Thursday, January 31, 2013

Justice for Valeriano Agbulos

A sales manager was gunned down by the on-duty security guard detailed in a warehouse of a distributor company in Bacolod City early Tuesday afternoon.

The slain victim 52-year-old Valeriano Agbulos, a sales manager of the Red Maple, a distributor firm based in Metro Manila with a branch in Bacolod City, died on the spot.

In an initial investigation made by Police Station 4 of the Bacolod City Police Office said on Wednesday that the victim went to the warehouse of the Universal Harvester Inc. located at the Bredco Port in Bacolod City for collection chore. Incidentally, the employes were on their lunch break when he arrived.

While employees were having their lunch, they were surprised to hear the lone gun fire echoed. When they came out to investigate, they were surprised to see the bloodied victim.

They also saw the detailed warehouse security guard Mart Barrientos still holding his 9mm caliber service pistol as he stood in front of the victim .

Meanwhile, responding policemen has recovered an empty shell of a 9mm caliber pistol in the crime scene without the suspect who was reported to have escaped in haste.

Philippine absentee voting bill

The Senate has unanimously ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the absentee voting bill allowing members of the media and government officials and employees on duty to vote in their places of assignment during elections.

Submitted by Senator Aquilino 'Koko' Pimentel III, the bicameral conference committee report on the reconciled version of Senate Bill 1198 and House Bill 4241 was approved without opposition on last Tuesday night.

Pimentel, chairman of the Senate committee on electoral reforms, lauded his colleagues for ratifying the proposed measure which the Senate approved on third and final reading last December 12.

The bill would require the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to allow the members of media and media practitioners the right to vote even away from the places of their registration.

According to the bill, the absentee voters shall vote one week before election day.

The proposed measure, however, only covered the national positions such as president, vice president, senators, and party-list representatives.

Aside from media, the government officials and employees including police and military members who will be on duty during elections will be allowed also to vote away from the places of their registration.

Investment in Zamboanga

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has announced that the industry sectors have registered a total of P5.171 billion in incremental investments last year here in Zamboanga Peninsula.

Registering the biggest increment at 46 percent representing P2.38 billion of the total is the processed fish sector, according to DTI Zamboanga Peninsula Director Nazrullah Manzur.

"This is a result of the expansion of existing factories and the opening of new canneries, particularly in Zamboanga City," Manzur said.

The Regional Development Council (RDC) of which DTI is among the member-agencies has identified the processed fish sector as one of the priority industries for intensified development and promotion because of the region's inherent comparative advantage, Manzur said.

He said the second biggest contributor is the construction and construction materials (C/CM) sector which contributed 25 percent of the total investment take.

"Although not among the 12 industries prioritized for promotion, this sizeable investment in the C/CM sector is certainly a welcome development. This is a manifestation of the renewed confidence in real estate development in the region, mirroring the construction boom in Manila, Cebu and Davao, albeit at a much lesser pace," he said.

The other industry sectors which contributed to the total new investments are rubber, processed food, tourism, coconut, seaweeds, GDH (gifts, decors and housewares), and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), he said.

He said the city of Zamboanga continues to lead in investments generation, capturing more than half of the total at P3.317 billion, followed by Zamboanga del Norte at P882.38 million, Zamboanga del Sur at P751.652 million, Zamboanga Sibugay at P208.060 million and Isabela City at P12.42 million.

Cordillera-wide Strengthening of the Local Health System for Effective and Efficient Delivery of Maternal and Child Health Services

Japanese Embassy Minister for Economic Affairs Akio Isomata will lead the Equipment Handover Ceremony of the technical cooperation project, "Cordillera-wide Strengthening of the Local Health System for Effective and Efficient Delivery of Maternal and Child Health Services," in Luna municipality, Apayao province on Jan. 24.

This is Japan's steadfast support towards strengthening the health system as well as maternal and child health in Apayao.

Minister Isomata will be joined by Representative Eleanor Bulut-Begtang, Department of Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo, Apayao Governor Elias C. Bulut, Jr., Luna Mayor Betty C. Verzola and CHD-CAR Regional Director Valeriano Lopez.

The project aims to improve the health status of the people in the Cordillera Administrative Region, particularly of women and children. Another important component of the project is the conduct of Basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (BEmONC) training for doctors and midwives in the Cordillera Administrative Region. These BEmONC trainings are expected to promote cooperation between the health institutions in Apayao.

Minister Isomata will officially hand over the equipment for birthing services such as delivery tables, Fetal Doppler and weighing scales for infants, disinfecting kit for medical tools, among others to the rural health units (RHUs) and hospitals in Apayao province. Japan's contribution to these equipments amounts to P4,037,050.

Together with local officials, Minister Isomata will also visit the beneficiaries of the equipment including the Sta. Marcela RHU, barangay health stations of Consuelo and Marcela as well as the Sta. Marcela Medicare and Community Hospital. These equipment aims to equip the BEmONC-trained health workers with the essential skills to deliver extensive and efficient maternal and newborn health services effectively.

In the Cordillera Administrative Region, Japan has provided since 2006 a five-year technical assistance to strengthen the local health system in Benguet Province as well as a four-year project on maternal and child health (MCH) in Ifugao.

Philippine Contractor’s Accreditation Board (PCAB)

By Gloria H. Grejalde
Easing restrictions on foreign investors, the Philippine Contractor's Accreditation Board (PCAB), an implementing Board of the Construction Industry Authority of the Philippines (CIAP), has allowed foreign contractors a 100 percent foreign equity to undertake projects as among its proposed amendment to the Contractor's License Law.

The quadruple "A" or "AAAA" category which requires investment of at least P1 billion and allows foreign contractors to come in with 100 percent foreign equity was introduced. However, these qualified foreign contractors may only undertake projects of at least P10 billion and above.

During its public hearing and consultation held at the PTTC Training Center in Roxas Boulevard on Wednesday, the PCAB also presented the proposed amendments to the Implementing Rules & Regulations (IRR) of the Contractor's License Law (Republic Act 4566) which, include among others, the provision of 60-40 percent Filipino-Foreign Equity Requirements for the issuance of regular contractor's license to implement private contracts.

The proposed amendments on the 60-40 percent Filipino-foreign equity requirements were as follow:

1. The 60 percent-40 percent Filipino-foreign equity participation shall be in terms of peso value of the total contribution based on shares subscribed, whether common or preferred, voting or non-voting and based on the total paid-up or paid-in capital;

2. All shares held by Filipinos within the required ratio of at least 60 percent shall not be assigned or encumbered in favor of foreigners and should any of the shareholders be a juridical person, the 60 percent-40 percent requirement on the corporation shall also be applied;

3. Of firms with 60 percent-40 percent Filipino-foreign equity participation, only those who qualify for at least Category "A" may be granted a regular license. The regular license for Categories "B", "C", "D" and Trade shall be limited to Filipino citizens or juridical persons with a hundred (100 percent) Filipino equity;

4. Along with the 60 percent-40 percent Filipino-foreign participation is the exercise of equivalent management control in the Board of Directors and to include stockholder's voting rights and appointment of a Filipino Authorized Managing Officer;

In instances where the existing AMO is a foreigner, the corporation is given grace period until 30 June 2014 to replace the foreigner with a Filipino Authorized Managing Officer. In exceptional cases as may be determined by the Board, new applicants may be allowed to nominate a foreign Authorized Managing Officer for a maximum of two (2) years from the grant of the license, after which a Filipino Authorized Managing Officer shall be appointed." (PCAB Board Resolution No. 65, Series of 2011, as approved in a Special Board Meeting on November 5, 2012 under CIAP Board Resolution No. 08 Series of 2012).

Stock of Gaming firm Leisure Resorts World

Gaming firm Leisure Resorts World Corp. (LRWC) is eyeing to increase its authorized capital stock to P5 billion from P1.6 billion to expand its business.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), the firm said it is looking to raise P2.5 billion common shares and P2.5 billion preferred stocks, both with a par value of P1 a share.

It said the preferred shares may be issued in tranches or series and shall be non-voting, non-participating entitled to preferential and cumulative dividends of up to 12 percent per year.

A maximum of 2.5 billion of the Company's preferred shares equivalent to 125 million common shares shall be listed on the Exchange, it added.

"Proceeds of the preferred shares offer will be used to finance the acquisition of additional bingo sites; Belle Grande Integrated Resort and Casino project; Techzone project; and Midas Hotel project," said LRWC.

The listed company also announced that it will offer P1.75 billion perpetual preferred shares at a dividend rate of 8.5 percent through private placement or issuance.

Philippine complaint against China

By Michaela del Callar
MANILA, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- The Philippine complaint against China before a U.N. arbitration body is a comprehensive collection of Manila protests against Chinese expansionist moves in the West Philippine Sea in the last 17 years.

These include a demand for Beijing to end occupation and activities on eight reefs and shoal like Mischief Reef, seized in 1995.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario announced Tuesday the Dept. of Foreign Affairs summoned Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing to hand a note informing the Chinese government that the Philippines was taking their long unresolved territorial disputes before a U.N. arbitration body.

The bold move was taken after years long diplomatic and other efforts to resolve the territorial disputes have gone nowhere, he said.

It was the strongest step taken by President Benigno S. Aquino III's administration against perceived Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea, a step that fueled fears of a backlash from China, an Asian economic giant and a major global power.

The Philippine government said it hoped the legal action "will have no adverse effects on our trade with China."

In the diplomatic note handed by Foreign Assistant Secretary Teresa Lazaro to Ma at the DFA Tuesday, the Philippine government, thru Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, sought an end to Chinese occupation and activities at Mischief reef, McKennan Reef, Gaven Reef, Subi Reef, Scarborough Shoal, Johnson Reef, Cuarteron Reef and Fiery Reef Cross Reef.

"China's occupation of and construction activities on them violate the sovereign rights of the Philippines," the note said.

These features, the DFA said are either part of the country's continental shelf or exclusive economic zone as mandated by the UN Convention on the Law of Sea, of which China, the Philippines and 162 other nations are signatories.

UNCLOS gives maritime nations the right to manage, explore and exploit features in areas within a 200-nautical mile limit from its coast.

Mosquito-borne chikungunya disease

Health authorities in Sarangani province have declared the recent occurrence of the mosquito-borne chikungunya disease in two of its municipalities as under control even as it continues to monitor other possible cases in several communities in the area.

Dr. Arvin Alejandro, Sarangani assistant provincial health officer, said Wednesday they have not monitored new cases of the viral disease in parts of Kiamba town where it was initially reported in December.

At least 12 of the initial 39 suspected chikungunya cases in the area turned out positive based on blood analysis made by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Alabang, Muntinlupa City.

The provincial epidemiology and surveillance unit said the confirmed chikungunya cases came from communities situated within the boundaries of Kiamba and Maitum towns.

"We have so far controlled it in the sense that no new cases have emerged recently in areas where it was first monitored," Alejandro said.

But the health official said they are continuously monitoring several communities in the two municipalities due to other possible cases of the disease.

He specifically noted communities in Barangay Tablao in Kiamba, specifically those situated near the Pangi River.

The Sarangani health office sent to the RITM additional blood samples of residents from the area who had exhibited suspected symptoms of chikungunya, he said.

A fact sheet released by the World Health Organization (WHO) described chikungunya as a viral disease that is spread mainly by Aedes mosquitoes, which are known carriers of the deadly dengue virus.

Monday, January 21, 2013

I Miss Filipino Christmas

HAVING LIVED AWAY from the Philippines for eight years, I know the yearning for a Filipino Christmas all too well: the swell of anticipation in my chest as the plane touches down in Manila, with visions of lechon, ensaymada and endless family reunions dancing in my head. That is, until I fi nd myself stewing in traffi c jams and swimming in the sea of humanity that converges in the
city's malls. But I've discovered that a short drive out of Manila, where the air is cooler and fresher, is just the thing to get me feeling warm and fuzzy all over again. A visit to these casas for hire will have your Christmas spirit alive and kicking in no time. Added bonus? You won't have to clean up after the party.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Economy of Nueva Ecija Booming

Backed up with both government and private initiatives in 2012, the local economy in the province will continue to flourish, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) provincial office said.

DTI Director Brigida Pili said the strong performance of the local economy in 2012 will remain and is seen to go on this year mainly due to government's effective fiscal management policies which created a stronger than expected investors' interest.

"The local economy in 2012 has shown resiliency and strength amid the challenges brought by weather disturbances," Pili said.

The DTI said the local enterprises generated more than USD300,000 revenues which was 150 percent higher than the USD200,000 target set by the agency for 2012.

Pili said the 2012 economic sales came from virtual market matching which amounted to USD.283 million and participation to international trade fair that totaled USD.0176 million.

Nueva Ecija's SMEs, she said, has generated total investment of P2,277,987,800 as against its goal of P2,258,000,000 in 2012.

The figure came from business name registration of P1,014,552,800; financing facilitation, P8,100,000; investment facilitation, P1,200,000,000 and assistance to SMEs, P55,355.

The domestic sales posted P106,033,950 which was higher than the P106,000,000 target for 2012, she added.

Likewise, the year 2013 is expected to be a more fruitful year in terms of agriculture and tourism.

Penaranda mayor Ferdinand Abesamis said the opening of San Josef Irrigation System in the middle of 2012 has provided unprecedented irrigation benefits to at least 105 hectares of agricultural land which was expected to dramatically improve production.

"The P10-million new irrigation system enhanced the farmer's productivity and we expect our agriculture industry to improve this year," Abesamis said.

Aside from agriculture, other sector that seen to boost the local economy is the tourism.

Abesamis noted the town's Abudang Festival (Feast of Sto. Niño) that was launched in January last year attracted many tourists.

Shabu Smuggler Arrested in NAIA Manila Airport

An incoming Filipino passenger was arrested at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Centennial Terminal for carrying nearly a dozen kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu worth what officials said was P35 million.

The airline passenger, identified as Roendo Bastatas Ariata, was intercepted on his arrival at 8:12 p.m. Tuesday on board Philippine Airlines Flight PR 307 from Hongkong.

Customs officer Kristian Cordis noticed the 38-year-old native of Monkayo, Davao was sweating when the passenger approached the customs desk, prompting the NAIA officer to ask Ariata to open his luggage.

"The passenger didn't respond to the request. So I brought the bag to the desk and I noticed that the bag was heavy for its size," Cordis said.

When he opened the bag, Cordis found seven boxes of formulated milk and also noticed a "crunchy sound."

Cordis then brought Ariata to the Bureau of Customs office at the NAIA for further questioning and inspection of his luggage.

Upon inspection, the customs personnel discovered that each of the seven boxes contained 1.053 kilograms of shabu or a total of 11.220 kg worth P35 million, officials said.

An initial investigation showed the suspected drug courier traveled frequently between Hongkong and Macau.

Money Behind Shooting in Atimonan, Quezon?

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas Wednesday announced the relief of all members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) who were involved in the deadly shooting incident in Atimonan, Quezon last Sunday that led to the death of 13 men, including three PNP men and two Air Force soldiers.

The relief order came after the initial results of a PNP fact-finding mission showed that the policemen who were involved in the setting up of a checkpoint where the alleged encounter took place violated operational procedures.

"The role of the PNP in this matter is purely as a fact-finding body and to determine the administrative liabilities of those who were involved," Roxas said. "The criminal investigation will be handled by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and we will give them our full support."

Among those ordered relieved were Senior Supt. Valeriano de Leon, Quezon provincial police director; Chief Inspector Grant Gollod, chief of police of Atimonan town, and an intelligence unit of about 15 men under Supt. Hansel Marantan, who was wounded in the incident.

The fact-finding investigation is led by Chief Supt. Federico Castro, deputy chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

The relieved officers have been recalled to the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame where they will be held in restricted custody, while the non-commissioned officers will be restricted within Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang, Laguna.

During a press conference in Camp Crame Wednesday afternoon, Roxas said the fact-finding group established that out of the 13 men who were killed in the incident, eight were positive for gunpowder burns but said these are not conclusive that they indeed fired guns during the Sunday incident.

The DILG secretary also said that of the 14 guns recovered from the cars of the slain men, 13 were licensed, but only seven are covered by permits to carry.

"Hindi biro ang insidenteng ito. Mayroon kang 13 kalalakihan na puro armado. Hindi naman siguro sila manonood lang ng sine," Roxas said. "Aalamin natin ang buong katotohanan dito at tinitiyak kong hindi magkakaroon ng whitewash at takipan."

For his part, PNP Director General Alan Purisima said the policemen involved in the incident, particularly those who set up the checkpoint, violated basic procedures such as the failure to put distinct signs in the main checkpoint and the lack of a marked police vehicle in the vicinity.

According to Purisima, only one uniformed policeman, the chief of police of Atimonan, was manning the checkpoint, while the rest, including the intelligence team under Marantan, were all in civilian clothes in violation of checkpoint guidelines.

Roxas also disclosed that the first SUV where five of the slain men were riding sustained no less than 186 bullet holes, while the second SUV had around 50 bullet holes.

However, Roxas declined to speculate on the motives or the cause of the alleged firefight, saying that it will be up to the NBI to decide who were at fault and who would be criminally charged, if warranted.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is also conducting a separate investigation amid claims that the encounter was a rubout.

New Philippine Government Officials

President Benigno S. Aquino III administered the oath of office of newly appointed Philippine ambassadors and other government officials in ceremonies at Malacanang Palace on Wednesday.

Philippine Ambassador to the Republic of Kenya Lamberto V. Monsanto and Philippine Permanent Representative to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Ambassador Elizabeth P. Buensuceso took their oath of office at the Malacanang's Heroes Hall.

Ambassador Celia Anna M. Feria was also sworn in as Chief of the Presidential Protocol which is under the Office of the President.

Other officials who also took their oath of office were Ramon Allan V. Oca as Undersecretary of the Department of Energy, Jose I. Lorena as Undersecretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Maria Edita Z. Tan as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Finance, Luis A. Mamitag Jr. as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Javier R. Jimenez as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Rommel R. Abesamis as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Rolando T. Canizal as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Tourism and Amador S. Pabustan as Assistant Secretary of the Dangerous Drugs Board.

The President also swore in Antonieta F. Ibe as Commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Erlina T. Agus as Commissioner of the 2nd Division, National Labor Relations Commission of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Jose G. Gutierrez as Commissioner of the 7th Division of the National Labor Relations Commission of the DOLE, Jose Ramon G. Albert as Executive Director V of the National Statistical Coordination Board, Robert D. Villanueva as Deputy Administrator of the Office for Transportation Security, Department of Transportation and Communications, Henry R. T. Abella and Katrina Manahan as Directors IV; Atty. Nancy D. Quimpo, Immanuel Cedrik L. Forbes and Rafael Victor L. Ignacio as Directors III, all of the Presidential Management Staff. 

Philippine Stock Market Most Profitable in Asia

The benchmark stock market index climbed to a new record high on Wednesday, surging by 42.28 points to finish at 6,091.18 from previous day's 6,048.90.

Analysts believe that the market has further room to rally fueled by strong local demand and rosier economic outlook.

"Too much liquidity and economic prospects are driving the buying spree of investors," said Justino Calaycay Jr., equities trader at Accord Capital Equities Corp.

Jonathan Ravales, chief strategist at BDO Securities, said the record-low interest rates on treasury bills allow listed companies to expand their businesses.

"This encourages people to invest in the stock market," he said in an interview.

Ravales said foreign funds also continue to flow in the market.

In Wednesday's trading, the broader all-shares index increased by 0.57 percent or 21.64 points to 3,835.29.

Indexes of all sectors index were up, led by mining and oil that rose by 291.97 points to 20,904.72 followed by the property sector that increased by 21.39 points to 2,387.49.

Financial index was also up by 12.23 points to 1,588.76; the industrial sector by 67.62 points to 9,216.22; and the holding firms by 31.25 points to 5,439.96.

The volume of trade during the day reached 2.28 billion shares worth P8.54 billion. Advancers led gainers at 109 to 73, while 32 remained unchanged.

The day's most active were Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, BDO Unibank Inc., Ayala Corporation and Megaworld Corporation.

Top gainers were Century Peak Metals Holdings Corp., Federal Resources Investment Group, Inc., Mabuhay Holdings Corp., Unioil Resources and Holdings Company, Inc. and Bogo Medellin Milling Company, Inc.

National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Investigates Quezon Shootout

President Benigno S. Aquino III ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to ferret out the truth behind the January 6 shootout between government forces and alleged criminals at a checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon province.

The Chief Executive said he wants the NBI to conduct a full and exhaustive investigation of said incident that claimed the lives of 13 persons.

"Siyempre, unang-unang reaction, labing-tatlong namatay, medyo maraming namatay, tapos may presumption of regularity, initially; may nasugatan on the side of the people who are manning the checkpoint. On the surface, parang may proof na may encounter," the President said in an interview after administering the oath of office to new Philippine ambassadors and government officials in Malacanang Palace on Wednesday.

The President said he is interested in the details of the case amid allegations of a police rubout.

"However, I asked for a lot of the details at doon sa details medyo napag-isip na ako doon sa salaysay na ibinigay, at brining-up (bring up) ko ito kay Director General Alan Purisima and kay Secretary (Mar) Roxas also to look into what seemingly was not normative or normal behavior," the President said.

He stressed that he opted to first wait for the official results of the NBI probe rather than discuss the details of the development of the investigation.

"Sorry, I'm a bit hesitant to talk about the details---there is an ongoing investigation. I don't want to prejudge and perhaps, give the impression that I'm leading the investigators to a certain conclusion," President Aquino stressed.

"Pero, I think, suffice to say, yesterday, in two of the broadsheets, nakita natin 'yung pictures; the pictures themselves speak a lot. 'Yung talagang literally---what is the phrase? 'A picture says a thousand words.' So may I invite you to look at yesterday's pictures on the front page and the inside pages, medyo 'yung idea nung checkpoint and the signages, etcetera, inconsistent between the photographs on the front page and inside (pages)," the President noted.

The President said he wanted the NBI to dig deeper into the new information presented by witnesses.

"Subsequently, may mga iba pang impormasyon na dumating na parang inconsistent with the purported story. Gusto nating malaman ang katotohanan at maparusahan kung sino man ang mga may sala," he said.

Idolatry in Black Nazarene Not Biblical

Hundreds of thousands of devotees of Manila's Black Nazarene breezed through the capital under cloudy skies in an impressive display of faith and religious commitment to a centuries-old statue of Jesus Christ many believe has astounding powers.

The procession Wednesday, which started off at the Quirino Grandstand after sunrise and wound up at the minor basilica of the Black Nazarene before nightfall, took on a festive mood.

Vendors enjoyed brisk sales while barefoot men and women crowded the 3-km procession route.

Thousands, clad in dark maroon, watched the statue and jostled for position in hopes they would be able to touch the life-size, black icon as it was carried on a carriage through the historic area of the capital, with 3,000 police in strategic areas to maintain security and order.

Many of the buses and jeepneys, which ply the route taken Wednesday by the participants, had hit other streets to ferry their passengers to their respective destinations in the capital or the outlying areas.

Many of the streets which were temporarily closed for the occasion were reopened by mid-afternoon.

Many of the establishments along the procession route closed shop for the day.

Police said half a million people joined the parade as it began at the Luneta and concluded in Quiapo church where, earlier in the day, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle celebrated a Mass.

During the procession, people – men and women, including senior citizens, joined the frenzied rush to try to touch the icon which forced the carriage to appear like it was being tossed in a sea of humanity, many of them without shoes or slippers as a sign of penance.

The life-size wooden statue was brought to Manila by Augustinian priests from Mexico in 1607, and its dark color is believed to have been caused by it being slightly burnt in a fire aboard the Spanish galleon on which it was being transported.

While the Catholic Church celebrates the demonstration of faith and devotion, not all Filipino Catholics, who make up more than 88 per cent of the country's 98 million population, display what some call the fanaticism of some devotees heard shouting every now and then "Viva El Señor" as they tried to get the lifetime chance to touch the statue or the rope attached to it.

The day-long procession is the highlight of the feast of the Black Nazarene, which followed an overnight vigil and Mass at the Quirino Grandstand.

Police had warned devotees against flashing their gadgets like mobile phones as well as jewelry and other valuables.

There were reports of victims of pickpocketing inside the Quiapo church, but otherwise the procession was, according to police, generally peaceful.

Some fainted among the thick walls of participants and were immediately attended to by paramedics.

Meanwhile, the number of individuals injured in the procession reached 260, the Manila Police Department-Tactical Operation Center reported.

These persons were treated by Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and Philippine National Red Cross medical teams which followed closely the participants.

Vendors had a festive zone along the procession route, which cut through the heart of Manila, passed by the old Congress edifice, Manila's City Hall, and the old Metropolitan Theater by a provincial bus terminal and the Manila Central Post Office through the Quezon Bridge before the image re-entered the basilica.

Majority of the devotees sustained bruises and cuts sustained when they were shuffling for positions during the procession.

Police also reported the arrest at Plaza Miranda of two pickpockets, including a woman, who masqueraded as devotees.

Supt. Ricardo Layug of the Quiapo Police Station said the procession was generally peaceful when compared to that of last year when petty crimes were perpetrated.

He earlier appealed to devotees to leave their children home and discouraged drunken devotees to stay away from the procession route.

The Black Nazarene image during the procession is just a replica of the original which is being kept by the authorities.

Meanwhile, the Metro Manila Development Authority said it has collected 20 truckloads of garbage since Tuesday night.

MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said 120 tons of garbage – mostly plastic bottles -- had been collected at the Quirino Grandstand.

The MMDA deployed 1,250 personnel including rescue personnel, traffic enforcers and street sweepers along the route.

Tolentino said 200 rescue personnel were also on standby at McArthur Bridge in Sta. Cruz.

"Ang rescue plan is: nandito yung MMDA rescue team namin with rescue boats. Nariyan din ang Coast guard, ilang rubber boat ng Philippine Navy at dalawang pump boat na malalaki.

Gun-owner Philippine President Hesitates Total Gun Ban

President Benigno S. Aquino III said he doesn't favor imposing a total gun ban in the country.

He suggested instead the government must go after criminals and private armed groups to prevent gun violence in the country.

In an interview Wednesday in Malacanang, the President said a total gun ban sounds nice but it won't reduce gun-related violence because outlaws will not surrender their weapons and will only make law abiding citizens defenseless.

"It sounds nice, total gun ban, but the total does not happen because the outlaw will not surrender guns. So we will not stop in our pursuit of these people who are outside of the law and get them before the bars of justice," the President said, referring to criminals and private armed groups.

The government, through the security forces, is dedicated to go after private armed groups in the country, the President said.

He noted that the government made notable successes in driving private armed groups away from areas where they operate and that does not mean that it is stopping, adding that the police and the military will be more active in preparations for the upcoming midterm elections this summer.

The President said he was alarmed by the proliferation of these armed groups, prompting him to instruct the Philippine National Police, the Dept. of Justice, and the National Bureau of Investigation to coordinate efforts in dismantling these groups.

According to the President, the Constitution prohibits the creation of private armed groups.

Among his concerns include the rising number of local officials or former local government officials or people being attacked, killed or injured especially as the country gears towards this year's election.

The President said that so far the authorities have arrested 64 individuals, killed nine, and detained 50 persons.

The police also cited a total of 123 members of private armed groups. A total of 249 firearms were also recovered, he stressed.

He said that there was an ongoing campaign to make this year's election orderly and peaceful.

While the police and the military crack down on private armed groups, the President said the government will remain committed to fighting graft and corruption that also threatens peace and security.

"Talagang seryoso tayo doon sa ating anti-corruption efforts so baka 'yung iba nag-iisip kung wala silang perang pambili at pang-corrupt ng mga kung sinuman ay baka daanin sa dahas," he said.

"So gusto natin itong unintended consequences of the anti-corruption effort not to happen. So tuloy-tuloy 'yung kampanya and this is nationwide."

Ban All Private Guns in the Philippines

Calling the proposal for a total gun ban a "knee jerk reaction", President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday said he would prefer a new law increasing the penalties against gun violators.

"Magandang headline -- total gun ban, pero may knee-jerk reaction eh. Hindi ko ugaling mambola. Maghanap tayo ng paraan na talagang maso-solve 'yung isyu at hindi nagpapa-cute lang," the President said in an interview with Palace reporters at the sidelines of the oath taking ceremony of newly appointed officials.

"Sang-ayon tayo (kung) may mga mungkahi na taasan ang mga penalty, okay 'yon," he noted.

By definition, Aquino said, "lahat itong gumagawa ng krimen -- outlaw. So a law that seeks to reform the outlaws will not work, so you need 'yung law that will sanction them further and to prove as the deterrence."

"So I think a lot of us will agree with the basic premise na 'yung outlaw will be one of the first or the first groups that will say, 'thank you na madidisarmahan 'yung law abiding citizen dahil mas madali na silang mabiktima,'" he noted.

The President, a known gun enthusiast, also took exception to calls for him to refrain from practicing target shooting to prove his seriousness in addressing the problem of loose firearms in the country.

"I think I lead by example by conforming to the law. You will acknowledge that I was a victim of a violence in this aspect in 1987 and both by Church and the law recognizes my right to self defense. Self defense is a skill and it's a skill that has to be practiced to have any value," he stressed.

Instead of imposing total gun ban, President Aquino said laws penalizing gun owners who violate the privilege should be strictly enforced and dismantling of private armed groups should be pursued vigorously.

"Total gun ban, it sounds nice, but the total does not happen because the outlaw will not. So we will not stop in our pursuit to (apprehend) these people who are outside of the law and get them before the bars of justice," he said.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Palawan, Philippines Hit by Storm Auring

Southern Palawan remains under public storm warning signal No. 1 as tropical storm "Auring" maintained course as it moves away from the country, the state weather bureau said.

Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) Forecaster Alvin Pura said that as of 10 a.m. Friday, Auring was located at 330 kilometers southwest of Puerto Princesa City (8.5°N, 115.8°E) packed with maximum winds of 65 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 80 kph.

Pura said Auring has maintained its direction and speed as it moves west at 28 kph. The tropical storm is expected to be out of the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) by Friday afternoon towards Vietnam.

The warning signal in southern Palawan is now lowered to signal no.1 (winds of 30-60 kph). Storm warning signals elsewhere are also now lowered.

Tropical storm "Auring" will bring 10-20 mm of rains per hour (heavy-intense) within its 300-km diameter, PAGASA said.

PAGASA is advising residents living in low lying and mountainous areas under public storm warning signal 1 to be on alert against possible flash floods and landslides.

The weather bureau warned fishing boats and other small sea craft against venturing out "into the seaboards of Northern and Central Luzon and the western seaboards of Southern Luzon due to the northeast monsoon.

PAGASA said that tropical storm Auring is expected to be at 930 km southwest of Puerto Princesa City by Saturday morning or outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR).

PAGASA said gradual weather improvement or "fewer rains" is expected over Visayas and Mindanao starting Friday evening, as the cyclone leaves the PAR.

Meanwhile, Pura said they have spotted a new cloud cluster over the Pacific Ocean that may become another LPA.

Philippine Typhoon Auring Slams Palawan

by PNA

Trees falling on power transmission posts due to strong winds brought by tropical storm "Auring" rendered this highly-urbanized city without power for more than two hours on Friday.

Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) spokesperson Vicky Basilio said Puerto Princesa and several municipalities in the southern part of the province experienced the power loss shortly after midnight. Power was restored at around 2:27 a.m. in some parts of the town proper.

Several outlying barangays in the north remained without electricity Basilio said.

In southern Palawan, the towns of Aborlan, Narra, Brooke's Point, Sofronio Española, Quezon and Bataraza were experiencing intermittent power losses.

Basilio said power will only be fully restored when the strong winds and rains have stopped.

"All our clearing teams were dispensed in the north to repair power lines where trees have fallen," she said.

In Brooke's Point, resident Gina Quimat said that families have been evacuated to higher grounds in Barangay Mainit where river has swelled because of continued heavy rains.

Strong wind toppled the 15-foot Christmas tree in front of the Brooke's Point Municipal Building on Thursday night.

Philippine Chess Tournaments 2013

The city is now in the thick of preparations for the hosting of the 2013 National Age-Group Chess Championships Visayas qualifying leg slated on Jan. 9 to 12 at the multi-purpose hall here.

Mayor Patrick Escalante was informed of the hosting last Wednesday by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) as a last minute substitution for Roxas City, Capiz which is affected by flooding.

The mayor readily accepted to generate revenue and uplift their sports-tourism program.

Grandmaster Jason Gonzales will act as the tournament director and international arbiter Gene Poliarco as chief arbiter.

The qualifying leg will be the basis to select qualifiers to the Grand Finals of the 2013 National Age-Group Chess championships.

The winners will also represent the Philippines in the 2013 ASEAN-Age Group in Bangkok, Thailand on June 8 to 17, and the 2013 Asian Youth Chess Championships in Mashdad, Iran on June 20 to 27.

The chess players are set to compete in six categories; the boys' and girls' 20 & below; 16 & below; 14 & below; 12 & below; 10 & below and 8 & below.

A registration fee of P200 and P300 as NCFP membership fee will be charge.

The tournament format will be six to seven rounds Swiss System, depending upon the number of participants for each category.

The top two boys and top two girls from each category shall advance to the Grand Finals together with the seeded and qualified titled players.

Philippine Inflation Rate 2012 Slows Down

The Aquino administration expressed elation over the report of the National Statistics Office the country's annual average headline inflation rate slowed down to 3.2 percent in 2012 from 4.6 in 2011, a Palace official said.

"This is the slowest pace inflation has grown on a year-on-year basis since 2008," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a statement issued Friday.

Citing the NSO report, Valte said the monthly inflation rate for December increased marginally to 2.9 percent from November's 2.8 percent.

"The rate is considerably lower than the 4.2 percent inflation rate of December 2011. According to NSO, this was due to higher annual rates in the food and non-alcoholic beverages and alcoholic beverages and tobacco indices," Valte said.

"Considering the strong performance of the Philippine economy, which grew at 7.1 percent in the third quarter of 2012, the inflation rate has remained stable and well within the 3 to 5 percent target set in the Philippine Development Plan (2011-2016)," she said.

Reaction on Philippine Reproductive Health Bill

By Jelly Musico

Senators who voted for the passage of Reproductive Health Bill say they respect the rights of anybody to question the legality of the newly-passed law, hoping the Supreme Court would act swiftly on the petition to stop its implementation.

"I hope the SC will act swiftly on this case to remove any shadow of doubt with respect to the law," Sen. Francis Escudero said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the petition for certiorari and prohibition against Republic Act No. 10354 filed by lawyers James Imbong and his wife Lovely-Ann at the SC Wednesday shows that democracy in the country is alive and healthy.

"Once in a while, it is good to test the constitutionality of laws passed by congress. Providing the check and balance in whatever means is healthy for the country's democracy," Lacson said.

"I hope the SC as the final arbiter will see what is in the best interest of the country and people when they render a ruling on the filed petition," Lacson added.

The Imbongs, who filed the petition on behalf of their two children, asked the SC to stop the implementation of the law which they claimed "mocks the nation's Filipino culture."

Escudero said the petition "is the correct and legal course of action instead of other means that may have a destabilizing effect on our economy."

Escudero said the petition would hamper the implementation of the RH law "unless of course the SC issues a temporary restraining order."

Escudero and Lacson were among the 13 senators who voted for the passage of the RH bill in the Senate last December 17 after months of heated debates on the floor.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, one of the eight senators who opposed the bill, welcomed the petition, hoping "the SC will scrutinize it to decide the constitutionality."

"I still believe that RH is a foreign imposition as I have been saying all along and therefore cuts through our sovereignty," Sotto said.

"That's why even if my amendments were accepted, I still voted against it. I wonder what has happened to some of our so-called nationalists," Sotto added.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012

By Lilybeth G. Ison

Malacanang welcomed the filing of petition before the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of Republic Act No. 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.

"Well, maganda po 'yung ginawa nila at least umakyat na sila sa Supreme Court. Alam naman natin na that was expected from our friends who were opposing the RH Law," said Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda during a press briefing on Thursday.

Lacierda said the government, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), is prepared to defend the new law.

"Now that it is before the Supreme Court, the government through the OSG will be prepared to defend the RH Law," he said.

A Catholic couple has asked the High Tribunal to stop the RH Law.

The petition was filed Wednesday before the Supreme Court by lawyer James Imbong and his wife, who claim the law signed by President Benigno Aquino III last month was unconstitutional.

The couple also urged the SC to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction to prevent respondents Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, Education Secretary Armin Luistro, and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas II from implementing the RH Law.

Lacierda said the arguments raised by the petitioner are "not something new" and have already been brought up during the congressional debates.

"The contention that was raised by Mr. James Imbong is not something new. It has already been raised during the debates," he said.

On the other hand, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman insists that RA 10354 is constitutional and will pass any test on this score.

"The Imbong petition before the Supreme Court is premature because it seeks to prevent the implementation of a law which is not yet effective," said Lagman in a statement.

Lagman, one of the proponents of the controversial measure at the House of Representatives, said the law does not run counter to the constitutional principles proscribing abortion and protecting the unborn, religious freedom, family life, marriage and responsible parenthood.

Dipolog City Affected by Philippine Typhoon Auring


At least 90 families in Dipolog City were evacuated due to heavy rains brought by the low pressure area which has developed into a tropical depression "Auring."

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director Benito Ramos said Thursday 90 families in Barangay San Jose, Dipolog were evacuated to higher grounds because Lubungan River overflowed.

Ramos also said some areas in Zamboanga Del Norte experiencing flood which included the Municipality of Katipunan- Katipunan National Highway has knee deep water level, Mia sans Dicayo Bridge has high water level while the Municipality of Roxas has high water level affecting barangays Piao, Tanayan, Irasan, Langaitan. Two houses in barangay Lower Irasan and barangay Situbo were totally damaged.

There were no reported casualties or missing person.

Ramos said the agency also went on red alert status on Thursday to prepare for the possible effects of tropical depression "Auring" which is expected to make a landfall in Palawan on Friday morning.

Ramos advised residents in Palawan and the local government units to be prepared.

"They still have 18 hours to go, kaya binigay na natin sa local disaster management units yung discretion kung sila ay mag-preemptive evacuation," he said.

Red alert status requires all disaster management personnel to be on standby and all vacation leaves deferred, while a blue alert requires half of the agency's personnel to be ready for contingencies.

Ramos said particularly ordered red alert for disaster management are officials in the Visayas and Mndanao as some areas are under public storm warning signal no. 1.

The NDRRMC also said it has directed the disaster risk reduction and management councils at the local level to prepare residents for evacuation, if needed.

"Office of Civil Defense centers were instructed to undertake precautionary measures in their respective areas of responsibility," the NDRRMC chief said.

The agency also advised local disaster risk reduction and management councils to "initiate preemptive evacuation of families in low-lying and mountainous areas if the situation warrants."

New Filipino Officials Appointed by Pnoy


Malacanang Thursday bared appointments of new officials in various government agencies.

President Benigno Aquino III has appointed Tomasito Villarin, former convenor of the Reform ARMM Now movement, as Office of the President undersecretary for political affairs.

The President also appointed Rodolfo de Ocampo as Public Works undersecretary and member of the Road Board representing the transport and motorist organizations.

Other appointees are as follows:

Felix Oca as member of the governing board of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, representing the sea-based sector; Eulogio Castillo as member of the Cooperative Development Authority board of administrators, representing Luzon; Maria Lourdes Rubueno and Virgilio Yuzon as members of the board of directors of the National Development Company; Oliver Butalid as member of the board of governors of the Board of Investments; and Julius Cainglet as member of the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Development Council representing the labor sector.

Philippine Typhoon Auring Update

by PNA

Government agencies are prepared to handle any situation with the entry of Typhoon Auring in the country, a Palace official said Thursday.

In a regular press briefing in Malacanang, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council is on top of the situation.

He added the Dept. of Social Welfare and Development has been informed about the new typhoon.

"Our standard operating procedure is to identify areas that will be hit by the path of the LPA (low pressure area) and so we have pre-positioned goods already in those areas, and also the local government units have already been warned," Lacierda said.

"I think, our level of preparedness has improved, and the local government officials are more than aware of what they need to do in times of a storm," he stressed.

Lacierda said a group of foreign scientists would come to the Philippines, hit annually on the average by 21 typhoons, to observe the country's climate.

Lacierda said the government has been working on a more understandable storm warning system so the public could do the necessary preparations if there's an incoming typhoon.

The President issued a directive a few months ago calling on government agencies to make their storm warnings more comprehensible to ordinary people after noting that the NDRRMC and Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration's reports were too technical to be understood, he said.

Among the basic information that should be given and must be understood by the public during times of weather disturbances are wind gustiness and the amount of rainfall affecting a locality, Lacierda added.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Fails to Get Preliminary Injunction

By Perfecto Raymundo

The Court of Appeals has dismissed a petition filed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the P5.4-million damage suit pending before a Quezon City Regional Trial Court against her.

In a three-page resolution written by Associate Justice Victoria Isabel Paredes, the CA's 14th Division denied for lack of merit Mrs. Arroyo's application for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or a writ of preliminary injunction.

"In reference to the prayer for the issuance of a TRO…we find no compelling reason for the grant of such extraordinary remedy/ies…" the CA ruling said.

Concurring in the ruling were Associate Justices Japar Dimaampao and Elihu Ybañez.

While the TRO and injunction petition was denied the main case still remains pending.

The case arose from the complaint filed by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines for the alleged extrajudicial killings of five protestant church members and the abduction of another one from 2003 to 2006.

The UCCP impleaded Arroyo in her capacity as then President of the Republic and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The complaint said that church pastors and leaders were either liquidated, harassed, unlawfully detained or tortured with impunity, by military agents and operatives who, by law, were then all under the ultimate control and command responsibility of Arroyo.

Representing UCCP as general secretary, Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza joined with six UCCP families as plaintiffs against Arroyo for damages to the church and co-plaintiffs human rights violations victims.

The UCCP said Arroyo and the military agents for whom she was responsible must be held accountable for the injustice they have exacted on the Church and the Filipino people.

The Arroyo camp elevated the case to the CA after the Quezon City RTC denied its motion to dismiss and its motion for reconsideration.