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

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February 4, 2011 Major News Stories (dyab-cebu.bokyo@blogger.com)

February 4, 2011 Major News Stories
February 4, 2011 Major News Stories

LTFRB asks bus operators to justify fare hike proposal

MANILA, Philippines - The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has asked Metro Manila bus operators in a public hearing on Thursday to justify the P5 to P6 increase in fares they were asking, saying this was "too much."

The Intercity Bus Operators earlier filed a petition to increase ordinary bus fares from P9 to P14 for the first 5 kilometers, and to P2.55 from the current P1.85 for each succeeding kilometer.

The group also wants fares for air-conditioned buses hiked to P17 from P11 for the first 5 kilometers, and to P2.90 from P2.20 for every succeeding kilometer.

It cited rising prices of fuel and spare parts, as well as higher toll rates as the main reasons for an adjustment. It added the number coding system has also affected members' cash flows.

The LTFRB, however, believes that the requested fare hike was too much.

It said diesel prices currently averages at P41 to P42 per liter, and bus fares were pegged at a minimum of P9 when diesel prices were at these levels in the previous years.

The LTFRB gave the bus operators 10 days to submit financial statements to prove their claims.

The planned bus fare hike comes on the heels of a P1 increase in the minimum fare for jeepneys and the approved higher flagdown rate of P40 for taxi cabs.

Slashing P40 taxi hike possible: LTFRB lawyer

THE number of taxi cabs in Cebu charging passengers P40 at the start of the trip has reached 500.

Lawyer Jose Douglas Sanson, chief transportation development officer of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) 7, said they sealed the 500th taxi meter yesterday.

whose meters have been calibrated and sealed are allowed to collect the increased rates. They have stickers to show for it,” Sanson said.

These cabs charge P40 for the first 500 meters and an additional P3.50 for every 300 meters.

Those who want to complain against the increase may file a petition, Sanson said.

Reason

“If there is a reason for a reduction, the LTFRB has no recourse but to approve it. In 2008, the LTFRB reduced fares because there was a reason for it,” he said. He said jeepney fares were reduced twice that year.

Labor groups earlier expressed their intent to have the increase reversed.

Josefina Lim, of the Associated Labor Unions, said the increase was granted by the LTFRB in Manila “without considering the plight of the workers.”

Alliance of Progressive Labor president Jose Tumongha said workers, especially those who work at night like the thousands in the business process outsourcing industry, will suffer the most.

Only the LTFRB chairman and one board member approved the increase.

Board Member Manuel Iway of Cebu, Sanson confirmed, issued a dissenting opinion against the order.

The increase, in turn, followed a petition lodged by the Philippine National Taxi Operators Association early in 2010.

It came together with a provisional P1-increase in jeepney fares.

Sanson said jeepney operators are availing themselves of the provisional increase.

Unlike previous times when the LTFRB hiked fare rates, jeepney operators won’t be required to pay filing fees. However, they do have to fill out a form.

Marketplace

“Our office right now is like a marketplace,” he said.

In comparison, not all taxi operators qualify for the new rates. Only those with digital meters capable of issuing receipts qualify for recalibration.

Land Transportation Office 7 Director Raul Aguilos said commuters can complain with his office against unscrupulous drivers.

He said jeepney drivers whose operators have yet to secure authority to charge the increased rates from the LFTRB must continue charging the old rate (P6.50).

Taxi operators, on the other hand, must first have the old meters replaced and then recalibrated and sealed.

Mandaue jeepneys fail vs. ban

A GROUP of jeepney operators and drivers in Mandaue City failed in its bid to stop for 20 days the implementation of ordinances banning public transport from entering and loading passengers in Cebu City’s major thoroughfares.

Judge Gabriel Ingles, of the Regional Trial Court Branch 58, denied the request for a temporary restraining order of the Kahugpungan sa Mandaue Jeepney Operators ug Draybers Association Inc. (Kamjoda).

Taxis only allowed to pick up passengers in designated areas

TAXIS will no longer be allowed to park outside the pier to wait for passengers disembarking from vessels starting on Feb. 16. Instead, they will have to line up in designated areas inside the Cebu Port Authority (CPA) compound.

CPA personnel will wait for the passengers at the taxi stand. And, like the taxi lines in malls, they will be given forms that will bear the plate number and body number of the vehicle they will take.

The forms double as a complaint sheet in case the taxi driver overcharges passengers or commits other violations.

The policy was agreed upon during an inter-agency meeting at the CPA yesterday, where the problem of “abusive taxi drivers” taking advantage of locals and tourists was brought up.

‘Workable solution’

“They wait outside the CPA compound and then charge passengers excessive fixed rates for transportation,” CPA Deputy General Manager Oscar Lopez said.

The taxi lines, he said, represent a “workable solution that puts order inside the port.”

In a press briefing after yesterday’s meeting, Land Transportation Office (LTO) 7 Director Raul Aguilos said the complaint sheet is sufficient in form and allows his agency to take action against erring drivers.

Lawyer Jose Douglas Sanson of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board

7 said the complaint can also be endorsed to his agency so they can take action against the taxi operator.

The CPA, Lopez said, has started accrediting taxi companies. To ensure security in the port, only accredited taxis will be allowed to enter the compound and join the line, he said.

So far, only three companies have been accredited.

No-parking zones

He expects more taxi companies to apply for accreditation, once the LTO 7 and the Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) starts apprehending taxis parked outside the port.

The CPA will distribute accreditation stickers and identification cards for free.

“Those areas immediately outside the pier are already designated no-parking zones,” Lopez said.

Aguilos, for his part, assured that LTO personnel will be assigned to randomly monitor the areas outside the port where taxi drivers usually wait for passengers, and prohibit them from parking there.

This way, he said, taxi drivers and operators will be forced to get accreditation.

“We will request Citom to assign LTO-deputized traffic enforcers to man the area as well,” he said.

The CPA has also asked shipping companies to advise their passengers to only hail taxis in designated areas.

January rainfall 400% higher than in 2010

THE volume of rainfall in Metro Cebu last month was 400 percent higher than that of the same period last year.

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pag-asa), the total rainfall in the area last month reached 400 mm. while that of January last year was only 80.9 mm.

May Casilagan, weather specialist at Pag-asa’s Mactan, Cebu station, said the normal monthly rainfall is 107.8 mm.

She attributed the dramatic rise in rainfall to the La Niña phenomenon, which reaches its peak during the months of January to March and weakens from March to May.

LGU to buy more trucks

THE Cebu City Government has set aside about P100 million to buy garbage equipment, an official said.

The fund, said Councilor Eduardo Rama Jr., will help the Department of Public Services (DPS) dispatch enough trucks to collect garbage around the city, among others.

Of the amount that has been appropriated, Rama said, at least P70 million will be used for the purchase of eight garbage compactor trucks.

At least P12 million will be used to buy garbage decloggers while the remaining amount will be used to purchase garbage trucks for the city’s villages.

Rama, Garcia call separate meetings

CEBU, Philippines - CEBU Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama are calling for two separate consultative meetings to discuss and address several common problems faced by local chief executives in Metro Cebu.  Garcia is calling for a special meeting next week, being the chairperson of the Metro Cebu Development Council (MCDC).

Rama, for his part, has also invited the mayor of Mandaue City, Consolacion, Liloan, Compostela, and Danao City in the north and those of Talisay City, Minglanilla, Naga and San Fernando in the south as well as the mayor of Cordova.

The consultative meeting called by Rama will be held this 9 a.m.

They will discuss problems such as drainage, traffic, coastal management, peace and order, and migration among others.

Garcia said that the meeting Rama has called maybe a duplication of what she has scheduled on February 9 for the same purpose of addressing some pressing issues and concerns.

Garcia understands why Rama called the meeting because of the urgency of the situation and it is up to other chief executives of Metro Cebu to attend hoping that they will still attend the MCDC meeting next week.

So far, 11 local government units have responded to the invitation of Rama.

“We can discuss this pressing issue, including the need for coordinated plan of action as regards the master plan for drainage,” Garcia said.

But Rama said that it will not be a duplication saying that what will transpire today’s meeting will be just a “meeting of minds.”

“No. It’s not duplication. If she calls for a special meeting mas maayo hinuon kay kung unsa’y resulta sa meeting ugma (today) we will put it together, so wala’y problema,” Rama told The FREEMAN.

Rama, however, assured Garcia that his administration is willing to help in terms of what is good for Cebu. Rama said he might be attending the governor’s meeting next week if there will be no conflict of schedules or he might be sending a representative from his office.

In a press conference, Garcia said that being the chairperson of the MCDC she may help Cebu City in finding ways to fund the drainage master plan, which Mayor Rama plans to implement.

Rama is reportedly looking at the proceeds of South Reclamation Project or tapping foreign funding to implement his project on drainage system.

“Under MCDC, other local government units including the provincial government may offer possible insights, ways by which this funds may be raised or sources from which these funds may be taken,” Garcia said.

Aside from the drainage problem, MCDC will also discuss issues on traffic, peace and order, solid waste management and illegal fishing activities.

Garcia cited Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, who asked her to help in the asphalting and paving of road under the Marcelo B. Fernan Bridge, which is now being utilized in the rerouting of vehicles crossing the UN Avenue and in going to Cebu North Coastal Road.

Garcia announced that the province will shoulder the cost of paving the road which is now the subject of the “huge outcry” of the motorists because of its bad condition.

Garcia will be meeting again the traffic bodies of the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu on Monday.

“The direction of MCDC is to now sit down and recognize that we have to act together, it has to be synchronized, coordinated, concerted,” Garcia said.

“We are in a very healthy financial position, we are so willing to share our resources if it is for the good of Cebu, wa nay distinction kung Cebu City residents ba na ang mogamit or taga probinsiya,” Garcia added.

Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes yesterday called on all mayors in Cebu  to set aside personal interest and instead pool their resources for the solution of common problems.

“We have started a meeting with mayors late last year with RAFI and other non governmental organizations so let’s continue with this. Nasugdan ni nako with Bunny Pages busa mahimo nakong mopadaplin. Ang importante nga magtinabangay kita alang sa pagsulbad sa atong mga problema. Kay naa na man ta’y nasugdan, dili na lang ta anang mag-faction-faction.”  

He said that one of the problems that needs to be tackled is the flooding in Mandaue City especially that the city is recipient of the waters coming from Cebu City. He cited that the water that flows on the Tipolo-Guizo and Mantuyong creeks comes from Cebu City.

“The intention is the same we need to have a common standing kay lisud kaayo naay meeting dinhi ug naa puy meeting didto,” Cortes added.

He said that during the meeting with Mayors it is also important that traffic will also be discussed especially that Mandaue city is the gateway to Cebu.

Ombudsman on floods

The Office of the Ombudsman Visayas-7 led the conference yesterday discussing the flood problem in Cebu.

It was attended by Provincial Board Member Peter John Caderon, Mayor Socrates Fernandez of Talisay City, Lawyer Jose Marie Poblete representing Cebu City, as well as representatives from Mandaue City, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Public Works and Highways.

City vet receives threats after test

THE Mandaue City veterinarian seems to be caught in a crossfire in the conflict between meat importers and local meat dealers.

Mandaue City Veterinarian Daisy Penetrante reported to the police that she has received death threats through text.

“Dako na mi alkanse. Basin gusto ka mosunod veterinarian Talisay. Ga-may na lang panahon tepe ka (We have incurred a huge loss. Maybe you want to be like the Talisay veterinarian. Soon, you’ll be dead),” read one of the text messages from cell phone number 0915-7080-547 last Friday.

She did not reveal the sender’s identity but she said the police already know who he is.

“Wa ko’y gibuhat na dautan, nag-trabaho ra ko (I did nothing wrong; I was just doing my job),” said Penetrante, adding that the threats do not scare her.

She said she has been getting threats before but ignored these. The message she received last week, though, made her go to the police.

Suspect

The message, she said, referred to Galileo Larawan, Talisay City veterinarian, who was found dead last Sept. 23. Larawan’s body did not show any attack wounds.

She said she suspects a businessman involved in meat dealership is behind the threats.

Jude Darry del Rio, general manager of meat importing company Juphilan, said he doesn’t know of anyone in the meat importing industry who would threaten Penetrante.

“It’s mere speculation. It’s hard to pinpoint anyone,” he said in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu yesterday.

“Maybe somebody is maneuvering this para dauton ang among negosyo (to ruin our business),” he added.

He said Penetrante is a good friend of his and he even consults her once in a while.

“I will not spend a peso for a nonsense text,” he said.

At odds

Penetrante said she started getting the text messages when she and Man-daue City Market Administrator Cesar Mercadal Jr. revealed the true identity of Mario Montes, who accused concerned government officials of favoring local meat dealers despite reports that some local meat samples were found to be contaminated.

Imported and local meat dealers had been at odds since December last year, when the Department of Agriculture issued Administrative Order 22, which requires imported meat dealers and retailers to maintain cold-chain systems or freezers in the market to ensure the safety of their products.

To show that imported meat is not the only one vulnerable to contamination, del Rio commissioned an independent firm to test local meat samples.

The result of that test revealed that some samples were contaminated with coliform bacteria.

But Mandaue City officials and Dr. Alvin Leal of the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) questioned the conduct of the test, as the laboratory and the technician who analyzed the samples were not identified.

City officials and NMIS also questioned the way the samples were taken.

The results of the independent test commissioned by imported meat dealers were released in a press conference presided by Montes, whose real name is Leo Cabangangan.

Penetrante and the NMIS Manila conducted a separate test on meat samples to verify the results of the independent test.

Penetrante said the results of that test may be released next week.

PB grants guv authority to lend P9M to Camotes power coop

CEBU Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia can now go ahead with granting a loan to an electric cooperative to solve the power crisis in Camotes Island.

The Provincial Board (PB), in a special session yesterday, gave her the authority to lend P9.1 million to Camotes Electric Cooperative (Celco) so they can pay for the advance payment the National Power Corp. (Napocor) requested.

The cooperative will pay the Province the loan of P9,191,502 plus interest as specified in the payment schedule.

Monthly amortization is P268,596 for 12 months, which means Celco would have to pay P9,669,460 in total.

Make them pay: ABC head

THE Cebu City Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) will seek the help of the Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas (LBP) and the City Council to pressure the villages to give their share of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) to the organization.

ABC president and T. Padilla Barangay Captain Michael Ralota has learned that some barangays no longer do this.

Barangay Basak San Nicolas used to give P210,000 to the ABC, but Barangay Captain George Rama said he prefers to implement projects for his barangay instead of coursing it through the association.

Sandiganbayan clears Pedong of graft charge

THE Sandiganbayan has dismissed an anti-graft case filed 17 years ago against former Mandaue City mayor Alfredo “Pedong” Ouano for the allegedly overpriced purchase of a parcel of land in Barangay Looc.

Ouano confirmed the dismissal in an interview last night, adding that the anti-graft court's First Division gave credence to their defense that the lot in question was actually worth more than what the city government paid for.

Rizalino Ocampo to spend 2 months in prison for punching lawyer at hearing

AN Iglesia ni Kristo minister will spend two months and a day in jail after the court convicted him of serious disturbance for punching a lawyer.

This happened during a hearing on a libel case he filed against three reporters in 2000.

In her decision issued last Oct. 21, Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Judge Monalisa Tecson convicted INC minister Rizalino Ocampo for violating Article 153 of the Revised Penal Code after he was accused of punching lawyer Marcelo Bacalso in April 2000.

Ocampo, who is expected to serve a jail sentence of two months and a day and to pay a fine of P1,000, is appealing his case before the Regional Trial Court (RTC). His case is scheduled for regular raffling.

209 marijuana stalks uprooted in Balamban

CEBU, Philippines - Two hundred and nine stalks of marijuana worth P9,800 were uprooted by operatives of the Provincial Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operatives Task Group (PAIDSOTG) at barangay Bayong, Balamban yesterday afternoon.

Police Superintendent Teofilo Siclot, chief of the PAIDSOTG who led the operation said they uprooted 88 stalks of marijuana from sitio Dao, 112 stalks from sitio Taro and nine stalks from sitio Bagakay.

The operation against illegal drugs was in coordination with the Special Reaction Unit (SRU) and the Balamban Police Station led by Police Chief Inspector Januario Sario.

Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) Director Erson Digal said the operation was successful but the amount of marijuana plants they uprooted was far from what they expected.

“Gamay lang ang nakuha sa PAIDSOTG personnel kay maglisod na sila ug saka sa bukid tungod sa panahon nga uwan-uwan,” Digal said added that the same team will go back to the area for another operation. (The operatives found it difficult to climb the mountains because of the heavy rains.)

Digal said the team was stranded for almost seven hours in the said barangay on their way home after their vehicle was blocked by a landslide.

Digal added that Siclot suffered from a sprain in his right leg after he slipped when he helped the team remove their vehicle from the mud. They had to call Balamban Mayor Ace Binghay, who immediately sent a pay loader.

Authorities have yet to determine who planted the marijuana.

PRO 7 surprises cops with drug tests

TO CLEAN up the provincial police ranks, Senior Supt. Erson Digal had two cops from Tabuelan Police Station undergo a drug test yesterday.

Digal, director of the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO), told reporters that the surprise drug test came after a barangay captain informed him that the two police officers use drugs regularly.

If they test positive, Digal said CPPO will immediately write a recommendation letter to the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 for the cops’ dismissal.

Rabusa reveals 'irregular' military transactions

MANILA, Philippines - Military corruption whistleblower George Rabusa on Thursday accused 3 former Armed Forces chiefs of staff of having been involved in at least 2 irregular military transactions.

Rabusa made the revelation at the resumption of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing on the plea bargain agreement between former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia and the Office of the Ombudsman.

The former military budget officer said he produced P200 million and $2 million in separate occasions on orders of members of the military top brass for 2 foreign military transactions involving 105 Howitzer ammunition and unmanned aerial vehicles (AUV).

Rabusa said that then Armed Forces chief Gen. Angelo Reyes and former comptroller Jacinto Ligot ordered him to produce P200 million and convert it into dollars and transmit it to the Thailand military for the purchase of 105 Howitzer ammunition.

Because there was no allocated fund for the purchase, he said he took the money from the personal services fund (PSF) or from the payroll money for military personnel and converted it to dollars through the help of the comptroller of the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

He said the ammunition was for the military’s use in the raid of Camp Abubakar of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front during the time of former President Joseph Estrada.

Rabusa said that on another occasion, he took $2 million from the PSF for the purchase of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) units made by a private company based in Israel.

The purchase was brokered by a certain former Gen. Lojico, he said.

He said that then armed forces deputy chief of staff Roy Cimatu ordered him to produce the money inside the "war room" in the military's general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, in the presence of then chief of staff Diomedio Villanueva, then Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, and Garcia, who was then serving as military comptroller.

Rabusa said they paid for the UAVs through the Security Bank-Herrera branch in Makati City.

The former military budget officer showed copies of the dollar transmittal, which, he said, was made in 4 tranches.

Rabusa called the 2 projects as "bomb shells," since he said that the purchases were made without bidding and a formal government-to-government contract.

He also said that the peso-to-dollar conversions made by the military for the 2 purchases were also unauthorized.

Asked by senators what happened to the UAVs, Rabusa replied: "Bumagsak." (They crashed.)

He said that the project was a failure because the UAVs, dispatched in Basilan for the military's fight against the Abu Sayyaf group, malfunctioned and crashed.

Ligot denies knowledge of missing UN money

MANILA, Philippines - Retired military comptroller Jacinto Ligot on Thursday denied knowledge of the “missing” $5 million worth of United Nations reimbursement for equipment.

Ligot also denied in an ambush interview that he has a bank account in General Santos City.

Former Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio said the best case scenario now is for Ombudsman to withdraw the plea bargain agreement with former military comptroller Carlos Garcia, and continue with the plunder trial.

Villa-Ignacio said Heidi Mendoza and former budget officer George Rabusa should be presented as witnesses.

Double jeopardy is not a problem because that only kicks in after final conviction, he said.

Villa-Ignacio maintained the evidence against Garcia is strong, and that it is only the Ombudsman who insists it is weak.

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez said she will file the manifestation that will, in effect, tell the anti-graft court to go slow on the Garcia plea bargain "ASAP [as soon as possible."

This was moments after senators requested it of her at the Senate hearing on the military corruption scandals and the Garcia plea bargain.

Gutierrez said her panel has already started to procure the transcripts of the sworn testimonies of Rabusa and Mendoza before the Senate and House.

She also explained her initial hesitation to accede to the earlier suggestion that they withdraw the agreement from the anti-graft court as they review the Mendoza and Rabusa testimonies.

She said she needs a justification to tell the court.

Gutierrez also dismissed comments against her by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. Gutierrez said, “Tama na yan. Let's just work together."

Ex-AFP chiefs received P160-M pabaon , says witness

UPDATED 6:30 p.m. -At least three Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chiefs of staff allegedly received as much as P160 million in pabaon (send-off money) when they retired, former military fund manager Lt. Col. George Rabusa revealed on Thursday.

At a Senate hearing, Rabusa alleged that former AFP comptroller Gen. Carlos Garcia asked him to give a P160-million pabaon for former AFP chief of staff Diomedio Villanueva.

Rabusa said he delivered the money to Garcia in installments of P10 million every month.

"Sabi niya sakin iniipon niya para ibigay kay Gen. Villanueva (He told me he was saving the money for Villanueva)," he said.

The former fund manager admitted, however, that he never confirmed with Villanueva whether he received the amount.

"I was about to call him. Kaso hindi po tama sa protocol na iba-bypass ko ang boss ko. Kaya sabi ko bahala na (But that it be in violation of protocol to bypass our boss. So I just let it slide)," he said.

Not just Villanueva

Based on Rabusa's Powerpoint presentation at the hearing, which looked into the plea bargain deal reached by Garcia with the Ombudsman, former AFP chief of staff Roy Cimatu also allegedly received P80 million as sendoff money through Garcia.

"I was instructed to give the money (for Cimatu) to Garcia," said deputy budget officer Col. Antonio Ramon Lim, Rabusa's former subordinate.

Lim also testified at the same Senate hearing earlier to corroborate Rabusa's allegation about giving former AFP chief of staff Angelo Reyes P50 million when he retired in 2001.

Lim said he was the one who "packed" the money that was delivered to Garcia. Lim, an Air Force officer, is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1986.

A Newsbreak article said Lim joined the office of the AFP deputy chief of staff for comptrollership (J6) in 1999 and served under two comptrollers: retired Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot and Garcia. Lim replaced Rabusa as chief of the J6′s modernization division and was also Rabusa’s successor as J6′s budget officer in 2002.

Last week, Rabusa appeared before the Senate blue ribbon committee and accused former AFP chiefs of staff of receiving around P5 million monthly during their term and millions in "pabaon" (send-off money) when they retire.

Lim was supposedly present when Rabusa handed to former defense chief and AFP chief of staff Angelo Reyes more than P50 million when he retired in March 2001.

Lim also testified that Villanueva and Cimatu likewise received P5 million monthly, just like Reyes.

Rabusa had earlier revealted that the money for this is sourced from the Provision for Command-Directed Activities (PCDA), which is sourced from the different joint military units in the military budget.

But he said that the AFP units were also instructed to contribute to a psychological warfare fund and the Additional Operational Enhancement Fund (AOEF), which were supposedly used for the troops in Basilan.

Garcia, however, repeatedly invoked his right against self-incrimination when asked about matters concerning the alleged corrupt practices in the military.

Earlier in the day, Senator Franklin Drilon asked the Senate to cite in contempt Garcia for refusing to answer their questions.

Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Senator Teofisto Guingona III said that they will discuss the contempt issue in caucus next week because there was no quorum on Thursday.

Bidding scam?

But aside from the pabaon system, Rabusa also revealed that the AFP officials - at least during his time - were involved in the illegal bidding of military equipment.

He speficially cited the P200-million purchase of ammunition and $2-million procurement of unmanned aerial vehicles from Thailand.

The former fund manager explained that the allocation for personnel services were converted for the purchase of the ammunition, which were intended for the then "all-out war" against rebel groups in Mindanao.

"Marami pong naviolate diyan e. Wala pong bidding. Conversion po. Wala pong government to government agreement (So many things were violated there. There was no bidding. There was no government to government agreement)," he said.

Rabusa said that Reyes was involved in the ammunition transaction and Reyes, Cimatu, and Villanueva in the purchase of the vehicles.

Lim said he has applied for the Witness Protection Program under the Department of Justice but that he hasn't received a reply yet. He appealed to the senators on Thursday to make him a state witness and give him protection.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile assured Lim that he should not worry as long as he tells the truth. "Kung kailangan mo ng abogado, ako mismo ang magpiprisinta (If you need a lawyer, I'll even volunteer)," Enrile aid.

AFP chief Gen. Ricardo David Jr. also said he will offer security detail to Lim if he needs it.

Rabusa bares how creative corruption in AFP was

MANILA, Philippines—If ex-Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Angelo Reyes indeed got P50 million in alleged send-off gift (“pabaon”), his two successors were supposedly more resourceful.

Retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa alleged on Thursday that former Gen. Diomedio Villanueva was allocated around P160 million while ex-Gen. Roy Cimatu got P80 million as part of the “pabaon” system.

But Rabusa, a former military budget officer, said he was not sure if Villanueva indeed received the P160-million gift, which he said he had raised from the old “provision for command-directed activities” (PCDA) budget at the AFP.

He said he gave the amount in increments of around P10 million on several occasions to his former boss, then Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, the military comptroller.

“I had doubts,” he said in the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing. “I was tempted to ask General Villanueva, but protocol-wise, it seemed that I would bypass General Garcia, so I just let it go.”

But Rabusa said he eventually got the chance to inquire with Villanueva in a phone conversation after his boss had retired. He said he was then asking for financial support, but Villanueva begged off, saying he no longer had money.

“Sir, hindi ba binigay sa’yo ni Gen. Garcia yung P160 million? (Sir, didn’t General Garcia give you the P160 million?)” he recalled asking Villanueva, who supposedly replied: “Ha? (What?)”

Rabusa said in Filipino: “He was surprised like he didn’t know about it. So I don’t know now where the P160 million went.”

The amounts for send-off gifts allegedly allocated for Villanueva, Cimatu, and Reyes—who all did not show up at the hearing on Thursday — were contained in a Powerpoint presentation prepared by Rabusa.

Rabusa was assisted by a new witness, Lt. Col. Antonio Ramon “Sonny” Lim, who used to be his deputy at the budget department at the general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Lim, who occasionally wiped off tears, asked to be made a state witness and be given immunity from cases that might be filed against him in connection with his revelations.

At one point, Rabusa sought to boost his morale and reminded him in Filipino: “I suffered a stroke but here I am testifying.”

Lim corroborated Rabusa’s account that the latter had delivered at least P160 million to Garcia in different batches. Lim admitted that he was the one who would arrange (“kamada”) the bulky cash in an expandable envelope for every delivery.

“We placed them in an expandable long envelope,” he said.

Senators took turns in extracting corroboration—or any significant comment—from Garcia, but to no avail. Garcia repeatedly invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

An angry Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who had brought Rabusa and Lim to the committee hearing, threatened to have Garcia detained.

“Mr. Chair, if this will be the answer of this general all throughout and the Ombudsman cannot jail him, let us be the one to do that,” he said in Filipino.

Estrada was particularly incensed when Garcia refused to answer whether he indeed received P160 million intended for Villanueva.

After a brief break, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, committee chairman, said citing Garcia in contempt and detaining him would be decided in an upcoming caucus among committee members. He said the hearing had no quorum to decide on the matter.

Rabusa said he had been instructed by Garcia to set aside P160 million for Villanueva’s retirement. According to a bank document included in his presentation, P95 million was first deposited on July 19, 2001 while another P65 million was kept in the bank on Sept. 12 that same year.

The total deposit had earned a P4.1-million interest by the time he made the last withdrawal on April 16, 2002, according to the document signed by one Bernie Tocmo, manager of the Security Bank branch in Herrera, Makati.

Rabusa said he decided to close the account in anticipation of the formal creation of the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

During Villanueva’s time, Rabusa said the chief of staff wanted the PCDA fund “preserved.” In his previous testimony, he said the fund operated like pot, which was allegedly the source of “start-up” and retirement gifts for chiefs of staff.

Rabusa identified mechanisms within the AFP, which allowed the budget group to supposedly “convert” cash and raise the PCDA fund. Each time, a unit or office that became party to conversion allegedly got a percentage in commission.

He said a “James Bond 007” conversion style involved the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which supposedly got 10 percent of the amount converted.

Of the 10-percent commission, 1 percent went to the accounting officer and 2 percent to the resident auditor, according to the whistle-blower.

The blue ribbon committee decided to summon Divina Cabrera, former ISAFP resident auditor, in the next hearing, which was tentatively set on Monday.

In two other “bombshells,” Rabusa alleged that Reyes once authorized the purchase of P200 million worth of howitzer ammunition from Thailand without the benefit of a public bidding.

Rabusa said the purchase was financed by savings from the salary of military personnel. But he admitted that the purchase did not necessarily mean that the soldiers did not get their salary.

Instead, the money used represented the savings from the salary budget released by the Department of Budget and Management. Savings are made if the DBM allocated for, say, 115,000 troops, but the AFP actually had only 100,000.

The second exposé was about the allegedly questionable purchase of “unmanned aerial vehicles” worth $2 million during the time of Cimatu as chief of staff. As in the howitzer ammunition purchase, Rabusa said the procurement did not go through public bidding.

Rabusa said the UAVs bought from an Israeli company recommended by a retired official later “crashed” when used in actual operation.

Miriam won't protect brother if involved in graft

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago on Thursday again lashed out at the military corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), noting that even generals’ wives are part of the corruption.

Santiago noted she has long criticized military corruption.

When asked about her own brother, former chief of staff Benjamin Defensor, Santiago said, she has not seen him in a long time, but she asserted that in any event, she will not protect her brother if Defensor is guilty of anything.

If the Senate investigates him, she will inhibit. “Walang kapatid pagdating sa corruption.”

Santiago said she already had a privilege speech where she attacked all chiefs of staff.

Santiago was Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez’ white knight during the earlier part of today’s hearing.

Her timely manifestation which Gutierrez adopted appeared to have placated other senators pressing Gutierrez to outrightly withdraw the Garcia plea bargain agreement.

Santiago further defended Gutierrez saying the Ombudsman may be concerned that the Sandiganbayan may not look kindly at her action because the court is still deliberating on the case.

Former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo said he and Heidi Mendoza have become the target of the Ombudsman and the Special Prosecutor.

Marcelo feels that apparently Gutierrez merely relied on her subordinates instead of making her own study.

Who is Col. Antonio Ramon Lim?

MANILA, Philippines - Col. Antonio Ramon "Sonny" Lim, who corroborated allegations of corruption in the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), is an officer of “good standing", a Philippine Air Force (PAF) spokesman said Thursday.

“He is a seasoned pilot, instructor pilot… At this point, he performs his job kasi katatapos lang niyang maging commander sa Tactical Operations Group IX sa Jolo ,” said PAF spokesman Lt. Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol.

A member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1986, Lim studied at the PAF Flying School for 2 years and then served as an instructor pilot from 1988 to 1995.

He served various positions at the Air Force headquarters at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City before being assigned to the office of the AFP deputy chief of staff for logistics from 1999-2004.

It was there that he met budget officer Lt. Col. George Rabusa, who served under military comptrollers Jacinto Ligot and Carlos Garcia and participated in the alleged diversion of military funds to military chiefs.

In 2005, Lim was assigned with the 532nd Aerodrome Operations Squadron and took up the Command and General Staff Course three years later. He then served as the commander of the Tactical Operations Group IX in Sulu.

The now 46-year-old Lim is currently assigned as the Director for Operations of the PAF’s 3rd Air Division stationed in Zamboanga City.

“He is a member of good standing in the Philippine Air Force. …He performs his job. I have no information that would say otherwise,” said Okol.

After the Senate furnished Lim an invitation for him to appear during the Senate inquiry, Okol said the officer requested for clearance from the Air Force leadership. He said the request was promptly granted.

When asked if Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena had instructions to Lim when he granted his request, Okol said: “None really. There was no special instructions from the commanding general except to answer the questions. Whatever he needs to say in the Senate, there is no (problem with that).”

In his testimony before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, Lim said he helped Rabusa prepare the cash disbursements for military chiefs from the so-called Provision Command-Directed Activity (PCDA) slush fund. The Air Force officer also corroborated Rabusa's testimony that the latter kept 4 big vaults full of cash in his office.

Lim said he went to the Department of Justice on Wednesday to apply under the Witness Protection Program and for immunity from lawsuits. He said he does not know the status of his application, as he appealed for the protection from the lawmakers themselves.

He said the security of his family as well as his remaining 9 years in the Air Force kept him from coming out earlier.

Ombudsman to file bid to hold motion on plea bargain approval

(UPDATE) Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez on Thursday said they would file a manifestation before the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court to hold the approval of their earlier motion on the plea bargain agreement with former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.

PNoy inclined to give Heidi Mendoza a post in his govt

President Benigno Aquino III is inclined to give former state auditor Heidi Mendoza a post in his administration, but will ask her first if she is willing to work anew for the government.

“She already stated the stress that she and her family has undergone. She has already contributed. Now if she’s willing to contribute more, why not," Aquino said Thursday in a chance interview during the inauguration of a water treatment plant in Muntinlupa.

But at the same time, kausapin ko muna itong taong ito [I’ll talk to her first]," Aquino said.

Baka naman lumabas na napilitan siya sa isang bagay na medyo nahirapan na rin siya. Ayoko naman mamilit [It might appear that she was forced into something that she already found difficult. I don’t want to force her]," the President added.

Mendoza had followed the money trail of transactions by former military comptroller Carlos F. Garcia, who is facing a P303-million plunder suit at the Sandiganbayan.

She is now jobless after leaving her post at the Asian Development Bank in preparation for her testimony against Garcia.

Aquino reiterated that his administration will work for the indictment of Garcia, who is now free on bail, and will not opt for the plea bargain deal that the Ombudsman struck with the former military official.

Ang priority ko po ay mapakulong yung may kasalanan. Hindi po pwede na umiral yung paniniwala na basta magnakaw ka at mangako na ibalik yung konti e pwede na matukso yung gobyerno na makipag-aregluhan. Klarong klaro po yan," he said.

(My priority is to jail the offender. We can’t allow the idea that if you engage in plunder and promise to return a part of the loot, then the government may consider a settlement. That is very clear.)

CA nullifies arrest warrant vs Lacson

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA) on Thursday dismissed the information in the criminal cases filed against Senator Panfilo Lacson in the abduction and murder of Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and Emmanuel Corbito.

Fugitive Lacson cleared for murders of publicist, driver

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE 2) The Court of Appeals on Thursday cleared fugitive Senator Panfilo Lacson of involvement in the murders of publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in 2000.

Saying there was no probable cause to implicate Lacson in the twin murders, the appellate court reversed the ruling of the Manila City Regional Trial Court and ordered the warrant for his arrest revoked.

Lacson has been on the run since January last year, days before the trial court issued the arrest warrant for allegedly ordering the abduction and murders of Dacer and Corbito.

Lacson was then the national police chief under former president Joseph Estrada, who was ousted in a military-backed popular uprising a year after the murder and subsequently convicted of large scale corruption, then pardoned.

Political analysts have suggested Dacer was killed because of his knowledge of alleged wrongdoing in the Estrada administration.

On November 25, Lacson, through his counsel Alexander Poblador, told the appeals court that the Manila court’s finding of probable cause was based solely on the February 13, 2009 affidavit of former police officer Cezar Mancao.

Mancao, in his affidavit, said he heard former police Senior Superintendent Michael Ray Aquino and Lacson discussing about a plan to “neutralize” Dacer.

But Poblador said Mancao’s November 11, 2010 comment admitted that he only learned of the “sordid affair ex post facto (from after the action).”

The lawyer said Mancao’s admission was consistent with the testimony of another prosecution witness, Glenn Dumlao, who attested that Mancao knew nothing about the murder plot.

The appeals court, in an 80-page decision, agreed with Poblador saying Mancao “is not a credible and trustworthy witness.”

“Under oath he contradicted himself on material points. Inconsistencies and material contradiction affect the credibility of Cezar Mancao and the veracity of his statements,” said the decision penned by

Associate Justice Ramon M. Bato Jr.

The appellate court said that the testimonies of Mancao showed “beyond a penumbra of doubt that extraneous factors or other persons may have influenced him.”

Prior to the execution of the February 13, 2009 affidavit, the appeals court said that Mancao admitted that on September 27, 2009, Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief Brigadier General Romeo Prestoza asked him to fabricate some charges against Lacson in exchange for his reinstatement to the police force, financial support and relocation of his family to Singapore.

“There being no probable cause to justify the filing of two separate information for murder against petitioner, consistent with his constitutional right to be presumed innocent and in consonance with existing jurisprudence, he (Lacson) should be relieved from the pain and agony of trial,” the appeals court said.

It said that the allegation of Dacer’s daughters Carina Dacer, Sabina Dacer-Reyes, Emily Dacer-Hungerford and Amparo Dacer-Henson that Lacson masterminded the killing of their father because he opposed Lacson’s appointment national police chief “is nothing but an inference or conjecture not supported by substantial evidence on record.”

Associate Justices Juan Enriquez Jr. and Isaias Dicdican concurred with the decision.

Malacañang declares moratorium on logging

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

The government will not be further issuing or renewing any logging contracts and tree cutting permits following the issuance of Executive Order No. 23. EO 23 declares a "moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests nationwide."

6 poll officials back at work after serving suspension over folder scam

Six Commission on Elections officials returned to their old posts in the agency after serving the six-month preventive suspension meted on them by the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged involvement in the P689.7-million ballot secrecy folder procurement.

SC junks JDV motion, allows Lakas-Kampi merger

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court has denied with finality the motion for reconsideration filed by former House Speaker Jose de Venecia on the high court's December 16, 2009 decision junking de Venecia's petition questioning the legality of the merger of the Lakas-Christian and Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) with the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI).

Comelec likely to use PCOS vote machines in ARMM polls

The Commission on Elections is likely to use the controversial Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines for this August polls at the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Former Comelec commissioner Larrazabal: Private citizen

MANILA, Philippines - After seven years of serving with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal is once again a private citizen.

Speaking on ANC's "Headstart," Larrazabal recalls, it was a desire to effect change that prompted him to join the commission.

"I want to effect change. I don't want to do it when I'm grey and old and tired. Now, is the time," the 39-year old Larrazabal recalls telling his wife. "Fortunately enough, it worked!"

In 2004, Larrazabal served as provincial supervisor of Bulacan. He later served as regional director of Regions 5 and 8, and was assigned to various provinces in the south and other parts of the country.

Grateful for having served the poll body and the country, he said: "I didn't expect to be a commissioner, I didn't expect to be sent to Shariff Kabunsuan, Sulu, Basilan but I plunged into it head first. What we do is not for me, it's for the country and my family."

Credited for helping realize the May 2010 automated elections that gave the Philippines the distinction of having the most advanced elections in the world, Larrazabal says, he leaves the commission with a sense of pride.

"We started something great in 2010, and it can only get better as the years go by."

Despite leaving the poll body, Larrazabal says, helping improve elections in the country remains a lasting passion.

"I'm humbled that I was able to be part of something big in the Philippines."

Retirement plans

"My focus is how to help Comelec in improving elections in the Philippines. My retirement does not mean the end of public service. I can do public service as a private citizen in whatever capacity."

Larrazabal says he has agreed to help the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting with its advocacy.

As for retirement plans, he hopes to put his experience with electoral work down on paper.

"I want to write a book about automated elections, basically the ins and outs of elections and a comparative analysis of elections in other countries."

He plans to spend more time with his family, hop on his bike and hit the trail.

"This August, I'm planning hopefully to bike from Lhasa to Kathmandu -- 1,700 kilometers."

Larrazabal says, he plans to support the Azkals when they play against Mongolia in Bacolod next week, and to watch the World cup in Brazil in 2014.

He is also a confessed football jersey collector. "I have the World Cup jerseys of Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Serbia, Portugal and various players including Pele and Ronaldo."

Peso inches up anew over positive global economy outlook

MANILA, Philippines—The peso continued to inch up on Thursday as investors once more manifested their confidence that the global economy would post firmer recovery this year.

The local currency closed at 43.87 against the US dollar, up by 9.5 centavos from the previous day's finish of 43.965.

Intraday high stood at 43.87:$1, while intraday low settled at 44.01. Volume of trade fell to $681.06 million from $1.11 billion previously.

Traders said improved profits of corporate entities and increase in manufacturing output in the United States, the world's biggest economy, have boosted hopes of better performance of the global economy this year.

They said investors normally would have more risk appetite if growth prospects for the global economy were good. Investors manifest higher appetite for risk by investing in portfolio instruments from emerging markets like the Philippines.

These instruments, compared with US treasuries, are perceived to be riskier but have higher yields.

Lucio Tan's brother loses P51-B ill-gotten wealth case

Businessman Lucio Tan's brother - Mariano Tanenglian - was declared in "default" for failing to present his defense evidence in the 23-year forfeiture case filed by the government, Sandiganbayan said Thursday.

26 Pinoys in Egypt homebound

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 2) – Twenty-seven Filipinos are homebound on Saturday after they expressed their intentions to be repatriated following the ongoing political crisis in Egypt.

“They will comprise the first batch in the voluntary repatriation being conducted by the Philippine Embassy in Cairo and the DFA in view of the on-going crisis in Egypt,” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Ed Malaya said in a text message to abs-cbnNEWS.com on Thursday.

The repatriates are composed of 13 women, 9 minors and 5 men. Three are nurses from the Dar Al Fouad Hospital, while the rest are household service workers and Filipino scholars at the Al-Azhar University. The scholars will be joined by their families.

Sixteen Filipinos are from Cairo’s Maadi area, 3 are from the Dar Al Fouad Hospital in Giza, 5 are from Nasr City and 1 from Zamalek. Two are already at the Embassy’s Filipino Workers Resource Center.

“The Philippine government has also made arrangements for a Philippine Airlines plane flying the Middle East route to be available and ready to proceed to Cairo should there be more Filipinos of sizeable number who likewise wish to come home,” Malaya said.

According to the DFA, the Filipinos will depart Cairo International Airport on Saturday, February 5, for the Philippines.

The Philippine Embassy in Cairo received assistance in making arrangements for the flights from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) offices in Cairo. The Filipino community organizations are also active in assisting the repatriates.

Malaya said the Philippine government is focused on ensuring the safety and security of Filipinos, and will repatriate those who would like to come home.

He earlier said the DFA sees no need for a mandatory evacuation of the more than 6,500 Filipinos based in Egypt. Nevertheless, the DFA has offered to move to safer areas or bring home those who feel that their lives are at risk in Egypt.

Malaya said that the DFA is looking at 2 scenarios of voluntary evacuation: repatriate Filipinos by air or transport them to the Israeli or Jordanian borders.

The DFA has issued a travel advisory to Egypt which urges Filipinos who have plans to proceed to Egypt to defer non-essential and non-urgent travels, notably for tourism purposes, until the security situation has stabilized.

It reiterated its advice to the Filipino community to stay indoors, steer clear of public places, and avoid involvement in political actions.

Five killed as Egypt protesters come under fire

(Updated 4:25 p.m.) CAIRO - Supporters of President Hosni Mubarak opened fire on protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Thursday, killing at least five, in a fresh spike in violence over an unprecedented challenge to his 30-year-old rule.

Foes stick to demands as Cairo battle rages

by by Sara Hussein, Agence France-Presse

CAIRO, Egypt (UPDATE) - Thousands of anti-regime protesters stood their ground Thursday as main opposition groups spurned talks with the government after Egypt's revolt turned into a deadly battle for a central Cairo square.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis demonstrate in Sanaa

by by Hammoud Mounassar and Jamal al-Jaberi, Agence France-Presse

SANAA, Yemen - Tens of thousands of protesters massed on Thursday at Sanaa University for a "day of rage" calling for the fall of Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime, while a similar number of government loyalists flooded a central square.

Haiti awaits vote results, Aristide backers protest

by by Joseph Guyler Delva and Allyn Gaestel, Reuters

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Supporters in Haiti of exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide demonstrated on Wednesday for his return as the country waited nervously to hear who would contest the presidency in a March runoff.

Mandela responding to treatment

by Agence France-Presse

PRETORIA, South Africa - Former South African president Nelson Mandela is doing well and responding to treatment at his home a week after his release from hospital, the government said Thursday citing doctors.

Pacquiao says fans hungry for Mosley bout

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – Boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao said the brisk ticket sales shows that people are interested in boxing even if the match is against an "aging" fighter, Shane Mosley.

Mosley claims to know Pacman’s ‘hittable’ zone

MANILA, Philippines—Manny Pacquiao’s slick frontal and lateral movements might pose little concern for Shane Mosley when they tangle for the World Boxing Organization welterweight crown on May 7 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The American challenger believes he can always find an opening to catch the Filipino pound-for-pound king.

Should he pull it off, Mosley said the Filipino pound-for-pound king would be in real trouble.

“Pacquiao is very hittable and that’s the problem he has with me because I can put his lights out,” Mosley told Vivek Wallace of Fighthype.com Wednesday.

Mosley’s optimism stemmed from the way Pacquiao fought and beat a bigger but slower Antonio Margarito last November 13 in Arlington, Texas, to clinch the 147-pound title.

Although Pacquiao dominated Margarito that time, the Mexican was able to sneak a few solid punches, including two body bombs that nearly suck the air out of the Filipino in the sixth round.

“I am at least three times faster than Margarito, so if Margarito can touch him, I can touch him too,” said Mosley.

The 39-year-old Mosley, a three-time world champion, should know.

He stopped Margarito in the ninth round when they fought in 2009.

And Mosley’s comments have reached Pacquiao and his camp. But the first and only eight-division world champion, took it for all its worth.

According to Pacquiao in his Philboxing column Wednesday, he and his handlers would work hard during training camp to find ways on how to counter whatever Mosley would throw at him come fight night at the MGM Grand.

“We will try to get familiar with his (Mosley’s) past fights and see how best to beat him this time,” said Pacquiao.

Pacquiao vows to counter Mosley's strategy

MANILA, Philippines – Eight-division boxing champion Manny Pacquiao said that much of his 8-week training for his upcoming fight will be spent on strategies devised to counter Shane Mosley’s strengths.

This was Pacquiao’s reaction to Mosley’s statement that he can be easily hit and knocked down, despite the Filipino champion's speed and power.

"Nabasa ko rin ang sinabi ni Ginoong Mosley na kaya niya akong talunin dahil madali naman daw akong tamaan (I’ve also read Mr. Mosley’s statement that he can beat me because he can easily hit me)," the Filipino superstar said in his Philboxing.com column, “Kumbinasyon”.

"'Yan po ang aking paghahandaan. Sa tulong ng aking trainer at iba pang makakasama sa training camp, gugugol po kami ng panahon upang ma-counter ang anumang ibabato sa akin ng kalaban," Pacquiao added.

(That’s what I’m preparing for. With the help of my trainer and other people in my training camp, we’ll spend some time to counter every punch my opponent has to throw).

Pacquiao said he will spend a total of 8 weeks of training to prepare against Mosley, whom he will fight on May 7.

The Filipino will again work with Hall of Fame boxing trainer Freddie Roach and his conditioning coach Alex Ariza.

The 32-year-old Pacquiao plans to train for a month in Baguio City before flying to the US for another month of preparations for the fight.

The Filipino champion again appealed for support from his fans.

"Katulad po ng dati, muli kong hihingin ang inyong tulong at suporta, hindi sa pisikal, kundi sa ispiritwal na aspeto, upang sa bandang huli, tayo pa rin ang magbubunyi," he wrote.

(Just last in my recent fights, I’m again seeking you help and support, through prayers, so that in the end we’ll be triumphant).

Mosley, who has won multiple titles in 3 weight classes, claimed that Pacquiao can be easily hit despite his speed and agility.

“Pacquiao is very hittable and that's the problem he has with me because I can put your lights out,” he said.

The 39-year-old American added that he will use his power punches to beat the Filipino.

“I mean, whether everybody says I'm old or this and that, my punching power ain't going nowhere,” said Mosley.

Borgonia: We are reviewing Cviraa’s Palaro lineup

AFTER Cebu City Vice Mayor Augustus Joy Young expressed his disappointment with the Department of Education (DepEd)for not sticking with the plan for Palarong Pambansa the other day, DepEd Regional Director Recaredo Borgonia said they are doing their best to to complete their list of athletes within this week.

“We are reviewing our list of athletes because we don’t want to commit mistakes. We want to send the best team,” Borgonia said.

Borgonia, who is currently in Manila, said that once he returns, he will be completing the list of athletes and will present it next week.

The Central Visayas Regional Athletics Association (Cviraa) delegation is composed mostly of athletes from Cebu City.

Young said he was disappointed why DepEd still hasn’t completed the list when the Cviraa was held last November yet. The vice mayor said their decision to hold the Cviraa three months early was rendered moot because until now, the athletes have yet to train because there is no final list.

Young earlier urged DepEd to hold the Cviraa meet in November, and not the usual February schedule, to give athletes ample time to prepare for the Palarong Pambansa, which is usually held in April.

Young also criticized the botched selection of the archery team last week but Borgonia blamed it on the bad weather and miscommunication by the tournament manager.

A team from Cebu City went to Dumaguete City for the trials, while another team from Silliman went to Cebu because they thought the tryouts was to be held here.

Celtics' Rivers to coach Eastern Conference All-Stars

NEW YORK - Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics will coach the Eastern Conference in the February 20 All-Star game in Los Angeles, the NBA says.

Gladys Reyes named new MTRCB board member

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – Actress Gladys Reyes has been appointed board member of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).

Angelica denies nude photo scandal

MANILA, Philippines – Actress Angelica Panganiban broke her silence on Thursday on the controversy over an alleged photo of hers that has been circulating in the Internet.

The photo allegedly shows the topless actress.

In an interview with “Showbiz News Ngayon,” Panganiban vehemently denied that she is the woman in the picture.

“Hindi po ako iyon at malayong malayo po ang katawan ko doon. Sabi ko nga kung puwede ko lang ipakita ang aking katawan, gagawin ko kaya lang baka mawalan naman ako ng trabaho noon,” she said.

Trillanes wants to be paired with La Greta

by by Reyma Buan-Deveza, abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV has picked actress Gretchen Barretto to be his leading lady if ever he will do a movie under Regal Entertainment.

Venus Raj, Iya Villania join 'UKG'

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – Weekday mornings will definitely be more interesting as two new beautiful faces are set to formally join the roster of “Umagang Kay Ganda (UKG)” hosts starting February 7.

Ryan Bang denies sex video

MANILA, Philippines - Comedian Ryan Bang vehemently denied that he has a sex video.

In an interview with "Showbiz News Ngayon," the former "Pinoy Big Brother" housemate merely laughed off the issue.

"Mayroon daw akong sex video? Hindi ako 'yon talaga," Bang said. "Patay ako sa parents ko siyempre, hindi ako yon."

Born Bang Hyun Sung, Bang joined show business after he was named second placer in ABS-CBN's reality show "Pinoy Big Brother: Teen Clash of 2010."

He is now hosting his own show on Studio 23 and he is also part of "Matanglawin," "Shout Out" and "Banana Split" on Channel 2.

Bang became a household name after he guested on television show "Showtime."

Janet Jackson arrives in Manila for a concert

American recording artist Janet Jackson arrived in the country on Thursday night for her concert at the PICC Plenary Hall at the CCP Complex on February 4.

3 million preschoolers malnourished, says DoST

MANILA, Philippines—Some three million preschoolers are malnourished while close to two million are at risk of poor eyesight and infections related to Vitamin A deficiency, the nutrition research arm of the Department of Science and Technology said Thursday.

The Food and Nutrition Research Institute said barely 18 percent, or two in every 10 children 6 months to 5 years old, "met the recommended energy intake" based on its 2008 food consumption survey. Highlights of the survey, conducted every five years, were released Thursday.

"The survey also revealed that the average one-day total food intake of preschool-age children decreased from 562 grams in 2003 to 492 grams in 2008,"

The same survey found that some 15.2 percent of children from the same age group had low intake of Vitamin A, which could lead to problems in vision and make them more vulnerable to infection.

While figures still placed Vitamin A deficiency to be "of public health significance" per international standards, incidence of the condition fell from 40.1 percent in 2003 to 15.2 percent in 2008.

The institute recommended providing nutrient-rich food to children, among them rice, fish, meat, beans, legumes, root crops, corn and meat.

"This period in the life cycle is critical for promoting optimal growth, health and development, thus, adequate quantity and quality of complementary foods must be provided," said FNRI in a statement.

The survey also found that two in every 10 Filipinos had iron deficiency, with the incidence highest among infants. FNRI said some 55.7 children under a year old suffered from nutritional anemia.

HIV cases in country cross 6,000 mark

MANILA, Philippines - The National HIV and AIDS Registry has listed 6,015 cases in the country, including the 174 new infections diagnosed in December.

Around 90 percent or 5,406 of the cases in the Registry were infected via unprotected sex. The rest were infected through needle sharing among drug users and mother-to-child transmission, or had no reported mode of transfer, said LPG Marketers' Association (LPGMA) Party-list Rep. Arnel Ty.

“In December, the country also had the most number of new cases discovered in a month since passive surveillance of the disease began in 1984,” he added. This was up 38% from the same month in 2009.

Of the 174 cases discovered in December, 167 were males.

The other features of the cases are:

  1. the victims’ median age is 28;
  2. at least 3 are already full-blown AIDS cases;
  3. 14 were male overseas Filipino workers.

Another 11 units of donated blood were found HIV-positive in December. This raised to 146 the donated blood units found HIV-tainted in the 12 months of 2010, or up 64% compared to the previous year.

On a yearly basis, the newly diagnosed infections bring to 1,591 the combined number of new cases in 2010. This is almost double from 835 cases in 2009.

Ty is author of a House resolution pushing for a review of the 1998 AIDS Prevention and Control Law, to find new ways to reinforce the fight against the highly infectious disease, and improve the living conditions of sufferers.

The House committee on population and family relations earlier endorsed for plenary approval the controversial Reproductive Health Bill, which aggressively advances the use of condoms and other modern contraceptive devices.

700,000 ultrathin condoms disappear in transit

TOKYO, Japan - More than 700,000 condoms have been stolen in transit between Malaysia and Japan, a major Japanese rubber manufacturer said Thursday.

About 726,000 polyurethane condoms were loaded into a container at a factory in Malaysia, said Sagami Rubber Industries, founded in 1934 as the first condom maker in Japan.

But the shipment was empty when it arrived at the company's main plant in suburban Tokyo last week, company spokesman Norinari Wakui said, adding that the lock on the container had been replaced before it left port in Malaysia.

The items, which are 14 percent thinner than conventional products at 0.02 millimetres, are worth 120 million yen (1.5 million dollars) at Japanese retail prices, he said.

"This has never happened to us before and we are very perplexed," Wakui told AFP. "We are not certain if it was of a premeditated nature."

Mona Lisa model was a male, say Italian researchers

ROME—Italian researchers who specialize in resolving art mysteries said Wednesday they have discovered the disputed identity of the model for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa – and claimed he was a man.

Silvano Vinceti, chairman of the Italian national committee for cultural heritage, said the Florence-born Renaissance artist's male apprentice and possible lover Salai was the main inspiration for the picture.

However his claim was immediately disputed by experts at the Louvre in Paris, where the painting is on display.

Salai, real name Gian Giacomo Caprotti, an effeminate young artist who worked with da Vinci for 25 years, is thought to have served as a model and muse for several of his paintings. The pair had an "ambiguous" relationship and were probably lovers, Vinceti said.

Comparisons between the facial characteristics of figures from several of da Vinci's works – such as "St. John the Baptist" and the "Angel Incarnate" – reveal striking similarities with the Mona Lisa's nose and mouth, he said.

"There are remarkable similarities," Vinceti told reporters.

What is more, Vinceti said da Vinci had left clues to the model's identity in tiny letters L and S which he and his team found painted into the eyes of the Mona Lisa.

"Close examination of a high-quality digital copy of the portrait had revealed an L for Leonardo and an S for Salai," he said.

But Vinceti's claims have been disputed by the Louvre museum.

The museum said it had carried out "every possible laboratory test possible" on the picture in 2004 and then again in 2009, and insisted that "no inscriptions, letters or numbers, were discovered during the tests."

"The ageing of the painting on wood has caused a great number of cracks to appear in the paint, which have caused a number of shapes to appear that have often been subject to over-interpretation," the Louvre told AFP.

The museum also said Vinceti's had made his claims without having had access to the painting itself.

The Italian aficionado, whose team gained notoriety with their claims surrounding the death of Caravaggio last year, said he felt sorry for the embarrassment the museum must feel on having missed the clues all these years.

"I can understand their incredulity and amazement – after all this must be the most studied picture on earth," he told AFP, but added "they're really blind."

"They have to be serious and accept that they didn't see what was right in front of their eyes," he said.

In order to clear up any lingering doubt over his theory – worthy of Dan Brown's 2003 bestseller the "Da Vinci Code" – Vinceti said he would be willing to take his team to France and collaborate on further tests with the Louvre.

Astronomers discover six planets

PARIS—Astronomers said on Thursday they had found six planets orbiting a distant star in the most exciting but also most challenging find since exploration of other solar systems began 15 years ago.

None of the so-called exoplanets, orbiting the star Kepler-11 2,000 light years away, is remotely comparable to the Earth, but the detection of them is a major technical feat, the scientists said.

Five planets are relatively small, ranging in mass from 2.3 to 13.5 times that of Earth, but orbit Kepler-11 at blistering proximity, encircling it at a distance that is even closer than Mercury to the Sun.

Their "year" – the time it takes to encircle the Sun – is less than 50 days.

A sixth exoplanet is large and farther out, with an orbital period of 118 days, and is of a yet-to-be determined mass, although it is likely to be a "gas giant" like the outer planets of our own Solar System.

Reporting their find in the British journal Nature, the astronomers said the star system was mind-boggling because the planets were so small, so numerous and yet so densely packed.

"We think this is the biggest thing in exoplanets since the discovery of 51 Pegasi b, the first exoplanet back in 1995," Jack Lissauer of the NASA-Ames Research Center said in a teleconference with the media.

Daniel Fabrycky, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California at Santa Cruz, described it as "an amazing planetary system."

"Of the six planets, the most massive are potentially like Neptune and Uranus, but the three lowest-mass planets are unlike anything we have in our solar system," added Jonathan Fortney, the university's assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics.

The inner planets seem to have an atmosphere of water or hydrogen-helium gas. This is another surprise, given the presumption that a small planet orbiting so close to a star would have a light atmosphere blasted away by solar radiation.

The extra-solar bodies were found by the US orbiting telescope Kepler, which already has a fine haul of these so-called exoplanets to its credit.

Kepler-11's herd of planets orbit in very narrow planes. Sideways on, as viewed from Earth, "the system is flatter than a CD," said Lissauer.

The diameters of the planets were calculated using a highly-sensitive light sensor, a photometer, which detected changes in the star's brightness when the planets moved in front of it.

This is now a time-honored approach in exoplanet work. More than 500 exoplanets have been spotted since 1995, of which around 100 have been detected using this "transit" method.

Where the new work differed is a novel way of calculating the planet's masses.

Until now, this was done by using ground-based telescopes whose Doppler spectroscopy measures a "wobble" in starlight caused by the gravitational tug of the passing planet.

This has been great for measuring very large planets that are, say, the size of our own Jupiter. But it is not refined enough for estimating the mass of smaller planets that are little bigger than Earth.

The team used orbital dynamics to get around this for the Kepler-11 planets.

They measured tiny variations in the orbital periods caused by gravitational interaction among the tightly-packed planets themselves.

Improvements such as this are part of an essential toolkit for spotting another Earth-like planet which could support life as we know it.

It would have to be a rocky planet, as opposed to one made out of gas, and it would have to orbit in the famous Goldilocks Zone, where the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, but just right for water to exist in liquid form.

Baguio temp falls to 9.4 °C

Baguio City was at its coldest this year on Thursday, with the mercury dropping to 9.4 degrees Celsius in the morning, according to the weather bureau.

 


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