview with GMA News Online, Catris said the DOST is preparing interactive packages for high school students after accomplishing the same for the elementary level.

She said the interactive lessons will respond to constraints in teaching biology, for example. “You really can’t open up a human being to study the digestive system," Catris said.

She explained that an interactive lesson – which students can click, watch, and perform activities with – will aid the modern crop of students whom she described as “audio-visual learners."

Comparing interactivity with a plain traditional style of lecturing, Catris said, “What you hear, you easily forget. What you see, you remember. What you do, you easily understand."

“In that manner, they will be more interested in science and math," she added.

Computer shortages, illiteracy

The DOST will implement the project in the face of computer shortages as well as computer illiteracy in public schools.

Every 25,000 public elementary school students are forced to make do with one computer, 2006 data of the Department of Education show. In high school, one computer has to be shared by 111 students.

Public school teachers are not spared from the computer shortage, with a computer-to-teacher ratio of 1:728 for elementary and 1:3 for high school.

A survey conducted in 2002 by Victoria Tinio, director for e-Learning of the Foundation for Information Technology Education, also shows that most teachers do not possess the technical know-how to operate computers. Among the schools she surveyed, 13 percent said only a tenth of their teachers, at the most, have a grip on computer basics.

In the survey, the most computer-literate teachers come from only 29 percent of the surveyed schools, which claim that over three-fourths of their teaching staff know their computer fundamentals.

Without discounting these problems, however, Catris said the DOST will continue to implement their programs on interactive learning because “technology is a tool for teaching."

“It will help the teacher," she said.

Search for best practices

In the contest that was launched earlier Monday, the DOST also called on schools to submit entries on best practices to teach science and math to large classes, or those that have 50 students or more.

Schools that submit the top ten proposals will receive a P100,000-grant to implement their projects, which will then be monitored and evaluated.

Addressing teachers at the launch, Catris said, “I know most of you have had and are still having difficulties in class management, interaction, communication, teaching styles, and learning styles in large classes."

“We challenge you to ignite your minds and continue discovering new ways that can be wholly effective in terms of transferring knowledge and skills to students, and managing large science and mathematics classes," she said.

Dead woman ‘appears’ to school kid?

A CHURCH official called for an investigation on reports a 10-year-old girl in the southern town of Dalaguete, Cebu has been having visions of a dead woman.

Episcopal vicar Msgr. Esteban Binghay said the Catholic Church should investigate and find a cure for the girl.

"These children who claim to have experiences of supernatural phenomena are common occurrences," he said. "The child should undergo an investigation to check if (she) is under stress that could be physical in nature."

Dalaguete Central School principal Cecilia Cartella told Sun.Star in a phone interview that Nina (not her real name) has been dreaming of a woman named Nonita Cabal, who asked her to arrange for five masses and pray for her.


Nina had described to Cartella the vision of a woman garbed in black with black hollow eyes and a bleeding mouth.

The girl has been having the vision and dream of the woman since Sunday. Yesterday,

she reportedly saw several spirits.

School and local government officials are not aware of anyone named Nonita Cabal.

Divina Sandoval, special education teacher at Dalaguete Central School, said the girl’s mother is worried about her daugh-ter’s condition and plans to bring Nina to Sto. Rosario Parish in Cebu City to be prayed over by a priest.

But pastoral workers and Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Julito Cortes, parish priest of Sto. Rosario, were not aware of anyone from Dalaguete coming over to seek assistance.

Big man

Lay minister Valeriano Amamampang, who attended to Nina last Monday, said the girl described to him the vision of a big man with a bleeding mouth and piercing eyes.

He said Nina did not mention to him the name Nonita Cabal.

He said Nina told him the man wanted to take her away, which is why the girl is afraid to go home.

Amampang said he advised Nina to tell her parents to confess to a priest.

Binghay, in a separate interview, said the church investigation will try to find out if the child has a guilt complex or some kind of fear.

It will also involve psychological investigation to check for neurosis or paranoia.

"The spiritual probe would focus on the supernatural phenomenon (and if there’s a) need for exorcism," said Binghay.

He added that experts in various fields, from physicians to psychiatrists to exorcists, are needed in the process.

DOST promotes rain collection, sewage treatment

THE Department of Science and Technology (DOST) harvests rain and storm water to show how households and industries can prevent the depletion of water sources.

DOST 7 Director Rene Burt Llanto presented the depart-ment’s Integrated Storm Water Management Project, housed in the DOST office complex in Sudlon, Cebu City.

The facility, the first of its kind in the Philippines, recycles wastewater, rainwater and storm water. The treated water is then used for flushing toilets, cleaning the DOST building and watering plants.

More than P2 million was spent on building the facility, Llanto said.

“Over time, we can bring the cost down,” he said. “If we think of it as an economic cost, this is expensive. But if we consider the ecological cost, this is cheap.”

Edgar Osorio, DOST 7 science research specialist, said 60 percent of the building’s water needs are taken from the rainwater and wastewater management system, while only 40 percent comes from the local water utility.


To promote the technology and water conservation, DOST 7, the United Nations Economic and Social Construction for Asia and the Pacific, and the Korea International Cooperation Agency organized a workshop on eco-efficient water infrastructure development yesterday.

More than 100 representatives from different sectors attended the workshop and were given a tour of the DOST facility, which was constructed starting August last year.

Llanto said Cebu City should use rainwater and not depend too much on deep wells.

“The major limiting factor of the city is water,” he said. He urged participants to promote greater awareness on the need to utilize rainwater.

There is also a need to pilot the system in other parts of the country, he said.

Kim Reeho, a research fellow at the Korean Institute of Construction Technology, said rainwater management augments water supply and prevents flooding.

Emma Melana, director for research service of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources 7, said local government units should require establishments to implement rainwater and storm water management systems before issuing building permits.

Constancio Antiniero, supervising officer of the National Housing Authority 7, said high-end developers can set up the system, but it is too costly to implement in socialized housing projects.

“There has to be legislative intervention to make it part of our budget. At present, we don’t have any,” he said.

Pope condemns consumerism

VATICAN CITY—Pope Benedict XVI denounced Tuesday in his annual message for Lent, the period in the Christian calendar leading up to Easter, society's worship of material objects because it hollows the human person.

"The greed of possession leads to violence, corruption and death," the pope said and encouraged almsgiving "which is the capacity to share".

"The idolatry of goods, on the contrary, not only separates us from others but empties the human person and leaves him (or her) unhappy," he added in a statement written in seven languages and diffused around the world.

Benedict XVI also warned that "the demon is working and does not stop, even in our times, to tempt all men who want to come closer to God".

Lent, traditionally a time for spiritual self-examination for Christians, culminates with Holy Week leading up to Easter, the resurrection of Christ, which this year falls on April 24.


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