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TODAY’S MAJOR NEWS STORIES

January 9, 2013

LPA nears GenSan; landslide, flood warnings up over Bicol, Samar, Mindanao

A potential cyclone —a low-pressure area (LPA)— hovered near General Santos City Tuesday afternoon, even as state weather forecasters warned of possible flash floods and landslides in parts of Bicol, Samar, and Mindanao in the next 24 hours.

In its 5 p.m. bulletin, PAGASA said the LPA was estimated at 180 km southeast of General Santos City, embedded along the inter-tropical convergence zone.

PAGASA also said the northeast monsoon is still affecting Northern Luzon.

"Bicol region, the provinces of Samar and Maguindanao, SOCCSKSARGEN, Davao region and the Zamboanga Peninsula will have cloudy skies with moderate to heavy rain showers and thunderstorms, which may trigger flash floods and landslides," it said.

It added Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Mimaropa and the rest of Visayas and Mindanao will have cloudy skies with light to moderate rain showers and thunderstorms.

The rest of Luzon will be partly cloudy with brief rain showers or thunderstorms, it added.

Moderate to strong winds blowing from the northeast to north will prevail throughout the archipelago and the coastal waters will be moderate to rough.

Transport groups ask CA to stop phase-out of 13-yr-old vehicles

The Court of Appeals building in Ermita, Manila. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/COURT OF APPEALS WEBSITE

MANILA, Philippines—Transport groups asked the Court of Appeals to stop the government from implementing the mandatory phase out of 13-year-old utility vehicle (UV) express units.

In its 20-page petition, 10 transport groups led by the Angat Tsuper Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator ng Pilipinas-Genuine Organization (ANGAT TSUPER/STOP & GO) through its president, Pascual Magno Jr., said the memorandum circular issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) violated their right to speedy disposition of cases.

LTFRB Memo Circular No. 2012-0217 and 2012-030 were issued to phase out old UV express vehicles/units which are 13 years old or more and allowing the dropping and substitution of the old vehicles with new vehicles of not more than three years old.

However, petitioners said substitution is allowed only to applicants with valid Certificate of Public Convenience. The petitioners pointed that they have pending application for conversion and CPC pending for five years and yet no action was taken by the LTFRB.

“As much as petitioner wanted to comply with the said LTFRB MC 2012-30 it would be very impossible for the petitioners because as much as they wanted to, their Petitions for Certificate of Public Convenience are still pending with the LTFRB and the decision to that effect is yet to be issued despite the lapse of several years,” the petition stated.

They pointed that their equal protection rights has been violated since the jeepney, which was also covered by LTFRB has no maximum age requirement as long as it passes the roadworthiness test.

“Petitioners submit within the regulatory power of the LTFRB, however, the same regulatory power should not violate the guarantee of equal protection of law enshrined in the Constitution among all persons,” they added.

Bus operators ask Magpale to lower terminal fees

Cebu bus and mini-bus operators are set to have a meeting with acting governor Agnes Magpale within the week to ask the Provincial Government to lower the parking fee at the South Bus Terminal.

Julito Flores, president of the Cebu South Mini-Bus Operators Association, said that in a meeting with the bus and mini-bus operators yesterday, they are “hoping and praying” that Magpale will heed their request.

“Mahal ra gyud ang parking fee. Nakuha -kuhaan gyud ang among income tungod ani. We hope and pray that Magpale will grant our request,” said Flores, who is also the spokesperson of the Cebu Provincial Bus Operators Association. (The fees are too high, our income is affected.)

Earlier, the Provincial Government increased bus parking fee from P100 to P200 per entry and entrance fee of P20 for taxicabs per entry from the previous P10 effective October 31, 2012.

It was agreed in the same meeting that they will be seeking a reduction of bus and mini-bus parking fee from P200 to P150 per entry and from P200 to P140 per entry, respectively.

Last November, bus operators submitted a letter request asking Governor Gwendolyn Garcia to reconsider. Garcia has been suspended since December.

The said terminal services 230 buses and mini buses.

Mini-buses travelling from Cebu City to Carcar City and Sibonga town enter the terminal at least three times in a day, and two times a day for those servicing Barili and Dumanjug towns.

Buses normally enter the said terminal only once a day.

According to the bus operators, the increase in parking fee imposed by the Provincial Government is exorbitant.

Flores earlier said that if their request will not be granted, they will be forced to implement the fare approved by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board few years ago, which is P8.50 for the first five kilometers and P1.45 for the next kilometers.

Currently, bus operators are undercharging their passengers by collecting only P6 for the five kilometers and P1.20 for the next kilometers citing stiff competition.—/JPM (FREEMAN)

Paolo may charge Garbo for business losses

The only son of suspended Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, Pablo “Paolo” Garcia III,  may file complaints against Police Regional Office-7 Director Marcelo Garbo and other police officials for allegedly damaging his business due to “false information.”

Yesterday, Paolo said that they are now reviewing the damages that Garbo and his men have caused on the Garcia-owned GGC Security Agency.

He said that he can file a case for loss of income against the officials who reported that their security agency has been operating with an expired license since June of 2011.

“Please get your facts straight. We are duly registered and have been operating well for the past 20 years,”            Paolo said.

Last week, Supt. Rex Derilo of the Firearms Security Agencies and Guards Supervisory Section (FESAGSS) said that based on their records, GGC’s license expired in June 2011 as well as the license of one of the three guns registered in Paolo’s name.

Garbo recommended the cancellation of the licenses of Paolo’s seven guns. But Paolo clarified yesterday that he only has five.

Garbo had said he is 90 percent certain that Philippine National Police Director Allan Purisima will approve his recommendation to revoke Paolo’s gun licenses.

“All I can say to Garbo is good luck. I hope you will be sure of your 90 percent,” Paolo said.

He added if his licenses will be revoked, the licenses of those who have criminal cases must also be revoked.

Garcia filed a robbery case against Garbo, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas and two other policemen after three tents used by the supporters of Gov. Garcia in the Capitol grounds during the serving of the suspension order were  dismantled.

“Dapat i-revoke sad ang license ni Garbo or better yet, he can recommend for the revocation of his own license,” Paolo said.

Paolo revealed he has been receiving death threats through social media, text  messages and letters.

“If anything happens to me, I will hold Garbo personally liable,” Paolo said.- /MBG (FREEMAN)

Suroy-Suroy Sugbo to be continued

The Suroy-Suroy Sugbo that suspended Governor Gwendolyn Garcia started years ago will continue.

Yesterday, Acting Governor Agnes Magpale confirmed that on Jan. 23 to 25, the scheduled Southern Heritage Trail will push through.

As of yesterday, 30 participants have already registered and they are expecting another 30 as a group of balikbayans from Las Vegas are  coming to Cebu.

Magpale met with tourism officers from the different municipalities in Southern Cebu yesterday and out of 15, 11 tourism officers attended.

They were from Minglanilla, City of Naga, Argao, Dalaguete, San Fernando, Samboan, Santandar, Alcantara, Ronda, Barili and Talisay City.

Some Provincial Board members that include Miguel Antonio Magpale, Arleigh Sitoy, Peter John Calderon and Thadeo Ouano also attended the meeting.

But Magpale said  that while the program will push through, they will have to make changes in order to be within the budget that has been allocated for the event, which is smaller than the usual budget in the previous years.

The acting governor said that they would have to make use of the tourist buses provided to the municipalities instead of renting.

Aside from the buses, serving of food will be minimized as she noticed in previous years that food served was overflowing in every municipality.

Also, it was suggested not to let children in the different towns wait for hours to greet the participants to prevent them from getting hungry and sick.

The number of places to visit will also be reduced so that guests would have longer time to enjoy each town.

In the previous Suroy-suroy, guests hop from one place to another, visiting three to four places in a day.   - /MBG (FREEMAN)

Sinulog 2013 8 out-of-town groups to join

Eight out-of-town contingents will participate in this year’s Sinulog Grand Parade, fewer than last year’s 12.

Typhoon Pablo that hit Visayas and Mindanao last December and the upcoming election might have prevented other towns and provinces from joining, said Sinulog Foundation Inc. Executive Director Ricky Ballesteros.

Pakol Festival of Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental earlier expressed interest to join again this year, but eventually decided not to push through. Dumaguete City will not also participate. The province of Negros Oriental is still recovering from the devastation brought by Typhoon Pablo.

The Abuyog Festival of Abuyog town in Leyte, first place winner in the Free Interpretation Category in 2009, will also not participate this year because the town did not find a Cebuano choreographer. The group also did not participate last year.

The out-of-town contingents that have confirmed attendance are Placer, Masbate sending two contingents, Zamboanga Sibugay, Alang-alang and Tanauan in Leyte, Lanao del Norte, Kidapawan City in Cotabato and Tangub City in Misamis Occidental. They will participate in the Free Interpretation and Sinulog-based categories. Other groups may still register until January 15.

Zamboanga Sibugay joined first time last year and is said to bring 500 delegates this year. They will arrive in Cebu on January 10 and will be accommodated at the Guadalupe Gymnasium since the schools assigned to accommodate of out-of-town contingents are still unavailable due to classes.

“The schedule of trips to Sibugay is once a week only. They’re afraid that if they delay their travel, they might encounter problems like cancellation of trip due to bad weather,” Ballesteros said. Placer, Masbate which is sending two contingents will be bringing at least 1,000 delegates.

Community-based dance troupes will also participate, including the Lumad Basakanon, Tribu Ogsila of Mambaling this city and Talisay City. The Sandiego Dance Company will perform as a guest as what it traditionally does every year.

Ballesteros said out-of-town contingents are preparing for surprises with new and unique concepts this year. Grand champions of the Sinulog 2012 in both categories were out-of-town performers. Masbate was champion in the Sinulog- based category while Alang-alang, Leyte clinched the trophy in the Free Interpretation category.–/JMO (FREEMAN)

Capitol only giving P500,000 to Sinulog

The Province of Cebu is still giving financial assistance to the Sinulog Foundation Incorporated despite its reported financial woes.

Acting Cebu Governor Agnes Magpale said the Capitol will be extending P500,000 cash assistance to help SFI on their expenses for the Sinulog Grand Parade. The amount is relatively lower compared to the P3 million assistance given by suspended Governor Gwendolyn Garcia last year and the P2 million in 2011.

Magpale said she has informed SFI executive director Ricky Ballesteros in advance that the province could not anymore extend the usual amount of assistance this year because of the financial problem that the provincial government is allegedly facing today.

Magpale earlier said that the Province of Cebu is now 'bankrupt' with only P90M in account and more than P300M in obligation. But despite the problem, Magpale assured Ballesteros that the province would help in any way it could especially in an event that speaks highly of the culture and belief of the Cebuanos.

Magpale said yesterday that they could only provide P500,000 to SFI but may still increase in cash or goods.

Ballesteros in a phone interview with The Freeman said that they are very grateful for the P500,000 from the province since it can already help them in the expenses.

He said that it can already pay for the rental of the buses which are provided to contingents coming from southern and northern parts of Cebu, including those contingents who will be arriving from nearby provinces like Masbate and Leyte.

Ballesteros said that it cost them P1M for the rental of buses last year and would likely cost the same, depending on the number of contingents they would need to provide buses.

Magpale said they will seek the assistance of the municipalities who were given tourist buses by the province if they can lend these buses to SFI. Ballesteros said it would be of great help since they could use the P500,000 in other expenses.

"We are very happy with the assistance provided by the province," said Ballesteros who explained that they were not expecting any amount in the first place and appreciates that they were provided the said amount.

He said that even with a higher financial assistance last year, it would not affect the budget since they can raise the amount they need through other sponsorships. Also, he said that private groups and individuals have extended help to SFI which will continue to accept donations until the day of the Grand Parade.— /FPL (FREEMAN)

Rama makes partial veto on P5.1B budget

Mayor Michael Rama made a partial veto on some items in the P5.1 billion annual budget of Cebu City for this year and accused the members of the City Council of abuse of power for scrapping some of his proposed allocations.

The vetoed appropriation was already submitted to the Secretary’s Office and is calendared for today’s session.

The law provides that at least two-thirds of the total membership of the city council may override the mayor’s veto.

“Sa ilang gihimo nga gi-zero nila ang ubang budget, masuko kanila ang mga tawo og zero sab sila sa eletion. Sigurado na g’yud sila nga mangapilde kay masuko kanila ang mga tawo,” Rama said.

Rama strongly objected to the deletion of his proposed budget for the City Anti-Indecency Board, Garbo Alyansa Sumbanan Asenso (GASA), Closure and Rehabilitation Plan of Inayawan Sanitary Landfill, Public Information Office and for the purchase of vehicles for the police.

The City Council decided to scrap the proposed P1.9 million budget of the Public Information Office because the city legislators believe that it will be used only to attack the mayor’s political opponents.

The legislators criticized Public Information Officer Carlo Dugaduga for not getting the side of Rep. Tomas Osmeña when he published in the BARUGG magazine the filing of a case against the congressman for using the Dodge Charger vehicles that Rama claimed were donated to the city in 2009.

Dugaduga also admitted during the budget hearing his participation in the nightly political activities of TEAM Rama although he said that his role is only to inform the public of the City Hall services.

Rama believes that the city legislators abused their power because while they scrapped some of his proposed budget, they also increased the amount of some allocations like the budget for the Aid to the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC).

“The reduction or putting zero budget on regulatory bodies which by ordinance were mandated to have their budgetary requirements is an ultra vires act that is tantamount to failure to comply with the provision of the ordinance,” the mayor said.

The mayor instructed City Administrator Jose Marie Poblete to check the legality of the City Council’s move to increase the amount of certain appropriations.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) provides that the legislators cannot increase the amount of the budget proposed by the executive department, except “when mandatory and statutory obligations have not been provided for in the budget, in which case, the increase may cover the deficiency, provided that the total appropriations does not exceed the total estimated income reflected in the proposed budget.”

The Local Finance Committee only proposed P1 million budget for financial assistance to the ABC but the City Council increased the budget to P3 million.  –/MBG (FREEMAN)

Organizations urged to participate in 4Ps

 The Department of Social Welfare and Development-7 reiterated its call for civil society organizations to participate in the government’s poverty reduction programs in line with the implementation of the modified version of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of the Aquino administration.

According to DSWD-7 assistant regional director Nemia Antipala, their agency needs support to conduct the Family Development Session for beneficiaries of the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer.

Under this modified version of cash transfer, this time, household beneficiaries cover  families whose children were victims of child trafficking and violence as well as children with disabilities.

However, under the modified program, beneficiaries are entitled to receive P500 for every head of the family and P300 for every child (maximum of three children for every family), which is the same amount under the original program.

Earlier, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and DSWD formalized a joint undertaking for the benefit of 4Ps grantees.

The partnership, specified in a Joint Order signed by the said agencies, aims to further heighten the level of awareness of all Pantawid beneficiaries of their PhilHealth benefits through the Family Development Seminars conducted by DSWD’s municipal/city links.

Pantawid Pamilya is the government’s human development program that invests in the health and education of the poor through cash grants in exchange of compliance to certain conditions such as pre and post-natal care for pregnant mothers, immunization and preventive health care for children and deworming for children, among others.

Pantawid beneficiaries are covered by PhilHealth as Sponsored members until December 2013. They are issued their Member Data Record and PhilHealth Identification Number which will serve as their pass when availing of health care benefits at any accredited facilities in the country.  - /BRP (FREEMAN)

Charges filed against police officer

A businesswoman from Liloan, Cebu filed criminal and administrative complaints against Senior Superintendent Vicente Mersan Premne before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas, yesterday.

Aida Basergo filed the complaints for perjury, grave misconduct, dishonesty, falsification of private document, extortion, theft, acts unbecoming of a police officer, violation of the code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials and employees and for any violation of rules and regulations of the PNP and civil service.

“I’ve been silent for how many years but this time I won’t,” she said in Cebuano.

In her affidavit, Basergo claimed that Premne stole her check and falsified it by way of extorting money from her after she won lottery in 2010.

“In the course of the various extortion attempts, Supt. Premne sent me text messages containing serious threats of bodily harm and injury to me and my family, sent extortion letters through LBC, harassed us all and has been prying into our privacy, all intended to make me give in to his demands for money,” the affidavit reads.

Prior to that incident, she said Premne befriended her.

“He introduced himself as a high ranking PNP officer which I later learned that he was in fact the acting officer-in-charge of the Mandaue City Police Office. After we met, Premne kept on frequenting my massage spa. He gave me unsolicited assurance that I will not have any problem with my business because of his position,” the affidavit further reads.

Left with no choice, Basergo said she gave money to Premne after the latter demanded from her for the alleged protection and security.

Premne constantly visited her spa and expressed his “fatal attraction and affection” which she did not entertain because she was married. She said despite her “protestations” still Premne continued to hang out in her spa.

On May 5, 2010, Basergo said she won a jackpot in the PCSO lottery. The jackpot prize was P52 million and since there was another winner, she said the jackpot prize was divided into two, thus she received P26 million.

She said despite her silence, Premne learned about it.

“Knowing fully well the character of Premne and what he is capable of, based on my experience, I intentionally kept secret about the money I won and avoided him as much as possible. It was during these times that he would stay in the spa all day in the hope that he will catch me. Good thing that my employees would inform me each time he was in the spa so I was able to avoid him most of the time,” the affidavit reads.

However, she said after Premne was able to confirm that she indeed won the lottery, her life became problematic.

One time, she said Premne told her that one of her checks was in his Possession and demanded a huge amount of money from her in exchange of the check. She added Premne threatened her.

Sometime in May 2010, she said Premne encashed the check worth P12 million but it was not honored by the bank. Basergo said the bank informed her about the matter which shocked her because she did not issue the amount.

“Why on earth would I give him that amount of P12 million when I have a family of my own and relatives who are in dire need of help more than any other person, much less to a stranger like the respondent? Neither do I owe him any debt or any valuable consideration for him to deserve such an enormous amount as payment,” she said.

She added she went to the bank and closed her account.

Earlier, she said she learned that Premne filed a criminal case of estafa against her because of the check.

She said Premne claimed that the amount given to him was out of “gratis” for his services for their security, which she belied.

Basergo accused Premne of making her a “milking cow.”

“For the information of the honorable investigator, Supt. Premne has been making me a milking cow even before I won the lottery. He has taken over my spa in Cebu City and Mandaue City, have even taken my car and transferred it to his name, received amounts of money from me under threat and so forth,” the affidavit reads. –/JPM (FREEMAN)

SC hands off on political dynasties

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court dismissed the bid of a businessman to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to prohibit members of so-called political dynasties from running for national and local elective positions.   At a press conference, the high court’s acting spokesperson, Gleo Guerra, said the petition for mandamus filed by businessman Louis “Barok” Biraogo had been denied.   The SC, however, refused to elaborate on why Biraogo’s petition was dismissed.   In his petition, Biraogo said while there is still no anti-dynasty law, there is a constitutional prohibition against political dynasties.

SC reschedules deliberation on RH law petitions

from Inquirer Breaking News

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has rescheduled the deliberation of its discussion on the petition questioning the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law. The petition filed by couple James and Lovely Imbong in behalf of their minor children has been discussed during Tuesday’s en banc (full court) session but the justice who has been assigned to pen the decision of the case sought more time to study the petition. Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza has been assigned via raffle of cases to handle the decision writing of the case. Late December last year, Malacañang signed the controversial bill into law after a heated debate in Congress.

Sandiganbayan junks Arroyo plea to drop ZTE case

by Rappler.com

MANILA, Philippines – The graft case against former President and now Pampanga Rep Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will proceed.

The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division denied a motion of the Arroyo camp and her 3 co-accused to dismiss the graft case in connection with the botched National Broadband Network (NBN)-ZTE deal.

Imelda Marcos aide’s trial over soon—PCGG

While ill-gotten-wealth cases against the Marcoses and their cronies have been languishing in Philippine courts the past 26 years, a case involving part of the Marcos loot in the United States should be resolved within the year.   Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Chairman Andres Bautista said the art theft and tax fraud trial of Vilma Bautista, the erstwhile social secretary and confidante of former first lady Imelda Marcos, in New York should be over in a few months.   Vilma Bautista and her two nephews were arrested in November in New York after they were found to have sold three valuable paintings believed to have been part of the Marcos assets.

‘Drone was launched during US-only exercise in Sept.’—US Embassy

The United States-made drone recovered off Ticao Island in Masbate on Sunday morning was launched during a week-long US-only exercise in September, the US Embassy in Manila said Tuesday.   “The unarmed target drone that washed ashore off the coast of Masbate Island is an expended BQM-74E Aerial Target drone that was launched from the USS Chafee (DDG 90) during exercise Valiant Shield 2012 on September 19, 2012 off the coast of Guam,” spokeswoman Tina Malone said in a statement.   The Valiant Shield 2012, held every two years since 2006 which focuses on the cooperation between US military branches, took place in Guam last September.

Solons ask Malacañang to explain ‘drone incident’

MANILA, Philippines—A lawmaker on Tuesday urged Malacañang to explain the circumstances surrounding a United States unmanned aerial vehicle or "drone" that recently fell into Philippine waters. ACT Teachers Partylist Representative Antonio Tinio said the "Malacañang owes the public a full explanation regarding the presence of this US Navy drone in the municipal waters of Masbate." Fishermen recovered the drone, identified as an aerial target drone BQM-74E Chukar III, on Monday, after seeing it floating in the waters off Ticao Island. "Which US Navy warship deployed this drone, when, where, and and for what purpose?”

DFA backs US claim drone fired in Guam 4 months ago

The United States on Tuesday said a US drone found floating by fishermen off Masbate province was actually fired four months ago during American naval exercises off Guam, even as some legislators and Filipino activists called for an investigation.   The US Embassy knocked down speculation that the drone was launched within Philippine air space—which  militant groups said would have constituted a violation of national sovereignty.   The United States has repeatedly shown the power of its drones, as its unmanned aerial vehicles are called.

Japanese FM to visit Philippines, will discuss bilateral ties

MANILA, Philippines—Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will be in Manila for two days to discuss bilateral and regional issues with Philippine officials, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.   In a statement, the DFA said Kishida will be in Manila from January 9 to 10 for an official visit —his first overseas trip since his appointment by Japan's newly-elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on December 26, 2012.   The DFA said during his visit, Kishida will meet with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to discuss bilateral relations, regional issues, and the foreign policy priorities of the new Japanese leadership.

China row tops agenda of Japan minister’s visit

Wednesday’s visit of newly appointed Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida gives the Philippines another opportunity to engage Japan in a solution to its territorial row with China, Filipino officials said Tuesday.   Kishida, on his first overseas trip since his appointment by newly elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Dec. 26, is scheduled to pay a courtesy call on President Aquino this afternoon.   But the crucial meeting is the one Kishida will have with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario to discuss bilateral relations, regional issues and foreign policy priorities of the new Japanese leadership, the officials said.

Japan summons China envoy for first time under PM Abe

TOKYO—Tokyo summoned the Chinese ambassador Tuesday for the first time under the new nationalist government to "strongly protest" against the presence of official ships in waters around disputed islands.   The foreign ministry said it told China to stop sending the vessels to the area around a chain controlled by Japan under the name Senkakus, but claimed by China as the Diaoyus.   Deputy minister for foreign affairs Akitaka Saiki met with Chinese ambassador Cheng Yonghua from around 11:00 am (0200 GMT) to protest against Beijing's dispatching of four ships Monday, the ministry said in a statement.

Higher Philhealth contributions starting this month

Contributions to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) are increasing this month.

Self-employed workers will now have to pay a monthly contribution of P150 from P100. For those who are employed and earning P8,000 and below, they will now pay P87.50/month instead of P50/month.

For those who are earning between P8,001 to P34,999, the contribution rate is still 1.25% of their salary.

For those earning P35,000 and up, their monthly contribution will now be P437.50/month from P375/month. The increase will also be the same for employers as their employer contribution.

Greg Rulloda, PhilHealth vice president, says the increase is worth it since more benefits will be given to workers and more will become members.

For employers, the benefit is having a healthy workforce.

PhilHealth says the list of illnesses covered will now include heart ailment for children such as enlarged heart, cervical cancer, artificial leg and heart bypass.

Peso rises anew as optimistic investors buy more peso securities

MANILA, Philippines—The peso rose again on Tuesday as optimism among investors continued to fuel their appetite for peso-denominated securities.   The local currency closed at 40.85 against the US dollar, up by 4 centavos from the previous day’s finish of 40.89:$1.   Intraday high hit 40.815:$1, while intraday low settled at 40.88:$1.   Volume of trade reached $915.6 million from $840.93 million previously.   Traders said positive sentiment for the Philippine economy among yield-seeking investors drove them to purchase more local securities.

BOC still tallying collections for ’12

MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Customs has yet to disclose the Department of Finance-attached agency's total revenue collections for 2012.   Asked why, BOC Commissioner Ruffy Biazon on Tuesday explained "the figures are still being finalized."   In a text message, Biazon also told the INQUIRER "some collections from various ports nationwide are still coming in."   He was referring to, among others, the major ports of Manila and Cebu, as well as the Manila International Container Port.   But some agency insiders, citing the BOC's preliminary collection report, have disclosed the bureau failed to meet its 2012 collection target.

5.7-magnitude earthquake hits Aegean Sea

ISTANBUL—A moderate 5.7-magnitude earthquake hit Tuesday near the Turkish island of Bozcaada in the Aegean Sea, the United States Geological Survey said.   There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage but the quake also shook Istanbul, a city of 15 million people.   The epicenter of the quake was 50 kilometers (30 miles) off Bozcaada, said the Istanbul-based Kandilli observatory, quoted by Turkey's Anatolia news agency.   The Turkish observatory initially put the quake's strength at 6.2.   Turkey is crossed by several fault lines.   A powerful quake shook eastern Turkey on October 23, 2011, killing more than 600 people.

UN unable to get food to 1 million hungry Syrians

About 1 million Syrians are going hungry due to the difficulty of getting supplies into conflict zones and the fact that the few government-approved aid agencies are stretched to the limit, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

‘Sisterakas’ is Now the Highest-Grossing Filipino Movie of All Time

It’s official! “Sisterakas” has beaten the box office record of “Praybeyt Benjamin” to become the highest-grossing Filipino movie of all time. The comedy movie from Star Cinema and Viva Films is also hailed as the highest-grossing MMFF movie of all time.

No less than Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino confirmed earlier today, January 8, that the Ai Ai delas Alas, Vice Ganda and Kris Aquino starrer has hit P340 million at the box office.

“Baka umabot pa sila (Sisterakas) ng P350 million. Siguro ngayon pumapalo na sila between P340 million to P350 million kasi hanggang gabi pa siya,” he said.

“Sisterakas” has beaten the P331.61-M box office record of “The Unkabogable Praybeyt Benjamin,” which was also a co-production of Star Cinema and Viva Films, also directed by Wenn Deramas, and also starred Vice Ganda in 2011. It’s now hailed as the highest-grossing Filipino movie of all time and the highest-grossing MMFF movie of all time.

Enrile gave 18 senators P1.6M each for Christmas

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile played Santa Claus last Christmas, making a list and checking it twice as he gave gifts to Senate members and personnel apparently on the basis of who were “naughty” or “nice.”   Enrile gave 22 senators a total of almost P30 million, a gift that one senator said was “unconscionable and unconstitutional.”   The cash gift allegedly came from the funds allotted for the Senate post vacated by President Aquino when he won the presidential election in 2010.

Asteroid makes ‘flyby’ Thursday

A heavenly body packing more energy than 25,000 Hiroshima bombs and which can obliterate Luzon on impact will streak across the skies near Earth on Thursday under the watchful gaze of astronomers the world over.   Scientists will be tracking the path of the asteroid called 99942 Apophis as it comes within 14.5 million kilometers of the Earth’s surface, a distance not visible to the naked eye, but can be seen through a powerful telescope, the country’s chief astronomer said.   “It will appear like a tiny star flying quickly by,” said Dario de la Cruz, head of the space sciences and astronomy section of Pagasa.

Video of cursing ‘Professor Terror’ goes viral

An amateur video of a professor making verbal and physical attacks against one of his students in front of his mostly female class has gone viral on social networking sites.

The nearly two minute clip uploaded by Youtube user “annamae macayan” entitled “Abusadong Professor, Violente at High Blood,” on January 6, showed a professor in a pink long sleeves and a black tie cursing his students and throwing test papers around.

While the audio of the video is a bit unclear, a female voice can be heard from the background on the first part of the video apparently trying to reason out to the irate professor, to which was replied with a daring “Leche,” as he threatens to throw a pile of papers to the student.

The professor then walked out of the room and turned his attention towards another seemingly female student wearing an orange blouse.

This time, he threw the papers, missed his target, but held and pushed her. The girl, who was already in tears, fought back and hit the teacher with the papers she was also holding as they engage in a heated exchange of words for few seconds.

The teacher can be seen physically attacking the female student in between.

“Nananakit ka . . .  anong klaseng teacher ka! (You’re harming us…what kind of teacher are you?)” the crying student shouted.

To this, other students stood up to pacify the angry man.

The professor then made his first few steps out of the area, but returned only to threaten to throw an armchair at her. He, however, decided not to and returned the armchair where he pulled it from.

The professor entered a room, but made his way back toward the student for his final assault before finally going down the stairs near where the girl was standing.

The video description claimed that the video was taken at Montessori Professional College-Pasay, involving an unidentified school dean.

As of posting, the video garnered 30, 633 hits, and generated  more than 900 comments from different Youtube users, not including separate video shares in other networking sites.

One of the comments on Youtube came from a certain “Leslie Louise Dela Cruz,” who introduced herself as a member of the National Youth Commission.  She gave their office number and pledged support.

Meanwhile, “Epifanio Delos Santos” posted: “It is clearly a violation against Code of Ethics for Teacher stated in ArticleVIII Section 8 .” A teacher shall not inflict corporal punishment on offending learners nor make deductions from their scholastic ratings as a punishment for acts which are clearly not manifestation of poor scholarship.”

Another Youtube user “Dana Tan,” on the other hand, said “OMG @_@ This man should be stripped off his license for verbally and physically harming his students. Yung mga feeling “benevolent humans” dyan na nagsasabing tignan muna ang side ng mokong na ito needs to have their so-called “virtues” in check. Eh kung kapatid/pamangkin ‘nyo ang ginanyan sa school… ok lang sa inyo? I don’t think so.”

Other users, for their part, appealed to all other users to keep sharing the infamous video so as to get the attention of different news organizations.

INQUIRER.net tried to reach Montessori Professional College-Pasay as of posting time but there was no response.

Clinton returns to applause and a football helmet

CONTACT SPORT' U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is presented with a football helmet by the State Department’s senior leadership on her return to the office in Washington, D.C., January 7, 2013. Deputy Secretary Nides told Secretary Clinton: As you know, Washington is a contact sport. [State Department photo by Nick Merrill/ Public Domain]

WASHINGTON DC, USA - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received a standing ovation from her staff and an American football helmet to protect her from Washington's hard knocks as she returned to work after a health scare.

A month to the day since she was last seen on official duties when she flew back from a trip to Europe on December 7, Clinton chaired her regular weekly Monday, January 7, meeting with her closest staff and advisers.

"It is a great day here in the department... Secretary Clinton is back to work," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, adding that the 75 people present at the meeting had welcomed her with a standing ovation.

Clinton, 65, suffered a blood clot to her head after a fall in December.

She now "looks fantastic, she seems to be terrific," Nuland said. "She is in the pink, literally. She's wearing a brilliant pink jacket today."

As a joke, the staff presented her with a white football helmet, with "lots of good padding" bearing the State Department's seal, and a blue football jersey printed with the words "Clinton" and "112," to signify the number of countries she has visited during her four-year tenure, Nuland said.

Deputy Secretary Tom Nides presented the gift in a big box, handing it over with a warning about life in Washington being "a contact sport," according to the spokeswoman.

Clinton had first succumbed to a virulent stomach virus, but then became dehydrated and fell, suffering a concussion. Doctors say the blood clot found later in a vein behind her right ear most likely resulted from the fall.

But now the top US diplomat, who was hospitalized for three days over the New Year, was keen to "get right back to business," Nuland added.

There are still some outstanding dossiers for Clinton to deal with before she steps down as secretary of state, with veteran Senator John Kerry already tapped by President Barack Obama to replace her.

Notably, US lawmakers are expecting her to testify on the killings of four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens, in the September 11 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Nuland stressed Clinton will appear before lawmakers to discuss the findings of an internal review which faulted the State Department for grossly inadequate security, and that she would do so before stepping down.

"Let me just say that she will testify. She will testify while she is still sitting secretary of state," Nuland said.

That would mean Clinton will testify before Kerry is confirmed by the Senate as the new secretary of state. With the Senate in recess until inauguration day on January 21, it could mean she will stay on a few days longer.

Clinton has been speaking with Kerry on a daily basis since she was released from hospital last week, and the latter has also been prepping for his new job by visiting the State Department and reviewing an armful of documents.

"The Congress is not in session, the Senate's not in session, so obviously, a new secretary can't take up duties until there has been a confirmation hearing, until there has been a vote, Nuland said.

"So our expectation is that we will be able to sequence this so that she will be testify as sitting secretary, we will also have a confirmation hearing, and all of this obviously will be preparatory to a transition."

Clinton -- who has flown some 956,733 miles, spending 86.8 days in a plane and 401 days total on the road according to State Department figures -- is unlikely to undertake any more foreign visits as secretary of state. Her doctors have recommended her not to travel for the time being.

It was unclear whether she remained on blood thinners, which doctors have recommended to dissolve the clot that was found in the vein behind her skull and her brain.

Doctors have told AFP that normally in such cases, patients have to take the drugs for at least three months, but in Clinton's case, it could be longer as she suffered an earlier clot in her leg in 1998.

Clinton has set a new record for the number of countries visited by any secretary of state, flying on a reconfigured US Air Force Boeing 757, outfitted with a small cabin for her use.

But she has just been pipped by her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, who traveled 1,059,247 miles during her tenure, logging 93.87 days in a plane but only visiting 85 countries. - Rappler.com

Rios to Pacquiao: Let's get it on

from ABS-CBNnews.com by ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA, Philippines – Former lightweight champion Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios is still raring to fight Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao even after the Pacman’s brutal knockout loss to Mexican rival Juan Manuel Marquez.

Fewer families go hungry in Q4 - SWS

MANILA, Philippines - Fewer Filipino families went hungry during the Christmas season, a recent survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed.

In the December 8 to 11 survey, results of which were first published by BusinessWorld, 16.3% of respondents equivalent to 3.3 million households said they were hungry in the last 3 months.

This was the lowest since June 2011's 15.1% or 3 million families, and lower than the 21% or 4.3 million households recorded in the August 2012 survey of SWS.

In Metro Manila, 719,000 families or 25.3% of those surveyed said they went hungry in October to December, when the country celebrated the Christmas season. This was higher than the 22% recorded in December 2011, but lower than the 26% in August 2012.

Close to a million families or 20% of those polled in Mindanao said they went hungry in the last quarter of 2012, slightly higher than the 19.7% in December 2011 and lower than the 30% in August 2012.

The SWS polled a total of 1,200 adults nationwide through face-to-face interviews.

It asked respondents the question: "Nitong nakaraang tatlong buwan, nangyari po ba kahit minsan na ang inyong pamilya ay nakaranas ng gutom at wala kayong makain? (In the last 3 months, did your family, even once, experience hunger?)

Those who replied yes were then asked: "Nangyari po ba ’yan nang minsan lamang, mga ilang beses, madalas or palagi?" (Did it happen only once, a few times, often or always?) - Rappler.com

NASA finds two black holes in nearby galaxy

NASA's high-energy X-ray telescope has spied two black holes in a galaxy just seven million light years away.

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), launched in June 2012, caught a glimpse of two black holes in the arms of a spiral galaxy named Caldwell 5 or IC342.

Caldwell 5 has been one of the targets of the telescope in its hunt for black holes. on Jan. 7, NASA came out with images of the galaxy featuring these black holes, artifically colored magenta in the photo below:

Source: NASA

 

"These new images showcase why NuSTAR is giving us an unprecedented look at the cosmos," Lou Kaluzienski, NuSTAR program scientist at NASA office in Washington, was quoted as saying in Science Daily.

"With NuSTAR's greater sensitivity and imaging capability, we're getting a wealth of new information on a wide array of cosmic phenomena in the high-energy X-ray portion of the electromagnetic spectrum," Kaluzienski added.

NuSTAR is the first high-energy X-ray orbiting telescope. Objects previously seen in previous black hole-hunting missions are better viewed in NuSTAR.

The world's first high-energy X-ray orbiting telescope, NuSTAR's two-year mission overlaps with other X-ray spectrum observatories like NASA's Chandra and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton satellite. But NuSTAR records higher energies, focusing on photos between 6 and 79 kiloelectronvolts, said Harrison.

"Before NuSTAR, high-energy X-ray pictures of this galaxy and the two black holes would be so fuzzy that everything would appear as one pixel," NuSTAR principal investigator at California Institute of Technology Fiona Harrison was quoted in Science Daily.

Science Daily also reported that astronomers have yet to find out how these black holes shine so brightly.

"The objects appear about 10 times brighter than typical stellar-mass black holes, similar to those found throughout the Milky Way galaxy. But they aren't believed to be supermassive black holes because they are not located at their galaxy's center," Discovery News reported.

According to Science Daily, astronomers speculate that the black holes seen at Caldwell 5, called "ultraluminous X-ray sources", could be intermediate-mass black holes a few thousand times the mass of our Sun.

"High-energy X-rays hold a key to unlocking the mystery surrounding these objects," Harrison was quoted in Science Daily.

"Whether they are massive black holes, or there is new physics in how they feed, the answer is going to be fascinating," she added.

Meanwhile, on the Nature Blog, University of Maryland's Cole Miller said that "it will be difficult to identify the bodies as intermediate-mass black holes without information on the orbits of the objects, which would allow astronomers to weigh them."

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