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.

White House Chef Is Pinay

WACO, Texas (AP) -- After a six-month search, First Lady Laura Bush announced Sunday that the new head chef at the White House will be Cristeta Comerford -- the first woman to take the top spot in the executive kitchen.
Comerford has been an assistant chef at the White House for 10 years, working under former executive chef Walter Scheib III, who resigned in February.

Mrs. Bush has been trying out applicants for the job in recent months, asking them to prepare test meals at special functions and private meals at the residence.

Comerford developed the menu for last month's honorary dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The 134 dinner guests dined on chilled asparagus soup and lemon creme; pan-roasted halibut, ginger-carrot butter, basmati rice with pistachio nuts and currants and herbed summer vegetables; and salad of Bibb lettuces and citrus vinaigrette.

"I am delighted that Cris Comerford has accepted the position of White House Executive Chef," Mrs. Bush said in a statement. "Her passion for cooking can be tasted in every bite of her delicious creations."

A naturalized U.S. citizen from the Phillipines, Comerford has a bachelor's degree in Food Technology from the University of the Philippines. She has worked at Le Ciel in Vienna, Austria and at restaurants in two Washington hotels -- the Westin and the ANA.

While being executive chef at the White House has its share of prestige, the job also can be grueling. As many as 2,000 guests per month are fed there, and Mrs. Bush has signaled her intent to do more entertaining than in the first term, when the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks curtailed festivities.

The head chef is responsible for designing and executing menus for state dinners, social events, holiday functions, receptions and official luncheons hosted by the president and first lady.

Hillary Clinton hired Scheib, a California native and graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, in April 1994 because she wanted to feature American cuisine after years of French cooking ushered in by Jacqueline Kennedy.

Mrs. Bush's statement said Comerford has been trained in French classical techniques and specializes in ethnic and American cuisine and has experience working with chefs in San Francisco and the California wine country.

AFP's New Chief

Senga takes over as Arroyo's 8th military chief of staff

Luige A. del Puerto Dona Z. Pazzibugan TJ Burgonio
Inquirer News Service

LIEUTENANT GENERAL Generoso Senga, a tough rebel fighter who served as the voice of the military during the ouster of President Joseph Estrada, takes over a restive military today amid demands by rebellious officers for a purge of officials implicated in allegations President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cheated in last year's election.

Senga will replace General Efren Abu, whose retirement as Armed Forces chief of staff was delayed for 21 days by Ms Arroyo as she battled to overcome the worst political crisis of her 4-year-old presidency.

The Army commanding general becomes the eighth military chief of staff to serve Ms Arroyo, a record for a sitting president. A member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1972, the 55-year-old Senga will be AFP chief for less than a year, retiring on July 21, 2006.

Senga had served as AFP Southern Command chief. As commander of the 6th Infantry Division, he led the campaign against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that led to the capture of its base at the Buliok Complex in Central Mindanao.

He was also AFP spokesperson during the "people power" revolt against Estrada in 2001.

Senga said in a brief interview on Friday that he would continue Abu's policy of keeping the 130,000-strong AFP "apolitical" in the current political controversy.

"He is a very capable, soft-spoken officer," said a statement issued yesterday by the Southern Luzon Command. "With his character and managerial style, he can unite the Armed Forces."

Taking over as Army chief from Senga on Wednesday is Major General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., chief of the Armed Forces' Special Operations Command.

Esperon is one of several generals whose names cropped up in the "Hello Garci" wiretaps which the opposition says is evidence Ms Arroyo rigged the May 2004 election.

On the eve of the turnover of military command, a group calling itself the Young Officers Union new generation (YOUng) issued a statement warning that Esperon's promotion would "further widen the crack of horizontal division and mistrust" and threatening "to resolve the issue within our level, the rank and file and the sovereign people."

The statement, dated Aug. 14, was faxed to the Inquirer. It was signed by Lieutenant Colonel Arsenio Alcantara, a fictitious name. Alcantara described himself as the spokesperson of the YOUng central command.

Bogus group

Asked for comment, Lieutenant Colonel Buenaventura Pascual, AFP spokesperson, said: "We won't respond to their statement. They're bogus. There is no such group."

Yesterday's statement was YOUng's third since it emerged last month to denounce supposed ills under the Arroyo administration and vowed to bring her down.

Senator Rodolfo Biazon, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, confirmed in an interview with the Inquirer the existence of the group. Biazon said YOUng was composed of active military officers with ties to its predecessor, the YOU.

The YOU provided the backbone of then Colonel Gregorio "Gringo" Honosan's attempted coup in 1989, which Biazon, then the Armed Forces chief of staff, quelled. Around 4,000 soldiers involved in the coup were subsequently given amnesty.

"They share the same ideals," said Biazon, quoting military contacts. He said it was "very, very possible" that the two groups were connected.

In early July, Biazon disclosed that young officers identified with YOU had threatened to go on mass leave to protest the reported involvement of military generals in electoral fraud and their impending promotion.

The accusation was triggered by revelations of wiretapped telephone conversations between Ms Arroyo and former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, which the opposition said showed Ms Arroyo fixed the balloting. Ms Arroyo has adamantly denied manipulating the vote.

Biazon said he managed to persuade the officers to stay on and to relay their concerns to the President and General Abu. Biazon said Abu promised him he would conduct an investigation "discreetly."


It was only on July 20 that Abu announced that he had ordered an inquiry after Lieutenant General Romeo Dominguez, had assailed, shortly after his retirement as AFP Northern Luzon commander, the military leadership for not investigating those involved in last year's alleged election cheating.

But the six-member fact-finding board headed by Vice Admiral Mateo Mayuga skirted the issue of whether there was cheating in last year's elections.

Mayuga said the panel would look at any "unprofessional conduct" of any officers during the elections.

The probe also did not focus on the four generals and other officers mentioned in the "Hello Garci" tape, but on all officers and enlisted men involved in the elections.

Mayuga did not set a deadline for their findings.

Aside from Esperon, the officials mentioned in the audio recording were Major General Gabriel Habacon, Brigadier General Francisco Gudani and retired Lieutenant General Roy Kyamko, who now heads an anti-smuggling task force.


Calling it a "mockery and an insult" to professional officers, the YOUng said Esperon's appointment smacked of politicking.

"Despite his involvement in last year's massive election fraud, he was not investigated, relieved nor suspended. Worse, the commander in chief even rewarded him with a position most sought by Army men," the group said.

"Is this the kind of professionalism the AFP would like to exemplify to its juniors? Are the Army people that helpless, pathetic and gullible to be easily fooled?" the group said.

The YOUng lamented that while military officials implicated in the Garci tapes were not even given a slap on the wrist, ordinary soldiers were routinely "admonished, relieved and suspended" when they protested.

It cited as examples the cases of Army Colonel Arturo Ortiz and Colonel Ricardo Morales.

Ortiz had aggressively protested the awarding of the Medal of Valor to Army Lt. Col. Noel Buan and Staff Sergeant Leopoldo Diokno and resigned from the 15-man Medal of Valor Board. He said the medal had been "prostituted" and resigned as chief of the AFP Joint Operations Center on June 10.

Morales was sacked as commander of the 404th Infantry Brigade based in Mawab town, Davao del Norte province, for criticizing the controversial resort project for the military on the tourist-famous island of Boracay.

Add insult to injury

"The AFP this coming Aug. 17 will once more mock and add insult to injury to the very foundation of military professionalism if the appointment of General Esperon as the new Army chief is not rescinded," the YOUng said.

"His appointment will be a clear manifestation of the existence of a political mafia within the Armed Forces and will further erode the rank and file's dwindling trust (in) the military leadership," it said.

The group said it would "gladly shut our mouths and stay on the line" if the military leadership responded to questions on the alleged irregularities committed by officials.

"Allowing them to go unpunished and be rewarded for their foolishness will eventually force us to resolve the issue within our level, the rank and file and the sovereign people, whose sentiments are loudly reflected in recent surveys.

"Once again, we appeal to all patriotic soldiers to be more vigilant against MalacaƱang and its predators and aristocrat cheaters who are trying to hold private strings on us and destroy our professionalism. We should not allow them to perpetuate themselves in power."

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

CBCP Favors Impeachment

Bishops say impeach bid must go on despite pain

Nestor P. Burgos Jr. Christine O. AvendaƱo
Inquirer News Service

THE INCOMING president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) wants the impeachment proceedings against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to continue, "no matter how painful they may be."

"I hope that everybody -- congressmen, senators as well as our President -- will stand to the truth," Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo told reporters in Iloilo City after rites commemorating the 25th anniversary of his episcopal ordination on Friday.

Lagdameo said the CBCP was standing by its earlier position that the political crisis could be resolved either through a truth commission or the impeachment or voluntary resignation of Ms Arroyo.

In a separate interview, Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, who was among those who attended the commemoration, called on legislators to continue the impeachment proceedings.

"I hope the impeachment would go on because it's the only way we will know the truth as far as the Constitution is concerned. We hope that our congressmen will not stop the impeachment process," Vidal said.

Several impeachment complaints have been filed against the President, accusing her of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption and fraud in connection with the presidential election last year.

On Wednesday, the House committee on justice suspended its first hearing on the impeachment complaints because of bickering over procedures. It is expected to resume its hearing tomorrow to start determining whether the complaints are sufficient in form.

But Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said last week that the President and her men were giving their all to prevent Ms Arroyo from being impeached.

Lawyer Romulo Macalintal, spokesperson of Ms Arroyo in the impeachment case, yesterday said that all the impeachment complaints should be dismissed because they were "defective."

An amended impeachment complaint has been signed by 41 members of the House of Representatives, short of the 79 votes or one-third of the 236-member chamber, to send the case to the Senate for trial. The opposition claimed that it had gained 10 more votes but was not revealing the names just yet.

Aquino, Drilon in Iloilo

Former President Corazon Aquino, who was in Iloilo City Thursday, also called for the continuation of the impeachment proceedings.

"I hope that they will give an opportunity for all of us Filipinos to know the truth. And it would appear that it will be through the impeachment proceedings that we will be able to arrive at the truth," she said.

Aquino, who last month asked Ms Arroyo to step down from office, said the proceedings should be open to the public and not only to the committee members.

She said she was standing by her earlier call for the President to resign. If Ms Arroyo's resignation was not possible, then Aquino said she would opt for the impeachment process.

"We're hoping there will be no impediment to the impeachment proceedings because the President herself had said that she preferred the impeachment proceedings to the resignation that we were asking for," she said.

The former President said the impediments included the need to gather the support of at least 79 members of the House for the impeachment complaint to prosper.

She also pointed to the move to limit the number of participants in the deliberations of the committee on justice.

Asked if she would be willing to reconcile with Ms Arroyo, Aquino said it should be "reconciliation based on justice."

Surprise visit

Aquino, along with Senate President Franklin Drilon, paid Lagdameo a surprise visit on Thursday at the prelate's office. They were accompanied by Drilon's wife Mila, resigned Agrarian Reform Secretary Rene Villa and Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas Sr.

Drilon, who also asked Ms Arroyo to step down, and Aquino said they greeted Lagdameo on the 25th anniversary of his ordination as a bishop.

Reporters were not allowed to cover the unannounced meeting. Aides accompanying Aquino and Drilon at first asked photographers and reporters not to take pictures and conduct interviews.

Lagdameo, who described the meeting as a "very friendly visit," said he was surprised when he was informed that the former President would be coming.

He said his visitors did not ask him to support calls for the President to resign.

The bishop pointed out that the voluntary resignation of the President was among the options covered by the CBCP statement on resolving the political crisis.

Abad in Dumaguete

In Dumaguete City, resigned Education Secretary Florencio Abad yesterday warned against the danger posed by the administration-dominated House throwing out the impeachment complaint because of a technicality.

Abad, one of the 10 officials in the Arroyo Cabinet who resigned on July 8, said at a forum organized by the Negros Oriental Network of NGOs (Negornet) that the impeachment process should be given due course to bring out the truth.

"My concern is if (the impeachment complaint) is thrown out on a technicality, then you have closed a constitutional option. That is, to me, dangerous," Abad said.

"The President has already closed the resignation option. What remains is either 'people power' or the other anti-constitutional alternatives peddled by some retired generals," he said.

He said that as a member of the Liberal Party, which had called on Ms Arroyo to step down, he was encouraging party members in the House to sign the amended impeachment complaint. He said there were still 15 undecided LP members in the House.

10 impeachment complaints

In a phone interview, Macalintal said there were actually 10 impeachment complaints filed and not three as reported in media.

He said lawyer Oliver Lozano first filed a complaint but amended it seven times, and Lozano later joined another amended complaint this time endorsed by 29 members of the House. Then there's the complaint filed by lawyer Jose Lopez, according to Macalintal.

He said none of these would be able to pass the first test in the impeachment process -- whether a complaint was sufficient in form.

He noted that none of these complaints were properly verified in compliance with the impeachment rules.

"At the time of filing (of the complaint), it must be sworn and subscribed to before the secretary general of the House, but all the complaints were sworn and subscribed to before a notary public," Macalintal said.

"So all of these appear to be defective and should be dismissed because they did not comply with the rules on impeachment," he said.

Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)

House of Representatives of the Philippines