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

Sunday, February 6, 2011

February 7 Major News Stories (dyab-cebu.bokyo@blogger.com)

February 7 Major News Stories
February 7 Major News Stories

Tap solons’ fund for drainage: DPWH

THE Cebu City Government will demolish illegal structures along the banks of rivers and creeks in the city starting today.

Squatters Prevention and Encroachment Elimination Division (Speed) chief Noel Artes said four demolition teams will be deployed in Sindulan, Mabolo to remove 14 houses built along the creek.

Although Artes expects the affected families not to resist the demolition, he still asked police to accompany them.

The chairman of the Economic Development Committee (EDC) of the Regional Development Council (RDC) supports demolition of houses along riverbanks.

Robert Go, former president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), said people living along rivers throw garbage and human waste into the water.

Go said relocating squatters is preventing the loss of lives during flashfloods.

The LGUs concerned can have a “Balik Probinsiya Program” where squatters along the esteros and creeks can be sent back to their hometowns.

Go said once the areas are cleared of informal settlers, LGUs can expand the esteros based on the easement set by laws.

Artes asked Mabolo barangay officials and tanods to be present during the removal of illegal structures.

“Gisultihan na man nato ang apektadong mga pamilya last Friday sa atong katuyoan, nakasabot man sila, pero, mas maayo gyud nga maniguro ta ug atong pakuyogon ang mga opisyal ug tanod sa Mabolo uban sa mga pulis,” Artes said.

Artes clarified, though, there’s no need to relocate the affected families since only those portion of their houses abutting the creek will be removed.

The Speed chief said they will drop by the office of the mayor before going to the area to get some last-minute instructions.

Mayor Michael Rama will clarify the matter today but he added that if all the things are in place, then the removal of illegal structures will proceed.

Rama sees the urgency and the necessity to dismantle the illegal structures in the

middle of rivers and creeks before the rainy days come.

Former mayor and now Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south district) advised Rama to have a dialogue first with the affected families.

The congressman is in favor of dismantling the illegal structures along the banks of creeks and rivers but he wants the informal settlers to be heard first.

“You listen first. You should have a dialogue. Do not just talk and talk. That’s why we call it government by the people, for the people and not government for Mike Rama!

Dili man na acceptable sa BOPK and he says he’s a BOPK? He should not get big headed, you can’t just kick them out and bahala na where you sleep tonight,” Osmeña asked.

Rama said, though, the affected families are already aware since they have been conducting dialogues for a long time.

He said 3,000 squatters were known to them during the inventory and dialogue they initiated before.

City Councilor Alvin Dizon assured the mayor spent taxpayers’ money to address the basic needs of the city residents, particularly the poor and the marginalized, is money well-spent.

The councilor, together with other members of the City Council, has urged the mayor to comply with the provisions in the Urban Development and Housing Act in removing the informal settlers.

“Even President Aquino has committed not to allow any public or private entity to evict poor families and leave them homeless in the street without decent relocation,” Dizon said.

Rama is not keen on providing relocation sites to squatters along rivers and creeks as this might encourage more squatters from other places.

Meanwhile, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 7 recommends that the City tap its congressmen for its drainage system, rather than realign the budget allocated for flyovers.

DPWH public relations officer Marie Mignon Nillama said the two flyovers set to be constructed this year, one at M.J. Cuenco Ave. cor. Gen. Maxilom Ave., and another at Gorordo Ave. corner Archbishop Reyes Ave., were a product of at least three years of feasibility study.

She said the City Government knew about it, despite the complaints of Rama and Cebu City Traffic Operations and Management (Citom) that they were not consulted about the flyover.

Funding

Osmeña, too, does not know about the flyover.

He said tapping congressmen is not easier compared to getting the funds through DPWH.

Nillama said there is a long process involved in getting projects. Each local government unit will have to propose a project, submit it to the development council, and pass it to a committee of the Regional Development Council (RDC) for approval.

The RDC will submit recommended projects to the regional DPWH, which will then submit them to the national office for approval and funding.

Rep. Rachel “Cutie” del Mar (Cebu City, north district) allocated P1 million to each of the 46 barangays in her district, encouraging them to use the money on flood control and drainage.

Osmeña, though, prefers a different approach because he said additional drainage is not the solution.

“Concentrate on mini dams which is more cost effective. The mini dams will delay the

flow of river,” said Osmeña.

He said to prevent flood, the water should be diverted to the underutilized Lahug River.

Nillama said the funding for the flyover projects cannot be diverted to drainage projects because the materials for these are different.

Rama and Citom chairman Sylvan Jakosalem urged DPWH to finish the side roads of the existing flyovers first before thinking of constructing another flyover. They also called for drainage projects.

Nillama said drainage projects should be an initiative of the City Government.

“From us, it would take at least one year,” said Nillama.

As for the side roads in the Archbishop Reyes Ave. flyover, Nillama said it is the responsibility of the Cebu City Government.

“Those are city roads. Also, the utility companies did not move their posts along Escario St., which would have made the road a lot bigger,” said Nillama, explaining that it would ease traffic if the posts are removed.

Labella: Demolish biz structures too

by By U. Borromeo/FPL

CEBU, Philippines - Cebu City Councilor Edgardo Labella wants that commercial establishments built on waterways should be included in the clearing operation and not only the poor families.

Labella admitted that aside from the houses made of light materials that are built by poor families within the three-meter easement of the creeks and rivers there are also commercial establishments encroaching the waterways.

He cited a famous hotel in Barangay Subangdaku, Mandaue City that was allegedly built on the creek and several giant establishments within Sindulan, Mabolo up to Barangay Banilad that have occupied half of the creek.

Engineer Josefa Ylanan, chief of the Office of the Building Official, said she will have it investigated.

Ylanan said Mayor Michael Rama personally witnessed how the illegal structures have obstructed the flow of water in the creeks and rivers.

Labella said he will sponsor a resolution on Friday asking the concerned City Hall departments, including the Department of Engineering and Public Works (DEPW), City Legal Office and Squatters Prevention Encroachment Elimination Division, not to close their eyes against these violators.

As chairman of the City Council’s committee on laws and former Ombudsman director before he became a city legislator, Labella said he is not against the demolition of urban poor settlers living within the three-meter easement zone but the implementation of the law should be fair to all.

“Kinahanglang patas ang pagpatuman sa balaud nga ang tanan g’yud nga violators sa balaud maoy himoan og lakang dili kay kadto ra intawon nga mga pobre,” Labella lamented.

He also said that the city should comply with the provisions of the Republic Act 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act.

The UDHA requires that the government should prepare a relocation site for those who will be affected by government clearing operations.

Rama however said the city government could not promise a relocation site for those who are affected by the clearing operation.

Rama explained that giving them relocation site would encourage more people to come to the city and settle in danger zones.

“Kon ato sila nga hatagan og mga relocation sites kadtong uban madasig pagpuyo usab sa mga sapa ug ubang danger zones kay makaingon man nga hatagan ra man diay sila gihapon sa dakbayan sa Sugbo og relocation sites,” the mayor said.

City Councilor Alvin Dizon however disagrees with Rama and insisted that the affected families be relocated.

Engr. Danilo Gabiana, head of the Division for the Welfare of Urban Poor (DWUP), estimated at least 3,000 families living in creeks or beside the waterways in the city.

There are at least nine creeks in Cebu City from Mahiga Creek at the boundary of Cebu City and Mandaue City to barangay Bulacao and all of the creeks and rivers have illegal structures affecting the natural flow of water causing it to overflow.

Dizon vs Rama P1.4 million buffet dinner questioned

by By Garry B. Lao/FPL

CEBU, Philippines - What started to be a simple disagreement on principles between Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and Councilor Alvin Dizon on the issue of giving relocation site to informal settlers who will be displaced in the city’s clearing operation of Mahiga creek has escalated into a full-blown conflict.

Dizon, who came from the ranks of the urban poor before becoming a councilor, criticized Rama for his statement that giving relocation site to the 3,000 informal settlers would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“Mayor Rama is not inclined to provide relocation to informal settlers because it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money. But the mayor endorsed to spend a million budget for a P1.4 buffet dinner for the city’s charter day celebration,” Dizon said.

Dizon said that instead of spending public funds for dinner, the mayor should use it for worthy projects.

Rama has tasked Councilor Lea Ouano-Japson to sponsor a resolution allocating P5,411,945 for the city’s upcoming Charter Day wherein P1.4 million has been earmarked for buffet dinner at P1,000 per head. The city expects 1,200 guests in the dinner. On top of it they have also allocated P220,000 for the sound system and technical rider, which also covers stage design and production expenses.

“Why the city has to spend so much for a dinner? Instead, we should use public funds for worthy projects,” Dizon said.

Dizon explained that while he shares Rama’s stand on the urgency and necessity to remove the families living on the riverbanks and creeks but it should be done in compliance with the Republic Act 7279 otherwise known as the Urban Development and Housing Act.

Dizon recalled that during the administration of Rep. Tomas Osmeña as mayor of the city there were about 900 urban poor families affected by demolitions but all of them have been relocated to Lahug, Budlaan and Pit-os.

“Why relocation is needed? As the workforce in the cities, the poor should be given the opportunity to stay in the cities. We should prioritize the development and improvement of in-city or near city relocation sites for the informal settlers,” Dizon said.

I don’t want an authority higher than Cebu City: Tomas

WHILE majority of Cebu legislators support the move of re-filing the bill to create the Metro Cebu Development Authority (MCDA), Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south district) is against it.

Osmeña said the proposed MCDA is unnecessary. He said he doesn’t want an authority higher than Cebu City.

Coordinated drainage master plan, urban planning, solid waste management and traffic system are among the concerns of MCDA if enacted into law.

MCDA will provide services that will cover areas from Danao City in the north to Carcar City in the south.

But Osmeña said Cebu City’s drainage problem has nothing to do with Danao City, and it doesn’t need the approval of other towns to implement a program.

He said the Local Government Code already provides that two government units can engage in a joint undertaking.

He said Cebu City can undergo a joint undertaking in addressing the problem along Mahiga Creek and with Talisay City in taking care of the Bulacao River.

Osmeña said Cebu City has long been doing the functions of MCDA in times of emergencies or calamities.

“Cebu City’s fire trucks will go to Talisay, Mandaue and anywhere else when there’s a fire. Do we need an MCDA for that? ERUF (Emergency and Rescue Unit Foundation) is funded by the City, but when an accident occurs in Mactan Bridge, they will go there.

Do we need an MCDA for that? Then, we want BRT and they want LRT. Then there will be voting. Pildi gyud ta kay (We will lose because) Gullas is in control of the mayors in the first district. Why are we going to sacrifice that?” Osmeña asked.

“Don’t forget Talisay wants to take over 100 hectares in the SRP. Don’t forget that the Garcias want to take over Fuente Osmeña and change it to Fuente something else!

Hesus, Maria. MCDA? What for?” Osmeña said.

Osmeña said Cebu City’s autonomy will suffer in the presence of MCDA.

Osmeña said his job is to protect the interest of the City and he will oppose the proposal once it will be re-filed in the House of Representatives.

Congressmen in Cebu who earlier expressed their support for the creation of MCDA include Eduardo Gullas (1st district), Pablo Garcia (2nd district), Benhur Salimbangon (4th district) and Luigi Quisumbing (6th district).

Rep. Rachel Marguerite “Cutie” del Mar said she will support it if the proposal will get the support of all mayors and congressmen in Metro Cebu.

“Without that unanimous support and cooperation, the authority can never accomplish its objectives,” del Mar said.

Former congressman Raul del Mar (Cutie’s father) filed the same bill twice in the 8th and 9th Congress, but due to the lack of support from Cebu legislators, the bill was rejected twice in a row.

Quisumbing yesterday said that although he sees the need for better coordination between local government units (LGUs) in Metro Cebu, he will study any bill that will be filed in Congress creating MCDA.

Quisumbing was reacting to the statement of del Mar that she will file a bill creating the MCDA and she hopes her fellow lawmakers will support her move.

Quisumbing believes there are concerns in Metro Cebu that need collective decisions leaders of various cities and municipalities.

These include drainage system, mass transport system, environmental protection, solid waste disposal and water supply, he said.

He said if MCDA will be created, provisions that overlap with the functions of LGUs, or will remove LGU autonomy, must be avoided.

City dads want garbage laws sustained, reviewed

A FLOOD that surprised the public in the North Reclamation Area and Barangay Mabolo in Cebu City last Jan. 25 highlighted the old problem of garbage.

Garbage caused the Mahiga Creek to overflow and give Mabolo a major flood and minor ones in some parts of the city.

Whatever happened to the city ordinances that were to solve the City’s garbage problem? These are City Ordinances 2031 that enforces waste segregation and 1361 or the anti-littering ordinance.

Former Cebu City councilor Nestor Archival, author of ordinance 2031, said since the implementation of the law five years ago, about 20,000 violators have been apprehended.

Ten percent of this faced court cases that allowed the Cebu City Government to collect about P2 million in fines, said Archival, who was then the council’s chairman for the committee on environment.

However, the problem on garbage remains the same and the Inayawan Sanitary Landfill continues to receive tons of garbage a day when its life span should have ended in 2007.

Unsustained

Councilor Nida Cabrera, the chairperson of the committee on environment, said the implementation of the said ordinances was not sustained.

The ordinances complement Republic Act 9003 or the Solid Waste Management Act.

Cabrera believes full implementation of the law and the ordinances will decrease garbage disposal at the city level to 50 percent.

The law provides that the barangays should be front liners in waste segregation, which is why Archival said he passed the system of waste disposable, to give more teeth to the national law.

Only five barangays have materials recovery facilities, though. These are Barangays Ermita, Luz, Mabolo, Mambaling and Pulangbato.

Ermita Barangay Captain Antonieto Flores said the barangay started operating its materials recovery facility last October.

It has significantly decreased the garbage it disposed to the landfill, although, he could not give figures.

“We segregate the biodegradable garbage in Carbon and put it in our compost pit,” said Flores.

He admits, though, that it has not yet been fully implemented because they have yet to identify where they will send the recyclable materials. They still end up at the dump site.

Materials

Pulangbato Barangay Captain Maria Velasquez said her barangay received materials for the facility only two weeks ago. The barangay is still waiting for the P20,000 aid from the City to finish the facility. Meantime, Velasquez said the barangay is shouldering the cost to provide materials to make the facility workable.

Cabrera also said she is working on a household composting with the “pay-it-forward” scheme.

Next week, the City will give 20 households in 10 barangays a compost basket.

After the household would have harvested from the compost basket, a compost basket will then be given to a neighbor until all city households will be practicing household composting through the Takakura method.

Weather moves flyover deadline

MOTORISTS may have to bear a little longer the traffic woes brought about by the construction of the flyover in Barangay Mambaling, Cebu City.

This, after the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said they can’t meet the project’s target date of completion, which is on Feb. 18.

DPWH 7 Director Pedro Herrera Jr. said the constant rains since October last year have hampered construction of the 410-meter flyover.

But Herrera said the project is already 92.03 percent towards completion.

Balamban typhoid ‘cases’ list up to 19

TWO more people were added to the growing list of admitted cases for suspected typhoid fever in Balamban town.

Dr. Cristina Giango, Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) chief, said that as of yesterday, there were 19 people admitted for suspected typhoid fever in Balamban, most of which are from Barangay Arpili.

But as of now, health officials have yet to determine the type of bacteria that had contaminated the water sources in Sitio Cabal-asan, in Barangay Arpili.

Results

Giango said the test results on blood samples from those affected and the water samples from the water sources will be revealed tomorrow.

The cleanliness of four open water springs in Barangay Arpili is being questioned after 17 people were initially admitted in the Balamban District Hospital after they showed symptoms of typhoid fever.

Symptoms seen in those admitted include sustained fever that lasted for two to three weeks, headaches and constipation or diarrhea.

As of now, barangay officials of Arpili are bracing for what may be a possible outbreak of typhoid fever in their barangay.

Advisory

Giango has advised residents to regularly boil their drinking water and to immediately seek medical help as soon as symptoms arise.

She also advised them to improve water conditions in their area as most of their water sources are prone to contamination from outside forces.

Giango said the water sources need fences to prevent creatures from entering or contaminating the source.

She also advised residents to conduct regular chlorination of the water source.

Balamban is the fourth town in Cebu Province to have been hit by a water-borne disease since the last quarter of 2010, and is the first town to report such cases this year.

DOT assails free CR ordinance

by By Jessica Ann R. Pareja/FPL

CEBU, Philippines - The regional director of the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas has opposed a pending ordinance in the Cebu City Council that compels all establishments under its jurisdiction to allow public access of its comfort rooms.

In a position paper submitted before the City Council, DOT-7 director Rowena Lu Montecillo cited at least three reasons why she is opposed to the proposed legislative measure introduced by Councilor Alvin Arcilla.

She argued that opening the doors of any establishment to non-transacting clients who wish to use their comfort rooms poses security threats to the establishment and to its personnel.

Montecillo made her office as an example where isolated cases of loss of valuables to outsiders have been reported.

“Isolated as maybe, but this is also happening in some establishment either private or government offices within our building,” she said.

Montecillo said that even without an ordinance, establishments provide free use of comfort rooms with priority to transacting clients.

Secondly, Montecillo pointed out that it is the city government’s responsibility to provide the needed public comfort rooms as provided for under the Revised Sanitation Code of Cebu City.

She cited Article VII, paragraph 7.3, which states that; “It is the duty of the city government to construct according to plans approved by the City Health Officer, keep in repair, and maintain in sanitary condition such number of public comfort stations at such places in the city and outlying barrios.”

“The provision is explicit as to who will be responsible in providing comfort rooms. There will be no complaints if the city government constructs public toilets for the general public. And by passing the burden to the public offices and private establishments by way of enacting an ordinance is not fair,” Montecillo said.

Lastly, she cited a Supreme Court decision where it declared that “prohibiting mall owners from collecting parking fees would be tantamount to confiscation of their properties without justification or just compensation.”

She made reference to the SC decision on the case of the Office of the Solicitor General versus Ayala Land Incorporated which was promulgated in September 18, 2009.

The decision says that “the State cannot impose the same prohibition by generally invoking police power.”

Arcilla, in his proposed ordinance, wants all establishments to provide access of comfort facilities “free of charge”.

“Applying the case by analogy, the proposed ordinance prohibiting the owner of the private establishment in collecting fees from the use of comfort room facilities is already tantamount to a taking or confiscation of their properties,” Montecillo said.

“Moreover, the ordinance prohibits the private establishments from profiting from its use or even just recovering the expenses for the maintenance and operation of the facilities,” she added.

Death toll rises to 15 in floods, slides

MANILA, Philippines—The death toll from the recent floods and landslides in the Visayas and Mindanao has risen to 15, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) said on Saturday.

In its 5 a.m. update, the agency said the latest fatalities were four people who died in a landslide in Surigao del Sur. They were identified as Nenita Corpuz and Julie Culau, both of Sitio Ayuki, Barangay Gen Island, Cantillan; Isagani Borja of Barangay Bayan, Marihatag; and Aladin Corporal of Barangay San Antonio, Madrid.

Also, one person was reported injured in Gingoog City while three were still missing, two of them fishermen from Maasin, Southern Leyte.

The NDRRMC said a total of 530,519 persons or 104,484 families in 566 barangays had been affected in the Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao and Caraga regions and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

A total of 72,995 people are now housed in evacuation centers.

The damage so far has been pegged at P418 million.

Jolo Mayor Hussin Amin has declared a state of calamity in his municipality with 7,950 people affected in 14 barangays.

A low pressure area has been affecting the area since January 31, bringing widespread rains over the Visayas and Mindanao and triggering floods, landslides and big waves in coastal areas.

Officials said Jolo has started to get back on its feet after Thursday’s devastating floods that left four people (not five as earlier reported by the Sulu provincial disaster coordinating center) dead and hundreds of families displaced. The fatalities included a one-year-old boy.

Sulu National Food Authority manager Radzhata Julkanain said “it was a good thing we have enough rice for the people.”

The immediate concern is water contamination, according to Fadzlur Rahman Abdulla, executive director of Sulu’s Area Coordinating Center (ACC), a provincial agency to deal with catastrophes.

“Drinking water has become vulnerable to impurities and it is being treated right now,” Abdulla said.

He said the ACC was also readying food packs for distribution to residents displaced by floods.

Brig. Gen. Remigio Valdez, commander of the 3rd Marine Brigade in Sulu, said the situation was “much better” on Saturday.

“It was quite sunny on Saturday and the floods have receded significantly,” he said.

Valdez said the number of affected families in Sulu could increase as reports come in from adjacent towns, which were also hit by the floods.

New reports said 419 families were displaced in Patikul, bringing to 1,559 the families affected by the floods in the province.

Hadji Eufremio Canaria of the Department of Education in Sulu said they have called on parents to help in cleaning up schools affected by the floods so that pupils could attend classes on Monday.

But Canaria admitted that it was a distressing sight—computers damaged and books water-drenched.

“We are still trying to salvage whatever we can,” Canaria said.

Logging ban stays

President Benigno Aquino III won’t give in to calls to reconsider Executive Order No. 23 mandating a nationwide moratorium on logging activities.

CA: DTI can’t set price ceiling of flour

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - The Court of Appeals said the Department of Trade and Industry can’t set the price ceiling of flour.

In a 17-page decision, the special 17th division of the appellate court said that only the President has the authority to impose a price ceiling on certain commodities as mandated by Section 7 of Republic Act 7581, otherwise known as the Price Act of the Philippines.

The case stemmed from the petition filed by Concepcion-led RFM Corporation that sought to nullify an order issued by the legal and consumer center of the DTI NCR in a profiteering charge filed by the Bureau of Trade Regulation and Consumer Protection (BTRCP).

RFM supposedly failed to explain the discrepancy in the ex-mill prices of its flour.

No increase in bread prices

Bread prices, meanwhile, will not rise this month, Filipino-Chinese Baker Association president Antonio Lim Kit said Sunday.

He, however, expects the price of cakes and other pastry products to rise in March because there is an impending increase in the prices of wheat, flour, and other raw materials due to a reported supply shortage.

“Sa ngayon ay wala pa kaming price movement, wala pa kaming adjustment ngayon, sa mga susunod na araw dahil ang price ng harina ay stable pa rin. Wala pa ng time frame kung kailan tataas ang price,” Lim Kit said.

“Dahil sa ibang bansa na apektado, mga wheat growers na mga main suppliers natin ng wheat, ay nakikita natin na sa mga susunod na araw ay tataas ang presyo ng harina. Kami ay gumagawa ng aming computation. Ito namang ginagawa naming computation, para masustain namin ang aming negosyo,” he added.

He said bakers have stocks that last for up to 2 weeks. “After that, pag dumating ang mga bago naming raw materials, kung tumaas man ito ay magkakaroon ng price adjustment, pero I’m sure na pagkatapos na ng bakery fair 2011, around March."

Joavan escapes

JOAVAN Fernandez, the Talisay City mayor’s son, eluded arrest yesterday morning allegedly by ramming his car against a police vehicle.

He was allegedly trying to avoid being served a warrant of arrest for malicious mischief, a case filed after he hit another police vehicle in Talisay City last year.

Police arrested two of his friends, one for illegal possession of the regulated painkiller Nubain and another for driving without a license. They were using a government-issued Toyota Revo.

Joavan and his friends will be charged with violating the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002; City Ordinance 1743, which prohibits the sale of toy guns in commercial establishments and sidewalks; and damage to government property.

The latest incident had police chasing Joavan and his friends across two cities and

one northern town, Consolacion.

It also revived appeals for his father, the mayor, to discipline Joavan.

The car he allegedly hit yesterday is a gray Mitsubishi sedan (SHU-126) that belongs to the Cebu City Police Office’s Investigation and Detective Management Branch (IDMB), headed by Chief Insp. George Ylanan.

Ylanan’s team and personnel from the Talisay City Police Station led by their chief, Supt. Henry Biñas, were trying to serve an arrest warrant on Joavan for malicious mischief.

Municipal Trial Court in Cities Judge Mario Manayon issued the warrant.

Ylanan said an asset informed him that Joavan and his friends, Benedict Gabasa and Terence Bayani, were in a house in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City.

Tailed

They waited for Joavan, who was driving a gray Honda Civic (YEH-323), and Gabasa and Bayani, who were in a government-issued Toyota Revo (SGH-541), in Sindulan, Mabolo.

They arrived minutes later. The Revo, which Gabasa drove, stopped in a parking lot, but Joavan’s car did not.

The IDMB team then tailed Joavan, but he swerved, apparently noticing that he was being followed.

Ylanan stepped down from the IDMB vehicle and approached the Honda Civic, as soon as it stopped.

After Joavan rolled down his car’s window, Ylanan identified himself as a police officer and showed the arrest warrant.

Instead of yielding, Joavan stepped on the gas and almost hit Ylanan, who immediately boarded the IDMB vehicle.

Joavan then hit the IDMB’s vehicle head-on, at least thrice. Ylanan opened fire.

Joavan sped off and his car was later found abandoned in an open space in Barangay Carreta, Cebu City.

Found objects

The police said they found 20 sachets of what appeared to be shabu, a pink pouch and two cell phones inside the car.

Bullets from the police had flattened the car’s left rear wheel, bore two holes near its baggage compartment and cracked the window on the right rear door.

Police also arrested Bayani for allegedly carrying a syringe believed to contain Nubain, a regulated painkiller, and Gabasa, for driving without a license. They are now at Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) detention cell.

After the Revo was brought to the CCPO grounds, a sachet of shabu, drug paraphernalia and a toy gun were found inside it.

The confiscated items were turned over to crime laboratory for examination.

In a separate interview, Supt. Biñas said the Talisay City team has been trying to arrest Joavan since last Thursday, when the warrant came out.

Search

It was issued in connection with a complaint the Talisay City Police filed after Joavan allegedly rammed his green SUV against a police patrol car in Barangay San Roque last year.

Biñas said that they searched for Joavan in some of his usual haunts, such as his house in Mansueto Village and the House of Prayer in Vista Grande Subdivision in Barangay Bulacao, but saw no sight of him.

It was on Saturday night, while they waited outside the Vista Grande Subdivision, that they saw Joavan on board his silver Honda Civic, speeding towards Barangay Tabunok.

A Revo with a red plate followed him.

Biñas, with his operatives, immediately followed Joavan, but he evaded arrest by heading toward the South Road Properties and the North Reclamation Area in Mandaue City.

Biñas said that Joavan’s girlfriend works for a bikini bar situated in the reclamation area. But they didn’t find Joavan there, either.

It was at that time that Ylanan, of the Cebu City police, called up Biñas to say that Joavan was spotted in a lingam massage parlor on F. Ramos St. in Cebu City.

He was next seen heading north.

Flat

Biñas attempted to follow Joavan toward Danao, but a flat tire in Consolacion town stopped him.

While the tire was being replaced, the police said they saw Joavan’s silver Honda Civic heading for Cebu City. Biñas immediately called Ylanan, informing him that Joavan was headed his way.

That’s when the encounter with the Cebu City police team happened.

An official of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) 7 said yesterday there is a need to investigate the Talisay City Government for apparently allowing Joavan’s personal use of a government vehicle.

“Who approved the trip ticket? Who authorized the use of the vehicle? And for what purpose was its use?” asked Noval.

“Kadlawn?! (At dawn?!) Is that considered a proper time to use a government-issued vehicle? Unless he is a government executive with an official business, then that’s illegal,” added Noval.

But while Noval admitted the DILG cannot reprimand Fernandez on the alleged antics of his son, he said that Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has the authority to suspend the Talisay City mayor, if a formal complaint is filed at her office.

Please, Brother Soc, discipline your son, says Cardinal Vidal

TALISAY City Mayor Socrates Fernandez “has helped us very much in explaining the doctrine of the church.”

“I am just wondering why it takes him some difficulty to apply to his own son what he has been saying to others,” Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal said yesterday, when asked about the latest incident involving the mayor’s son.

Cardinal Vidal said Mayor Fernandez has not visited him to ask for advice or guidance regarding his son, Joavan. But he offered prayers and expressed his readiness to help.

“He knows so many things, and I hope he will be able to select what would be best or he should be able to look for somebody to help him help his son,” said the cardinal.

“I would only intervene if I am being asked. I do not like to acquire another title again, pakialamero,” he added.

The cardinal initially declined to give any advice for Joavan, but later expressed his sentiment.

This is the second time Cardinal Vidal has delivered a statement asking Mayor Fernandez to discipline his son. It was in December last year that the prelate asked why “the good father cannot control his only son.”

“I pray he would be able to find ways and means to discipline his only son, as he would like to make it happen in all the families in Talisay,” the cardinal said.

Mayor Fernandez, who attended the mass for the 80th birthday of Cardinal Vidal at the Blessed Pedro Calungsod shrine, refused to comment.

“I have not yet consulted my lawyer,” he told reporters after the mass.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, meanwhile, directed the police to run after Joavan, who allegedly hit a Cebu City police patrol car in Mabolo, but escaped.

“The law has to be there and he has to face it. There is no so-called sacred cow when it comes to violations,” he said.

As to reports that Joavan and his friends used a government-issued vehicle, Rama said the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas should look into the allegation.

“The law may be harsh, but we must put the law,” he said.

“No one is above the law.”

Vidal retains post in episcopal commission

CEBU CITY – Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal remains an active member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) despite his retirement in October last year.

CBCP president Bishop Nereo Odchimar announced that the cardinal will continue to head the Episcopal Commission on the Clergy, in an “unprecedented move” decided on by the CBCP permanent council.

“You may have retired from the Archdiocese of Cebu but the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines does not want you to retire from the CBCP,” said Odchimar, after the mass held Sunday for Cardinal Vidal’s 80th birthday.

The announcement was greeted by loud applause from mass participants, who included Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. and Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.

“We are at a crossroads in the history of our nation. Never in the past have we been confronted with a challenge of this magnitude as the RH (reproductive health) bill,” said Odchimar.

“We need the wisdom of your words, the wealth of your experience. You are salt of CBCP and light of individual bishops,” he added.

Cardinal Vidal nodded after the announcement and gave an affirmative response right before the final blessing.

“I cannot but accept the challenge. So you have to pray for me. I am beginning to feel my knees are painful na, the process of aging has set in,” he said.

Wish

In an interview, the cardinal told reporters he is grateful that even at his age, he is seen “as if I am still a young boy.”

Cardinal Vidal’s birthday wish was simple.

“I am very happy I am given the opportunity to thank God I reached the age of 80,” he told reporters. “I wish I will be given a long, long life to serve the Lord.”

A Mañanita at dawn Sunday began the celebration at the Cathedral Rectory, where more than 200 people serenaded the cardinal.

In response, Vidal thanked the crowd and sang part of “Gaano Ko Ikaw Kamahal” (the Levi Celerio song that goes, “Ikaw lamang ang aking iibigin, magpakailanman”).

Masses were offered at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and at the Blessed Pedro Calungsod Shrine, followed by a luncheon and a brief classical piano music concert by renowned pianist Rodolfo Golez at the Casino Español de Cebu.

“The movement of the heart of the Cebuanos, parang they get together now in one day and it will take me a long time to forget. I am fading away, but I hope I will fade away gracefully,” the cardinal said at the end of the event.

“I will work for the people,” he added.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama lauded the cardinal, whom he called “one of us.”

Guidance

In a separate interview, former chief justice Davide appealed for prayers for the 80-year-old prelate’s good health.

“He (Vidal) is a perpetual member already of the CBCP. So, take advantage of his experience and wisdom. He should really be considered for any possible position in the CBCP and the one given to him is very challenging. I am sure he can do what he can, in like manner as what he did for the Cebuanos,” he said.

Governor Garcia said she will continue to seek the guidance of the retired prelate who has served Cebuanos “so well and selflessly. Now he has a chance to retire, we will continue to look up to him for guidance.”

Cardinal Vidal is leaving this morning for Rome, where he is expected to deliver his last report on the state of the Archdiocese of Cebu to Pope Benedict XVI.

He said he lamented that he would be late by one day for the annual visit.

“(But) I do not want to celebrate my birthday in the air,” he said.

As a tribute to the archbishop emeritus, an exhibit of his various memorabilia at the Cebu Cathedral Museum was launched last Saturday night, on the eve of his birthday.

“The Founder’s Gallery” offers the public a glimpse of the life of one of the most loved and respected church leaders in the country.

Mementos

Cardinal Vidal has donated many of his personal belongings to the Archdiocesan Commission on Cultural Heritage of the Church. Among the items on display at the museum are his skull cap, pectoral crosses and episcopal rings. The sash, skull cap and cord he wore during his episcopal ordination are also shown at the exhibit.

Also on display are the various medals he had received from different institutions.

Among these medals are the Rajah Humabon Life Achievement Award, Rizal Peace Award, the Outstanding Filipino Award and the Order of Lapu-Lapu.

Cardinal Vidal was the first person to be conferred the Order of Lapu-Lapu, the highest award given by the Province of Cebu. He received the award last Aug. 7, 2010.

Photos of the cardinal in Vatican City are also shown at the exhibit. One of these photos showed him as he participated in the papal conclave following the death of Pope John Paul II. Photos of him with the late pope and Pope Benedict XVI are also on display.

Cardinal Vidal was born on Feb. 6, 1931 in Mogpog, Marinduque, and became the archbishop of Cebu on Sept. 18, 1982, succeeding Julio Cardinal Rosales.

He formally turned over the authority of the Archdiocese to Palma last Jan. 13, 2011.

Also shown in the exhibit are old scrapbooks and the chalice and paten Vidal used during his first mass on March 17, 1956.

‘82% of Balili is public land’

NO LESS than a geodetic engineer who works for Capitol has confirmed that about 94,526 sq. m., or 82 percent (20.2 has.) of the 24.7 has. of the Balili beachfront property the Provincial Government bought in 2008 is classified as timberland or public land.

Engr. Roy Cabunilas, zoning officer II of the Cebu Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro), also said only eight of 10 lots the Province bought from the Balilis have titles.

“After the survey, I found out that a portion of Lot SP 07-01-000048, consisting of an area of 80, 124 sq. m. is submerged in seawater and a portion of Lot SP 07-01-000062, consisting of 14, 402 sq. m. is a mangrove area,” Cabunilas said in his affidavit submitted to Judge Raphael Yrastorza of the Regional Trial Court Branch 14.

Testimony

Cabunilas will testify tomorrow on the civil case seeking a refund of P37 million the Capitol paid for the parcels of land, which Capitol later found to be submerged in water.

Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, through the Provincial Legal Office, filed before the Cebu City Regional Trial Court a civil case for specific performance and reduction/refund of the purchase of parcels of land.

The Provincial Legal Office asked the court to order lawyer Romeo Balili, executor of the Balili estate, to reimburse the Capitol a total of P37,810,400, covering the two properties, totaling 94,526 sq. m., and for the interest from the time of the payment until it was fully paid.

Lawyer Balili, earlier, disclosed the amount he reserved for the Province’s claim might not be sufficient to cover the entire P37 million after Amparo Balili, widow of the late Luis Balili, and her lawyers withdrew more than half of the proceeds of the property without his consent.

Last Dec. 7, 2010, Amparo withdrew P44.483 million from the Banco de Oro (BDO) F. Ramos. Court sheriff Ramon Superales Jr., along with Amparo and her lawyers, implemented the notice for immediate release of the widow’s share.

The order directed Edward Alquizalas, BDO-Ramos branch manager, to immediately release about P37 million to Amparo as her share and that of their four children (P7.4million).

The notice of release came after Judge Ester Veloso of the Regional Trial Court Branch 6 permitted the partial distribution of what the Capitol paid for 24.7 has. Capitol paid about P99 million for the properties.

Lawyer Balili recently admitted he has failed to convince Amparo to transfer about P24 million to the estate’s bank account to satisfy the Province’s claim of P37 million.

The Office of the Visayas Ombudsman earlier found basis to upgrade into a criminal case an anonymous complaint filed against Garcia, Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr., the Provincial Board and other Capitol officials and workers involved in the purchase of the property.

P190T missing from town vault

UKNOWN thieves stole about P190,000 from the Municipal Treasurer’s Office of Asturias, Cebu.

Marina Sultan, municipal disbursement officer, discovered the vault open yesterday at 9 a.m., said SPO2 Dennis Nucos in a phone interview.

Nucos, an Asturias Police Station investigator, said Sultan, who came from a mass, went to the office to get some of her belongings.

Inside, Sultan, 41, was shocked to see the vault already open and the money gone.

Informed

Asturias Police Chief Danilo Santillan, in a separate phone interview, said Sultan, a resident of Barangay Agtubog, Asturias, immediately informed them of the incident.

After police arrived in the office, which is located at the Municipal Hall’s ground floor, they noticed no signs of forced entry in the treasurer’s office, Santillan said.

Disarray

He doubted the robbery involved inside job. He said the computers and other things inside were not stolen and the office was not in disarray.

Personnel from the Scene of the Crime Operations (SOCO) 7 gathered finger prints from the office in the presence of Asturias Mayor Allan Adlawan.

Santillan said they will investigate Sultan as well as Myla Silud, 24, a job-order employee, and Emma Baliguat, 45, the treasurer’s office acting head. He said the three hold the office keys.

Barangay captain, 7 others to face anti-graft charges

by By Rene U. Borromeo/JPM

CEBU, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas ordered the filing of anti-graft charges against San Roque Barangay Captain Rogelio Ruizo and seven other barangay officials for their questionable disbursement of public funds.

Deputy Ombudsman Pelagio Apostol concurred with the findings of graft investigator Maria Regina Fernandez, who found Ruizo and other respondents liable of the charges filed by former barangay councilman Lidiore “Boy” Miranda.

The refusal of Ruizo to furnish Miranda of the copies of the minutes of their council meetings gave investigators a hint that the respondents were hiding something.

Fernandez said council members are entitled to a copy of the minutes without need for a request.

Other respondents are Councilmen Florentino Mauping Jr., Julieta Balcon, Leonarda Pepito, Mario Pamolarco, Alex Sillos, April Jane Salas and ex-councilman Julius Mendoza.

Aside from making a general denial, Fernandez said the respondents failed to explain why the late barangay captain Telesforo Rabaya’s name was included as participant of an event in July 2009.

Rabaya died in March 2004.

Fernandez said the list appeared to be genuine. The respondents did not question its authenticity.

“It appears that the list was already on file…and was used to justify and liquidate the budget appropriated by respondents for the event,” Fernandez said.

Apostol explained that the respondents can’t pass the buck to Gender and Development (GAD) focal person Ligaya Britania because it is their responsibility to oversee all activities of the barangay.

Although Sillos was one of the respondents, he executed an affidavit supporting Miranda’s complaint. He claimed that their barangay secretary asked him to sign resolutions that were not discussed during their sessions and included Miranda’s name although he was not present. The secretary told Sillos this was upon Ruizo’s instructions.

“Bahala na ang akong abogado nga motubag anang maong kaso,” said Ruizo.

Ex-mayoralty bet, NAIA employee nabbed for drugs

MANILA, Philippines – A losing mayoralty bet of Mahaplag, Leyte and an airport employee were arrested by authorities Sunday dawn for possession of P25 million-worth of cocaine, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency reported.

PDEA spokesman Derrick Carreon said Jessie Abuyong, who said to have a rank of Clerk III at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1, and Maria Lorejas, a former candidate for mayor in Leyte, were arrested at a hotel in Timog, Quezon City at about 12:30 a.m.

Seized from the two suspects' possession were five kilograms of cocaine.

Carreon said the two will be charged for violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

English schools ‘allow’ arrival of foreign students sans visas

THE Cebu City Council wants the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to speed up the probe on its officers who are allegedly in connivance with various language tutorial centers that allow the arrival of foreign students without student visas.

Councilor Edgardo Labella, who filed the resolution, noted that tutorial centers in the country, including the city, which are mostly run by Korean nationals are “mushrooming” without the necessary permits.

Labella said these centers should have permits from the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (Tesda) and the City Government.

“It was also learned that most of the foreign students who came to the country and enroll in these tutorial centers do not have the needed student visas,” he said.

According to reports, Labella said, adult Koreans are the ones who facilitated the entry of the students to the country and enroll them in unlicensed language schools.

Mandated

“The Bureau of Immigration is mandated to ensure that foreign students comply with the immigration laws,” he said.

Labella said BI Acting Commissioner Ronaldo Ledesma has already ordered its legal division headed by lawyer Arvin Santos to disclose the possible involvement of some immigration officers in allowing into the country students without visa.

Just recently, the BI reportedly deported at least 86 Koreans and two Japanese for entering the country without visas.

Another 16 persons will be deported for operating language schools without authority.

Labella’s resolution was approved by the council during its regular session last week.

Codilla back as fire marshal

by By Niña G. Sumacot/BRP

CEBU, Philippines - Effective today Supt. Esmael Codilla is back as fire marshal of the Cebu City Fire Department after he was replaced by Supt. Aderson Comar last Nov. 11.

Comar, in an interview with The FREEMAN, confirmed the reinstatement of Codilla, saying that the order came from Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo to have all reassignments of BFP officers nationwide after Aug. 17, 2010 revoked.

Comar said the order, dated February 1, 2011, specifically stated that the reassignment of officers and non-officers nationwide after the said date that were not confirmed by DILG be revoked.

Comar could not elaborate on the order but said it stemmed from a complaint from fire officials of the National Capital Region.

“Didto gyud na sa NCR nagsugod, ngadto ra na sa ilaha gi-apply, but karon entire country na. Naangin na bali ang Region 7. After Aug. 17 ang order, nya kay Nov. 11 man ta gi-appoint diri, so maapektohan gyud ko ani nga order,” he said.

He said there were no specific names written on the order as it was addressed to BFP officers nationwide.

As of today he will be on duty but in “floating status” at the Bureau of Fire Protection-7. He was national Chief for Special Operations before he replaced Codilla late last year.

Codilla, who was assigned as assistant regional director of BFP-7, served as Cebu City Fire Department fire marshal for eight years. Former mayor Tomas Osmeña appointed him in Dec. 2002.

It was Mayor Mike Rama who endorsed Comar after seeing him as qualified for the position.

Rama eyed the replacement of Codilla a day after he complained it took firefighters too long to stop a fire that left over 3,000 people homeless in Barangay T. Padilla last August.

Cop dismissed for sexual abuse

by By Rene U. Borromeo/JPM

CEBU, Philippines - Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has affirmed the dismissal of a policeman assigned at the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) for touching the private parts of a 15-year-old girl in Alcantara town five years ago.

Gutierrez approved the recommendation of the anti-graft investigators to dismiss PO1 Wilfredo Ando from the service after he was found guilty of the offense.

Ando, who used to be assigned with the Alcantara Police Station, was administratively charged for Conduct Unbecoming of a Police Officer after he sexually abused a high-school female student.

The complainant said that at around 7:20 p.m. of June 9, 2006, Ando approached her and asked for the location of the house of a certain Cabing.

After giving him the direction, the complainant said the police officer asked her to accompany him to the said house.

But while they were walking on the way to Cabing’s house, Ando suddenly held her hand, then pressed her left shoulder tightly that she felt pain. She added that the policeman then touched her breasts and her sex organ.

Ando denied the allegations.

In his counter-affidavit, he said the story against him was fabricated and intended to harass him and besmirch his reputation.

But the Ombudsman ruled that the complainant was able to present substantial evidence such as a medical certificate to prove the injuries she sustained while trying to escape from him and a witness who saw him touch the breasts of the complainant.

“The act of the respondent in touching the breasts and private organ of a 15-year-old girl constitutes a conduct unbecoming of a police officer, which makes him morally unworthy to remain in the service a day longer,” the anti-graft office stated in its ruling.

Gutierrez said that aside from the administrative sanction, the Ombudsman will also file criminal case of sexual abuse under Sec. 5(b) of RA 7610 or the Childs Abuse and Protection Act.

It was reported that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) had dismissed around 175 policemen involved in various crimes since July 2010. More than half of the number are cops involved in drug-related cases.

Marker to launch preparations for 100 yrs of Fuente Osmeña

by By Garry B. Lao/JMO

CEBU, Philippines - Councilor Margot Osmeña, chairperson of the City Council’s committee on arts and culture, announced that a marker will be installed at the Fuente Osmeña Rotunda in preparation for 100th year celebration of the Osmeña Fountain next year.

The fountain at the rotunda was built in February 1912 to commemorate the completion of the Osmeña Waterworks System.

Osmeña said the marker can be installed now that the City Council approved her proposed ordinance that sets the guidelines for the installation of markers and landmarks in the city.

Under the new ordinance, markers, landmarks and other historical structures will be installed primarily for heroes, martyrs, historical events and places.

Osmeña said she passed the ordinance in line with the constitutional provisions that foster the preservation and enrichment of Filipino culture and the popularization of the nation’s cultural and historical heritage.

The sad state of neglect of many cultural structures owing to the absence of specific guidelines was also a factor that encouraged her to pass the ordinance, Osmeña said.

Under the approved ordinance, a marker that honors a dead person can only be installed at least five years after the person’s death.

Key suspect in Palawan broadcaster's slay yields

(Updated 7:43 p.m.) Rodolfo Edrad Jr., a key suspect in the killing of Palawan-based broadcaster Gerardo Ortega, surrendered to authorities in Quezon province on Saturday night. NBI-Palawan chief Rosauro Bautista said Edrad surrendered "peacefully." He said NBI chief Magtanggol Gatdula may hold a press conference on Monday to disclose what Edrad had told the authorities.

Lacson will help resolve Dacer-Corbito murders, says lawyer

Lawyer Alex Abisado says his client, Senator Panfilo Lacson, is willing to help the families of slain publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito, in finding the real killers.

Mancao lawyer dares Lacson to stop hiding

Hinamon ng abugado ni Cezar Mancao si Senador Panfilo Lacson na lumatad na sa publiko kung naniniwala itong wala nang bisa ang arrest warrant laban sa kanya.

New evidences could lead to withdrawal of Garcia’s plea deal—prosecutor

The plea deal of former military comptroller General Carlos Garcia could be withdrawn in due time. Deputy Special Prosecutor Jesus Micael said a special task force has been formed by the Ombudsman to handle the case.

Whistleblower Heidi Mendoza receives death threat

(Updated 1:36 p.m.) Two days before she is scheduled to testify anew before Congress on alleged financial irregularities in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, former state auditor turned whistleblower Heidi Mendoza received a death threat, a lawmaker said Sunday.

House of Representatives justice committee chairman Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. said they are coordinating with government agencies to secure Mendoza and her family.

"Nakatanggap siya ng death threat. Hindi ko sasabihin ang detalye. Pinaabot niya sa akin kagabi, o madaling araw, nakakatanggap sila (She received a death threat. I will not discuss the details. She relayed it to me last night, or before dawn, they received it)," Tupas said in an interview on radio dzBB.

It was the first time for Mendoza to receive a death threat, Tupas said.

The justice committee chair has started coordinating with other agencies including the Department of Justice to secure Mendoza.

"Vine-verify natin kung gaano kaseryoso yan (We verifying how serious this is)," he said.

Tomorrow, Monday, Tupas will meet House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on other measures that can be taken to protect Mendoza.

Mendoza gained public support in past weeks when she testified on alleged corruption in the military.

As her life and those of her immediate family were turned upside down because of the controversy regarding her allegations, she had asked to be removed from the list of resource persons. But on Friday, she said she would testify before the House of Representatives come Tuesday for the sake of her supporters.

"Sana lang ipagdasal natin na maging maayos ang takbo ng hearing sa House sa Tuesday. It is for your sake that I am appearing again. Please continue to pray (Let us pray that Tuesday's hearing will go well…)," she said in a support group page on Facebook.

Mendoza also asked her supporters for their opinion on whether she should return to government service again.

"’Yun nga lang may kapalit po ito. Kung sinong sasagot ng Oo ay dapat na sumumpa ng pagsuporta sa mga pagbabago at paglalahad ng katotohanan na aking syang isusulong (Still, there is something in return for this. Whoever would say Yes should make a pledge of support to the changes and accounting of truth that I would pursue)," she said.

Protecting whistleblowers

A proposed law seeking to protect whistleblowers who expose irregularities in government has a good chance of being included in Malacañang’s list of priority bills, according to a Palace official.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ramon Carandang said there had been discussions among Cabinet officials about the bill.

“I know there was discussion about it being part of that (list). It’s very possible kasama ang Whistleblowers’ Act (It’s very possible the Whistleblowers’ Act is included), although I personally haven’t seen the list," he said on government-run dzRB radio.

The need to protect whistleblowers gained national attention after Mendoza’s revelations about the supposed irregularities in the AFP.

Under oath before lawmakers, Mendoza, retired Col. George Rabusa, and Lt. Col. Antonio Lim testified that tens of millions of pesos were being handed out as “pabaon" or sendoff money in the military.

CBCP to whistleblowers: We support you

CHURCH leaders encourage truth-tellers to come out in the open as they enjoy their support.

But Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) vice president and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said the truth should contribute to community-building.

“On our part, we simply say yes, we encourage people to come out to speak the truth if they believe this is for the good of the country,” he told reporters yesterday after the luncheon held in honor of Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal on his 80th birthday.

“The discernment is if the truth is community-building and community-developing, then the truth shall serve the community,” he said.

Cardinal Vidal said whistleblower Heidi Mendoza should be given the freedom whether or not she would continue attending Senate inquiries on the plea-bargaining agreement between retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia and public prosecutors.

“We cannot force her. Let her decide,” he said.

“In cases like that, we do not intervene. That is not our area of concern,” he said.

CBCP president Nereo Odchimar said whistle-blowers help deter corruption, but he raised the issue on the speed of the justice system.

“We encourage the truth to come out because there have been issues of corruption. So in order to stop corruption, corruption should be uncovered and guilty persons should be prosecuted,” said Odchimar.

He said the guilty ones should be punished and this should be a deterrent to others who are thinking of committing graft and corruption.

“Let justice take its course. This is just in aid of legislation. Hopefully, whatever will be the findings of the Senate investigation, let it be brought to justice,” he said.

Odchimar said the Church can offer moral support to whistleblowers. But “to protect (them) we are not in the proper position. We do not have police powers. We do not have safe houses.”

A church-based anti-corruption watchdog has expressed its support to Mendoza, who testified in the plunder case against a former military comptroller.

“Heidi (Mendoza) is actually not a whistleblower but a truth-teller,” said Fr. Carmelo Diola, coordinating steward of Dilaab Foundation Inc.

“She was not part of the problem but has always tried to be a conscientious, effective, and trustworthy public servant,” he said.

Dilaab, a church-based group, focuses on three programs: the Friends of Pedro, which works on outreach projects for OFWs and their families; Kamatuoran, which deals with anti-narcopolitics advocacy; and Barug Pilipino, which works against graft and corruption.

“What the public needs to know is that she is a deeply-convinced Christian Catholic who is not afraid to witness to her faith,” said Diola.

DILG on full disclosure: 13% of LGUs complied

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) reminded local government units (LGUs) to observe the agency's "full disclosure program" that started back in August, even it lauded the LGUs who have already complied with its requirements.

Interior Sec. Jesse Robredo said that five months since the order came out, only 227 LGUs or 13 percent have so far abided by the policy: 10 provinces, 25 cities, and 192 municipalities—out of the country's 1,714 LGUs.

Under the program, local chief executives are required to post their financial transactions and expenditures in conspicuous places in their localities and on their respective government websites. (See: Robredo to LGUs: Post transaction reports in public places)

“These [compliant] LGUs are exemplars of the kind of government that we want to have, one that upholds transparency and accountability in all its dealings," Robredo said in a statement.

The provincial governments that have already complied are those of Capiz, Negros Occidental, Aklan, Iloilo, Siquijor, Biliran, Sarangani, Cotabato, Agusan del Sur, and Surigao del Sur.

Meanwhile, the 25 city governments that have started implementing the full disclosure program are those of:

  1. Cadiz, Escalante, Himamaylan, Kabankalan, La Carlota, Sagay, San Carlos, Sipalay, Talisay, Bacolod, Iloilo, Passi, Roxas, Silay, Victorias (Region VI);
  2. Cebu, Tanjay, Bais (Region VII);
  3. Tacloban and Ormoc (Region VIII);
  4. Cagayan de Oro (Region X);
  5. Cotabato, General Santos, Kidapawan (Region XII);
  6. Butuan (Region XIII); and
  7. Baguio City (CAR).

Robredo reminded those who have not complied yet to do so, stressing that such a disclosure is already mandatory under the General Appropriations Act.

The secretary warned non-compliant local officials against possibly facing administrative sanction for gross negligence or dereliction of duty under Section 60 of the Local Government Code of 1991.

Just the same, Robredo said he was still "optimistic" that other LGUs would soon make their transactions and expenditures available to the public.

He said he would be making the rounds in various local government offices to monitor their compliance.

Palace eyes 17 priority bills

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang will push for 17 priority legislation when President Benigno Aquino III meets leaders of Congress in the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) for the first time this month, Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Sunday.

The shortlist, which was finalized last week, was selected from at least 180 proposed measures earlier received by the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office from various departments and the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce of the Philippines.

Ochoa said the priority measures were critical to achieve the priority concerns of the Aquino Administration outlined in the 16-point agenda of the government.

"The 17 bills that the President will present to the LEDAC are in the final stages of preparation," he said.

"We are not just submitting a list of measures, but the bills themselves, which have been studied by the lead agencies involved," he added.

Crafting of the proposed measures took time, to accommodate inputs and studies made following consultations between the lead agencies and stakeholders, he said.

There were also proposals that were dropped from the list pending further study, while some could be implemented with existing government policies and programs, Ochoa said."

We hope that we can rationalize these priority measures with those of Congress so we can pass these at the soonest possible time," he added.

The priority bills to be submitted to the LEDAC will neither cover new taxes nor Charter change, in keeping with the President's previous announcements.

The proposals instead assure human development, infrastructure development, economic development, sovereignty and security, and good governance.

Probe sought on Sulu military deal

MANILA, Philippines – A former lawmaker wants the Senate and the House of Representatives to investigate the alleged sale of armored vehicles to a Sulu government official.

Former Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison said legislators should look into the “Steelcraft Military Land Defense” agreement that allowed 2 units of MX-8 Barako armored vehicles, each mounted with a .50 caliber machinegun, to be purchased by a provincial government official.

He issued the call amid the ongoing inquiry on alleged large-scale graft and corrupt practices in the Armed Forces.

"The province of Sulu has been considered the playing platform of ‘The Game of the Generals,’ where top military officers in the past enriched themselves creating a scenario of an atmosphere of war where there is none, just to justify the release of billions of military budget funds in the expense of the people,” he said.

Documents indicate that the MX-8 Barako armored vehicles were manufactured by Steelcraft Military Land Defense firm based in Balintawak, Quezon City.

The project was allegedly the brainchild of a retired Army chief and was developed by the Philippine Research and Development Branch.

The MX-8 prototype project started in 2005 and was carried out under the Self Reliant Defense Posture Law.

Costing P6 million each, an MX-8 Barako has an armor level equivalent to the military’s Simba armored personnel carrier (APC) and mobility equal to a Humvee with short turning radius.

A copy of a letter dated January 29, 2010 showed that former Armed Forces chief General Victor Ibrado confirmed the existence of the armored vehicles that were owned by the Sulu public official.

“The legality of their (armored vehicles) sale is highly irregular that must not be ignored. This may uncover additional illegal monetary transactions for profit and self enrichment among retired military personnel,” Arbison said.

“Military hardware like tank or APC is strictly for the use of military personnel in carrying out their mandate as legitimate armed protectors of the country,” he said, adding that their sale and ownership by civilians are prohibited by law.

The 2 armored vehicles were used by the unnamed official for private or personal activities in the province, the former lawmaker said.

Sulu seeks US help over floods

by By Queenie Casimiro, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga

SULU, Philippines - Government officials of Sulu have asked the assistance of the US government in rehabilitating a river in Jolo town that has contributed to the massive flooding of the capital town of Sulu and its neighboring municipalities.

Election postponement divides ARMM execs

by By Queenie Casimiro, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga

BASILAN, Philippines - Representatives of various sectors in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi met on Sunday to air their opinion on the proposed deferment of the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Communists mull truce declaration

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced Sunday that it is planning to declare a ceasefire to coincide with the forthcoming resumption of formal peace talks between the Maoist movement and the government.

OFW dies in UAE; PH embassy chided for indifference

ABU DHABI – A Filipina migrant worker based in Al-Ain, Abu Dhabi, has died from a lingering illness.

Alma Cadauan died last January 25 from aplastic anemia, an illness that weakens the person’s immunity.

About a week before she died, Cadauan even appealed to the government for help to bring her home to be with her family during her remaining days.

Cadauan was confined in a hospital in Al-Ain for three months without a friend or a relative to look after her. Filipino staff of the hospital reportedly took care of the overseas Filipino worker.

Meanwhile, Cadauan’s employer could not help but vent his anger towards the slow action of the government.

It was learned that Cadauan brought her case to the Philippine Embassy last December, but no one from the post visited her while she was confined at the hospital.

"When any Filipina dies or have problems, help her! Why not?” said her employer Yaqoob Mohamed Ali H Al Belooshi. Balitang Middle East

Cimatu mission to Egypt scrapped; ex-AFP chief to face probe on fund mess

(UPDATE) Controversial Special Envoy Roy Cimatu is "no longer proceeding to Egypt" as earlier ordered by the Department of Foreign Affairs to assess the security situation and welfare of over 6,500 Filipinos in the Middle East country.

Special envoy won’t go to Egypt anymore—DFA

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) Controversial Special Envoy Roy Cimatu is "no longer proceeding to Egypt" as earlier ordered by the Department of Foreign Affairs to assess the security situation and welfare of over 6,500 Filipinos in the Middle East country.

DFA Assistant Secretary J. Eduardo Malaya, also the agency's spokesman, said on Sunday Cimatu had "completed his mission in Afghanistan and is on his way back home."

Cimatu is among the former Armed Forces chief of staffs covered by extensive congressional inquiries into the alleged diversion of AFP’s excess funds into the personal accounts of military chiefs.

The DFA earlier asked the former Armed Forces chief of staff to look into the plight of more than 6,000 Filipino migrant workers in the war-torn country.

"The Philippine Embassy (in Cairo), led by Charge d' Affaires Ed Maglaya, is doing a fine job in fully taking care of our nationals there. We have sufficient people on the ground," Malaya told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Last week, the DFA also deployed Charge d' Affaires Ezzedin Tago, acting head of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, to assist the mission in Cairo.

Malaya said, "The assessment on the adequacy of existing personnel complement was made days ago."

Without referring to Cimatu, who was accused by some overseas Filipino workers' groups of misusing funds intended for the repatriation of OFWs in Iraq and Lebanon, Malaya said "DFA funds used in few (OFW) repatriations and evacuations in the past have been liquidated and accounted for."

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, who earlier directed Cimatu to proceed to the Egyptian capital from Kabul, has yet to comment on the issue.

Apparently taking up the cudgels for Cimatu, a senior diplomat said on Sunday that "it's unfair to say that a person committed a wrongdoing in a present capacity on the basis of allegations that he committed a wrongdoing in a past capacity."

"Such is as reprehensible as red-baiting," the source, who asked not to be named, added.

Meanwhile, militant and OFW groups have asked President Aquino to show political will by ordering the "immediate replacement" of Cimatu as special envoy for OFW concerns.

"Anything less would not be consistent with the Aquino administration's crusade for a daang matuwid (a straight path)," Renato Reyes Jr., secretary-general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said on Thursday.

Reyes told the INQUIRER the replacement of Cimatu, a former Armed Forces chief of staff, was "in order after he was implicated in the AFP's 'pabaon' system" by retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa.

Rabusa, ex-AFP budget officer, earlier named Cimatu, as well as former AFP generals Angelo Reyes and Diomedio Villanueva, as among those who received sendoff money from the military.

Cimatu allegedly got P80 million in what Rabusa referred to as "provisions for command-directed activities," or PCDA, according to Rabusa.

Cimatu has yet to comment on the allegations against him.

But his brother, retired police chief superintendent Fidel Cimatu, has told Bombo Radio that the ex-AFP chief of staff would answer his accusers "as soon as he's back from Cairo."

During the same radio interview, Cimatu also dismissed as "lies" all disclosures made by Rabusa against his brother.

According to the Bayan leader, the President "should show political will by replacing Cimatu."

Like some DFA old timers interviewed for this story, Reyes said "there are many career diplomats in the DFA who can replace Cimatu."

"And just think of what other countries will think of us. That our special envoy is allegedly corrupt?" Reyes added.

ACT teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio said, "given the gravity of the allegations regarding his involvement in the plunder of the AFP's coffers during his stint as chief of staff, Cimatu should be immediately recalled by Malacañang to face investigation."

"How can he remain effective as Middle East envoy when all these questions remain unanswered?" Tinio added.

Like Reyes and Tinio, Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino backed the call for Cimatu's replacement.

Palatino also asked the House of Representatives to "grant special protection to potential whistle-blowers from the DFA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration" who know about Cimatu's alleged involvement in the misuse of OWWA funds.

Migrante International and its affiliate Migrante-Middle East, among other OFW groups, have accused Cimatu of misusing millions of pesos in OWWA funds intended for the repatriation of Filipino migrant workers in Iraq and Lebanon.

Garry Martinez, Migrante International chair, claimed that Cimatu had failed to account for, among others, "over $250,000 in funds allocated for the 2004 repatriation of OFWs in Iraq."

"The funds were spent instead on the procurement of vehicles and supplies of Filipino troops sent to Iraq that year," Martinez alleged.

He also recalled the Cimatu-led "OFW repatriation program during the Lebanon crisis in 2006, which supposedly got an allocation of P150 million from the OWWA."

"Out of the more than 6,000 OFWs, only 1,000 were repatriated by Cimatu while the International Organization for Migration was able to repatriate 4,000 OFWs. When asked where the OWWA funds went, Cimatu was mum about it," said Martinez.

John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator of the Riyadh-based Migrante- Middle East, said that "despite all the numerous cases of alleged fund misuse involving Gen. Cimatu, the President and Secretary Romulo still allows him to represent the country as the special envoy for OFW concerns."

Monterona assailed the government for allegedly "ignoring Cimatu's money-related crimes against the Filipino people."

"There are millions of talented, capable and honest DFA diplomats. Of all people, why him as special envoy?" asked Monterona.

More Pinoys to leave Egypt

MANILA, Philippines - More Filipinos are expected to come home on Wednesday because of fears for their safety amid the continuous protests and violence in Egypt.

In a press release, the Philippine Embassy in Egypt said the second batch will depart Cairo on Tuesday.

This is part of the voluntary repatriation program administered by the embassy and the Department of Foreign Affairs due to the on-going protest actions and clashes between pro-democracy and Mubarak supporters in Egypt.

The first batch arrived this afternoon via Dubai. The first batch - 14 women, 10 minors and 2 men - consists of Filipino scholars from Al Azhar University and their families, 3 nurses from Dar Al Faoud Hospital and household service workers.

This is through the assistance from the International Organization for Migration and Filipino community organizations in Egypt.

The Philippine government earlier said there is no need for a mandatory evacuation since Filipinos are still relatively safe.

Nonetheless, the DFA said any one who feels that his or her safety is at risk can avail of the Embassy's voluntary repatriation program.

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

Muslim Brotherhood in talks with Egypt authorities

CAIRO—Egypt's opposition Muslim Brotherhood on Sunday said it had started a dialogue with authorities "to see up to what point they are ready to accept the demands of the people," a statement said.

Young Kuwaitis call for anti-government protest

A Kuwaiti youth group called Sunday for a mass rally outside parliament on Tuesday to protest the government's "undemocratic practices" and to press for its ouster.

Fires, floods hammer Australia

by Agence France-Presse

PERTH, Australia - Wildfires threatened homes and new flooding forced evacuations in embattled Australia Sunday, as officials warned that last week's monster cyclone would compound economic woes.

One million Sri Lankans hit by floods, 14 dead

COLOMBO – Sri Lanka's monsoon rains spread to more villages and towns on Sunday, leaving at least 14 people dead and more than one million with flooded homes, officials said.

Religious clash in Indonesia kills up to 6 – report

More than 1,000 Indonesian Muslims clashed on Sunday with supporters of a minority sect branded heretical by the government, leaving up to six people dead, a report said.

Donaire seeks win to prove doubters wrong

Nonito Donaire Jr. believes beating Fernando Montiel in their scheduled 12-round bout next week could finally silence critics that doubt his capacity as a world champion.

John, Randy: Our conscience is clear

MANILA, Philippines – Our conscience is clear.

John Estrada made this statement on Sunday on “The Buzz” after getting criticized for accepting a hosting gig in ABS-CBN's newest noontime program, “Happy, Yipee, Yehey!”

Estrada also maintained that he and co-host Randy Santiago did nothing wrong when they agreed to host the TV program alongside Toni Gonzaga and Mariel Rodriguez.

He added that it was nothing personal when they accepted the ABS-CBN offer.

“Wala po talaga kaming nagawang masama at alam ni Willie [Revillame] kung gaano namin siya kamahal. Kami po ay tunay niyang kaibigan. Ito po ay isang trabaho lamang. Kailangan din naming magtrabaho ni Randy,” he said.

“As long as malinis ang konsensya natin at alam natin, ng Diyos, na walang ginagawang masama, siguro naman kahit sinong gustong kumalaban sa atin ay hindi magtatagumpay dahil Diyos ang kakampi natin dito,” Estrada added.

Estrada was referring to reports that Revillame, their close friend and a former Kapamilya talent, publicly lambasted him and Santiago for accepting the noontime program on ABS-CBN.

Revillame, Estrada and Santiago used to host the defunct “Magandang Tanghali Bayan (MTB)” on ABS-CBN. The 3 became controversial after they were suspended for cracking lewd jokes on-air.

Estrada added that they accepted the project to make people happy through the TV program.

“So, I hope magpasaya na lang tayo ng tao. Sana pagbibigyan kami ng sambayang Filipino,” he said.

In the same “The Buzz” interview on Sunday, Santiago, for his part, said the latest issue is just a clear case of misunderstanding among friends.

“Right after nakita ko ‘yong tampo niya, we were deeply hurt also. Gusto niya siyempre magkasama-sama kaming muli, but of course dahil nga sa nangyaring ito, hindi natin inaasahan na nandito [muli tayo] sa Channel 2,” Santiago said, adding:

“Right away tinext ko kaagad siya at si brother John nag-text sa kanya na sana sa mga susunod na panahon magkasama din tayo. Pero at this point, siyempre trabaho lang ika nga at nauna lang itong ABS.”

The pilot episode of “Happy, Yipee, Yehey” will be aired from the Ynares Sports Center on February 12.

Venus Raj: No hand in Rica leaving UKG

MANILA, Philippines – Beauty queen Venus Raj, 2010 Binibining Pilipinas-Universe and Miss Universe 4th runner up, laughed off speculations that she had something to do with Rica Peralejo and some hosts leaving ABS-CBN morning show “Umagang Kay Ganda (UKG).”

Raj, along with Iya Villania, will join the UKG gang starting Monday. Raj will deliver the latest and the hottest showbiz reports.

She will also host the newest segment of the show, “Barangay Bida,” which will air every Friday.

Peralejo bid goodbye to the show on Friday last week.

In her live interview on “The Buzz” Sunday, the 22-year-old beauty pointed out that she is in no position to demand who should go or who should stay in the TV program.

She explained that some hosts opted to leave the TV show so as to give them more time to do other things.

In Peralejo’s case, Raj said the young actress-host is planning to study. “Gusto din niyang mag-concentrate sa kanyang pag-aaral.”

She added: “May iba magco-concentrate sa news. ‘Yong iba magco-concentrate sa projects, kung anumang meron sila. Hindi naman po ako ang naging dahilan.”

Raj was also all praises for her UKG co-hosts. “Sobrang accommodating. Hindi mahirap mag-adjust kung ganoon kabait ang makakasama ko.”

As for criticisms that she is not a good choice to become a new host of UKG, the 2010 Miss Universe 4th placer said she respects their opinions. She asked them to give her a chance to show that she can do her job.

“Hindi ko tatanggapin ang isang project na hindi ko kaya. Alam kong kaya ko kaya tinanggap ko,” she said.

Anne Curtis says she won’t sue Cathay Pacific

by by Rhea Manila P. Santos, Push.com.ph

MANILA, Philippines – Actress Anne Curtis, who recently lost her amethyst ring in a Cathay Pacific aircraft, said she has no plans of suing the airline company.

Are brains shrinking to make us smarter?

WASHINGTON, USA - Human brains have shrunk over the past 30,000 years, puzzling scientists who argue it is not a sign we are growing dumber but that evolution is making the key motor leaner and more efficient.

The average size of modern humans -- the Homo sapiens -- has decreased about 10 percent during that period -- from 1,500 to 1,359 cubic centimeters, the size of a tennis ball.

Women's brains, which are smaller on average than those of men, have experienced an equivalent drop in size.

These measurements were taken using skulls found in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

"I'd called that a major downsizing in an evolutionary eye blink," John Hawks of the University of Michigan told Discover magazine.

But other anthropologists note that brain shrinkage is not very surprising since the stronger and larger we are, the more gray matter we need to control this larger mass.

The Neanderthal, a cousin of the modern human who disappeared about 30 millennia ago for still unknown reasons, was far more massive and had a larger brain.

The Cro-Magnons who left cave paintings of large animals in the monumental Lascaux cave over 17,000 years ago were the Homo sapiens with the biggest brain. They were also stronger than their modern descendants.

Psychology professor David Geary of the University of Missouri said these traits were necessary to survive in a hostile environment.

He has studied the evolution of skull sizes 1.9 million to 10,000 years old as our ancestors and cousins lived in an increasingly complex social environment.

Geary and his colleagues used population density as a measure of social complexity, with the hypothesis that the more humans are living closer together, the greater the exchanges between group, the division of labor and the rich and varied interactions between people.

They found that brain size decreased as population density increased.

"As complex societies emerged, the brain became smaller because people did not have to be as smart to stay alive," Geary told AFP.

But the downsizing does not mean modern humans are dumber than their ancestors -- rather, they simply developed different, more sophisticated forms of intelligence, said Brian Hare, an assistant professor of anthropology at Duke University.

He noted that the same phenomenon can be observed in domestic animals compared to their wild counterparts.

So while huskies may have smaller brains than wolves, they are smarter and more sophisticated because they can understand human communicative gestures, behaving similarly to human children.

"Even though the chimps have a larger brain (than the bonobo, the closest extant relative to humans), and even though a wolf has a much larger brain than dogs, dogs are far more sophisticated, intelligent and flexible, so intelligence is not very well linked to brain size," Hare explained.

He said humans have characteristics from both the bonobo and chimpanzee, which is more aggressive and domineering.

"The chimpanzees are violent because they want power, they try to have control and power over others while bonobos are using violence to prevent one for dominating them," Hare continued.

"Humans are both chimps and bobos in their nature and the question is how can we release more bonobo and less chimp.

"I hope bonobos win... it will be better for everyone," he added.


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