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

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March 3, 2011 Major News Stories (

March 3, 2011 Major News Stories
March 3, 2011 Major News Stories

Gov't focuses on stable oil supply than relief from price hikes


 MANILA, Philippines - Saying the government has more urgent matters to attend to, Energy Secretary Jose Almendras hit back at critics who are complaining about the recent string of oil price increases and the agency's alleged lack of transparency in its computations.    

Bread prices to rise

Loaf bread and pan de sal will soon join the list of goods with escalating prices, as bakers are scheduled to raise prices by P1-P2 on March 7.

1,290 Filipinos from Libya sail for Greece—DFA

MANILA, Philippines—The government-chartered ferry MV Ionian Queen left Benghazi in eastern Libya early Wednesday, carrying 1,290 Filipino evacuees, for its journey to the Greek island of Crete, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario reported on Wednesday.

500 Filipino medical workers opt to stay in Libya

MANILA, Philippines—The rescue ferry to Crete was waiting, but around 500 Filipino workers on Tuesday changed their minds and decided to stay put in Libya despite the civil strife in that country, the Department of Labor and Employment said Wednesday.

Funds enough to repatriate OFWs from Libya, says budget chief

MANILA, Philippines— Budget Secretary Florencio Abad assured the public on Wednesday of the sufficiency of government funds for the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers caught in the middle of the conflict in Libya and other Middle Eastern countries.

He denied allegations that budgetary cuts suffered by the Department of Foreign Affairs have been causing difficulties in bringing relief to Filipino workers in those countries.

Abad said that the main source of funds for the repatriation of Filipino workers has been the P13-billion OFW Trust Fund, administered by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

He said that already, P100 million has been released by the OWWA Board of Trustees for the relief and evacuation operations in Libya.

“I stress that we have funds that can be used to rescue our OFWs in distress abroad. Contrary to what some observers have said, the issues arising from the ongoing repatriation activities are not budgetary but operational issues,” Abad said.

“These operational issues are largely due to the emergency nature of the activity and the difficulty and uncertainty of operations due to risks to life and limb, as well as the difficulty of access. This is the bigger problem that government faces, not funding,” he added.

DFA: Pinoys in eastern Libya out by Saturday

The Philippine government is giving itself three more days to evacuate every Filipino from the northeastern Libyan coastal city of Benghazi, one of the major exit points for foreign nationals fleeing the strife-torn African nation.

“We are setting a date for ourselves in terms of target, in terms of getting our people out of that coastal area. And maybe by Saturday, it’s our target to get every one out," said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday.

He said there were at most 5,000 Filipinos who have converged in Benghazi from different parts of Libya — 3,000 of whom were said to be seeking refuge at a local airport while waiting for rescue.

On Tuesday night (Libya Standard Time), the Philippine-chartered MV Ionian Queen arrived at Benghazi and picked up the first batch of 1,300 Filipinos and ferried them north to the Greek island of Crete. The vessel has a capacity of 1,700 passengers.

Regarding Filipinos on the western part of Libya, where the country’s capital, Tripoli, is located, Del Rosario said the government continues to evacuate them to the Tunisian border and into the island of Djerba.

The government had initially evacuated around 400 Filipinos through the western exit on Sunday. Perhaps encouraged by the success of the repatriation of the first batch, more Filipinos poured into the western border the following day, Del Rosario said.

“I think we attracted more people to join, to go out of their homes. So on that second day, we were able to get out 750 people to the border of Tunisia then out to Djerba," he said.

Del Rosario said the second batch of repatriates on the western border was on board 53 minibuses when they left Libya for Tunisia.

As of Wednesday, the DFA said over 9,000 Filipinos have already been evacuated from Libya - over 800 of them have already returned to the Philippines safely.

Partial list of Filipinos repatriated from Libya

MANILA, Philippines - The following is the partial list of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) repatriated from Libya. The list, updated as of midnight Wednesday, was released by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Date of repatriation: 27 February 2011, Sunday

1. Vegas, Steve

2. Basa, Engelbert S.

3. Gamil, John R.

4. Capus, Jo-Ann Pauline

5. Ochengco, Jenifer Q.

6. Perena, Julie Q.

7. Del Rosario, Gil G.

8. Manata, Khay A.

9. Tabada, Maria Riol D.

10. Albina, Cherel M.

11. Clarin, Lawrence D.

12. Sanchez, Melanie Grace

13. Sanchez, Justino M.

14. Ochavillo, Jenifer A.

15. Torino, Kathirine Joy M.

16. Magbanua, Emerson

17. De Ausen, Arwin P.

18. Jun io, Vernadeth C.

19. Galang, Aihleen B.

20. Serafin, Peter D.

21. Simon, Ma. Sofia Carmelyn R.

22. Malagamba, Ariel F.

23. Saludaga, Franklin A.

24. Noche, Michael John G.

25. Fabay, Mark John D.

26. Maranan, Reynaldo H.

27. Roz, Jesus B.

28. Legaspi, Elegio Jr. G.

29. Villalobos, Alexander M.

30. Almeda, Joel P.

31. Gayeta, Erlindo C.

32. Dimayuga, Carlo Francisco A.

33. Due, Prince Melchor

34. Menes, Franklin M.

35. Dominguez, Elsie

36. Dapitan, Joseph M.

37. Reyes, Ma. Teresa U.

38. Fulinara, Ricardo G.

39. Ebreo, Elizabeth T.

40. Borre, Criselda

41. Salvador, Bernardo J.

42. Salas, Jose T.

43. Tuvera, Judith G.

44. Arias, Rochelle

45. Mercancil, Ian E.

46. Cervantes, Jayson A.

47. Garanzo, Angelle Rose

48. Cuevillas, Donn Renee C.

49. Torremocha, Floujemae S.

50. Hamor, Lyndy V.

51. Gutierrez, Sheilla Ann P.

52. Pesigan, Kathryn Shelley C.

53. Cosejo, Rommel

54. Vacio, Juana A.

55. Fernandez, Jesus A.

56. Curry, Horace A.

57. Tumulak, Dale Nephi

58. Valerio, Norberto T.

59. Buya, Reydante

60. Ascano, Ruel S.

61. Laguey, Jade B.

62. Balaoro, Anthony O.

63. Joel, Kathleen

64. Dacula, Faidz

65. Relano, Lovely Ann A.

66. Manalastas, Cynthia F.

67. Manalastas, Christine F.

68. Mendoza, Rommel P.

69. Ramiscal, Dante A.

70. Navarro, Jonard G.

71. Vidamo, Charles Johram

72. Nemis, Irene D.

73. Pangan, Ferry Anthony S.

74. Campanero, Lourdes B.

75. Yanguas, Windy B.

76. Bernabe, Jesnina A.

77. Tausa, Jenny E.

78. Noriega, Jenefer A.

79. Deypalan, Benjie

80. Samson, Marvin M.

81. Garcia, Nelson C.

82. Tumampos, Romeo D.

83. Madrid, Jhonrey J.

84. Mendoza, Darren A.

85. Dano, Glen G.

86. Magturo, Cyril G.

87. Yumul, Jhoana

88. Pedeglorio, Renzie A.

89. Gairan, Jeffry M.

90. Jao, Ryan R.

91. Veloria, Harvey N.

92. Bedro, Bekim S.

93. Paclibar, Robin

94. Faustino, Jimmy

95. Punzalan, Ferdinand M.

96. Patacsil, Aurelio F.

97. De Castro, Leandro L.

98. Gaspay, Alfredo

99. Salvador, Arnel A.

100.  Agriam, Allan A.

101.  Abadecio, Roberto B.

102.  Gaspay, Josemartin N.

103.  Gaspay, Janssen Joy N.

104.  Botardo, Ramir R.

105.  Abegania, Jennie Lynn A.

106.  Cacal, Jose

107.  Abarintos, Castor C.

108.  Calnea, Bernard A.

109.  Del Rosario, Arturo O.

110.  Tanguin, Abbe L.

111.  Porco, Walter

112.  Carlito, Macatangay

Date of Repatriation: 28 February 2011 via flight EK 334 (10 Filipinos)

1. Bonayon, Jianey F.

2. Melchor, Corro Jr. G.

3. Onate, Miguel

4. Mayola, Salvador

5. Dumanay, Danilo T.

6. Cagape, Gregorio

7. Vista, Erwin

8. Cruz, Jimmy G.

9. Bacolod, Wilfredo A. Jr.

10. Tabagan, Gemly

Date of Repatriation: 01 March 2011 via flight GF 154, 10:25 AM (61 Filipinos, but 2 did not complete the Profile forms)

1. Ortiz, Juanito

2. Banta, Rodel

3. Perez, Melchor R.

4. Marasigan, Ruben C.

5. Manalac, Jose G.

6. Rumay, Arniel N.

7. Cabo, Noel A.

8. Velasquez, Wilfredo T.

9. De Dios, Nilo

10. Nicdao, Eduardo T.

11. Cruz, Joselito B.

12. Castro, Armando Yumol

13. Clanor, Ricardo M.

14. Aldovino, Allan

15. Nomel, Dennis L.

16. Labrador, Jonathan Eubos

17. Acuriba, Ronel Cloma

18. Elane, Dave Guevarra

19. Mariano, Jay M.

20. Teodoro, Estacio

21. Laureles, Carlito R.

22. Sordilla, Eddie W.

23. Dayag, Jesus R.

24. Aglibut, Romel C.

25. Cunanan, Nicomedez P.

26. Guevarra, Marcelo C.

27. Deocampo, Marcos D.

28. Mislan, Jonathan Cristobal

29. Matulac, Winifredo Jr.

30. Hernandez, Renante

31. Monteros, Alfredo L.

32. Caragayan, June

33. Avelino, Rodel B.

34. Delos Santos, Gelmer A.

35. Malto, Rene L.

36. Albay, Rolando dela Cruz Jr.

37. La, Jerry Dalida

38. Baliwag, Ryan

39. Pinsan, Gerardo Arenas

40. Cubita, Joel

41. Paulines, Edmundo V.

42. Edquibal, Hector Elad

43. Bajungsua, Winces

44. Calmarez, Patro

45. Cainglet, Joemarie A.

46. Villegas, Dante Danseco

47. Mance, Pedro I.

48. Faustino, Oscar L.

49. Arenal, Arnel C.

50. Roxas, Armando S.

51. Edora, Equio B.

52. Muyco, Jenifred P.

53. Eduad, Renato

54. Sison, Rolly P.

55. Dela Cruz, Marvin P.

56. Guevarra, Lucio Ignacio

57. Cabajes, Amiel C.

58. Mendoza, Justo

59. Abat, Albert U.

Date of Repatriation: 01 March 2011 via flight CX 901, 11:15 AM (26 Filipinos)

1. Leparto, Nestor

2. Herrera, Timoteo

3. Calo, Albert S.

4. Circulado, Noel Catubag

5. Madayag, Froilan

6. Sayci, Melicio P.

7. Orquia, Pablito Petallo

8. Panoncillo, Ulysis Ramos Jr.

9. Poltic, Nelson

10. Caliwagan, Victor

11. Elcano, Modesto B. Jr.

12. Gajilis, Lucio A. Jr.

13. Bonita, Remy

14. Lamera, Florelio A.

15. Gatchalian, Dominador Lacerna

16. Ilagan, Ricardo

17. Abnasan, Arnold

18. Mhing, Wilfredo

19. Javier, Joselito L.

20. Ursua, Arsenio B. Jr.

21. Crisosto, Amausto

22. Malit, Henry

23. Garcia, Anicencio Manalo

24. Esla, Ebarra

25. Aliparo, Jonathan C.

26. Deso, Ramon B.

Date of Repatriation: 01 March 2011 via flight EY 424, (22 Filipinos)

1. Ecijan, Joseph Edillon

2. Dait, Oliver

3. Moya, Allan

4. Maray, Alvin B.

5. Alberca, Alverto C.

6. Deaño, Candido M. Jr.

7. Maya, Jovito L.

8. Calingasan, John B.

9. Irapta, Henry R.

10. Ommagam, Arnel

11. Boquiron, Ruel

12. Fortes, Proceso

13. Sungh, Antonio B. Jr.

14. De Sagun, Alan S.

15. Manalo, Richard A.

16. Polor, Granny

17. Cabobovo, Antonio Z. Jr.

18. Medrano, Renante

19. Gabito, Junnie

20. Canales, Johnsy B.

21. Gica, Fernando E. Jr. III

22. Gica, Noel

Date of Repatriation: 01 March 2011 via flight GF 156, 2:55 pm (45 Filipinos, one was not able to complete form)

1. Tangpuz, Redentor L.

2. Gamat, Edwin F.

3. Rivera, Rolando D.

4. Garcia, Arnel R.

5. Villorente, Johnny S.

6. Parcon, Dina G.

7. Sumto, Francisco C.

8. Ibarrona, Romualdo U.

9. Briones, Andy

10. Paredes, Ernesto A.

11. Meneces, Crispino Castillo

12. Abad, Joselito V.

13. Cubita, Sergio Jr.

14. Pelaez, Vicente V. Jr.

15. Baril, Noel S.

16. Climaco, Vicente M.

17. Dula, Diogenes R.

18. Monares, Juliecar C.

19. Torreaflurt, Vicente E.

20. Gamat, Edwin F.

21. Lakay, Josefino B. Jr.

22. Elane, Rowel M.

23. Cabcinoc, Jose F.

24. Buendia, Rodolfo T. Jr.

25. Lagunday, Jose Renaldo Y

26. Guevarra, Legie

27. Quidato, Romeo Base Jr.

28. Patanao, Gorge Lagaamen

29. Moquete, Gervacio

30. Masanggay, Justino B.

31. Nogoy, Ariel

32. Marcelino, Pastora

33. Suguitan, Rodolfo J.

34. Voesin, Artemio R. Jr.

35. Diesta, Gregorio P.

36. Agunday, Carlito V.

37. Baliwag, Rommel

38. Perez, Conrado A.

39. Briones, Arnel B.

40. Laudit, Efren Marasigan

41.  A certain Mario (form incomplete)

42. Lingat. Arnaldo

43. Dizon, Lloyd T.

44. De Castro, Ferdinand P.

Date of Repatriation: 01 March 2011 via flight QR 646, 3:35pm (44 Filipinos)

1. Pamor, Jared C.

2. Domingo, Edgardo Q.

3. Famadico, Jerry M.

4. Rojas, Rodrigo S.

5. Codo, Lorenzo C.

6. Sanros, Rogelio G. Jr.

7. Fortuna, Eric Gimay

8. Santos, Reymond A.

9. Ramos, Arnold Aquino

10. Padilla, Livius Luis A.

11. Leonardo, Roberto Amandy

12. Mendoza, Edgardo D.

13. Tabora, Jayson V.

14. Regalado, Ranielo P.

15. Pascual, Armando S.

16. Lajara, Timoteo V.

17. Jaboli, Manolito A.

18. Sales, Orlando M.

19. Celino, Gerry B.

20. Yaya, Rafael G.

21. Opeña, Roger Bagacina

22. Castillo, Raphy V.

23. Anos, Angelo B.

24. Mendoza, Elmer

25. Dela Cruz, Marlon V.

26. Deocareza, Wilfredo Maramag

27. Madredano, Dionesio Jr.

28. Chiongson, Nelson Mandap

29. Alcantara, Angelito A.

30. Ocier, Bob D.

31. Bedonia, Antonio

32. Soloria, Rodolfo Igros

33. Apeladas, Marlon

34. Abrantes, Agusto

35. Dela Peña, Edgardo D.

36. Cabico, Marvin Q.

37. Santos, Renato

38. Cabusao, Ruel

39. Ramos, Frederick A.

40. Quitlong, Roberto Aquino

41. Estacio,Rogelio J.

42. Pagaduan, Robert S.

43. Buscagan, Rugelo N.

44. Tadeo, Crispuco Jr.

Date of Repatriation: 01 March 2011 via flight CX 919, 4:40pm (9 Filipino, three were not able to complete form)

1. Herrera, Rafael G.

2. Reyes, Elmer A.

3. Fernando, Valentino

4. Mabanta, Romeo G.

5. Dela Calzada, Alforque charito Jr.

6. Calino, Marcelino R.

7. Valencia, Orlando M.

8. Kengat, Henry

9. Silang, Romualdo M.

Capitol, Lapu-Lapu to help workers from Libya, families of missing nurses in NZ

ANOTHER overseas Filipino worker (OFW) feared lost in Libya is on his way home to Cebu.

Winston Enriquez Fernandez has been tracked, said Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) 7 officer-in-charge of programs and services Reynaldo Jacalan.

Owwa made arrangements to get Fernandez from a danger zone to the Libya-Egypt border, after his sister visited the agency last Feb. 25 to inform them that the family lost track of the OFW, said Jacalan.

The last update was that Fernandez was in a hotel near the border, waiting for repatriation.

“He is safe,” said Jacalan of Fernandez, who hails from Barangay Labangon, Cebu City.

Thinking Fernandez’s whereabouts were still unknown yesterday, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama wrote Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario for help with the immediate repatriation of Fernandez.

“The fate of Winston is very precarious since nobody is taking care of his release papers,” Rama’s press release read.

Fernandez worked in the administration department of SNC Lavalin, a company that hired thousands of Cebuanos to work in Libya.

Also yesterday, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said the Provincial Government will P30,000 to each family of the Cebuano nurses trapped after an earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“The DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) came up with a statement that they will provide airline tickets for representatives from each victim’s family,” she said. Two representatives from each family will reportedly be provided the tickets.

Instead of airfare, Cebu Province will provide financial assistance directly to the families of Emmabelle Anoba, John Kristoffer Chua, Ezra Mae Medalle, Rhea Mae Sumalpong and Jessie Lloyd Redoble.

Garcia also echoed DFA’s assurance that the office will transport the bodies back to the country.

As for returning overseas foreign workers from Libya, Governor Garcia said the Province will put up an action center, linked to the Provincial Employement Services Office (Peso), similar to what they did during the 2008 recession in the United States.

Paul Espinosa, 32, a Filipino contract worker from Libya, arrived in the country last Feb. 28 and reached Cebu last March 1.

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza said the City will provide temporary work to Espinosa, who worked as a surveyor and quality control officer in a power generating firm in Libya.

Espinosa is part of the 150 Filipinos who worked for Dosan, a Korean Power firm in Libya, who arrived from the Middle East last Sunday.

He barely finished three months there when trouble erupted and his company arranged for their transport from Serti in Libya to Egypt. From Egypt, the 150 Filipinos were divided in three batches for flights to Abu Dhabi. They then proceeded to Manila.

In Manila, they were assisted by their agency, Batangueño Human Resource, in acquiring plane tickets to their home province and given P500 each as an allowance.

Garcia urged these returning workers to register with the Peso for retraining and placement, as Cebu will hold its local and overseas jobs fair this month.

2 Chinese nabbed at Cebu airport over prohibited drugs

CEBU CITY, Philippines—-The Bureau of Customs apprehended early Wednesday morning two Chinese found to have carried in their bag three kilos of a white substance believed to be the prohibited drug ephedrine at the Mactan Cebu International Airport.

Herman Antopino of the BoC identified the two as Iek Man Wong, male, and Xiu Yu Tan, a woman five months pregnant, who both arrived on Cebu Pacific Flight 5J 239 at 4:30 a.m.

Antopino said he noticed the white substance inside the bag and when the K-9 unit sniffed the bag, it sat on it, indicating that there was a suspicious substance inside.

The two were being held at the BoC office at the airport, he added.

2 Chinese nationals caught for chemical load

CEBU CITY -- Two Chinese nationals were apprehended at Mactan Cebu International Airport on Wednesday after they were found carrying three kilos of ephedrine, a chemical used in making several substances, including shabu.

What first got the authorities' attention was not the ephedrine, but the US$20,000 that one of the arrivals, Xiuyu Tan, allegedly failed to declare.

Authorities said they found the ephedrine in the checked-in luggage.

Bureau of Customs (BOC) Cebu District Collector Ronnie Silvestre confirmed that Iek Man Wong, 54, and Tan, 27, were held upon their arrival at 4:30 a.m. from Hong Kong on board Cebu Pacific flight 5J 239.

Ester Nario, officer-in-charge of the Mactan Customs Subport, said that Wong was already cleared and near the exit of the international arrivals terminal when Tan went through customs.

She had one hand-carried bag and checked-in luggage.

Customs examiners German Antopina and Ervin Ho asked Tan to open her hand-carried bag because the BOC has no X-ray machine for it. They found that Tan was carrying $US20,000, which she failed to indicate in her customs declaration.

Aware of the long line of passengers behind Tan, Antopina said he instructed her to proceed to the customs office at the airport for questioning by Fe Toring, customs deputy collector for airport services.

Wong followed them.

After seizing the US$20,000, customs personnel proceeded to inspect the checked-in luggage, where they found three kilos of powder in sachets.

Antopina then invited the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to conduct further investigation.

Carlito Ermac, chief of PDEA's AK2 at the airport, responded together with two colleagues and two dogs trained to sniff out illegal drugs.

PDEA-Central Visayas Director II Levi S. Ortiz said the powder was identified as ephedrine during the initial, on-the-spot screening.

"This is our basis to temporarily detain the two nationals for 36 hours," said Ortiz.

In the meantime, PDEA-Central Visayas sent samples of the seized powder to Manila for a more comprehensive laboratory examination.

If the lab test confirms that it was ephedrine, Wong and Tan will face criminal charges for violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, Ortiz said.

Silvestre said he is waiting for the incident report from the BOC Enforcement and Security Service, headed by Captain Jerry Arrizabal. If the evidence merits it, he will issue a Warrant of Seizure and Detention against the $US20,000 and the ephedrine.

Passengers are required to declare all amounts beyond US$10,000.

Tan reportedly told Antopina the powder was a food preservative.

Teacher’s death stuns his family, prompts inquiry

A 43-YEAR-OLD professor of the Cebu Normal University (CNU) was found dead in his home on M. Velez St., Barangay Capitol Site, Cebu City.

As she came home from school, his daughter found Dr. John Munalim sitting on a toilet bowl, with a long gash in his neck, past noon yesterday.

Police have yet to declare if it was a homicide or a suicide. Crime scene investigators found bloodstains on the lock and knob of the main door, and near the computer table. A razor blade was found at his feet.

John’s wife Thelma, who also works as a teacher, said her husband did not show any signs that he would commit suicide, although he was anxious about his health.

SPO1 Jay Yballe, who led the homicide team, said the police found no signs of a forced entry or a struggle inside the house.

“All the things inside are in place,” he said, including the laptop, which was earlier reported to have been missing.

As to the bloodstains found at the main door and near the computer table, Yballe said samples were submitted to the crime laboratory for analysis.

“We will have to wait for the autopsy result,” Yballe said, when asked if a homicide was suspected.

According to the information Yballe gathered from Thelma and daughter Kimberly, John was suffering from diabetes and a heart ailment. He also had trouble sleeping.

Thelma, in an interview over radio DyAB, lamented that some neighbors ignored her complaint that their gamecocks and chickens kept John awake at night.

Before she left home yesterday, Thelma said she and John even planned to go to the phone company together to pay their Internet service bill.

She also asked why no one brought her husband to the hospital.

“Maayo pang mamatay sa hinay-hinay nga sakit kay sa kalit kaayo sa tanan (A slow death from an illness would have been better than a sudden blow like this),” Thelma said.

John’s neighbors, who gathered near his house, expressed disbelief at the professor’s death. They only had good words for him, describing him as a very kind neighbor.

Dr. Munalim, a native of Basilan Province, has been teaching at the CNU, since 2003. He graduated from the University of Cebu with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in History. He had a doctorate degree in Educational Management from Southwestern University.

At CNU, he taught social sciences subjects such as history and Rizal, said Eppie Lao, head of CNU’s Human Resources Department.

Dr. Munalim is survived by his wife Thelma, a teacher at Camp Lapu-Lapu National High School, and children Kimberley Kaye, 20, and Karl Bryan, 14.

He chaired the Behavioral and Political Science Department in 2008.

Before joining CNU, Munalim was employed at the Department of Education and taught at Busay National High School from July 2001 to June 2003. He also worked as school administrator of Bonbon National High School and was a classroom teacher at the Sto. Tomas School from 1988 to 1993.

His other assignments were in Paril, Binaliw, Camp Lapu-Lapu and in Sudlon.

Agencies collaborate in Ellah Joy probe

THE police and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 vowed to work together to solve the Ellah Joy Pique case.

The investigation and intelligence units in the regional and provincial police headquarters, NBI, the Bureau of Immigration, PNP Crime Laboratory 7, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the Highway Patrol Group had a “unified” command conference yesterday to discuss the Pique case.

Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Ager Ontog Jr. described the group as the “unified” team that is investigating the Pique case.

Ontog said the team will also be coordinating with the Homeland Security of the United States and the International Police (Interpol) as local law enforcers need all the help they can get to solve the abduction and killing of the six-year-old girl.

He said the team could be dealing with foreigners who may be part of a syndicate or work individually.

New witnesses

“From here on, our investigation will be one. We are doing these together and we are hoping to solve the case the soonest possible time,” Ontog told reporters after the closed-door conference.

The police said they have new leads in the case, but refused to elaborate.

NBI 7 Chief Edward Villarta said the agencies also discussed better information exchange among investigation units.

Ontog and Villarta, however, clarified that they have been working together since the investigation on the Pique case began.

As this developed, Villarta directed NBI 7 operatives to look for new witnesses in the Ellah Joy Pique case.

He said in an interview that the testimony of the three child witnesses obtained by the PNP would be easy to impeach as a result of the foiled attempt to indict Sven Erik Berger and Karen Esdrelon.


“If we present the children in court against a new set of respondents, the defense will surely put on record how they pin-pointed other persons for the crime,” he said in Tagalog.

Villarta said the NBI is not part of the second task force headed by Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) Officer-in-Charge Louie Oppus and that the agency’s investigation on the Pique case will remain parallel.

“We will just share (information),” he explained, adding that the two agencies remain linked at the provincial level through the Provincial Task Force Against Crime.

The Office of the Cebu Provincial Prosecutor dismissed, Monday, the criminal complaint lodged by the CPPO against Berger and Esdrelon.

The dismissal came 16 days after they were taken into custody at the Mactan Cebu International Airport while awaiting their flight to Hong Kong.

No basis

In his resolution, Assistant Provincial Prosecutors Marlon Atillo and Marvin dela Peña found no basis to the allegation that the duo abducted Pique in Minglanilla last Feb. 8

"We find that the evidence against the respondents is insufficient to indict them of the crime charged," Assistant Provincial Prosecutors Marlon Atillo and Marvin dela Peña said in their resolution.

The evidence referred to by the prosecutors were the sworn statements of three children, who identified Berger and Esdrelon as the Caucasian and the Filipina who allegedly picked up Pique from school that day.

The NBI 7 obtained photos from security cameras at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino, showing the couple in the hotel’s premises around the time Pique was picked up.

Dengue kills 2 more children in Cebu City

by By Rene U. Borromeo/JPM

CEBU, Philippines - Health officials announced yesterday that two more children died because of the dengue virus in Cebu City a few days ago, bringing to four the total number of casualties reported since January.

Durinda Macasocol, assistant head of the Cebu City Epidemiology Statistics and Surveillance Unit, identified the latest casualties as 13-year-old Dencel Vercide of barangay Labangon who died last February 18, and Rolly Saberon, two-year-old from barangay Budlaan who died last February 24.

The two other casualties were Liezel Jorcales, three years old, and seven-year-old Charellie Sacedon, who died at the Cebu City Medical Center and Cebu Doctor’s Hospital on January 2 and 27, respectively.

House panel vows fair impeachment vs Merci

by By Caroline J. Howard, ANC

MANILA - The House Justice Committee has vowed to be impartial in the conduct of impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez as the committee conducted clarificatory hearings into the impeachment complaints against her.

House body sets deadline for Ombudsman’s personal defense

OMBUDSMAN MA. Merceditas N. Gutierrez has until Tuesday next week to personally defend herself before the House committee on justice otherwise a recommendation will be made on her impeachment to the whole chamber.

Miriam: I don't see probable cause in Merci's case


MANILA, Philippines - With the way things are going at the House Justice Committee, there may not be a case to impeach Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said.

Kiko to Merci: Do a Nixon and resign


MANILA, Philippines -  A Liberal Party senator joined calls for Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to resign or risk being kicked out of office through impeachment.

DND panel on Rabusa allegations fails to meet deadline

MANILA, Philippines—A Department of National Defense special panel looking into the alleged diversion of military funds for the personal slush fund of former top generals failed to meet the 30-day deadline imposed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to turn in their findings by the end of February.

Ligot’s wife expected at Senate

THE SENATE Blue Ribbon and justice and human rights committees will be conducting their sixth public hearing today on the circumstances surrounding the plea bargain agreement of an ex-military comptroller and the Ombudsman.

Ligot's brod-in-law surfaces, denies hiding

The brother-in-law of former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) comptroller Jacinto Ligot reportedly came to the Senate Monday night to tell the Blue Ribbon Committee that he is not hiding even after failing to show up in last week's hearing on alleged corruption in the military.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said Edgardo Yambao, who allegedly amassed around P300 million in cash and assets even without a source of income, explained to the committee that he's just concerned about his business.

But Estrada was incredulous.

"Kung mayroon talaga siyang negosyo, bakit hindi niya dineclare sa income tax return niya at wala siyang ITR?" Estrada told reporters on Wednesday.

In the previous hearing, Sen. Frankin Drilon alleged that Yambao, the brother of Ligot's wife, Erlinda, acquired expensive condominium units, vehicles, and cash even without a source of income. The senator said Yambao had also not filed any income tax return.

Estrada said Yambao is likely to attend Thursday's hearing.

He also hopes to see Mrs. Ligot on Thursday. She failed to attend last week's hearing because she was hospitalized at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center due to "headaches, abdominal pains, and other aches," according to her lawyer.

But Estrada said information reached him that Mrs. Ligot checked out of the hospital immediately after the hearing.

If she does not attend, the Senate may issue a warrant of arrest and even summon her doctors, Estrada said.

"Halatang-halata naman that she is feigning her illness," he said.

Estrada believes the Senate's investigation may be wrapped up right away if both Yambao and Mrs. Ligot attend the hearing on Thursday.

PCGG, SolGen asks Sandigan to enforce ruling vs Imelda Marcos

Six months after the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division ordered Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos to return P10 million that her late husband, strongman Ferdinand Marcos, supposedly transferred in secret from the NFA's PNB account to a private account, the PCGG and the Solicitor General are now asking the graft court to enforce its decision.

PCGG has 2 yrs. to finish task vs ill-lgotten wealth

The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the agency tasked to go after the ill-gotten wealth of people associated with the Marcos regime, now has two years to wind up its task before it is abolished.

COA bares P200-million unexplained CAAP withdrawals

by By Rainier Allan Ronda, The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - State auditors have discovered questionable withdrawals amounting to more than P500 million from the savings account of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) in 2009.

Don't drop Zaldy as massacre suspect: victims' kin

by By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Relatives of victims of the gruesome Maguindanao massacre marched towards the Court of Appeals Wednesday afternoon for fear that Zaldy Ampatuan, the suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, will be dropped from the list of those accused of the killings.

600 Filipino workers recommended for Saudi royal pardon

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh has recommended to the Saudi Arabian government the inclusion of nearly 600 Filipinos serving jail terms there in King Abdullah's order for royal pardon, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.

Radio, TV urged to air literacy programs

MANILA, Philippines— Education Secretary Armin Luistro on Wednesday urged major television networks and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas to help combat functional illiteracy by alloting 30 minutes a day of their airwaves to literacy programs.

2 kids choked to death over P900 cockpit bet

A man admitted strangling two siblings to death before dumping their bodies in San Pedro, Laguna, after the children’s father allegedly failed to pay him back P900 in cockpit bet, police on Wednesday said.

Peso falls on news of oil price hikes

MANILA, Philippines—The peso fell Wednesday as reports about rising oil prices dampened sentiment on the performance of the global and domestic economies.

$1: 43.490

$1: 43.490 (P43.43)

Euro 1: 59.8886

Rice supply good for 103 days

by By Marianne V. Go, The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The country’s rice supply as of Feb. 25 stands at 3.195 million metric tons which can feed the entire population by over a hundred days, National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Angelito Banayo said yesterday.

West argues over no-fly zone in Libya

by Agence France-Presse

TRIPOLI, Libya - Western powers argued over imposing a proposed no-fly zone over Libya as rebels fighting Moamer Kadhafi's regime began organising the trappings of parallel government in many towns.

FACTS: International warships headed for Libya

TRIPOLI - Warships from several western countries were heading on Wednesday towards Libya, which has been rocked since mid-February by a revolt against the regime of Moamer Kadhafi.

Kadhafi has warned the West against military intervention, saying "thousands of Libyans would die."

- THE UNITED STATES: The USS Kearsarge and USS Ponce entered the Mediterranean en route towards Libya. The Kearsarge amphibious ready group, with about 800 marines, a fleet of helicopters and medical facilities, can support humanitarian efforts as well as military operations.

- BRITAIN: HMS Westminster sailed from Gibraltar for the crisis zone. The Type 23 frigate, a class which is the mainstay of the Royal Navy's surface fleet, is to relieve destroyer HMS York, which sailed from Gibraltar at short notice on Friday.

- FRANCE: France is sending its second-largest warship, the helicopter carrier Mistral, to waters off Libya to help evacuate refugees. It will be escorted by the frigate Georges-Leygues. Between them the two ships can carry 800 refugees. The Mistral can operate as a command ship and as an amphibious assault vessel.

- CANADA: HMCS Charlottetown set sail from Halifax in eastern Canada to join a US-led flotilla off Libya. The 134-metre (440-foot) frigate carrying 225 sailors and a Sea King helicopter is expected to meet up as early as next week with the USS Kearsarge.

- ITALY: Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Italy will send ships to Libya "within 24 to 48 hours."

- SOUTH KOREA: The warship Choi Young, withdrawn from an anti-piracy patrol off Somalia for a possible evacuation mission, was due to arrive off Tripoli late on Wednesday.

Gadhafi warns of bloodbath if West intervenes

TRIPOLI—Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi warned on Wednesday "thousands" would die if the West intervened to support the uprising against him, as rebels drove back an attack by his forces on an eastern town.

Recap of developments in Middle East, North Africa

CAIRO—Latest developments in the unrest sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.

LIBYA: Libya's Moammar Gadhafi warned the West against intervening to support the rebellion against him, saying that would unleash a "very bloody war" in which "thousands of Libyans would die."

- Forces loyal to Gadhafi launched air strikes on the rebel-controlled town of Ajdabiya in the east of the country.

- Rebels said they repulsed an attack by Gadhafi's forces on the eastern town of Brega and witnesses reported that at least 10 people were killed.

- Two US warships carrying marines and equipment entered the Mediterranean from the Suez Canal heading to Libya, as the United States and Europe piled pressure on Gadhafi.

- France is sending its second-largest warship, the helicopter carrier Mistral, to waters off Libya to help evacuate refugees.

- The United States is a "long-way" from deciding whether to impose a no-fly zone in Libya to support a revolt against Gadhafi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

- NATO allies were split on whether to unleash their military might on Libya, with fears raised about angering ordinary Arabs.

- The Arab League's annual summit, which was to be held this month in Baghdad, has been delayed until the end of May because of regional unrest, an Arab diplomat told AFP.

- Hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned the United States against military intervention in Libya.

- The UN refugees agency pleaded for hundreds of planes to end the gridlock at the Tunisia border with Libya, where "acres of people" are still waiting to cross, as Britain and France geared to assist airlift evacuations.

- The UN's food donor agency launched a $38.7-million program to feed 2.7 million people trapped in Libya.

TUNISIA: Tunisia has freed all of its 800 political prisoners in terms of an amnesty granted after the fall of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising, a lawyer told AFP.

MOROCCO: An adviser to Morocco's King Mohammed VI has told union leaders that the monarch plans a range of reforms following uprisings that have rocked the Arab world, a union activist told AFP.

EGYPT: Two senior leaders of the Egyptian opposition Muslim Brotherhood were to be released after nearly six years behind bars, their lawyer said.

- Toppled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is receiving medical treatment for cancer in Saudi Arabia, according to a report in the state-owned Al-Akhbar newspaper.

- Egypt's military leaders met a group including opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei and Arab League chief Amr Mussa to discuss upcoming reforms, state media said.

SAUDI ARABIA: The Kingdom is to soon announce a major cabinet reshuffle as the four-year term for the current council of ministers has expired, an official told AFP.

- More than 100 academics, activists and businessmen have called for major reforms including establishing a "constitutional monarchy."

IRAQ: The United Nations voiced concern over allegations of human rights violations at recent demonstrations in Iraq, and called for those behind the abuses to be held accountable.

GCC: Stock markets in the Gulf states continued to be affected by fear over unrest sweeping several Arab countries and despite soaring oil prices.

- Gulf Cooperation Council states discussed plans to launch a massive Marshall-style plan to assist Bahrain and Oman which have been hit by unrest, Kuwait's Al-Qabas newspaper reported.

OMAN: Tanks peacefully dispersed protesters blocking the port in Oman's industrial city of Sohar and the coastal road to Muscat on Tuesday as protests were also reported elsewhere, AFP journalists and witnesses said.

BAHRAIN: Thousands of Bahrainis gathered outside the interior ministry on Wednesday on the 17th day of anti-regime protests and in the biggest rally this week, an AFP correspondent reported.

YEMEN: A top leader in Yemen's separatist Southern Movement urged southerners to avoid secessionist slogans and to throw in their lot with anti-regime protests across the country.

- Huge crowds poured onto the streets of Sanaa on Tuesday in what the opposition hailed as the biggest protest yet against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's three-decade rule.

KUWAIT: Opposition groups have intensified their demands for the sacking of the prime minister, blamed for stalling development in the oil-rich Gulf state.

ALGERIA: Algeria wants priority to be given to ending the bloodshed in Libya, urging a return to order in its neighbor.

JORDAN: The United States said on Wednesday it supports calls by its ally Jordan's King Abdullah II for "serious" reforms, ahead of an Islamist opposition demonstration on Friday to demand change.

China warns journalists on 'Jasmine' rallies

by Agence France-Presse

BEIJING, China - Chinese police warned foreign journalists on Wednesday to obey restrictions on covering rallies called by an online protest campaign or face possible loss of their permission to work in China.

Massive dust storm hits quake-hit Christchurch

by Agence France-Presse

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand - Strong winds whipped up huge dust clouds in earthquake-hit Christchurch Wednesday, as officials defended the devastated city's building standards.

WikiLeaks, Internet vie for Nobel Peace Prize

A record 241 nominations were received for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, up from last year's 237 nominees, according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee. This year's nominees include WikiLeaks, the Internet, and Afghan rights advocate Sima Samar.

Japan’s Davis Cup team not underestimating Philippine squad

LAPU LAPU CITY, Philippines—Japan's Davis Cup non-playing captain Eiji Takeuchi lavished praise on the organizers of the coming tie but vowed to fight in full force against the Filipinos starting Friday in their Asia/Oceania Group 1 showdown.

Donaire to battle WBA champ Moreno on May 28

MANILA, Philippines—Newly crowned WBC/WBO bantamweight champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire will battle WBA champion Anselmo “Chemito” Moreno on May 28, according to Top Rank promoter Bob Arum.

De la Hoya predicts Pacquiao-Mayweather fight

by By Mark Lamport-Stokes, Reuters

LOS ANGELES, California - Plans for a mega-fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. have so far come to naught but boxing great Oscar De La Hoya believes the blockbuster long desired by fans will eventually take place.

Ariza to stay in Pacquiao’s corner—Roach

Celebrated trainer Freddie Roach has said that strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza will remain with Team Pacquiao despite rumors that the Colombian is on his way out.

Boxing: Mayweather eyes South Africa fight -- report

Unbeaten US boxer Floyd Mayweather, who is facing felony charges that could bring in 34 years behind bars, is talking about staging a fight in South Africa in July, his uncle Jeff says.

De la Hoya rules out comeback


MANILA, Philippines – Former Manny Pacquiao nemesis Oscar de la Hoya ruled out that he’ll be coming out of retirement, quelling rumors that he’ll be making a comeback in the sport that made him one of its biggest superstars.

2 Pinoys off to hot start in Virginia 10-Ball


MANILA, Philippines – Living up to expectations of fellow players, Filipinos Warren "Warrior" Kiamco and Jundel "Jano" Mazon humbled their opponents at the start of 2011 Masters 10-Ball Championship at the Chesapeake Convention Center in Chesapeake Virginia, USA.

James Yap breaks slump, tows Llamados to easy win vs Express

James Yap snapped out of a scoring slump and scored 18 of his 22 points in the first half of a 121-92 Llamados blowout of the Express that came at the same time Air21 and San Miguel finally consummated the biggest trade of the import-laden conference.

Texters tame Tigers to get back to winning ways

Talk 'N Text promptly put sense back in its PBA Commissioner's Cup campaign with a methodical 94-80 beating of Powerade Wednesday night at the Astrodome. The Texters were in command for most of the game and readily repulsed whatever comeback the Tigers tried to mount.

Musician Jim Paredes hits 'armchair' rebels on Twitter, Facebook

Netizens should do more than click the 'share' button or tweet about burning issues like the Ombudsman's impeachment or the reproductive health bill, celebrity Twitter user Jim Paredes on Wednesday said.

Imelda Marcos feels for Gaddafi


MANILA, Philippines -  Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos, the former First Lady who once acted as a bridge between Libya and the Philippines, said she understands what embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi is going through due to her own experience.

Lea Salonga outraged at Ayala Alabang ordinance


MANILA, Philippines - Tony award-winning actress Lea Salonga was “outraged” after reading the controversial ordinance issued by officials of Barangay Ayala Alabang in Muntinlupa City restricting access to contraceptives.

Ariel Rivera, Eula Valdez thrilled over 'Mula sa Puso' remake


MANILA, Philippines – Returning Kapamilya stars Ariel Rivera and Eula Valdez are both excited in their upcoming television series in ABS-CBN.

Pop-alternative band 'Sugarfree' takes final bow


MANILA, Philippines – After 11 years of playing and creating music together, pop-alternative band "Sugarfree" on Tuesday evening took its final bow.

Mating game: Too much choice will leave you lonely

PARIS - Scientists have made a surprising discovery: The more options you have for choosing a lover, the likelier you are to end up with no-one.

British investigators, in a new study released on Wednesday, looked at the strange dynamics of choice in speed-dating, a fashionable way for singles to meet.

Speed-daters race through a rota of one-on-one meetings, judging each person for suitability after a conversation of a few minutes that ends when a bell sounds.

Assessing large numbers of candidates was not a problem in itself, the researchers found.

In fact, many speed-daters found more potential partners when they were able to cast their net into a larger pool.

But this advantage only worked when the available candidates were all broadly similar.

When candidates were too dissimilar, speed-daters became confused by many conflicting factors -- and often failed to choose anyone.

"There are models of human 'rationality' which posit that variety is a good thing," said researcher Alison Lenton at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

"What will be surprising to some people is that our results suggest that increasing option variety leads to chooser confusion. People are more likely to choose no-one at all when faced with greater variety."

The study, published in the British journal Biology Letters, tracked 1,868 female and 1,870 male participants at 84 commercial speed-dating events.

Hopeful singles gave details of their occupation, education level, age, height, weight and religious affiliation, allowing researchers to gauge differences.

The women's mean age was 34.3 years and men were aged 35.6. Twenty percent of women and 27% of men were in professional or managerial positions, and the remainder classified themselves as "skilled non-manual" or other occupations.

Speed-daters met in groups and engaged in three-minute encounters with between 15 and 31 singles of the opposite sex.

After the event, the organizer matched up individuals who indicated a mutual interest in each other, thus opening the way to a possible date.

Big speed-dating events typically generated 123 such "proposals," or shows of interest, when candidates were similar, the researchers found. But the number dropped by more than a quarter, to 88, when candidates were varied.

Small speed-dating events would lead to 85 proposals when candidates were similar. But this fell by nearly a third, to 57 proposals, when candidates were varied.

Men were generally keener than women in formulating a proposal -- but were also likelier to be stumped by choice.

In short, variety is fine... but in manageable doses.

"Dealing with variety requires attention and memory, and we have only so much capacity for each," Lenton explained in an email with AFP.

Extending encounters by 10 minutes might not greatly change results, she said.

"It is extremely common for us to make quick judgments about other people, even in a matter of seconds. And once those judgments are formed, they can be difficult to change."

Amber Soletti, who runs a speed-dating company in New York, said grouping singles by interest or physical preferences boosted chances of a successful connection.

Her company,, offers 75 niche groups, such as "Asian Persuasion," "Fitness Singles" and "Worldly Singles" who like to travel.

Soletti started the company after failing to find anyone of interest at general speed-dating events.

"I only like to date men 6-foot-1 (1.85 meters) and taller. I always went to single events that had shorter men, so I didn't find anyone," she said by phone.

But now, "If I go to our tall event, I have a better chance of meeting someone," she said.

"People know what they like."

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