Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Medical Board Topnotchers

20 top medical board examinees

Inquirer News Service

ONLY 1,471 out of the 2,864 or 51.46 percent passed the recent Physician Licensure Examination given by the Board of Medicine in the cities of Manila and Cebu in August this year, the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) announced Wednesday night.

The top 20 successful examinees are the following:

1. Jonah Lomibao Amora -- 85.17

2. Geraldine Tong Zamora -- 84.83

3. Patricia Dizon Salvador -- 84.75

4. Jeroselle Sta Cruz Ramos -- 84.67

5. Vincent George Lerma Cunanan -- 84.42; Shiela Sarmiento Macalindong -- 84.42; Noreen Reyno Manglicmot -- 84.42

6. Robert Ranet Arias -- 84.25

7. Angela Lim Yuchua -- 84.17

8. Michael Raymund Castañeda Gonzales -- 84.00

9. Victoria Dominique Chua Ang -- 83.92

10. Joseph Rey Cheng Dago-oc -- 83.83

11. Patrick Co Chua -- 83.75; Marvin Siy Sih -- 83.75

12. Kevin Elbert Mansilla Perez -- 83.67

13. Kenny Si Seng -- 83.50

14. Angelo Dave Crisostomo Javier -- 83.25

15. Maridel Udarbe Orata -- 83.08

16. Ronaldo Rodriguez Patiag -- 83.00; Ronald Go Yebes -- 83.00

17. Leandro Antonio De Leon Bernardo -- 82.83; Genevieve Tan Co -- 82.83; Mylene Nonog Navarro -- 82.83

18. Marlene Anne Cabrera Pamandanan -- 82.75; Maria Theresa Caguioa Rabena-Pineda -- 82.75; Frederick Edward Lo Ramos -- 82.75; Emil Anthony Ty Say -- 82.75

19. Dexter Masangkay De Castro -- 82.67; Mark Ancel Guerrero Edang -- 82.67

20. Cherish De Villa Lorica -- 82.58; John David Regner Seno -- 82.58

Physician Licensure

Pinoys Worse

Most Filipinos think life is getting worse -- survey

Agence France-Presse

ABOUT 67 percent of Filipinos believe life has become worse over the past 12 months amid a political crisis and rising oil prices, a survey released Wednesday said.

The poll of 1,200 adults nationwide, conducted by the independent Pulse Asia research group from July 2-14, also found that 49 percent expected their lives to worsen by July next year.

Only 12 percent said their quality of life had improved over the past 12 months, while 19 percent said they expected things to get better next year, the survey revealed.

It also found that 80 percent of respondents believed the country's conditions had worsened over the past 12 months, with 65 percent saying they expected it to get worse.

The survey, which has a margin of error of six percent, did not ask for the reasons behind the respondents' perceived deteriorating quality of life.

It was conducted at the height of a political crisis stemming from audiotapes allegedly showing that President Gloria Arroyo cheated to win the May 2004 elections. She is currently battling impeachment charges.

It also came amid skyrocketing oil prices and growing calls by the opposition for the ouster of Arroyo through street protests.

Despite the scandal, 45 percent of respondents said the country's biggest concern was controlling inflation while 37 percent said it was reducing poverty.

Sixty-seven percent said they disapproved of the government's poverty-reduction efforts.

At least 38 percent blamed the government for not doing enough to control rising oil prices while 45 percent said it was out of the government's hands.

The survey found that 11 percent agreed with the statement "this country is hopeless."

However only five percent said the poor should join anti-government groups seeking the ouster of Arroyo.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Inquirer Headlines

Most Filipinos think life is getting worse -- survey
Opposition to boycott Arroyo impeachment hearings
Fate of amended impeach rap known Wednesday
Opposition goes all out to get 79 signatures for impeach rap
INQ7 10 most-read stories from Aug 21-27
INQ7 10 most-read columns from Aug 21-27
Angara says he won't do an Enrile
Deposed president Estrada to take stand

Monday, August 29, 2005

RP's Chief Salesman

Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano: Ace Salesman
By Tanya Lara
People Asia Magazine

Being- a "tour guide" to visiting heads of state is just one of the many roles Joseph Ace Durano assumes as Tourism secretary, the others being the official spokesperson, cheerleader and salesman of 7,107 islands.

"It's a privilege for me to be showcasing and talking about the great things about this country," Durano says.

That he says this in an interview the week after all hell broke loose in Metro Manila, when every single politician signed up for the circus, leads one - not even a cynic at that - to raise an eyebrow. What's so great about the Philippines? From where ordinary citizens are standing, the situation borders on lunacy, and if we can't see the beauty of living here, why would anybody bother to visit the country?

Durano believes you can have thousands of people rallying in the streets and the country will still be beautiful, the people still warm. "We just have to communicate to the foreign markets that this is just in Metro Manila and most of the tourists go to the beach destinations. The political situation has not affected the beauty or the hospitality of these areas. It's business as usual for us at the department. It would have been a different story if the industry was down but it's doing really well."

Statistics on tourist arrivals as of June 11 show an increase of 15.13 percent compared to the same period last year, and Durano doesn't see it slowing down in the future. "The strategy of the department and travel industry in the country has been paying off. We're more market-driven now and more focused, which has facilitated our allocation of energies and resources, and brought us a stronger linkage with the private sector."
Young Man in a Hurry
In fact, Durano's appointment last year was met with trepidation by tile travel industry, partly because he was a mystery. Not much was known about him except that he was a young lawyer, he was a third-generation politician from Cebu and he didn't fit people's notion" about Cabinet secretaries. He knew that "the red carpet would not be laid out" for him, but there weren't exactly placards either. He laughs and says, "If I had mishandled it, it would have turned out to he that way."

In the first two months, he reached out to the stakeholders in the private sector. He has restructured a department where before "the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing," he put in place teams that made it possible for the young rank-and-file to contribute ideas, he gave people a sense of ownership of the department's projects, he put money where it should be (markets where we have a fighting chance against equally beautiful, richer and more secure destinations), he forge a common agenda for the industry, he's opened his office to new ideas no matter where they're coming from, and he energized a department that always had lofty projections and an embarrassing bottom line compared with our neighbors'.

Not bad for a 35-year-old government head who was once mistaken for an elevator boy in Congress and at the Department of Tourism. Questions about his age have indeed become the icebreaker in media interviews abroad and he takes all this with a sense of humor, often playing along with people's confusion. When he's met by official welcoming delegations abroad, he's often mistaken for " the son of somebody - not even the Tourism minister's son.

"When I come down the tube where the official party meets us, you can see them scanning our faces, looking for somebody else even when I'd be standing in front of the crew. The guys would point to me and tell our counterparts, `That's the minister'."

Durano is used to this. He was 28 when he started his first term in Congress and he had to deal with barangay captains who were more than twice his age. "I take it as positive reinforcement. I'm keeping myself young and fit that I can still be mistaken for an elevator boy," he says. "The good thing about the tourism industry is that it's really run by young people. You go to airlines, travel agencies and hotels and they're all young."
Going the Distance
As for the vigor that department insiders like to say has influenced the office culture, Durano says modestly, "They think it's my energy, but it's not. It's their energy. In fact, I tell them now that they're the slave drivers. That's one of my principles of management - if you push your people, you have to allow them to push you as well. People feel an ownership over our programs now, otherwise you have to be dragging them all the time. Each team is taking on a life on its own, a life that's not dependent on me anymore."

In a smaller room in the secretary's office is a Precor treadmill that he uses every time there's a half-hour break in his schedule. "I've been running since I was 12; my body looks for it. If I don't run for three days I have restless nights," he says.

He says it took him a long time to decide if he would accept the post and that it was a family decision. He and his wife Carmi and their two lids - AJ, 11, and Cara, 10 - toyed with the idea of moving the family to Manila. It wouldn't have been the first time. The kids spent their first four years in Manila while he studied Law at Ateneo (or as his wife puts it, "the kids went to Law school with him") and returned to Cebu when he ran for Congress in 1998, slipping into the post vacated by his father, Ramonito Durano.

"They were wiling to give up their lives there to be with me. But I realized that even if they were in Manila, I still wouldn't see them because I'm at the office early and 1 leave late. I didn't want them to blame me for leaving their friends and the extended family in Cebu. In a way, it's worked out for the best, since I can focus on work."

Because he doesn't get to go home every weekend to Cebu, Durano makes sure he talks to or texts his kids before they go to sleep. Being away from his wife is a big sacrifice for him as well, but one that she already had an idea might be coming when they got married. "I told my wife that I have to be doing something bigger than myself. I'm a person who, to be a good father and husband, has to be fulfilled and I couldn't be a fulfilled person if I were a full-time father and husband. I always explain it with this analogy: Children with parents who are doctors most likely end up as doctors. My grandfather was a politician, my father is a politician, I grew up seeing them with their constituents talking about where this country is going, about national issues. It was brewing for me all this time."

The only time he was away from the political environment was during his adolescent years when he studied III the US at St. I.aurence Academy in Sta. Clara for high school, and at University of Redlands in Redlands, California, for his BA in Asian Studies. There, Durano experienced for the first time being independent when he lived in a coed dorm (even the bathroom was coal and to a Cebuano who remains "rural in his values and a conservative at heart," that was nothing short of a culture shock).

Durano met his wife Carmen Luzuriaga at the engagement party of his older brother Red to her twin sister Carmel. Six months later, they were engaged; a year from the time they met, they got married.

"She's the most apolitical person in the entire world, which is good for me because she gives me a more down-to-earth understanding of things," he shares.

In the Philippines, his favorite destination - and he's been from north to south and all the places the DOT is marketing abroad - is Carascal, where the ancestral home of his mother's side of the family, the Hotchkisses, is located.

"We have our family reunions there. The house is on a riverbank and the river is just so pristine. The river's width is probably that of a six-lane highway and across it is a forest, and in the morning, you hear the sounds of the forest. It's only there that you can sleep at eight in the evening and you wake up at noon the following day."

Sometimes, you can travel around the world and find that the best place for you is actually the one closest to your heart.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Impeachment Certain As Dawn?

'Tipping point' of impeach bid reached

Michael Lim Ubac
Inquirer News Service

A BATTLE royale among members of the ruling House coalition this week will determine the fate of the impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, lawmakers said yesterday.

Two lawmakers told the Inquirer that the endorsement of the complaint on Tuesday by four Arroyo allies who called themselves "young guns" was the "tipping point."

It meant that the move to impeach Ms Arroyo for allegedly rigging last year's presidential election had transcended party lines, said the two lawmakers, who asked not to be named.

The two were referring to Representatives Robert Ace Barbers (Surigao del Norte), Edmund Reyes (Marinduque), Robert Jaworski Jr. (Pasig City) and Gilbert Remulla (Cavite).

In a phone interview, Reyes confirmed this, saying: "For us four, it's our own personal tipping points. When we saw that they were about to kill the complaint, we made our decision."

He said the country was "coming to a crossroad."

"For weeks, the minority failed to produce the magic 79 signatures to automatically transmit the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate for trial," said one lawmaker.

He lamented the seeming "disarray" within the opposition that continued to hamper efforts to get a third of the House membership of 236 needed to impeach Ms Arroyo.

So far, only 48 House members have signed the impeachment complaint.


Another administration lawmaker disclosed that the young guns' decision was the "signal" that 33 other congressmen, who had earlier pledged to support the complaint, would officially sign up this week.

"The majority is now making the rounds to gather signatures," said the lawmaker.

To get the nod of the 33 lawmakers, three conditions must be met: There must be a direction -- clear succession -- once Ms Arroyo is impeached; they don't need to join the opposition, and the proceedings should end soon so that the country can move forward.

San Juan Representative Ronaldo Zamora, lead impeachment prosecutor who earlier said Vice President Noli de Castro would be recognized as the rightful successor, said the opposition only needed "a few" signatures.

Asked to elaborate, impeachment spokesperson Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano said: "We're looking at a single digit. The numbers look encouraging." Cayetano said six to 10 lawmakers would sign the impeachment complaint today.

Reyes had a message to his colleagues who were having second thoughts about supporting the impeachment complaint because of the latest release of pork barrel allocations, including funds purportedly from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

"If ever you receive money for projects, take it and use it for your districts. It's not the President's money or her allies. It's the money of the Filipino people. But vote according to your conscience. Don't feel beholden to the administration," said Reyes.

Silent waters

But Lakas stalwart Surigao del Sur Representative Prospero Pichay downplayed this, saying: "Silent waters run deep. But the fact that the opposition lawmakers are noisy about numbers only means that they don't have the numbers."

Three of the 18 members of the so-called conscience bloc within the Lakas-CMD-led administration coalition had already signed the complaint -- Barbers, Reyes and Jaworski -- and four from the 18-member Nacionalista Party -- Remulla, Cayetano, Laguna Representative Justin Chipeco and Cibac party-list Representative Joel Villanueva.

The NP lawmakers will play a pivotal role in this crisis since Remulla and NP president Senator Manuel Villar head the lead committees in both chambers of Congress which conducted investigations of the wiretapped conversations alleging ballot fixing in 2004 and the "jueteng" scandal, respectively.

The rest of the signatures should come from the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino led by Representatives Juan Edgardo Angara (Aurora) and Jacinto Paras (Negros Oriental), and the Liberal Party, possibly led by Bataan Representative Antonino Roman.

Swing vote

The progressive bloc led by Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano expects the tide to turn in the opposition's favor this week.

"The administration is out to kill the impeachment complaint this week before the President leaves for New York. But we are not moved. We expect a swing vote this week."

Malacañang was, in fact, seeking ways of speeding up proceedings in the House justice committee.

Romulo Macalintal, Ms Arroyo's impeachment spokesperson, said yesterday that instead of engaging in too much debate, the committee could require the congressmen to submit position papers.

"This will expedite proceedings and save precious time," Macalintal said.

Anti-Arroyo forces yesterday said they would mount protests at the Batasang Pambansa starting tomorrow.

Do-or-die effort

The Bagong Alyansang Makayan said it would muster 5,000 members of the leftwing Bayan and the centrist White Ribbon Movement.

"This could very well be do-or-die for the amended impeachment complaint. It is therefore imperative for the people to come out in their numbers and thwart attempts at suppressing the truth," Fr. Jose Dizon, convenor of the Gloria Step Down Movement, said in a statement yesterday.

"The administration has tied a noose around the impeachment complaint and it is getting tighter by the day. Ms Arroyo was emboldened to quash the impeachment when there was a lull in street protests. Now it's time to regain the initiative," Dizon said.

Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes said the President was "pulling all the stops to kill the impeachment."

He also scored Ms Arroyo's call for reconciliation and national unity amid the oil crisis while her allies were busy fighting the impeachment complaint in Congress.

"Killing the impeachment is a declaration of all-out war against the people. It again contradicts Ms Arroyo's call for reconciliation," he said.

House of Representatives of the Philippines

Lamitan Casualties

Partial list of those injured in ferry blast

Joel Francis Guinto Inquirer News Service

THE MILITARY has identified 23 of the 30 people who were injured after an improvised bomb exploded inside a passenger ferry in the southern Philippine province of Basilan on Sunday morning.

They are as follows:

1. Ondrada Inlisan, 64 2. Alfredo Inlisan, 54 3. Leticia Magtalia, 45 4. Alvin Enriquez, 35 5. Aljim Enriquez, 3 6. Angelo Enriquez, 2 7. Angelie Enriquez, 35 8. Emmanuel Torres, 15 (48 according to Philippine Coast Guard) 9. Joseph Siban, 25 10. Nick Urciada, 61 11. Jaime Pueblo, 41 12. Roel Eloma, 18 13. Fe Calunsag, 37 14. Edwin Calunsag, 30 15. Sonny Boy Hamac, 12 16. Isnam Olmoc, 30 17. Renato Sestina, 43 18. Zenaida Sestina, 41 19. Joan Mae Sestina, 8 20. Clark Anthony Sestina, 9 21. Zulman Utin, 7 22. Abdulhamid Abdulajid, 17 23. Shain Sestina, 8

Torres, Hamac, and Olmoc are in serious condition according to a report from the Inquirer News Service's Mindanao bureau. Quoting the Philippine Coast Guard, the bureau also gave Torres's age as 48 rather than 15.

Church vs. Dengue

Prayers to ward off dengue in Cebu

Inquirer News Service

CEBU CITY--Catholic parishes in Cebu will storm the heaven with prayers to ask the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary to hold off dengue, which has claimed the lives of 43 people in Cebu City and in the province from January to August this year.

Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal has ordered the parish priests in Cebu to pray a novena--a nine day Catholic prayer service service, to the Virgin of Guadalupe, Cebu's patron saint, "specifically for the intention of warding off the evil of dengue, in all of our parish churches."

He asked the priests to begin the novena as soon as possible and that a small procession with the image of the Blessed Virgin be held within the Church compound after every novena.

"As we face the danger of this dreaded mosquito-borne disease, our thoughts go back to that salvific event in 1902 when the cholera epidemic that ravaged Cebu was halted through the powerful intercession of Mary, the Lady of Guadalupe," said Vidal in his circular dated Aug. 20 that appeared in the Sunday's issue of Ang Lungsuranon, the official newsletter of the Cebu Archdiocese.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

KBP Ads Blues

A word from the sponsors

Bayani San Diego Jr.
Inquirer News Service

WHY did the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) resign from the Advertising Board of the Philippines (AdBoard)?

Maria Belen Fernando, president of Pana (or the Philippine Association of National Advertisers, an AdBoard member) explained to Inquirer Entertainment that KBP bolted "to keep its organization unified."

Fernando said the main issue was "the 18-minute commercial load limit (per hour of TV shows) that KBP wants followed, based on the rules in the KBP Code."

According to reports, KBP voiced out the concern that because non-KBP members—like TV giant GMA 7—could go beyond the 18-minute regulation, an "uneven playing field" had been created.

Pana, however, pointed out that advertisers were "not in agreement" as to what constituted the maximum commercial load.

Fernando elaborated: "Some believe 18 minutes is sufficient. Others believe it should be lower or higher, depending on the program or the time slot."

She recalled that the 18-minute rule was set about 10 years ago, when the load limit was increased from 14 minutes. "Considering the developments in the industry and the various markets that companies compete in," she said, "it may be time to (reconsider) the rule."

Business decisions

As of now, she added, "There is no basis in saying 18 minutes is high, low or just right. Advertisers' placements are business decisions, not whims."

The Pana board of directors has consulted the CEOs and marketing heads of major advertisers, Fernando said.

Ongoing are the meetings of Pana, the KBP Board of Directors and the 4 As (Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies).

It was decided in one of those meetings, said Fernando, that the Pana would commission a thorough research to determine the commercial load that consumers could take across various program types. She said a task force had been organized by the advertisers for this purpose. The group is composed of "research experts and representatives from Pana-member companies, independent media and advertising agencies."

This, she insisted, would be a milestone. "It would also be costly, [but] the results and information will be valuable and helpful." She was optimistic that the disagreements would eventually be ironed out.

"We look forward to the return of the KBP," Fernando said. "After all, media [particularly the broadcasting sector] is one of the pillars of the industry."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Davide on EVAT

SC to issue 'very good decision' on e-VAT law--chief justice

Tetch Torres

THE SUPREME Court will issue a "very good decision" on the Expanded Value Added Tax (e-VAT) Law, according to Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. on Wednesday.

But Davide, whom reporters interviewed at the Lyceum University College of Law, refused to give a hint on what the high tribunal's decision would be.

"It will lose the beauty of the issue," said Davide who attended the opening of the 8th Chief Justice Davide Lecture Series.

But Davide said they would try to resolve the constitutional issue on the e-VAT law "as soon as possible."

"We are coming with it as soon as possible (because) this is a matter of public interest," Davide said, adding that they are halfway in the deliberations.

A source told on Tuesday that the high court deferred its decision after justices for and against the e-VAT extended their discussions.

The Supreme Court was supposed to have issued a ruling Tuesday.

Last July, the high tribunal stopped the government from implementing the e-VAT law after several lawmakers questioned its constitutionality.

Among the issues raised include the "undue delegation of legislative powers to the President" and the alleged "insertions" and "deletions" of some provisions in the bicameral conference committee that had not been tackled by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

FBI Snub

FBI turns down request to authenticate wiretapped tapes

Margaux Ortiz
Inquirer News Service

THE FEDERAL Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has turned down the request of Congress to have the controversial wiretapped recordings examined and authenticated at its laboratory.

In a letter to National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Reynaldo Wycoco, US Embassy Legal Attaché Stephen Cutler said: "It is the policy of the FBI laboratory to decline examination of materials that have been the subject of previous examination by other laboratories and scientists."

"We understand that the tapes, on which an examination is requested, have already been examined by other laboratories," Cutler said in his August 19 letter.

The House committee on public order and safety had written the NBI last August 16, asking the bureau to assist it in requesting the FBI to authenticate the alleged wiretapped compact discs and audio cassettes.

The controversial recordings allegedly caught former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo discussing ways to ensure an Arroyo victory in the 2004 presidential polls.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Tax Drop

Finance dept wants probe on drop in cigarette tax take

Inquirer News Service

THE law raising taxes on tobacco and alcoholic products has failed to meet the government's revenue expectations in the first half, prompting the Department of Finance to call for an investigation into the weak collections from tobacco manufacturers.

Instead of rising with the increased tax rates imposed by the new law, excise tax collections dropped 7.39 percent in the January-June period to P10.5 billion from P11.3 billion in the same months last year, according to documents from the department.

The collection of excise tax from cigarette firms in the six months fell short of the government's forecast of P11.34 billion.

On alcoholic beverages, collection of the increased excise tax reached P9.06 billion, compared with the government-set target of P8.6 billion. But in June, the government collected only P1.3 billion, 8.12 percent lower than the P1.4-billion target for the month.

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said he would order the Bureau of Internal Revenue to make an inquiry to explain the drop in collection despite the increase in the tax rates.

The bureau said it had started monitoring the production volumes of cigarette and alcohol companies to check the accuracy of their excise tax remittances.

It said it had come up with a new technology that would electronically record the volume of products being released from cigarette and alcohol factories. Michelle V. Remo, with

CAP Blues

CAP negotiating with two prospective foreign investors
Elizabeth L. Sanchez
Inquirer News Service

PRE-NEED firm College Assurance Plan Philippines Inc. (CAP) said it was in talks with two prospective investors that might infuse fresh capital that is deemed crucial in its financial recovery program.

CAP said it had also finalized a proposed capital build-up program involving P20.9 billion in trust fund assets over eight years.

The company said it was "now seriously negotiating" with St. Augustine Humanitarian Foundation on an infusion of $4 million a year over the next five years.

It added it was in "serious negotiations" with an unnamed investor that would infuse up to $100 million if CAP could get a dealer's license -- its permit to operate -- which the Securities and Exchange Commission suspended in August last year.

The information is contained in the CAP's reply to an SEC show-cause order threatening administrative sanctions and formation of a management committee to take the company over.

An Inquirer source familiar with the negotiations said St. Augustine Humanitarian Foundation was based in Rome and a part of an "old and rich group willing to support worthy causes."

Under its proposed recovery plan, CAP expects to build up its trust fund assets through infusion of P6.72 billion in equity, accumulation of discounts on its holdings of Metro Rail Transit bonds worth P2.52 billion, and use of proceeds of development and sale of real estate assets.

The real estate assets include the Canyon Woods residential resort in Tagaytay City and the Harbour Town development project in Nasugbu town in the province of Batangas, just south of Manila. Expansion of the Manila Southwoods subdivision is also expected to raise additional P2.64 billion.

In its 40-page reply to the SEC order, CAP is asking the commission to hold off imposition of administrative sanctions, abandon a plan to create a management committee for CAP and to restore its dealer's license.

It said that without its dealer's license it was impossible for it to complete negotiations with potential strategic investors.

It added that a management takeover could only lead to its liquidation, at the expense of its more than 700,000 plan holders.

CAP said the SEC had no authority to form a management committee since its quasi-judicial authority had been transferred to the regular courts.

CAP was incorporated in 1980 as a pre-need company designed to help Filipino families pay for the education of its children. With

Viva VoIP

NTC declares VoIP as value added service

Erwin Lemuel Oliva

THE NATIONAL Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has approved on Tuesday the final guidelines deregulating commercial voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services in the Philippines.

"We already signed the memorandum circular this afternoon. So we now have the final guidelines ready. Basically, we just reiterated what we have said earlier that VoIP is a value-added service. But we've added some few points to support our position," NTC Deputy Commissioner Jorge Sarmiento told

This was after months of deliberation and heated public debates both at the NTC and the Philippine Congress.

Sarmiento said the NTD guidelines will become effective 15 days after it is published in a generally-circulated newspaper.

NTC's decision to deregulate commercial VoIP services in the country follows after mounting pressure from government, as well as the industry, in particular the Internet service providers.

VoIP routes phone calls through the Internet instead of through traditional public switched telephone networks. Its lower cost has made it a popular alternative to traditional voice calls.

The rules would now identify parties that are allowed to offer VoIP services, as well as standard agreements between telecommunications carriers and Internet service providers (ISPs) regarding service performance standards, interconnection charges, access costs, as well as consumer security and privacy.

Sarmiento said that NTC has followed its earlier position that VoIP is a value-added service instead of a regular voice service, which under the law is covered by the Telecommunications Act.

This was the primary contention that fueled the debates between the carriers and local ISPs.

VoIP is turning out to be a cheaper communications alternative to the public, and it can provide additional communication services not commonly found in traditional voice services.

The National Economic Development Authority has pushed for the deregulation of VoIP services in the country, saying that this would decrease government spending on telecommunications.

Books of Errors

130 English textbooks found full of grammatical errors

Alcuin Papa
Inquirer News Service

THE DEPARTMENT of Education (DepEd) has discovered grammatical errors in 130 textbooks in English and social science submitted by local publishers for possible use in public elementary and high schools around the country.

In a meeting between DepEd officials and textbook publishers, Education Undersecretary for Finance and Administration Juan Miguel Luz said none of the books submitted by the publishers passed the department's evaluation. In fact, most books required either major or minor revisions.

In an effort to improve the quality of textbooks in public schools, the DepEd is evaluating textbooks even before they are submitted for bidding. The department is also bent on revising the textbooks every five years.

Luz gave publishers a tongue-lashing, telling them to improve the textbooks or the DepEd would not buy them.

"If you want to sell to public schools, comply with our requirements and competencies. Quality begets better quality and it's our right to buy quality," Luz said.

He added that publishers must invest in research and good writing.

Luz explained that the evaluation of the DepEd was now conducted on four levels, compared to the old system whereby the department bought books solely on the basis of the lowest bid.

"There is a need to fix the content. If we leave the quality to the publishers, we might as well buy on price. If you want to do it by the old system, I suggest you find another buyer," Luz snapped.

The four levels for evaluation now in use by the DepEd are: Coverage of learning competencies (level 1); accuracy of content (level 2); presentation, vocabulary, language and the use of visuals (level 3); and grammar (level 4).

Evaluation for level 1 is done by the DepEd's original pool of evaluators. Level 2 by university professors, level 3 by classroom teachers and level 4 by grammar specialists, according to Luz.

Based on the coverage of learning competencies, the elementary and high school English and social science textbooks, as well as the teacher's manual "failed to sufficiently develop and include the required learning competencies set by the department," the DepEd said.

Department of Education (DepEd)

More Casualties

Dengue deaths reach 197 in RP this year

Agence France-Presse

THE PHILIPPINES has reported 197 deaths and 14,738 cases of dengue fever this year, doctor Eric Tayag of the health department's National Epidemiology Center said Tuesday.

He said the number of reported cases was a 20-percent increase from the previous year, and that the death toll had exceeded the 144 registered for 2004.

"The health department placed the Philippines on a dengue fever alert last week and this is likely to stay in force for the remainder of the year," he said.

He said hospitals in some areas had become congested with dengue cases but added "we are coping at the moment."

The health department fears the number of infections could exceed 20,000 by the end of the year, and has ordered fumigation and other measures to prevent the spread of the mosquito-transmitted disease in the worst affected areas, including the capital Manila.

Department of Health

Clavel's Pork

22 opposition solons got road users tax funds, too--lawmaker

Maila Ager Lira Dalangin-Fernandez

CONTRARY to their claims, opposition legislators at the House of Representatives also benefited from the road users' tax, with at least 22 receiving a total of 399.395 million pesos or 20 percent of the 2.2 billion-peso fund, a colleague disclosed Tuesday.

Some of them are Cebu Representative Clavel Martinez, 37.8 million pesos; Nueva Vizcaya Representative Rodolfo Agbayani, 30 million pesos; Davao City Representative Ruy Elias Lopez, 29 million pesos; Laguna Representative Justin Chipeco, 20 million pesos;

South Cotabato Representatives Darlene Antonino-Custodio and Arthur Pingoy, 15 million pesos; 10 million pesos each for House Minority Floor Leader Francis Escudero, Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano, and Quezon Representative Proceso Alcala; and 7.6 million pesos for Bukidnon Representative Nereus Acosta, according to Mindoro Occidental Representative Amelita Villarosa.

"There are 236 congressmen, 22 minority members received 399.395 million pesos, more or less 20 percent of the total budget. Considering that the 22 solons are only 10 percent of the total number of congressmen, they got twice," said Villarosa, an ally of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who secured a copy of the figures from House records.

"If you will base this on a ratio -- like 10 percent of 200 Solons -- they should get at least [a] 10 percent allocation but in this case they got 20 percent," according to Villarosa who made the disclosure a day after Iloilo Representative Rolex Suplico and Bayan Muna party-list representative Teodoro Casiño accused the President of using the road users' tax to buy votes against her impeachment.

Suplico and Casiño had complained that they were not given proceeds from the road users' tax.

But Villarosa said there were also pro-administration lawmakers who did not get any budget, among them, Speaker Jose de Venecia, justice committee chairman Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao, House Deputy Speaker for Visayas Raul del Mar, Surigao del Sur Representative Prospero Pichay, Bukidnon Representative Juan Miguel Zubiri, Cebu Representative Antonio Cuenco, Eastern Samar Representative Marcelino Libanan, and Leyte Representative Eduardo Veloso.

"This was prepared not according to politics or some favors but rather to address the road requirements all over the Philippines," Villarosa said.

Nueva Vizcaya Representative Rodolfo Antonino also pointed out that the special allotment release order for the road projects were requested on June 6 or even before lawyer Oliver Lozano filed an impeachment complaint against the President on June 27.

"For me, I consider it foul that the opposition is using this issue in order to discredit their own colleagues in Congress," Antonino lamented.

"I think that 's very wrong for them to use issues like this at any expense -- even at the expense of their own colleagues in order for them to achieve the single purpose that they are always trying to achieve and that is to discredit and bring down the administration of President Arroyo," he said.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita described the opposition lawmakers' complaints as "preemptive action" to stop the President from allegedly using the funds to woo support against the impeachment complaints.

Earlier on Tuesday, Budget Secretary Romulo Neri is considering reviewing the tax measure.

Neri said he had been approached by both pro-opposition and pro-administration lawmakers complaining about the funds' release.

"That's why I think it needs to be reviewed," he said on radio.

The President ordered on Monday the suspension of the release of the funds by the Department of Public Works and Highways, which Neri said could have been prompted by a problem in the distribution of the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) to the different engineering districts.

The road users' tax fund is sourced from the taxes consumers pay when they purchase gasoline or diesel and when vehicle owners register their vehicles, according to Neri.

Neri said the Department of Budget and Management releases the funds to the Department of Public Works and Highways.

The Road Board, using a formula for apportioning these funds based on the road density and the condition of the road, decides which areas to prioritize for maintenance, Neri said.

The basis of distribution is the engineering districts rather than congressional districts, he added.

Ideally, Neri said lawmakers should not have a hand on the funds.

"Dapat wala [They should have no involvement], because it's based on engineering districts," he said when asked if lawmakers could meddle in the funds' release.

"But this could not be helped because the congressmen would like to know what infrastructure projects [are there] that cover their congressional districts," he said.

In a separate interview, Road Board director Rodolfo Puno said 80 percent of the fund goes to preventive road maintenance while the rest are used for road safety devices, anti-pollution, and local road components.

In 2004, the Road Board collected 7.2 billion in road users' tax. This year, Puno said they collected an estimated 8 billion pesos.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Kill Impeachment Tax

Arroyo suspends P5.1-B road fund

Lira Dalangin-Fernandez

PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has suspended the release of the controversial 5.1-billion-peso road user's tax, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye announced on Monday.

The fund for release to 210 members of the House of Representatives, except the party-list representatives, was allegedly being used to persuade lawmakers not to support the impeachment complaints against Arroyo.

Bunye said the President ordered Public Works and Highways Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane to immediately suspend the fund's release.

Bunye said that Arroyo's orders were in line with the "judicious use of resources."

"I think it's not advisable to carry out such projects under this weather," he told

But Bunye could not say whether the money would be kept intact or would be used for other projects.

The fund, the biggest the Road Board would allocate since its creation in 2001, is to be used for road maintenance in the congressional districts. Each solon would receive 26.7 million pesos.

Last year, the government spent 2.5 billion pesos for the "Kalsada Natin, Alagaan Natin" (These are Our Streets, Let's Care for Them) program of the President where street sweepers wore shirts bearing her name.

Arroyo is facing possible impeachment before Congress on charges of vote fraud, corruption, and human rights violations.

Glo's Ouster

Rights mission joins call for Arroyo ouster

Philip C. Tubeza Luige A. del Puerto
Inquirer News Service

LONG before the Senate could try President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for impeachment, a group of international human rights advocates have found her guilty of numerous human rights violations and concluded that she should be ousted.

The group held an International People's Court (IPC) at the Film Center of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, on Aug. 19 and concluded that Ms Arroyo should be "perpetually barred" from holding public office.

The IPC was endorsed by well-known leftist personalities, like scholar Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"In the eyes of the world, Ms Arroyo is now in the infamous pantheon of human rights violators. If only for this, she should be immediately impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate," said Bayan Muna party-list Representative Satur Ocampo.

Ocampo joined the human rights advocates in turning over the evidence they had gathered to the impeachment prosecution team. The impeachment complaint against the President also accuses her of abetting numerous human rights violations perpetrated by the military.

"The voluminous evidence submitted to the IPC would be valuable in the impeachment complaint. No self-respecting member of Congress can turn a blind eye to such well-documented violations and Ms Arroyo's role in them," Ocampo said.

The human rights advocates also said that they supported moves to impeach the President.

"The human rights situation in the Philippines has reached alarming proportions which deserves international attention," said Canadian Barbara Waldern, one of the IPC jurors.

A signal

"This impeachment proceeding will send a signal to all countries in the world that the head of state could be indicted for acquiescence and abetting massive human rights abuses by state security forces," she said.

Waldern was among the 85 foreign delegates of the International Solidarity Mission (ISM) that visited areas of the country where the human rights situation "was at its worst," on Aug. 14-18.

The "judgment" of the IPC, which concluded its mission, was signed by all local and foreign delegates. It read:

"The Defendants (President Macapagal-Arroyo and ranking officers of the AFP and PNP) are hereby adjudged to have forfeited any right or authority to occupy their current political positions and hereby ordered removed from positions of power and perpetually and absolutely disqualified from holding any public office."

"The foreign delegates will urge our home countries to withdraw support to the Philippine President if she continues to acquiesce from the worsening human rights violation in the Philippines," said Kawal Ulanday, a member of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan from the United States and IPC juror.

"The worst violations, such as summary executions and enforced disappearances were deliberately and systematically done by state armed forces against legitimate political dissent, this is a serious crime against humanity which merits serious penalties in the international tribunals," added Selma Benkhelija, a lawyer from Belgium and IPC juror.

In a text message to the Inquirer, Philippine National Police spokesman Chief Superintendent Leopoldo Bataoil said the PNP would investigate any charges of human rights violations.

"We maintain that we do not tolerate human rights violations and we have certain police operational procedures or rules of engagement to follow in certain situation(s)," Bataoil said. "Any deviation from the same, we will make them answer for it including the immediate supervisor on the ground if evidence warrants."

The judges

The IPC held Ms Arroyo responsible for the 4,207 cases of human rights violations from January 2001 to June 2005, which included 400 victims of summary executions and 110 victims of forced disappearances.

Those who testified in the tribunal included witnesses to the Hacienda Luisita massacre in Tarlac province on Nov. 16 last year, abductions and extrajudicial killings committed in Mindoro and Eastern Visayas, and cases of torture, massacres and other cases in Surigao and Sulu.

On the Hacienda Luisita incident, Bataoil urged the mission to also look into the "human rights violations [committed by] the picketers who injured a lot of our policemen in the area during our peacekeeping operation at that time."

The court's judges included American law professor Lennox Hinds of Rutgers University, who was also a lawyer for Nelson Mandela, independent South Africa's first president; Nobel Peace Prize nominee Irene Fernandez of Malaysia, and lawyer Hakan Karakus of Turkey, president of the International Association of People's Lawyers.

Besides Chomsky, the endorsers of the IPC were Ramsey Clark, former US attorney general and founding chair of the International Action Center, and Jitendra Sharma, former justice of the Supreme Court of India.

Police rights

Finding alleged evidence of extrajudicial killings, the international mission concluded that the Arroyo administration violated the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the GRP-NDF (National Democratic Front) Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law, among others.

Ocampo said the unresolved political killings under the Arroyo administration were an "enormous hindrance" to national reconciliation.

"A president that allows and encourages the killing of her own people for political ends, especially of her critics and human rights advocates, doing a grave injustice, culpably violates the Constitution and loses the moral right to govern and to unite the nation," said Ocampo, who is himself a former political detainee during the Marcos dictatorship.

He said that the reported relief of Brigadier General Jovito Palparan as head of the Army's 8th Infantry Division in Eastern Visayas indicated the President's "grudging admission of the politically motivated murders, abductions, torture, forced disappearances and other human rights violations" reported to human rights group Karapatan and the IPC and ISM.

Palparan's removal from Eastern Visayas and his expulsion from the military have long been demanded by Eastern Samar Representative Catalino Figueroa and various people's organizations.

"In spite of the rising incidence of political killings in Mindoro Oriental when Palparan was provincial military chief, Arroyo promoted him from colonel to brigadier general. True, he was removed from Mindoro but he pursued the same bloodthirsty campaign against anti-Arroyo activists," Ocampo said.


The international mission was particularly appalled by the military general accused of numerous human rights violations in the course of his intensive anti-insurgency campaign.

"Due to the particular heinousness of his offenses, we particularly make a specific finding of guilt against (Maj.) Gen. Jovito Palparan," the group said.

The general, who had vowed to wipe out the insurgents, denied the allegations.

The international mission said evidence against the Arroyo administration demonstrated "beyond reasonable doubt that these human rights abuses are widespread, systematic and were done with impunity."

Support for Arroyo ouster

It also supported calls for Ms Arroyo's ouster and asked the international community to do the same.

"The defendants are sentenced to pay compensation and indemnification for the victims' rehabilitation, restitute their material and moral damages, and issue a sincere public apology to the Filipino people, and that all prisoners incarcerated because of political repression be released," it told the Philippine government.

The group further asked the Filipino people to file a complaint with the United Nations, the International Criminal Court and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

University of the Philippines (UP)

Philippine National Police (PNP)

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

Libel vs. Lastimosa

Health official takes heat for dengue queries
by Sun-Star Daily Cebu

For issuing conflicting statements to the media, the Cebu City Health Department chief drew the ire of some councilors yesterday after her statements prompted a radio commentator to raise allegations of graft against city councilors.

In an executive session yesterday, the City Council clarified to the media and assured the public that all procedures and requirements have been complied with before they purchased anti-dengue chemicals.

A former city health officer also defended the council, saying the purchase of P1.5 million worth of chemicals is valid.

Despite the spraying activities, the number of dengue cases in the city continued to increase, from 704 cases last Aug. 9 to 767 cases as of Aug. 16.

Twenty-one deaths have been recorded so far since the listing started last January.

Libel charge

The Council is also contemplating on the filing of a libel complaint against radio dyAB news anchor Leo Lastimosa for insinuating that councilors got commissions from the purchase.

Vice Mayor Michael Rama reacted to Lastimosa's reports that the council authorized the purchase even if City Health Department Chief Fe Cabugao said they don't need the chemicals.

But at the session yesterday, Cabugao told the council that she signed the purchase request for Aqua Resigen weeks after she was appointed as city health officer in January.

"It's good that now she is finally admitting to this Council that she signed a request," an irate Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera said.

The council approved last February the purchase of 500 liters of resigen worth P1.5 million. The chemicals were delivered to the City only this month.

Cabugao admitted that she signed the purchase request but the request was made during their budget proposal meeting last year yet, when the sanitary division asked for more chemicals.


"I did not say categorically that we don't need the chemicals. I only said we have to be cautious in using it because there are harmful effects," she explained to the Council.

Rama called for the executive session to clarify insinuations of Lastimosa that the Council hastily declared a state of calamity so the councilors can make money.

"But as a responsible department head, you would sign a request because you fully believe the chemicals are useful to the constituents, not just because your subordinates asked for it and you are afraid to displease your personnel. Tell us if you need it or you don't need it," said Pesquera.

Councilor Gerardo Carillo said he was upset when he heard Cabugao over the radio disown that she signed the request.

"Tell us what you need and you don't need rather than talk to the media and say we don't need it. If you feel you don't need the chemicals, then don't sign it," Vice Mayor Rama said.

Rama also asked Cabugao why they continue fogging and misting activities using Aqua Resigens when former city health chief Felicitas Manaloto already said it is harmful to the environment.

Because mist blowing using resigen has the least harmful effects, former city health officer Estella Ygoña said they shifted from fogging to misting, although they are still using the same chemicals.


Ygona said, though, that misting or surface spraying will be done only in the houses and immediate surroundings of dengue patients in order to kill the adult-infecting mosquitoes.

She stressed that effective environmental management is still the only way to kill the larvae of dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

"So the purchase of 500 liters is still valid," Ygoña said.

With this said, Councilor Hilario Davide III said the Council has enough basis to file libel complaints against Lastimosa.

"I feel aggrieved because of his malicious statements. What facts does he have to say that the Council indeed made money?

It's up to us now what actions we would take against Mr. Lastimosa," the councilor said.

Since Lastimosa did not attend the first executive session last Aug. 11, the Council invited him again to the resumption of yesterday's session on Wednesday.

Rama also required Cabugao to submit in the next session the guidelines on how the city health department is implementing their dengue program.

He also said Cabugao should submit a report that fogging and misting are still options for the City to address dengue problems. (LCR)

Bar Exams

Multiple choice to be part of 2005 bar exams -- SC justice

Tetch Torres

MULTIPLE choice will be included in the bar exams on September 4, 11, 18, and 25, according to the chairman of the committee tasked to formulate this year's tests.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Romeo Callejo Sr. told law school deans that he had asked the bar examiners to submit five multiple-choice type questions for possible inclusion in the examination.

During a knowledge-sharing forum on professional examinations however Callejo clarified that the examinees would still be required to explain their answers. "I will not allow guessing under my watch."

He said that even in actual practice, lawyers were required to explain their answers to certain questions.

"Allowing the examinees to explain their answers will train them to develop logic and correct reasoning," Callejo said.

In June 2004, the Supreme Court issued Bar Matter 1161, which outlines reforms such as using multiple choice on 30 to 40 percent of the total number of questions and the appointment of a tenured board of examiners.

There are 5,777 examinees this year.

Glo's Exit

Estrada snubs Arroyo's reconciliation attempts

Agence France-Presse

HONG KONG -- Deposed Philippine leader Joseph Estrada said his successor President Gloria Arroyo was doomed to share his fate as he rebuffed her attempts at a political reconciliation, a report said Monday.

"I have a room specially prepared for her, and a pony too," he said in reference to his term of house arrest while being tried for massive corruption.

For two years, he has been confined to his 15-hectare (37-acre), 14-bedroom villa east of Manila, which he shares with a stable of retired racehorses.

Estrada predicted Arroyo was not long for the presidency, based on his own experience.

"I was confident, too," of not being ousted. "In fact, over-confident," the former film star told the South China Morning Post in an interview.

"Ferdinand Marcos left (Malacañang Palace) by plane. I left by boat. She will leave by stroller," he said, in a joking reference to Arroyo's height of four foot 11 inches (1.48 meters).

Estrada was ousted by a military-backed popular revolt in 2001 due to a corruption scandal and replaced by his then-vice president Arroyo.

He is being tried on charges of plundering a personal fortune of about 80 million dollars but has been allowed to stay under house arrest at his vacation home outside the capital. He has always denied the charges.

Estrada has also consistently said he was illegally ousted, and last year tapped his best friend and fellow actor Fernando Poe to stand in the presidential election, which was won by Arroyo.

Estrada allies have since led an opposition campaign to oust Arroyo from office on charges that she cheated to win the election.

Arroyo was recently accused of committing nearly the same offenses Estrada is now standing trial for, including obstructing the investigation into accusations she rigged her electoral victory and receiving illegal gambling payoffs to fund her presidential campaign.

"I am glad not to be in her shoes at this time," he was quoted as saying. "This is one of the worst times."

There had been widespread speculation that Arroyo was seeking to make peace with Estrada after he was allowed a furlough from house arrest to attend a prayer rally in Manila on Saturday.

The fallen president remains the de facto leader of the opposition and is popular among the majority poor.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Fraud Proof

House opposition unlocks 'roomful of evidence' of poll fraud

Maila Ager

THE OPPOSITION bloc has unlocked a "roomful of evidence" of an alleged "general conspiracy" involving alleged cheating in the 2004 election, which ensured Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's victory in the presidential race.

An hour before the resumption of the impeachment hearing against the President on Wednesday, Taguig-Pateros Alan Peter Cayetano, spokesman of the pro-impeachment team, made a slide presentation of supposed copies of election returns (ERs) purportedly tampered and fabricated by operators of the administration.

Cayetano said that long before the 2004 election, a group of 50 people, led by an administration ally, had been holding office at the fifth floor of the Horizon Hotel (formerly Byron Hotel) in Mandaluyong City to manufacture ERs that would show a landslide win for Ms. Arroyo. He did not name the Arroyo supporter.

"While FPJ [Fernando Poe Jr.], [the late former senator Raul] Roco, [Senator Panfilo] Lacson, and Brother [Eddie] Villanueva were still tirelessly campaigning, the Byron Hotel operators were already silently filling up the ERs," he said.

He said first, the Byron operators determined the provinces where Ms. Arroyo had a high popularity rating --Pampanga, Iloilo, Cebu, and Bohol.

Once the areas were determined, the "doctors of Ms. Arroyo" went to work starting with the voters list, he said.

"The votes to be entered into the ER's were already pre-computed and printed in a master list," Cayetano explained. "They copied the numbers into the ERs, validated them in the names of elections inspectors."

The Byron operators allegedly had the master copy of the names of all elections inspectors and where they would be assigned.

"They have the specimen too and a master forger to forge them [signatures of the elections inspectors]," he said.

The bogus forms reflecting a landslide win for the President were then sent to the pre-determined areas where the election officers replaced the real results with the fabricated ones.

But Cayetano said the Arroyo operatives were sloppy because the thumbmarks in the ERs were too small compared with the normal size of a person's thumb.

He also noted that the ink used in some ERs was either blue or red when the official ink of the Commission on Elections was black.

Cayetano said they got all these information from witnesses who had personal knowledge of the operation.

"There were problems with money that's why this information was also leaked out," he told reporters.

Aside from the tampered ERs, Cayetano also pointed out that there were still 30,000 sets of overprinted election forms that the Comelec had yet to account for.

Cayteno said these ERs translated to six million votes.

House Minority Floor Leader Francis Escudero said he would also hold another press conference to expose more evidence of cheating.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Inquirer Headlines

Drought, typhoons cost agriculture P953M
Cavite governor stays after suspension order served late
Police officer runs amuck; kills 3 colleagues, self
Hospitals churn out 7,800 kilos of harmful wastes daily
6 alleged Abu Sayyaf members nabbed in Sulu
Gonzalez shuffles prosecutors in Nida Blanca slay case
US-RP war games start; 1,200 US troops arrive
Syndicate on fake dollar notes busted in Mindanao
Communist rebel killed, 8 captured in Cordillera
DepEd teachers, workers to undergo random drug tests
DoH declares dengue alert
Magazine editor files raps vs actress Barreto
153 French citizens died in Venezuela plane crash--execs
Internet conmen target British tsunami victims' families
Malaysia, Singapore call for ASEAN response to haze crisis
Australia seeks 20,000 skilled immigrants
Japanese quake 7.2 on Richter scale--Strasbourg observatory
Catholics gather in Germany to await Pope
Moderate quake shakes northern Japan
Cambodian PM blames foreign countries for cellphone porn
Japan's ruling party calls up 'Net whizkid for snap polls
Urine-powered micro battery invented by Singapore institute

Toxic Waste

Hospitals churn out 7,800 kilos of harmful wastes daily

Veronica Uy

THE COUNTRY'S 200 hospitals produce an estimated 7,800 kilos of biomedical waste every day and most are not properly disposed of, Senator Pia Cayetano said Tuesday.

During a hearing on biomedical and hazardous wastes, Cayetano said only six disposal facilities are available in the country: five in Luzon, and one in the Visayas. Not a single facility is available in Mindanao, she said.

Cayetano said these biochemical and hazardous wastes are just thrown "anywhere," endangering people's health and the country's environment.

The hearing seeks to institute mechanisms to regulate and manage proper disposal of these wastes, said Cayetano, head of the Senate committee on health and demography and environment and natural resources.

Biochemical wastes include injection needles, used cotton, and internal organs removed during surgery. Hazardous wastes include batteries of cars, mobile phones, and wrist watches; toilet cleaners; and fluorescent bulbs.

Department of Health


Agri Loss

Drought, typhoons cost agriculture P953M

Christine Gaylican
Inquirer News Service

WEATHER disturbances in the past weeks have affected the agriculture sector resulting in an estimated production loss of 953 million pesos, the Department of Agriculture said Tuesday.

The onslaught of tropical typhoons "Gorio" (international codename: Matsa) and "Huaning" (international codename: Sanvu) and the insufficient rainfall in Northern Luzon from July until the first week of August affected the planting and harvest of rice, corn, vegetables, fisheries, livestock and poultry.

The DA said damage to corn accounted for 5 percent of the national annual production target of 5.5 million metric tons, while damage to rice accounted for 0.2 percent of the national annual rice target of 14.75 million metric tons.

"The decrease in the production of rice and corn in the affected regions can be partially compensated by the projected good production in Mindanao," the DA report said.

Rehabilitation of affected areas are already underway and affected farmers have been given seeds for planting.

Typhoon "Huaning" affected towns in the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Apayao and Mt. Province resulting in a production loss of 16 million pesos.

Continuous rains affected areas in Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao resulting in a production loss of 70.8 million pesos, of which 80 percent was damage to palay.

Insufficient rainfall in Regions I and II also resulted in production loss placed at 866.4 million pesos.

Cloud seeding operations were conducted in the affected areas between July 28 to August 5 to save the standing crops and prevent additional damages.

Urine Power

Urine-powered micro battery invented by Singapore institute

Agence France-Presse

SINGAPORE -- A Singapore scientific institute on Tuesday said it has invented a urine-powered micro battery that can be used in disposable test kits for diabetes and other diseases.

The state-funded Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology said a drop of urine placed on the paper battery will generate enough electricity to power a "biochip device" that can analyze the urine sample for disease "biomarkers."

"We are striving to develop cheap, disposable credit card-sized biochips for disease," the institute's principal research scientist Dr. Lee Ki Bang said in a press statement.

"Our battery can be easily integrated into such devices, supplying electricity upon contact with biofluids such as urine," Lee added.

Urine is widely used to test for signs of various diseases and as an indicator of a persons general state of health, the institute said. The concentration of glucose in urine is a useful diagnostic tool for diabetics.

The battery unit consists of a cathode sandwiched between an anode and an electron-collecting layer. These are then held in place through a lamination process which coats the battery unit between transparent plastic films.

Lee said that someday, people would be able to monitor their health easily at home, seeking medical attention only when necessary, thanks to the patented invention.

"These fully integrated biochip systems have a huge market potential," he said.

Singapore is pouring billions of dollars into cutting-edge research and development programs in a bid to expand its biomedical sciences industry and reduce its dependence on assembly-line manufacturing.

A government-appointed panel has recommended that Singapore raise its research and development spending to 12 billion Singapore dollars over the next five years.

The amount proposed is more than double the five billion dollars spent on research and development from 2001 to 2005.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Loaded Day

House to deliberate on impeach complaints, Charter change

Maila Ager

THE IMPEACHMENT complaints against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Charter change will be discussed separately at the House of Representatives this Tuesday.

Cagayan Representative Constantino Jaraula's committee on constitutional amendments is scheduled to meet at 9:30 a.m. to review and approve a report on concurrent Resolution 14 calling on the Senate and the House to constitute themselves as a constituent assembly and institute changes in the Charter.

At 12:00 noon, the committee on justice will resume impeachment proceedings at the session hall.

The committee, which Maguindanao Representative Simeon Datumanong heads, will decide whether the original complaint filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano, the revised complaint of the opposition bloc, or the one filed by lawyer Jose Rizalino Lopez, should be heard and deliberated on by the body.

Professor Jose Abueva, former president of the University of the Philippines, said that the people would be unburdened by the painful impeachment proceedings should there be a change in the form of government.

Abueva said that under the parliamentary system, a prime minister could be removed by a simple vote of "no confidence."

"It's very simple, somebody will just have to move for a vote of no confidence and if it will be carried by the ruling party then the prime minister will be removed," he explained in a phone interview.

The movant need not present evidence against the prime minister to justify the "no confidence" vote, Abueva said.

Imelda's $10M

PCGG to sell Imelda Marcos' diamonds

Alcuin Papa
Inquirer News Service

THEY had been variously described as exquisite, even fabulous. After nearly two decades, the government is letting them go.

By year's end, the Presidential Commission on Good Government hopes to finally auction off pieces of jewelry owned by former first lady Imelda Marcos, one of its officials said.

PCGG spokesman Nick Suarez said the agency expected to recover around 10 million dollars from the sale.

The jewelry, held in escrow in a vault at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines), has been independently appraised and found to be genuine.

The PCGG is finalizing the conditions and details of the auction, including the venue and date of the auction, Suarez said.

"It is all being discussed at high levels. We hope to have the jewels disposed of before the year ends," he said.

There were no details on what sort of jewelry would be auctioned off but a 2002 report by the Inquirer said the collection consisted of 89 pieces when they were inventoried and valuated by famed auction house Sotheby's in 1990.

At that time, the saleroom estimated value of the jewelry pieces was placed by Sotheby's between a low of 4,194,920 dollars and a high of 5,736,600 dollars.

The report had described the jewelry pieces as "works of art" by themselves because of their exquisite designs, breathtaking size, and the superb quality of the gems.

It said the collection included a yellow gold 30.71-carat diamond-studded bracelet with a central marquise cut diamond crafted by Bulgari. When appraised by Sotheby's in 1990, it was reportedly valued conservatively from 800,000 dollars to 1.2 million dollars.

According to the report, the collection included jewelry pieces seized in 1986 from Greek national Demetrious Roumeliotes, supposedly a close friend of Marcos. Roumeliotes denied they were owned by Marcos and claimed that the pieces were made of paste.

Suarez said at least two international auction houses, which he did not identify, were interested in selling off the jewelry.

A source in the PCGG said that the agency was determined to trace the backgrounds of the bidders to prevent the jewelry from falling back into the hands of Marcos.

Now in her early 70s, Marcos faces several graft cases before local courts. The cases are linked to her stint as housing minister and governor of Metro Manila.

The 18-year-old PCGG has recovered Marcos-linked assets in the Philippines amounting to 50 billion pesos and 683 million dollars from Swiss bank accounts.

Glo's Generals


Inquirer News Service

FOLLOWING are the people who had served either as Armed Forces chief of staff or Philippine National Police chief in the Arroyo administration:

AFP Appointed as Term Angelo Reyes July 1999-Mar 2001 Secretary, Department of National Defense (March 2001-August 2003) Ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism (October 2003-July 2004) Head, National Anti-Kidnapping Task Force (October 2003-July 2004) Secretary, Department of the Interior and Local Government (July 2004 - present)

Diomedio Villanueva March 2001 - May 2002 Director and general manager, Public Estates Authority (October 2002-December 2003) Postmaster general and CEO, Philippine Postal Corp. (January 2003 - present)

Roy Cimatu May 2002-September 2002 Special envoy to the Middle East (September 2002 - present)

Benjamin Defensor September-November 2002 Chair, Counter Terrorism Task Force of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation/ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism (November 2004 - present)

Dionisio Santiago November 2002-April 2003 Director, Bureau of Corrections (May 2003-November 2004) Executive Director, Dangerous Drugs Board (November 2004 - present)

Narciso Abaya April 2003-October 2004 President & CEO, Bases Conversion Development Authority (October 2004 - present)

Efren Abu October 2004-August 2005 PNP Leandro Mendoza January 2001-June 2002 Secretary, Department of Transportation and Communications (June 2002 - present)

Hermogenes Ebdane June 2002-August 2004 National Security Adviser (August 2004-February 2005 Secretary, Department of Public Works and Highways (February 2005 - present)

Edgardo Aglipay August 2004-March 2005

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

Philippine National Police (PNP)

Garci List

Osmeña bares Garcillano bribe list

Juliet Labog-Javellana
Inquirer News Service

CONTROVERSIAL Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano himself wrote down the amounts of money that were paid to election officials to rig the results of the 2004 election, according to opposition Senator Sergio Osmeña III.

Osmeña said this was contained in Garcillano's handwritten notes which Michaelangelo Zuce, former assistant of presidential political liaison officer Jose Maria Rufino, submitted to the Senate committees conducting the jueteng inquiry.

Zuce has testified he was present in the La Vista residence of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when Commission on Elections (Comelec) regional directors and provincial supervisors were given money by Lilia Pineda, wife of suspected gambling lord Rodolfo "Bong" Pineda.

Osmeña said that during the latter part of last week's jueteng hearing, Zuce "authenticated" a document handwritten by Garcillano showing how the money was distributed among the Comelec officials. He said the one-page document was almost hidden among the documents Zuce submitted.

Zuce confirmed that Garcillano scribbled the names of Comelec officials from the provinces of Basilan, Maguindanao, Sulu, Lanao del Sur and Tawi-Tawi who received amounts ranging from P10,000 to P40,000, Osmeña said.

He said that according to Zuce, Garcillano made the list during a consultation meeting at the Grand Boulevard Hotel on Jan. 10, 2004, before Garcillano and Zuce brought the officials to dinner with Ms Arroyo in her private residence.

Osmeña said the list revealed that as much as P550,000 in cash changed hands in just one meeting.

Copies of Garcillano's list were given to Senate reporters.

Osmeña admitted that Garcillano's handwriting had yet to be authenticated.

But he said this showed that testimonial evidence about the payoffs of election officials from jueteng money was growing.

"The details of the election fraud are steadily unfolding, perhaps to the dismay of the spin doctors making vague or evasive denials," Osmeña said.

SMS Abuse?

Malaysia to register pre-paid cellphones to curb SMS abuse

Agence France-Presse

KUALA LUMPUR--Malaysia will register millions of pre-paid mobile phone subscribers to prevent the untraceable handsets being used to send threatening or slanderous SMS text messages, reports said Monday.

Communications Minister Lim Keng Yaik said the cabinet had agreed to make it compulsory for telecommunications companies to register the existing 14 million pre-paid subscribers, as well as all new users.

Lim said the registration would begin next month in southern Malacca state and northern Penang, and be completed nationwide by the end of the year.

"Fourteen million is a huge number of users and some of them are foreigners. So it is a difficult exercise," he said according to the New Straits Times.

"But we have to start doing this as pre-paid phone card users pose a security threat because nowadays terrorists are using cellphones to detonate bombs," he said.

Members of parliament last year called for mandatory registration of prepaid mobile phone users following complaints that some users were abusing the service by sending poison text messages.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi last week called on Malaysians to stop rumor-mongering through SMS (short-messaging service) and lambasted people for abusing the technology.

His critical remarks came after rumors were spread by SMS about the health of his wife, Endon Mahmood, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

In another case that has fueled debate on the issue, police in Penang earlier this month arrested two Indonesians on suspicion of sending bomb hoaxes to the local airport through SMS.

GSIS Checks

Public warned against fake GSIS checks

Jani Arnaiz
Inquirer News Service

MAASIN CITY-The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) has warned the public against fake GSIS checks after owners of a furniture shop here became the latest victims of a modus operandi involving fake checks.

Francisco Ang and his wife Tita, owners of Tita's gift shop, said two men went to their shop in the morning of Aug. 6 and asked if they could purchase some items using their GSIS checks.

They identified themselves as Ramon Rosales and Paulo Magat and claimed they were from Malitbog town, about 45 km south of here.

They said they were the payees of two checks worth P44,410, which came from their salary loan from the GSIS.

One check was dated July 26, 2005, valued at P25,800, while the other was issued on July 22, 2005, worth P18,610.

The couple agreed. The two then endorsed the two checks and wrote down their addresses and mobile phone numbers at the back of these checks.

They then bought items worth P23,000. The Ang couple gave the two P21,410 in cash as change for their P44,410.

The two men, however, did not take the items with them when they rode their motorcycle. Instead, they told the Angs that they would come back as soon as they could find a vehicle to transport their purchases.

The two, however, did not return to the furniture shop. The Angs repeatedly called the cellular phone numbers listed at the back of the checks, but there was no reply.

The couple became suspicious and called a nearby GSIS office to inquire about the checks.

Fortunately, the cashier was at the GSIS office, said Socrates Maderazo, GSIS-Maasin legal counsel.

He said the checks looked real because they appeared to have the proper markings and name of the signatories.

But when the cashier held the checks, she said they were fake because the paper was thin compared to the genuine checks.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Pinoys 3rd Most Avid Reader

Filipinos are among world's most avid readers

Inquirer News Service

Reading is not a lost art in the Philippines—this was indicated by the results of a recent survey conducted on 30,000 consumers over the age 13 in 30 countries.

In the NOP World Culture Score index, Filipinos ranked third as the world's most avid readers (reading 7.6 hours a week), trailing closely after the Indians (10.7 hours) and the Chinese (8 hours), and beating Americans (23th at 5.7 hours), Brits (26th at 5.3 hours) and Japanese (29th at 4.1 hours) by a long margin.

The results of the survey confirm what local publishers have been observing: Filipinos are developing a greater appreciation for reading. More and more bookstores are opening, the magazine industry is steadily rising, and there is bigger demand for reading materials in the Philippines today.

The Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) celebrates its 26th year with the theme "It's Hip to Read!" Slated Aug. 31-Sept. 4 at the World Trade Center, Pasay City, MIBF once again unites local and foreign publishers, wholesalers, retailers, book lovers and collectors, librarians, authors, publishers' representatives, and every major player in the publishing industry in its continuing efforts to promote books and reading.

The book fair is organized by Primetrade Asia, Inc., in partnership with Asian Catholic Publishers, Inc.; Book Development Association of the Philippines; Philippine Booksellers Association, Inc.; and Publishers Representatives Organization of the Philippines. It is supported by the Philippine Educational Publishers Association; Book Exporters Association of the Philippines; and Christian Booksellers Association-Philippine Chapter.

Call 8900661 or 8960682. E-mail

Rio Alma National Artist for Literature "Reading is good exercise for the eyes and the mind. Books most especially are good for the mental health."

Bam Aquino National Youth Commission chair and morning-show host "Reading is interesting, exciting and enriching. It can ground you to reality or help you escape. In both cases, it sets you free. Reading is essential to a person's growth, an ingredient in a person's development. It makes a person engaging and attractive. It's the ultimate turn-on, the gift that keeps on giving!"

Chico Garcia RX 93.1 DJ "It's hip because you're a step in front of the rest of the pack. Everyone's watched the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, but how many people do you know read it?"

Jones Campos Head, public relations, Globe Telecom "Reading preempts a movie blockbuster. It keeps you smiling and notably aware all throughout the screening, just munching away at the popcorn on hand."

Lisa Macuja-Elizalde Prima ballerina "It's cool to read because you can transform into anything and anyone you want or dream of becoming. You can go to any place you want to be. You can learn about any subject you can think about. You can change your very being. Just think about all that power!"

Kip Oebanda Founder, Child Laborers Advocates for Social Participation, Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines (TOSP) awardee "It's hip to read because you can learn interesting things, like how to be hip or how to shape your hips. You can even read about learning how to read. There are so many blessings in reading, but the most important of them all is the ability to experience another person, another world and another reality in the comfort of your room."

Joseph Patrick Echevarria Valedictorian, Ateneo de Manila University Batch 2005 and TOSP awardee "When I was 12, my father used to read to me stories by Edgar Allan Poe, like 'The Cask of Amontillado.' More than 10 years later, I can still see Fortunato following the flickering flame, going deeper and deeper into the catacombs… Reading captures the imagination and allows us to witness whole lives, centuries of experiences, and even dreams of the future. And it is often through them that we learn what it means to love, to yearn, to hope—what it means to be human. It is one of those rare acts that not only make us feel alive, but also make us better people."

Arnold Clavio Broadcaster "Because you can create a world you want to be [in] kahit na for a moment lang. You can be a hero or a villain without any worries on how people will judge you. Syempre, stock knowledge yun. It's a good mind exercise that might help prevent you from having Alzheimer's disease.

Marian Catedral Caltex Phils., policy, government and public affairs head "It's cool to be eating alone in a restaurant while reading a book. Reading is the foundation of one's future success."

Barge Ramos Fashion designer "It's hip and cool to read because reading keeps your mind young, inquisitive, logical and always with a sense of wonder about people, God and the world around us."

Irene Rada Head, public relations, Cultural Center of the Philippines "Reading opens new avenues of reflection which makes one a better person."

Ramon Rocha III CEO, OMF Literature "Reading not only develops a person's intelligence; it broadens one's perspective as well, allowing the reader to venture into different worlds, step into the lives of the characters, and share their experiences and emotions. Leaders are readers. One cannot go very far without reading, and by cultivating a love for reading, we develop a healthy nation and intelligent population."

Gerard Salonga Composer/arranger "Reading is to one's mind and soul as working out at the gym is to one's body. Our bodies fade and fall apart, but a powerful mind lasts much longer. There's nothing hipper or cooler than someone with a rich soul and a powerful mind."

Peachy Guioguio Manager, public relations, ABS-CBN "Reading is a great way to enhance our knowledge. It can stimulate us mentally and gives us the opportunity to learn about things, places and culture. Besides, reading is the most hassle-free way to go to your favorite destination. You don't even have to leave the comforts of your home. You just have to use your imagination."

Panch Alcaraz Children's book illustrator "Reading makes you smarter and increases your vocabulary. [It] opens up your mind and fuels your imagination."

Marvin Agustin Actor "Because it's good for the soul to read every day. I believe that if I stick with the things I already know and not open myself up to other people, then I will for sure stagnate and deprive myself of the fulfillment of learning."

Gas Prices All Time High

Gas prices surged 20 cents over the past three weeks to an all-time high of $2.50 per gallon of self-serve regular, according to a national survey.
The price surge "does smash the all-time record high for the third time this year," Trilby Lundberg, publisher of the Lundberg Survey, said.

"Crude oil has caused this jump at the pump," she said of the survey, taken August 12 at about 7,000 gas stations in every state.

"And even at the current record-breaking pump prices, gasoline demand, while not galloping, is still growing."

Oil prices rose to record highs of $67 a barrel Friday, amid concerns that demand was straining the world's capacity to pump and refine crude oil. ( Full story)

Lundberg noted that if the crude oil supply remains undisrupted, "the gasoline price surge itself will probably be ending soon, if it has not already."

"Our demand for gasoline is always highest for June, July and August," she said of the summer months, when families typically take vacations. She said gasoline demand is expected to taper off after August.

Lundberg said the lowest average price in the August 12 survey was in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where a gallon of self-serve regular cost $2.31. The highest was in San Diego, California, where a gallon cost $2.76.

Though a record in absolute terms, the price is still well shy of a record, if adjusted for inflation. The peak price would have been set during the Iranian revolution in March 1981, when a gallon of gas cost about $3 in today's dollars, Lundberg said.