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Katrina happy that Hayden’s license was revoked

Para raw nabawasan ng tinik sa dibdib si Katrina Halili nang malaman ang desisyon ng Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) na tanggalan ng lisensiya sa pagiging duktor si Hayden Kho.

“Unang reaction (ko) parang nabawasan ako ng tinik sa dibdib ko. Kasi parang isang pabigat din yun sa akin, kasi isa yun sa mga pinaglalaban ko. Maraming salamat sa PRC sa desisyon nila na tanggalan ng lisensiya si Dr Hayden Kho kasi ipinagdasal ko talaga na sana mabigyan ng hustisya yung pinaglalaban ko," pahayag ni Katrina sa panayam ng host na si Ricky Lo, sa Startalk nitong Sabado.

Si Katrina ang naghain ng petisyon sa PRC na tanggalan ng lisensiya si Hayden kaugnay ng iskandalo ng kanilang sex video na lumabas sa Internet.

Sinabi sa Startalk na batay sa desisyon ng PRC, lumitaw na guilty si Hayden ng “immorality, dishonorable and anethical conduct, bunga ng lumabas na video scandal.

Tungkol sa hiwalay na kaso na inihain ng sexy actress kay Hayden na nakabinbin pa sa korte, sinabi ni Katrina na naghihintay pa siya ng abiso sa kanyang abogado kung kailan isasagawa ang pagdinig.

Gayunman, nakahanda umano si Katrina at lagi niyang ipinagdarasal na makuha rin niya ang hustisya sa korte. Naniniwala rin ang aktres na malaking tulong sa kanyang kaso ang naging yung desisyon ng PRC.


For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Wala rin daw nararamdamang awa si Katrina sa pagkakaalis ng lisensiya ni Hayden dahil sinira naman umano ng binata ang kanyang buhay.

“Kahit konti wala kasi kung nasira siya, sinira n’ya rin ang buhay ko di ba. At lumalaban ako dahil hindi (lang) para sa akin kundi sa lahat ng mga tao na ginawan (niya) ng kabubuyan niya," ayon sa aktres.

Maraming tumulong

Inamin din ni Katrina na nagulat siya sa bumuhos na pinansiyal na tulong nang panahon na gipit na siya sa pera nang mawalan ng trabaho dahil sa nangyaring iskandalo.

“Sobrang nagulat ako may tutulong sa akin… wala naman akong sinasabihan na wala akong pera," ayon kay Katrina. Dahil sa kontrobersiya, ilang proyekto at endorsement raw ng dalaga ang umatras at naglagi na lang siya sa bahay.

Kabilang umano sa mga nagpaabot ng tulong sa kanya ay ina ng kanyang kaibigan at mga alkalde sa kanyang lalawigan sa Palawan na nag-ambagan ng pera para ipadala sa kanya.

Kasabay nito, pinabulanan din ng aktres ang lumabas na ulat sa isang pahayag na nabuntis at nagpalaglag siya.

“Hindi ko alam saan (galing ang balita)…e araw-araw naman po nila akong nakikita tv lalo na po nang lumabas yung isyu ko di ba? Almost everyday sinusundan ako ng media," tugon niya sa tanong ni Ricky.

Sa ngayon, tuloy-tuloy na raw ang trabaho trabaho ni Katrina at makakasama na siya sa mga kontrabida sa telefantasya ng GMA 7 na Darna.

Dahil sa video sex scandal, sinabi ni Katrina na lalo siyang tumatag at tiwalang walang na siyang problemang hindi kayang harapin.

“Siguro po sa bigat ng bato na ibinato nila sa akin, sa bigat (ng problema) na hinarap ko parang wala na po sigurong rururok pa ro’n. Sana tapos na... siguro po kahit ano pang ibato nila sa akin bahala (na) sila," pagtatapos niya. - Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV

Gina Alajar speaks about her FB status on Krista Ranillo

Itinuturing lesson in life ng batikang aktres at direktor na si Gina Alajar ang ingay na nilikha ng kanyang status message sa kanyang blog na may kaugnayan kay Krista Ranillo.

Sa taped interview ng showbiz talkshow na StarTalk nitong Sabado, nagpaliwanag si Ms Gina kung papaano naging laman ng balita ang status message na inilagay niya sa kanyang Facebook account.

Ang naturang mensahe ni Gina sa social networking site ay lumabas habang papainit pa lang ang intriga sa pagkakaugnay ng batang aktres na si Krista sa Pinoy boxing hero na si Manny Pacquiao.


Sa website ng Philippine Entertainment Portal, nakalagay ang bahagi umano ng mensahe ni Ms Gina na: “If I am Jinkee Pacquiao I will not give up Manny…Krista Ranillo is not all worth it."

Ngunit ayon kay Ms Gina, wala siyang intensyon na ipakalat ang laman ng kanyang blog at naniniwala siyang maaari niyang isulat sa kanyang private account anuman na nasa isip niya.

“Nananahimik yung Facebook account e, nananahimik 'yon pinakialaman nila. Hindi ko naman ipapangalandakan ko 'yon e. Hindi ko naman sa media web site inilagay yun, hindi sa showbiz web site ko ginawa yun. Kung doon (ko inilagay) puwede mo pa ‘kong masisisi. Kaso ginawa ko sa private account ko. And everyone in Facebook, and everyone na mga kaibigan ko sa Facebook also believe na your page is your page, you can say whatever you want there," paliwanag ng batikang actress-director.

Sinabi sa ulat na hindi rin umano nagustuhan ni Gina ang pagkakagawa ng istorya ng isang showbiz talkshow tungkol sa kanyang Facebook account.

“Parang bakit naman at my expense? Bakit ka gagawa ng istorya mayroon kang gustong gawin istorya…two days after na mangyari ‘yon na ma-feature nila yung profile page ko, tumawag yung EP ng executive producer ng The Buzz," kuwento niya.

“Maraming siyang katwiran na sinabi sa akin, tapos sinabi ko na kailangan ko ng public apology, nagsabi naman siya ng oo. Pero wala pa namang lumalabas tapos nagpadala siya ng basket of fruits. Feeling ko naman, ha, prutas lang ang katapat? Prutas lang ang katapat ng pakikialam nung Facebook account ko," idinagdag ni Ms Gina.

Wala naman daw siyang mensaheng nais iparating kay Krista na minsan ding naugnay sa dati niyang asawa na si Michael de Mesa.

“Wala naman akong masasabi kasi unang-una lahat nung sinabi nila lalo na ‘yong interview sa akin about sa una nilang statement, wala naman akong masasabi kasi hindi naman isinulat (para) sa akin ‘yon. It was address to the media para maging official statement nila," pahayag niya.


For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Huwag magtiwala

Nais lang umano ng premyadong aktres na malinis at maituwid ang kuwento sa pagkakasangkot ng kanyang status message sa lumaking kontrobersiya tungkol kina Manny at Krista.

Nitong Huwebes ay nagpahayag ang abogado ng mga Ranillo na nais nilang humingi ng public apology kay Gina dahil sa negatibong isinulat nito sa kanyang blog.

“I want my name cleared kasi ang lumalabas willingly binalandra ko ‘yon, e. Sa dami ng mga nag-interview at always taped interviews lagi namang nai-edit out yung part na hindi ano merong nagbukas ng account ko, pinakalaman ang account ko. So naiiba yung konteksto, naiiba ‘pag inintebyu, naiiba ang konteksto depende kung ano yung pinapalabas sa telebisyon…nalilihis lahat," paliwanag ni Gina.

Bukod sa anak na si Geoff Eigenmann, nagpahayag din ng suporta kay Gina ang malapit nitong kaibigan na si Sandy Andolong.

“She felt betrayed by a friend. Kasi sa kaibigan din niya suppose to be nasa friend list n’ya ‘yan. But I told her minsan may mga friends na akala mo friends hindi naman pala, so be very careful," ayon kay Sandy.

Pagtatapos ni Ms Gina: “It a lesson in life pero mas tumitibay yung dapat hindi ka magtitiwala, which is so sad. Kaya lang there are some people talaga na really will just break your trust." - Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV

Corteza, Lining, Kiamco march to the Last 8 of World Ten Ball

Lee Van Corteza, Antonio Lining and Warren Kiamco stretched their respective winning runs to five in Sunday’s round-of-16 and booked their seats to the quarterfinal round of the prestigious journey.


It’s now down to the last three for the Philippines in the second World Ten Ball Championship at the World Trade Center.



The Philippines’ Warren Kiamco prepares for his next shot. GMANews.TV

But getting to the Last 8 was indeed a struggle for Corteza, who had to play 33 racks and two gut-wrenching matches before making it there.

The 30-year-old pride from Davao City had to do it the hard way before surviving former world straight ball champion Thomas Engert of Germany, 9-7.

Corteza’s triumph over Engert came just over than an hour after he pulled off a tense 9-8 come-from-behind victory over Chang Yu-Lung of Chinese-Taipei in their Last-32 match.

“Nakuha ko yung momentum ko after manalo ako sa Last-32 match kay Chang," said Corteza.

Against, Chang, he fought his way back from 2-7 down before stealing the victory.

But against Engert, he had to rely on his killer’s instinct as he pounced on the German’s miscalculated preparation on ball No.7 in the 15th rack. In the 16th, Corteza had a good breaking ball then cleaned up the table.

Lining, for his part, ended the amazing run of young Jomar de Ocampo with a 9-2 win.

The quarterfinal stint is now Lining’s highest accomplishment in a world pool championship tournament.

“Nag-Last 16 ako dati sa Cardiff, Wales nung dun pa ginagawa yung World 9-Ball," said Lining. “Maganda ang dating ng bola sa akin. After sumablay yung kalaban ko sa first game, nakatatlong run outs agad ako kaya naka-establish ako ng malaking lamang."

Kiamco, meanwhile, made his advance after edging reigning World 9-Ball champion Daryl Peach of Great Britain, 9-7.

But Dennis Orcullo, expected to waltz his way to the quarterfinal round, lost to David Alcaide of Spain, 6-9.

Alcaide was the same guy who booted out reigning Asian Games gold medalist Antonio Gabica a day earlier.

Also reaching the quarterfinal round were Li Hewen of China, defending champion Darren Appleton of Great Britain and Ruslan Chinakhov of Russia. – GMANews.TV

Lakers rout Golden State, 130-97, for fifth straight win

OAKLAND, Calif. — Kobe Bryant sat at his locker and praised Pau Gasol, both of Bryant's feet in an ice bucket and two more bags numbing each knee.

On a night when Bryant was far from his dominant self, Gasol showed what a key piece he is for the Los Angeles Lakers despite being overshadowed by superstars. They dearly missed him for the first 11 games, when Gasol was sidelined with a strained right hamstring.

Gasol scored 22 points to lead seven players in double figures and also had 12 rebounds, and the Lakers won their fifth straight game with a 130-97 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.

"Pau's just being Pau," Bryant said. "He's one of the best in the game. We missed that."

Ron Artest added 19 points, five rebounds and four assists, and Bryant had 20 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals after a slow start to help the Lakers to their highest point total of the season.

Los Angeles had plenty of offensive power to beat the Warriors for a sixth straight time, getting 13 points and five assists from Derek Fisher and 12 points and seven boards from Andrew Bynum. Reserve Shannon Brown added 17 points, including two spectacular dunks.

Monta Ellis scored 18 points and Corey Maggette had 17 points and six rebounds in Golden State's third straight game without ill coach Don Nelson, who is fighting pneumonia. Nelson is expected to miss two more games before rejoining the team for Thursday night's home game against Houston.

"Our energy level was really low," Golden State's Anthony Morrow said. "And that's not how we've been playing lately."

The Lakers won all four meetings with the Warriors last season and have swept the season series in three of the last four years.

Next up for Los Angeles on Sunday: the winless New Jersey Nets, who would have to pull off a major upset to avoid matching the worst start in NBA history at 0-17. The record for futility is held by the expansion Miami Heat (1988-89) and the Los Angeles Clippers (1999).

"I think we'll talk about that tomorrow, but I'm not that worried about this team's complacency," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "They're driving themselves and their leadership is good and they drive the players around the team. The big key is that New Jersey is going to win a game and we know that's going to happen because they have talent and they've got young talent and they play hard."

Not that the Lakers look at all beatable at the moment.

They shot 52.3 percent in the first half to Golden State's 34.8, and this one was all but decided in the opening minutes. Fans left in droves by midway through the fourth period.

Gasol shot 9-of-11 and also blocked three shots.

"I think I'm making progress," he said. "Every game I'm taking a step forward and I'm feeling better. I feel like my conditioning is better. My moves are stronger and a little bit quicker, too."

Bryant went to the bench with two fouls at the 5:59 mark of the first quarter and the Lakers used a 19-9 run without him to build a 36-22 lead heading into the second. Bryant was hit with a technical for jawing at official James Capers after being called for a charge on the other end.

He returned to start the second quarter and missed his first four shots before finally scoring his first points of the night on a putback of his own miss 8:58 before halftime. Bryant shot 8-for-20 overall.

Ronny Turiaf returned to the Warriors' lineup after missing nearly a month and 12 straight games with a sprained left knee. He had three points and four rebounds in 17 minutes.

Ellis had scored 20 or more points in six of his last seven games and 30 or more in three straight but never found a groove in shooting 8-for-19. He was averaging 37.7 points over his previous three outings.

The Warriors fell to 0-4 against the Pacific Division, including 0-2 at home.

"We played a very bad game," Warriors fill-in coach Keith Smart said. "We never got into the game. We didn't show our fans how we are able to play and have been playing." - AP

US journalists raise funds for kin of slain RP mediamen

CHICAGO, Illinois – Several news organizations in the United States have launched fund drives for the families of the Filipino journalists slain in the politically motivated killings in Maguindanao.

Los Angeles-based Media Breakfast Club (MBC) will be launching a “Support for the Orphans of Slain Journalists" (SOS-J) drive. MBC head Bobby Reyes said the group had discussed the plan among their members.
We must never forget their courage and willingness to risk their lives to get their stories to the public.
– Allen Rafalson, president of the Chicago Journalists Association

Reyes said he personally knew one of the slain journalists, Alejandro “Bong" Reblando, staff member of Manila Bulletin, who had been the MBC’s special guest in a 2001 event. [See: Journalist in Ampatuan town carnage saw himself on front page]

The darkest time in the history of Philippine media only happened in about four

Meanwhile, the Chicago Journalists Association will hold a brief ceremony for the slain journalists at their upcoming 71st annual dinner.

“Far too many men and women in our profession have been killed reporting on wars, corruption and crime. We must never forget their courage and willingness to risk their lives to get their stories to the public," said Allen Rafalson, president of the Chicago Journalists Association.

Other US media groups meanwhile, condemned the act committed against the Filipino journalists.

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), one of the biggest press organizations in the US, said the massacre would have strong repercussions for Filipino mediamen.

“The brazen act, we fear, could have a chilling effect on reporters and their work," said AAJA national president Sharon Chan.

“And to the Filipino journalism community at large, we express solidarity and offer our encouragement. We look to them to help reveal what happened in Maguindanao this week, and to continue the important journalistic role of pursuing truth and reporting without fear. We, at AAJA, stand with them on these shared principles," she added.

The number of identified journalists who had died in the November 23 massacre in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province has risen to 30, based on the list complied by GMANews.TV and the non-government, Center for International Law. [See list of slain journalists in the Maguindanao massacre here.]

New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, non-profit organization, acknowledged the government’s efforts to seek justice for the slain mediamen but stressed the need for more information on the tragedy.

“The state of emergency declared in the province must not interfere with journalists seeking access and information to report on the killings," Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator said.

“[President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo] might not be able to reverse the culture of violence that surrounds so much of political life in the Philippines, but she can certainly use this terrible incident to fight the impunity that surrounds journalists’ deaths," Dietz added. - JHU, ARCS, GMANews.TV

UAE court upholds Pinoy accountant's jail term

A court in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has upheld a two-year jail term for a Filipino accountant who was convicted for torching two offices in his former workplace.

The UAE Court of Appeals also upheld the Filipino’s deportation once he serves his jail term, according to a report on UAE news site Khaleej Times.

It referred a separate embezzlement charge against the Filipino to the UAE Court of Misdemeanors.

Last October 13, the Court of First Instance sentenced the Filipino accountant to two years in prison followed by deportation for arson.

Court records showed the female director of the company where he used to work accused him of embezzling Dh10,000 (P127,865) while he was the accountant there.

She also accused him of setting her office and his office on fire. She alleged that he had been absent from work frequently.

The Filipino admitted to the prosecutors to setting the offices on fire.

On the other hand, the criminal evidence report showed that there were marks of tampering with the safe where the money, passports and files were kept. - GMANews.TV

White House: State dinner crashers met Obama

WASHINGTON — The Virginia couple who crashed a presidential dinner met President Barack Obama in the receiving line, the White House said Friday, as a "deeply concerned and embarrassed" Secret Service acknowledged its officers failed to check whether the couple was on the guest list.

The White House released a photo showing the Salahis in the receiving line in the Blue Room with Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in whose honor the dinner was held. Obama and Michaele Salahi are smiling as she grasps his right hand with both of hers as her husband, Tareq, looks on. Singh is standing to the left of Obama.

The Secret Service earlier this week had said the president was not in danger because the couple — like others at the dinner — had gone through magnetometers. But in light of their close proximity to the president, no such claim was made Friday.

The Salahis were not on the guest list and should have been prohibited from entering last Tuesday's dinner on the WhiteHouse South Lawn for the prime minister of India, said Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan.

On Friday, Sullivan was apologetic in a written statement, saying the agency that protects the president is "deeply concerned and embarrassed" that procedures were not followed.

"As our investigation continues, appropriate measures have been taken to ensure this is not repeated," Sullivan said.

Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin said officers at the checkpoint had a clipboard with names of the invited guests. Even though the Salahis names weren't on it, they were allowed to proceed. The officers should have called either someone on the WhiteHouse staff or Secret Service personnel before allowing them past the checkpoint, Mackin said.

Earlier, Mackin said the Secret Service may pursue a criminal investigation of the Salahis.

Sullivan said, "The preliminary findings of our internal investigation have determined established protocols were not followed at an initial checkpoint, verifying that two individuals were on the guest list.

"Although these individuals went through magnetometers and other levels of screening, they should have been prohibited from entering the event entirely. That failing is ours," he said.

Sullivan said it wasn't good enough that his agency screened more than 1.2 million visitors last year to the WhiteHouse complex and protected more than 10,000 sites for the president, vice president and others.

"Even with these successes, we need to be right 100 percent of the time," he said. "While we have protocols in place to address these situations, we must ensure that they are followed each and every time."

It is unclear what the couple told officers at the checkpoint that allowed them to go through the security screening. Federal law makes it a crime to knowingly and willfully falsify statements on matters within the federal government's jurisdiction.

"As this moves closer to a criminal investigation there's less that we can say," Mackin said. "I don't want to jeopardize what could be a criminal investigation. We're not leaving any option off the table at this point."

WhiteHouse spokesman Nick Shapiro said the Secret Service will take appropriate action once the review is completed.

"The men and women of the Secret Service put their lives on the line everyday to protect us. They are heroes and they have the full confidence of the president of the United States," Shapiro said.

The Salahis lawyer, Paul Gardner, posted a comment on their Facebook page saying, "My clients were cleared by the WhiteHouse, to be there." He said more information would be forthcoming.

Several messages left at Gardner's law firm on Friday were not immediately returned.

Bravo Media has confirmed that Michaele Salahi is being considered as a participant in the upcoming "The Real Housewives of D.C." program and on the day of the dinner was being filmed around Washington by Half Yard Productions, the producer of the program.

"Half Yard Productions was told by Michaele and Tareq Salahi that they had been invited to the State Dinner. We took them at their word and filmed their preparations for the event. Half Yard Productions had no part in planning their presence at the event," said Abby Greensfelder of Half Yard Productions.

Photos on the couple's Facebook page they previously had gotten close to Obama. One photo, apparently taken in the days before Obama took the oath of office, shows the Salahis in a group shot with Obama and some of the musicians who performed at an inaugural concert.

Other photos show the Salahis in the empty, glass-enclosed box from which the Obamas watched the concert and, according to the caption, "backstage with the Secret Service at the Lincoln Memorial during the Presidential Inauguration." - AP

Twitter users irked by Indonesia exec who linked disasters to immorality

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A government minister drew sharp criticism from earthquake victims Saturday and alienated some of his Twitter followers by blaming natural disasters in Indonesia on immorality.

Communication and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring linked disasters to declining public morals when he addressed a prayer meeting in the city of Padang to mark a Muslim holiday on Friday.

"Television broadcasts that destroy morals are plentiful in this country and therefore disasters will continue to occur," national news agency Antara quoted Sembiring as saying in the Bahasa Indonesia language.

He also referred to Indonesian-made hard-core sex DVDs available in street markets as an example of growing public decadence and called for tougher laws against pornography.

Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that make the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity. A giant quake off the country on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people, half of them in Indonesia's Aceh.

A magnitude 7.6 temblor on Sept. 30 killed more than 1,000 on western Sumatra.

News of what Sembiring, a former leader of the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party, said provoked criticism Saturday from disaster victims.

Kikie Marzuki, a Muslim Aceh resident who lost 10 relatives in the tsunami, said victims were not to blame.

"I prefer to believe that natural disasters occur because of the destructive force of nature that cannot be avoided by humans," he said.

Sembiring's remarks also brought swift rebuke from some of his followers on the social interaction network Twitter.

One tweeter, who identified himself as Ari Margiono, told Sembiring his words inferred that residents of Aceh and Padang were more decadent than other Indonesians.

Sembiring did not answer his telephone Saturday, but he told the Jakarta Globe newspaper, "Disasters provide a momentum for repentance."

Not everyone disagreed with him, and his speech in Padang won the backing of an influential board of Muslim clerics, the Indonesian Ullema Council.

"Based on the religious view, a disaster could be seen as a punishment for people's sins, and could also as a reminder to us of our mistakes," prominent council member Ma'ruf Amin said. - AP

US, China set emission reduction, but pledges not enough

AMSTERDAM — Even after the U.S. and China set targets this week for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the world's combined pledges before next month's climate summit fall far short of what experts say is needed to avert dangerous global warming.

Still, emission promises by the two countries, the world's biggest polluters, added much-needed momentum as governments began final preparations for the 192-nation conference in Copenhagen, where parameters will be set for a new climate change agreement.

From Beijing to Trinidad, governments huddled Friday to plan their negotiating strategies.

China hosted India and other major developing countries a day after announcing that Beijing would cut "carbon intensity," a measure of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of production, by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, compared with levels in 2005.

The Chinese target means emissions will continue to grow as its economy expands, but at nearly half the rate they otherwise would have done.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country presides over the 27-nation European Union, said the Chinese bid was an important signal and a move in the right direction, but there was room for greater reductions.

"We feel that China could do more and we also hope to get further commitments," he said on the Web site of the EU presidency.

Unofficial calculations by U.N. climate officials said the move would put China on a path to reduce all its greenhouse gas emissions about 13 percent from "business as usual," the level those emissions would have reached without any action.

The Chinese move was expected to put pressure on India, which has failed to put forward any numbers for curbing emissions growth.

In India, where some 400 million people lack access to electricity, "climatechange is not regarded as a national priority," according to an internal U.N. assessment.

However, India's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, indicated that his country was reviewing its position after the Chinese announcement, which he described as "a wake-up call."

"We have to think hard about our climate strategy now and look for flexibility," Ramesh told The Hindustan Times.

Press Trust of India reported from Beijing that India also may accept a carbon intensity target, but not as steep as China's.

In other meetings Friday, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told a meeting of Amazon nations in his capital that rich countries must "pay the price" for preservation of the world's largest rain forest, which is considered vital for soaking carbon from the air.

British Commonwealth nations gathered in Trinidad to debate a declaration representing the common views of 53 widely divergent nations.

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who pulled his Commonwealth country out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that would have limited Canada's emissions, reversed his decision to stay away from Copenhagen after Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said they would attend.

Harper's Conservative government says it plans to cut greenhouse gases by 20 percent by 2020 from 2006 levels, which are slightly tougher than measures announced by the U.S.

The U.S. and China have yet to address the critical issue of how to raise the hundreds of billions of dollars needed annually to rescue poor countries from storms, floods and drought that are expected to become more severe as greenhouse gases worsen.

It wasn't until recently that the U.S. and China were willing to put any numbers on the table regarding carbon emission reductions.

The stalemate broke Wednesday when the White House said President Barack Obama, who will attend the Copenhagen conference Dec. 9, would pledge to reduce U.S. emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and that the U.S. would continue that downward path over the following 10 years to reach a 41 percent reduction.

The World Wildlife Fund said the U.S. pledge for 2020 translated to 4 to 5 percent below the commonly accepted benchmark year of 1990.

"It certainly doesn't bring us closer to that range of emission reduction levels that we need to see," said Kim Carstensen, WWF's climatechange director.

Scientists say the industrial countries must slash carbon emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020 below 1990 to prevent the Earth from adding two degrees Centigrade (3.6F), the minimum considered safe.

In addition, developing countries need to lower their emissions growth by 15 to 30 percent from business as usual, according to the authoritative U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on ClimateChange.

Those figures appeared in the panel's 2007 report, based on studies and computer models conducted at least two years earlier. Current studies suggest global warming is happening faster than the panel predicted.

Carstensen said the Chinese announcement left open the question of how its unilateral actions will fit into an international accord. That could emerge as one of the toughest issues in Copenhagen, he said.

China and India have insisted that any action they undertake on their own without international financing should be free of scrutiny. The industrial countries want a system to ensure that even domestic action is transparent.

"It will be so central for the negotiations that there will need to be an agreement, at least on the headlines," Carstensen told The Associated Press. Specific rules for accounting and measuring energy efficiency could be worked out next year, he said.

One proposal under discussion is for developing countries to list their plans in an international registry, but they would face no consequences if they fell short.

Despite the shortfall of the pledges, the Danish hosts of next month's conference were heartened by the Chinese and American positions, and earlier announcements from South Korea, Brazil and Russia advancing their commitments.

The U.S. rejected the Kyoto Protocol and took no federally mandated action to trim carbon emissions during George W. Bush's presidency.

The U.S. offer to reduce emissions may appear unimpressive, Denmark's Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard said, "but the U.S. seems to know that the price for coming late is that the pathway for reductions after 2020 will be extra steep."

"Governments from all over the world are delivering before the climate conference," Hedegaard said. "All across the globe, things are moving." - AP

Ampatuans deny role in grisly massacre; supporters mass up

SHARIFF AGUAK, Philippines – A member of the Ampatuan family, a powerful Muslim clan accused of staging a massacre last week of 57 civilians, including dozens of journalists, denied any involvement in the killings in a rare news conference Sunday.

Thousands of followers rallied outside while Governor Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) told reporters that his family has hired a battery of lawyers to defend his brother, Andal Ampatuan Jr., who has been detained as the main suspect in the Nov. 23 massacre.

Among the victims of the massacre that shocked the world were female members of the rival Mangudadatu clan, as well as several lawyers and journalists.

The victims were in a six-vehicle convoy on its way to the provincial capitol of Shariff Aguak to file documents for the gubernatorial candidacy of Buluan town vice mayor Ismael "Toto" Mangudadatu when waylaid by dozens of men believed to be upon orders from Ampatuan Jr.


Ampatuan said he and his father, former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., who have also been linked to the savage killings, were innocent.

“I was in Manila during the time the incident happened. I have a plane ticket as proof," Ampatuan told more than a dozen journalists in his family's mansion in Shariff Aguak township, capital of the predominantly Muslim province of Maguindanao, about 545 miles (880 kilometers) south of Manila.

He appealed to the public to respect the law and not prejudge his brother, adding he will resist a plan by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's interior secretary to suspend him and other officials of the vast autonomous region that he heads.

"We have been prejudged," he said.

Show of support

In a demonstration of support, about 30 town mayors from the region trooped to the Ampatuans' heavily fortified residence to stand with the beleaguered clan. About 2,000 followers, many of them young people, held a noisy rally outside, chanting "long live the Ampatuans."

Thousands of troops, backed by tanks, have disarmed nearly 400 militiamen loyal to the Ampatuans and have taken control of Maguindanao's seat of power in Shariff Aguak. President Arroyo came under intense domestic and international pressure to take tough actions against the Ampatuans, her longtime political allies.

Earlier, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the situation in Maguindanao is "stable" despite the massing up of supporters of the Ampatuan clan.

“Our commanders on the ground say the situation is stable. Supporters of the Ampatuan and Mangudadatu clans are gathering their supporters but we are on top of the situation," AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. said in a separate dzBB interview.

Brawner said Scout Ranger and Special Forces personnel, along with armored personnel carriers, have been deployed to the area to prevent further violence.

According to him, checkpoints set up by the military had yielded several firearms, although he did not say if these belonged to the warring clans. He also discouraged both clans from initiating mass gatherings.

All permits to carry firearms in the area have been revoked, and that authorities will file charges against violators, Brawner said. - KBK, AP with Malu Cadelina Manar, GMANews.TV

Pacquiao to file COC for congressman Tuesday

In an interview with reporters, Pacquiao said that he chose to file his COC on December 1 because it is nearer to his birthday, implying that it might bring his candidacy some good luck. The boxer’s birthday will fall on December 17, when he will turn 31.

Manny Pacquiao at Comelec announces he will file his COC on Tuesday, with the hope that people will support the party-list bid of the group Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta, of which he is national chairman.- Kim Tan


Reigning pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquaio revealed Sunday that he will be filing his certificate of candidacy (COC) for congressman in the Sarangani province on the last day - December 1.


He said his local party People's Champ Movement already has a complete slate, including governor and vice governor. “Kumpleto na, kumpleto na ang lineup ko (It’s complete, my lineup is complete)," he said.

Even though there have been talks that he will be forging a partnership with Senator Manuel Villar’s Nacionalista Party, he said they have yet to reach a final decision on the matter.

“Wala pa, matagal pa, hindi pa naman (We have no final plans yet, there’s still time left)," he said.

In 2007, Pacquiao ran for congressman in South Cotabato but lost to incumbent representative Darlene Antonino-Custodio.

Pacquiao was at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) main office on Sunday to submit the manifestation of the intention to run in the 2010 elections of the party-list group Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA), of which he is national chairman.

“Sana suportahan ninyo ang bagong PBA, ito ang tutututok sa ating mga kababayang mga atleta, kailangan nating magtulungan para maiwagayway ang ating bandila saan mang sulok ng mundo (I hope you support the PBA because this group will focus on our athletes. We really need to help each other in bringing glory to the country), he said.

Former Philippine Basketball Association player Chris Bolado and former Caloocan City Mayor Rey Malonzo accompanied Pacquiao during the filing of PBA's manifestation.

The PBA party-list group had previously run in the 2007 elections but failed to garner enough votes to get them a congressional seat. But Bolado told reporters that they are more prepared this time around, especially now that they have Pacquiao’s support. - LBG, GMANews.TV

Palace: Murder raps vs Ampatuan Jr ‘just the beginning’

The multiple murder charges against Datu Unsay, Maguindanao mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. are “just the beginning" of efforts to get to the bottom of last Monday’s massacre in the province.

Malacañang stressed this even as the Department of Justice (DOJ) is studying whether to file terrorism charges against Ampatuan and the other suspects in the carnage.

“This is only the beginning ... All investigation will be conducted regardless of who are involved. Depending on the evidence gathered and warranted by law, charges will be filed and those concerned will be brought to the bars of justice," Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said on government-run dzRB radio.

“This is what government is doing, in response to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s order to give justice to the victims. This is a heinous crime that has given shame to Filipinos," he added.

On the other hand, Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said the DOJ will study a suggestion to file terrorism charges other than multiple murder against Ampatuan.

“We thank Sen. Santiago for the suggestion and we are studying it," she said.

According to Devanadera, The DOJ is also looking into claims by supposed witnesses that some of the ammunition used in the massacre was bought from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“I call on those who have knowledge of such information to come forward. We cannot just consider this information if there is nothing to back it up," she said.

The DOJ has already issued watch list orders against other members of the Ampatuan clan, after their names had been mentioned in statements of other witnesses.

Meanwhile, Remonde reiterated that the Palace would not entertain calls to revive death penalty in the wake of the massacre. “We should leave that to the next Congress," he said. - LBG, GMANews.TV

2 Pinoy electricians face trial in UAE over power cable theft

Two Filipino electricians faced a trial court in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last weekend for stealing power cables worth Dh47,900 (P607,211) last August.

A report on UAE-based Khaleej Times described the two defendants, who are in their 40s, as an assistant electrician and an assistant foreman.

Both Filipinos stood trial in the Court of First Instance on charges of attempted theft and damage of a cable on Nov. 15.

A Yemeni police officer told the prosecutors that at about 1 a.m. of August 4, one of the defendants even called the Port Police Station to report a theft.

“He wanted to inform the police about a theft that took place on Jumeirah Palm Island," the police officer stated.

Police found out the theft took place in Marina 2 building, where the workers left two cables belonging to the company affected by the incident.

Also, workers there said the cable has gone missing since August 3, when they tried to move it to the company’s warehouse.

“We suspected they were the ones who stole the cable because they were in charge of installing the line in the same site," the Yemeni police officer said.

When questioned by police, the two electricians allegedly admitted to having planned to steal the cable when they received an order to move it to the company’s site in Jebel Ali.

They said they cut and hid it inside a garage belonging to their company.- GMANews.TV

'No diplomatic immunity for Ebarle son's killer'

His father may have diplomat status, but the suspect who shot dead the son of a Malacañang official will not enjoy diplomatic immunity, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Saturday.

DFA spokesman Eduardo Malaya said Jason Ivler could not invoke such a privilege should he be arrested in the wake of the Philippine National Police’s all-points bulletin on him.
Our records do not show Ivler is accredited as having diplomatic status, though his father is, as a principal economist of the ADB.
– DFA spokesperson Ed Malaya

“To the extent we can recall, mukhang walang binigay sa kanyang diplomatic ID (we did not issue Ivler any diplomatic ID). The best evidence of that diplomatic status is the diplomatic ID," Malaya said in an interview on dzRH radio.

“'Di pa lumalabas ang pangalan ng anak. Ang nakita namin sa record namin ang naka-accredit sa DFA yung tatay. Ang tatay nagtatrabaho sa ADB [Asian development Bank] bilang principal economist at may diplomatic status (Our records do not show Ivler is accredited as having diplomatic status, though his father is, as a principal economist of ADB)," he added.

Ivler was tagged as the suspect in the road-rage shooting of Renato Victor Ebarle Jr., 27, in Quezon City before midnight of Wednesday.

His stepfather Stephen Pollard is an ADB executive and had assured Quezon City police of his cooperation in the incident.

The vehicle used in the shooting, which had a diplomatic plate “20903," was issued to the elder Pollard.

But Malaya said that while the elder Pollard enjoys diplomatic immunity, such a privilege does not automatically apply to Ivler, who he said is in his 30s.
'HE KILLED BEFORE'

Jason Ivler, the suspect in the shooting of the son of Undersecretary Renato Ebarle Sr., presidential chief of staff, figured in a fatal car accident in 2004 along the C5–Ortigas flyover that killed Undersecretary Nestor Ponce Jr.

Ponce was then presidential assistant for resettlement in the Office of the President.

[Read: Ivler's 2004 road mishap]


“Hindi (ito) automatic. Ang diplomatic status cover sa kanyang minor children, ang recognized members of the household. Sa records namin, itong stepson na ito ay about 30 years old already. So that being the case, he would not be having anymore diplomatic status (Diplomatic
immunity is not automatic. Diplomatic status covers minor children and recognized members of the household. Our records show the stepson is about 30 years old, so diplomatic status for him is not automatically granted)," he said.

Abuse on diplomatic plates

Malaya also said the incident has prompted the DFA to review its policy on diplomatic plates.

He admitted such diplomatic plates had been abused in one way or another.

“Tinitingnan namin ang policy on the use of diplomatic plates. Pag alis sa bansa dapat i-account or i-surrender ang diplomatic plates (We will review the policy on the use of diplomatic plates, which should be accounted for or surrendered once the diplomat leaves the country)," he said, but did not elaborate.

Looking for Ivler

For its part, the PNP said all territorial and national units are now on the lookout for Ivler.

PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina said in a separate interview Ivler is also on the watch list of the Immigration Bureau.

“All territorial and national units on land, sea, or air are on the lookout for his whereabouts," Espina said in an interview on dzRH. - GMANews.TV

US newspaper circulation may be worse than it looks

SAN FRANCISCO - While US newspapers are losing subscribers at a staggering rate, a few dailies stand out because their circulation is rising. But they aren't necessarily selling more copies.

Here's why: Since April 1, new auditing rules have made it easier for newspapers to count a reader as a paying customer.

These looser standards are especially helpful to a newspaper if it sells an "electronic edition." That can include a subscriber-only Web site, such as what The Wall Street Journal has, or it can be a digital replica of a newspaper's printed product. Several dozen publications, including USA Today, sell access to these daily "e-editions" that show how the news was laid out in print.

Under the new auditing standards, if a newspaper sells a "bundled" subscription to both the print and electronic editions, the publication is often allowed to count that subscriber twice.

If not for these rules, the industry's numbers would look even worse. Average weekday circulation at 379 US newspapers fell 10.6 percent during the six months ending in September. That was the steepest decline ever recorded by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the organization that verifies how many people are paying to read publications.

It's not clear what the numbers would have been under the old auditing standards. But the effects of the new rules were widespread. There were 59 newspapers that listed at least 5,000 electronic editions in their weekday circulations, according to an Associated Press review of the figures filed with the ABC for the April-September period. In all but a few instances, the number of electronic subscribers was substantially higher than a year ago.

The decline in newspaper circulation has several causes. Many publications have intentionally reduced the range of their deliveries, cutting out exurbs or distant parts of their states where they sold relatively few copies. Higher prices for home delivery and newsstand copies also have driven some readers away. Publishers are betting they can keep their most loyal readers and are charging them more to help offset their crumbling ad sales — the main source of newspaper revenue.

Nevertheless, many newspapers are still offering discounts to bolster their circulation so they don't risk losing even more advertising revenue. The size of the audience is one factor marketers consider when they buy ads.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal was among the newspapers whose weekday circulation rose from the same time last year. Nevada's largest newspaper saw its average weekday circulation rise 6.6 percent, or nearly 11,000 subscribers, to 175,841. It was a remarkable improvement, given that weekday sales of its print edition fell by 12,000 copies and Las Vegas ranks among the cities hardest hit by the Great Recession.

How did it happen? The Review-Journal's circulation this year included 23,132 electronic editions compared with just 511 at the same time last year.

The big difference didn't occur because that many more people suddenly decided to buy the Review-Journal's digital replica of its print edition.

The change happened because the price the newspaper was charging for the online replica — it costs print customers an extra 50 cents per week — hadn't been high enough to qualify as paid circulation until the ABC's April change. That let newspapers define their paying readers as anyone who spends at least a penny for a copy. Previously, a newspaper copy had to sell for at least 25 percent of the basic price to qualify as paid circulation.

The ABC said it changed the rules to reduce its auditing costs and "provide greater pricing and marketing flexibility" for publishers.

Steve Coffeen, the Review-Journal's circulation director, said it makes sense to count the bundled subscriptions twice, as well as other people buying the electronic edition at a sharp discount, because it provides a complete picture of the newspaper's paying audience. Advertisers generally prize readers who pay for a publication, reasoning they are more likely to peruse it.

"It's important to show advertisers we are fighting the good fight and using other platforms to reach readers," Coffeen said.

That rationale makes sense to Randy Novak, director of newspaper strategy for NSA Media, one of the nation's largest buyers of newspaper ads. He doesn't see much difference between readers who are getting the newspaper at a deep discount or the standard price. He wants to reach people who care enough about the newspaper to be willing to pay for it at all.

However, another big buyer of newspaper ads says the new ABC rules made the reported circulation numbers less credible.

"You really have to do your homework now and ask newspapers about how much double counting is going on," said Allison Howald, US director of print investment at PHD Media.

A surge in digital sales propelled the York Daily Record in Pennsylvania to a 16.5 percent increase in weekday circulation — the highest among dailies selling at least 50,000 copies. The Daily Record listed 10,073 electronic editions in its latest circulation of 55,370. At the same time last year it counted just 42 electronic editions in its circulation of 47,549.

In most cases, the electronic edition is a replica of the printed product, right down to the ads. The technology even makes it possible to simulate the act of turning the pages of a paper edition. Most electronic editions are sold at a small fraction of the price for the printed edition, partly because publishers don't have to pay for newsprint or fuel to deliver the copy.

Web subscriptions were pivotal in The Wall Street Journal's growth over the past decade. The digital sales are the main reason that the Journal surpassed USA Today as the top-selling US newspaper in the April-September period. USA Today, owned by Gannett Co., still holds the edge in print circulation.

The Journal charges its print subscribers an additional 40 cents per week for unrestricted access to its Web site. Journal spokesman Robert Christie wouldn't comment on whether the new rules for counting subscribers contributed to a 14 percent increase in the newspaper's 407,002 digital subscribers. Including the print side, the Journal's total circulation edged up by just 0.6 percent to 2.02 million.

"We followed the ABC's rules and methodology," Christie said.

Some newspapers that posted circulation gains say they are picking up readers who feel abandoned by bigger publications. Cutbacks at newspapers in Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., and Nashville, Tenn., contributed to most of the 2 percent increase at the 70,000-circulation Chattanooga Times Free Press in Tennessee, said Publisher Tom Griscom. "We are keeping an eye on print and not letting it drift away," Griscom said.

A reduced emphasis on print at The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press, which now deliver to homes only three days a week, also helped Michigan's Oakland Press increase its weekday circulation 7 percent to 68,067. But electronic sales were the main factor. The newspaper listed 6,500 more electronic editions in its latest circulation numbers than it did a year ago, offsetting a slight decline in print. - AP

Canadian woman loses benefits - Facebook photo

BROMONT, Quebec – A Canadian woman on long-term sick leave for depression says she lost her benefits because her insurance agent found photos of her on Facebook in which she appeared to be having fun.

Nathalie Blanchard has been on leave from her job at IBM in Bromont, Quebec, for the last year.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Saturday she was diagnosed with major depression and was receiving monthly sick-leave benefits from insurance giant Manulife.

But the payments dried up this fall and when Blanchard called Manulife, she says she was told she was available to work because of Facebook.

She said her insurance agent described several pictures Blanchard posted on Facebook, including ones showing her having a good time at a Chippendales bar show, at her birthday party and on a sun holiday.

Blanchard said Manulife told her it's evidence she is no longer depressed. She's fighting to get her benefits reinstated and says her lawyer is exploring what the next step should be.

Blanchard told the CBC that on her doctor's advice, she tried to have fun, including nights out at her local bar with friends and short getaways to sun destinations, as a way to forget her problems.

Manulife wouldn't comment on Blanchard's case, but did say they would not deny or terminate a claim solely based on information published on Web sites such as Facebook. - AP

Ex-cabinet men gather in force to support Erap bid

Nine people who once made up former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada’s Cabinet gathered on Thursday to express support for his presidential bid.

“Ever since, we’ve been solid," said former Energy Secretary Mario Tiaoqui at the Rotary Club of Manila meeting at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City.

“I guess it’s just more of a reaffirmation of our continued support for the president," he added.

Also present in the event were former presidential spokesman Ronaldo “Dong" Puno, Bienvenido Laguesma (Labor), Benjamin Diokno (Budget), Alberto “Quasi" Romualdez (Health), Jun Rivera (Public Works), Renato “Boy" Ampil (Customs), and Rod Reyes (Press Secretary).

The former president was introduced by his former Finance secretary Jose “Titoy" Pardo, who said that Estrada continued to enjoy the solid support of his former secretaries because “he is the most transparent and most sincere" among all the presidential contenders for the 2010 polls.

Pardo added that Estrada “did not have any corrupt motives" during his term that he even gave then vice president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo a Cabinet position.

Mrs. Arroyo served as Estrada’s Social and Welfare Secretary before she resigned from his Cabinet in 2000 to join the ouster calls against him.

Estrada, who was ousted in 2001 and convicted of plunder in 2007, has been stressing his eligibility to take a second shot at the presidency.

Article VII, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution states that, “The President shall not be eligible for any re-election. No person who has succeeded as President and has served as such for more than four years shall be qualified for election to the same office at any time."

But Estrada said the Constitutional provision applies only to incumbent presidents and those who were able to serve for more than four years.

"If the incumbent President Arroyo, who had already served three and a half years as president can run for reelection as president, why will Joseph Estrada, who only served for two and a half years be barred from running again?" Estrada said.

In case the Commission on Elections and the Supreme Court allow him to run, he would be pitted against Sen. Benigno “Noynoy" Aquino III of the Liberal Party, former Defense Chief Gilberto Teodoro of Lakas-Kampi, and Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. of the Nationalista Party, among others. – Aie Balagtas See, GMANews.TV

Govt prepares to file criminal charges vs Andal Ampatuan Jr.

AMPATUAN, Philippines – Under threat of military attack, the scion of the clan suspected in the slaughter of 57 people in the southern Philippines turned himself in Thursday, and prosecutors say he will face murder charges in the country's worst election violence.

Andal Ampatuan Jr., a town mayor, maintains he had nothing to do with the ambush of a convoy carrying his political rival's family, supporters and at least 22 journalists. Their bodies — mowed down by point-blank shots and some hacked up — were found in mass graves hastily dug by a backhoe. Some were buried with their vehicles.

The baby-faced 41-year-old is heir to the Ampatuan kingdom: impoverished, rural and lawless Maguindanao province, where they have ruled for years with a reputation for ruthlessness that led few to dare to challenge them. Hundreds of pro-government militiamen in their employ have been disarmed since the massacre.


Ismael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan township, did the unthinkable when he decided to file his candidacy for governorship in May 2010 elections. Having received death threats, he sent his wife, sisters and other female relatives to submit his papers, hoping that women would be spared the kind of violence that regularly reigns in the region.

Asked by reporters if he was involved in the killings, Ampatuan, who tried to hide his face with a scarf as he was ferried from his home province, replied: "There is no truth to that. The reason I came out is to prove that I am not hiding and that I am not guilty."

Ampatuan gave himself up to presidential adviser Jesus Dureza in the provincial capital of Shariff Aguak, following days of negotiations and hours after troops and police sent in tanks, trucks and armored carriers around administrative buildings. Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno had threatened to attack the family compound unless they turned over Ampatuan by midday Thursday.

At an airport building where he was initially questioned, Ampatuan was confronted by an enraged Mangudadatu. Relatives and officials had to step in to restrain them.

"When I saw him, I wanted to chew him up, spit him out and stomp on him," Mangudadatu told reporters later.

As a helicopter carrying Ampatuan took off from Shariff Agusan, shots rang out but the aircraft was not hit, Ferrer said. It wasn't clear who fired them.

Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuno said he has instructed his staff to work overnight to prepare charges against Ampatuan. He is the only suspect named by police so far.

Zuno said he expects Ampatuan, who was brought to Manila, to be charged with multiple counts of murder Friday in southern Cotabato city, which is closest to the massacre site. The trial will take place in the capital for security reasons.

The Ampatuan clan helped President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her allies win the 2004 presidential and 2007 senatorial elections by delivering crucial votes.

After the massacre, Arroyo's ruling party expelled Ampatuan, his father and a brother.

Apart from Ampatuan, national police director Jesus Verzosa said six senior officers, including the provincial police chief and his deputy, 20 members of Ampatuan township's police station and nearly 400 militiamen were in custody, but not all were considered suspects.

The area around the provincial capital was tense and a highway dotted with military checkpoints was deserted after troops disarmed nearly 400 pro-government militiamen loyal to the Ampatuans. Such militias are meant to act as an auxiliary force to the military and police in fighting rebels and criminals but often serve as politicians' private armies.

"There's been a total misuse of our law enforcement personnel in the area, and complicity by law enforcement officers in this crime," Puno said. Those police officers "forgot that they should defend the Republic of the Philippines, not their Godfather."

Puno said there were witnesses to the massacre but refused to provide details. Mangudadatu said earlier four witnesses under his protection told him they saw Ampatuan flagging down the caravan. The four were able to turn back unnoticed, Mangudadatu told The Associated Press.

Mangudadatu said one witness "saw the gunmen stop the convoy and saw Andal Ampatuan slap my wife."

Not all of the 57 victims were part of the convoy. Police officer Felicisimo Khu, who was supervising the retrieval of bodies on a grassy hilltop in Ampatuan township, said the gunmen intercepted two other vehicles with six people who happened to be traveling on the same road at the same time — and killed and buried them too.

Arroyo vowed justice for the victims.

But with only seven months left in office before she steps down after nine years, few think she will be able to restore the rule of law in the chronically restive region that has been outside the central government's reach for generations. Maguindanao's acting governor is Sajid Ampatuan, another son of former Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., the clan's patriarch.

At least 22 journalists working for newspapers and TV and radio stations in the southern Mindanao Island region were among the dead — the most reporters killed in a single attack anywhere in the world, according to media groups.

The most senior reporter in the group was Alejandro "Bong" Reblando, 53, a former Associated Press stringer. - AP

DOJ: No evidence to link MILF in Maguindanao carnage

The Department of Justice and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) laughed off claims by detained Datu Unsay, Maguindanao Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. that the secessionist group was behind the mass slaughter of 57 people that elicited worldwide condemnation.

In a radio interview Friday, Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said none of the statements they have gathered from witnesses so far have pointed to MILF commander Ameril Umbra Kato as Ampatuan had claimed.

"Alam mo, nandoon ako. Medyo ako natawa dahil sa statement wala kaming nakitang Umbra Kato-Umbra Kato (I was there when the mayor told reporters Umbra Kato was involved. I nearly laughed because none of the statements we gathered so far pointed to Umbra Kato)," Devanadera said in an interview on dzRH radio.

She said the mayor's lawyer, who was with him when he made the claim Thursday night at the NBI, had to stop him. Lawyer Sigfrid Fortun had been earlier named as Ampatuan Jr.'s counsel.

"Buti huminto na sa pagsagot, baka ano pa sabihin niya. Pinahinto siya ng abogado (Good thing he stopped there because he might have made some wild claims. His lawyer stopped him from talking)," she said.

Early Thursday evening at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) where Ampatuan Jr. was brought to from General Santos City, the prime suspect on the November 23 massacre in Ampatuan town pointed to the MILF as the ones responsible for the slaughter. [See: Ampatuan detained at NBI, blames MILF for massacre]

"Napakadali para magbintang. Dapat may ebidensya. Wala akong kasalanan. Ang may kasalanan ay [si] MILF [Commander] Umbra Kato (It's so easy to accuse someone. There should be evidence. I'm innocent. The culprits are with MILF's Umbra Kato)," he told newsmen in a short interview while inside the NBI detention facility.

"Mga terorista ang mga iyon e (They are terrorists)," Ampatuan Jr. stressed, claiming that he was at the municipal hall when the massacre happened on Monday morning.

Rogue MILF commanders

Kato was one of the rogue MILF commanders linked to attacks in some areas in Mindanao last year, after the Supreme Court junked a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu similarly laughed off Ampatuan's claims, saying Kato does not operate in Ampatuan town where the massacre occurred.

Kabalu said Kato's unit operates mainly in Datu Piang and Kabuntalan in Maguindanao, and in Libungan, Midsayap and Aleosan in North Cotabato.

"Di na hahantong sa idawit ang MILF sa barbaric act na ito. Malinaw na malinaw ang pangyayari at saka I believe ongoing ang thorough investigation ng gobyerno (I don't think the MILF will be dragged into this barbaric act. What happened was clear and I believe the government's thorough investigation is still ongoing)," he said in an interview on dzXL radio.

"Huwag natin patulan ito, another panlilinlang ito siguro (We will not dignify this attempt to mislead investigators)," he added.

Witnesses coming out

Devanadera said more witnesses are now coming out, and more are expected to surface after they saw how Ampatuan was arrested and detained.

She also maintained the DOJ can beat the 36-hour deadline - which lapses before dawn Saturday - to file multiple murder charges against Ampatuan Jr. for the massacre.

"Napakaganda ng ebidensyang nakuha namin (Our evidence is good). This time we have more witnesses than expected, they started to come out. The message is sent, they saw we were able to incarcerate the mayor, I believe we will have more witnesses," she said.

Devanadera also disclosed there were at least 24 media representatives who were among the 57 killed. Initial reports had indicated only 12 media members killed.

Meanwhile, Devanadera said a witness who surfaced and was interviewed on Al-Jazeera television matched the testimonies given by other witnesses they had interviewed.

"Napakinggan ko siya. Ang statements niya parehong pareho sa statement ng isa naming hawak. Nakamaskara siya di ko alam kung siya yan pero pareho (I heard the interview. The statements matched those of witnesses we interviewed. But the one in the TV interview was masked, so I am not sure if he is one of the witnesses we already interviewed)," she said.

The Al-Jazeera report quoted the witness, who it identified only as Boy, as saying Mayor Ampatuan ordered the killing of all those in the convoy.

In the convoy were the wife and supporters of Buluan town Vice Mayor Ismael "Toto" Mangudadatu. Also in the convoy were journalists who were to witness the filing of candidacy of Mangudadatu for governor of Maguindanao. The COC was to be filed by Mangudadatu's wife on his behalf. - GMANews.TV

Autopsies on Maguindanao victims hampered by lack of equipment

Dr. Benito Molino, a veteran forensics consultant who observed the autopsies on Maguindanao massacre victims, said Thursday that authorities lacked the special equipment needed to gather maximum evidence from bodies already in an advanced state of decomposition.

Dr. Molino, who was engaged by non-government group CenterLaw Philippines to help investigate the massacre, said in a telephone interview with GMANews.TV that he offered to bring in a mobile X-ray machine and a radiologist, but the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) did not take up his offer.

Comprehensive X-rays on the remains could have helped locate bullet fragments and establish bullet trajectories, he noted.

"The bodies are already bloated. Certain details cannot be determined anymore, such as the proximity of the victims to the shooters," Dr. Molino said, adding that some physical evidence cannot be recovered, such as the size of the wound, because the wound is already enlarged.

In response to Dr. Molino’s request made Wednesday, he said that the NBI on Thursday morning mobilized additional forensic consultants Dr. Reynaldo Romero, Dr. Evelyn Ignacio, Armando Mancera and Marlon Domens, and Dr. Ricardo M. Rodaje – who is based in General Santos City.

As of Thursday afternoon, Dr. Molino said, at least 43 cadavers were undergoing autopsy in four different funeral parlors in Koronadal, South Cotabato province where most of the bodies were brought.

He said he pitied the government doctors who had to do the gruesome task with inadequate facilities. “They have so much work with so little."

Dr. Molino lamented that there were no refrigerators to store the bodies, nor even just air-conditioning. In a CenterLaw Philippines report, he said: “They could have at least used lime to slow down the process of composition but I did not see any indication that they did that."

"When the state of decomposition is this advanced, even identification can be questioned," he added. “But I hope they are doing their best."

"Sila na gumawa ng paraan para mabawasan yung amoy (They devised ways to reduce the stench)," Dr. Molino said of the funeral parlors where the bodies were being autopsied, adding that they made do with charcoal and mothballs.

Initial findings

Despite the limited resources for conducting proper autopsies, initial forensic findings showed that the victims suffered multiple gunshots in different parts of the body. “Mukhang (It looked like) random shooting," said Dr. Molino.

Findings also showed some signs of tissue reactions which indicate the victims might not have died instantly, and might have still been alive when they were buried. "We could not really say," Dr. Molino qualified, saying that this possibility is merely based on what he observed in the autopsy proceedings.

Dr. Rodaje, for his part, said in a separate phone interview with GMANews.TV that as of Thursday afternoon, 20 autopsies have been completed in Koronadal, adding that multiple gunshot wounds have been determined as the cause of death.

“Smooth naman yung autopsies (The autopsies went smoothly)," he said. “Hindi naman kailangan ng X-ray (X-rays were not needed)," he further said when asked about the reported offer by Dr. Molino of an X-ray machine.

So far, police investigators have not mentioned any case of beheading or clear indications of rape, as claimed by Buluan vice mayor Ismael “Toto" Mangudadatu whose wife, sister and relatives were among those killed.

Dr. Rodaje said that vaginal swabbings from the female victims have yet to be brought to Manila for analysis.

It is expected that the remaining ten autopsies in Koronadal and the eight in Tacurong will be completed by Thursday evening, he added.

He said the autopsy reports of the male victims will be released to concerned investigative agencies as soon as possible. The reports on the female victims will be released with the results of the semenology examinations to determine if there had been rape, he added. – Carmela Lapeña/JV, GMANews.TV

Arroyo allies, critics thumb down death penalty revival

Both allies and critics of the Arroyo administration thumbed down proposals to reimpose the death penalty as outrage over the Maguindanao massacre that claimed at least 57 lives triggered calls for the revival of capital punishment.

Administration standard bearer Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said innocent people are likely the ones who would suffer from such punishment due to the country’s poor justice system.

“I’m not for the death penalty. Maraming innocent na pwedeng bitayin, maniwala kayo. Kung pwede lang patawan, patawan (We could hang many innocents, believe me. We could impose death, why not), but not in the justice system we have," he told reporters after visiting Serrano Elementary School in Valenzuela City.

Senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, the vice presidential candidate of the oppositionist Liberal Party, likewise said an efficient justice system and not the death penalty was the best deterrent to crime.

"Mababalewala ang death penalty kung hindi nahuhuli, hindi napa-file-an ng kaso at hindi nako-convict ang mga salarin (Death penalty is futile if the culprits are not arrested, charged, and convicted)," he said in a phone interview with GMANews.TV.

"We must subject the suspects to due process and full investigation," he added.

Andal Ampatuan Jr., the prime suspect in last Monday's grisly massacre in Maguindanao province, is now detained at National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) office and awaiting to undergo precisely such a process. [See: Ampatuan detained at NBI, blames MILF for massacre]

Despite the gruesome murder, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said the country does not need reimposing the death penalty to arrest members of the Ampatuan clan.

The death penalty law was passed in 1992 but was abolished 14 years later in 2006 by President Gloria Macapagal right before she flew to Vatican City for an audience with the Pope.

There must be a "consensus" before the death penalty can be reimposed, House Speaker Prospero Nograles said.

"The problem there [in Maguindanao] is not a problem everywhere. Let's debate on it," he said in a text message to reporters.

"Each province is unique and governed differently by local leaders. Like Davao City, it also has death squad problems," added Nograles. – JV, GMANew.TV

Namfrel wants early polls for ARMM

Poll watchdog National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) wants the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) done a week earlier than the May 10, 2010 elections.

This was after 57 people, including women and journalists, were killed in Maguindanao last Monday in what is seen to be as the worst case of poll-related violence in the country's history.

“We urge the [Commission on Elections] to consider holding an early election in the ARMM, perhaps one week early," Namfrel said in a statement on its Web site.

Maguindanao is among the five provinces under ARMM. The others are Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.

Among the victims of the massacre were relatives of Buluan, Maguindanao vice mayor Ismael "Toto" Mangudadatu, who will run for provincial governor in next year's elections.

The victims were on a six-vehicle convoy in Ampatuan town on its way to Shariff Aguak to file Toto's certificate of candidacy when abducted and executed by a large group of armed men allegedly upon the order of Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.

The Ampatuans are known political rivals of the Mangudadatus.

Namfrel said the incident was the "ugliest" form of warlordism in Mindanao.

The group also urged the Comelec to move its Maguindanao office to another location such as the former provincial capitol in Simuay town in Sultan Kudarat, and to impose a total gun ban on ARMM now and not wait until January 2010.

To ensure a peaceful election in Maguindanao, Namfrel said the Comelec should put the entire province under its control.

Comelec commissioner Rene Sarmiento, meanwhile, said they would like to see first Malacañang's order putting Maguindanao under state of emergency before deciding on whether they would put the province under their control.

“With the Comelec control and state of emergency, it might create confusion. That’s why we have to see the executive order," he said.

Under the state of emergency, the executive department has the direct supervision on the area, while under Comelec control, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are deputized under the supervision of the poll body. - KBK, GMANews.TV

Chopper carrying Ampatuan Jr fired at, Dureza claims

Presidential Adviser on Mindanao Affairs Jesus Dureza on Thursday claimed the chopper carrying him and Maguindanao massacre suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr. was fired at while on its way from Shariff Aguak to General Santos City.

"At first I heard a noise from under us... only to find out later that we're being fired at," he said.

Engineer Zamsamin Ampatuan, undersecretary of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) and relative of Andal Jr., said the same thing.

"Tinamaan ang chopper. Tumama sa sahig ng chopper (The chopper was hit on the floor)," he said.

He said the incident occurred while the chopper was flying over Barangay Kauran in Ampatuan town, where the grisly massacre of at least 57 people, including women and journalists, happened last Monday.

Andal Jr., tagged as the mastermind in the mass killing, surrendered to authorities earlier in the day to face the investigation. He denied having a hand in the crime.

Among the victims were relatives and supporters of Buluan, Maguindanao vice mayor Ismael "Toto" Mangudadatu, whose clan has a long standing feud with the Ampatuans.

The Ampatuans are known allies of the Arroyo administration.

The police denied Dureza and Ampatuan's claim that the chopper was fired at.

"There was no such report coming from others on board the chopper," said Chief Superintendent Felicisimo Khu Jr., deputy regional director for administration of the Police Regional Office-12, in a radio interview.

He noted that Barangay Kauran is considered as a turf of the Ampatuans. - Malu Cadelina Manar/ KBK, GMANews.TV

Talk ‘N text braces for PBA war vs Burger King

After relatively playing loose against an injury-riddled team in its latest outing, Talk ‘N Text is now bracing for a real war.

Reyes
The Tropang Texters battle the Burger King Whopper Friday in a KFC-PBA Philippine Cup game at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City, which coach Chot Reyes expects to be a brute encounter.

“They are a team that’s physical and tough," said Reyes. “Coach Yeng had said that they have been side-tracked and distracted, but now they have fully recovered. I’m fully expecting the true Burger King to play on Friday."

The game, set at 5 p.m., comes two days after the Tropang Texters scored an 87-72 win over a Barangay Ginebra team that played minus its two key scorers in JayJay Helterbrand and Mark Caguioa.

Helterbrand, the league’s reigning MVP, failed to suit up due to a pinched nerve injury while Caguioa has yet to fully recover from his knee injury.

Likewise, Ginebra back-up guard Celino Cruz left the game in the second quarter after fracturing his shooting left hand.

Talk `N Text naturally took advantage of the three Ginebra players’ absence to put itself in a spot where it could stalk league-leader Alaska and second-running San Miguel as the preliminary round enters its final eight games.

“If we can find a way to be at 6-3 (win-loss) after the first round, it’s still not a bad place to be," said Reyes. “We’ll just have to make sure that our win against Ginebra means something and not lose our next game. This has been a tough week."

Burger King isn’t exactly at a pleasant position. It only has three wins in eight games, but have somehow snapped out of its three-game losing slump after beating Barako Bull last Nov. 20.

Fresh from back-to-back losses, Ginebra would want to stay in the upper half of the 10-team standings, seeking to nail down its sixth win when it takes on another team that’s fresh from a setback, Coca-Cola, in the second game at 7:30 p.m.

The Tigers were relegated to last place after absorbing a 92-84 defeat to Rain or Shine also last Wednesday. It was a contest Coca-Cola appeared to have full control of, having built a 14-point lead in the third quarter only to squander it in the face of Rain or Shine’s onslaught led by Sol Mercado and Jeff Chan’s combined 25 points in the fourth period.

Helterbrand remains a doubtful starter, although reports have it that signs of his recovery are positive.

Still, the Gin Kings will play without Cruz, aggravating their health problems since Caguioa will most likely sit it out once again.

“Have to win despite the odds," was all Ginebra coach Jong Uichico said about his thoughts on Friday night’s match-up.

Coca-Cola itself is on a losing slide. It has dropped its last four games, and will not have Asi Taulava (sprained right ankle). The Tigers are 1-4 since Taulava suffered the injury. -

Philippines' deadliest massacre tests government

AMPATUAN, Philippines – A few miles off the main highway, on a remote hilltop covered with waist-high grass, bodies lay with twisted hands reaching in the air. They had been shot point-blank.

Nearby, bodies were being laid out under banana leaves Tuesday as police — their faces covered against the stench — unearthed a mass grave containing 22 victims from Monday's ambush on an election caravan. The discovery brought the death toll to 46 — an unprecedented act of violence at the outset of the country's election season.

As many as five people remained unaccounted for.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a state of emergency in Maguindanao and a neighboring southern province, sending extra troops and police to try to impose the rule of law.

"No effort will be spared to bring justice to the victims and hold the perpetrators accountable to the full limit of the law," she said.

Few think she will be successful in the impoverished, lawless region that has been outside the central government's reach for generations, and where warlords backed by private armies go by their own rules.

Authorities said the victims included at least 13 Filipino journalists from regional newspapers, TV and radio stations who were accompanying family members and supporters of a gubernatorial candidate out to file his nomination papers for May 2010 elections.

Noynoy Espina, vice chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said as many as 20 journalists may have been in the convoy, based on reports from union chapters in the area.

The figures could not be immediately reconciled, but still the deaths marked "the largest single massacre of journalists ever," according to Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.

Dozens of gunmen intercepted the caravan as it traveled on a two-lane highway that cuts across vast open tracts of land and banana groves, police said. They took some of the people to the grassy area, where the killings started.

Authorities found 24 bullet-riddled bodies sprawled on the ground next to five abandoned vehicles.

Police, aided by a backhoe, worked most of Tuesday to extricate the bodies from the mass grave. All had been shot multiple times and were dumped on top of one another. One was a pregnant woman.

Grieving relatives helped identify their loved ones before they were given the bodies, covered by banana leaves, for burial.

The gubernatorial candidate, Ismael Mangudadatu, was not in the convoy because he had received death threats. He accused a powerful political rival from the Amputuan clan of carrying out the killings.

Mangudadatu's wife, Genalyn, and his two sisters, were among the dead, he said. In all, 21 women and 25 men died, said military spokesman Col. Jonathan Ponce.

Mangudadatu said four witnesses in his protection, whom he refused to identify, had told him the convoy was stopped by gunmen loyal to Andal Ampatuan Jr., a town mayor and rival, to prevent Mangudadatu's family from filing elections papers.

"It was really planned because they had already dug a huge hole (for the bodies)," Mangudadatu said.

He said there were reports from the area that the militia had been blocking the road for a few days.

The Ampatuans, who have ruled one of the nation's poorest regions since 2001, could not be reached for comment.

Arroyo's peace adviser Jesus Dureza said he met Tuesday with Andal Ampatuan, the family's patriarch, and received assurances that his family would cooperate in the investigation.

It was not clear how far Arroyo's administration would go in trying to force the provincial warlords to give up their weapons and private armies.

But Maguindanao's provincial police chief and three other officers were relieved of duty and confined to camp after they were reported to have been seen with the pro-government militiamen who stopped the convoy, police said.

Such militiamen are meant to act as an auxiliary force mobilized by the police or military to fight rebels and criminals, but often they act as private enforcers of local warlords.

Much of the southern island of Mindanao, including Maguindanao province, used to be ruled by fiercely independent sultans who fought Spanish and American colonizers. The political dynasties of the Ampatuans and the Mangudadatus behave in a much similar way — ruling by force, unopposed in their turfs with little outside interference.

Julkipli Wadi, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of the Philippines, said he doubted the national government's resolve in trimming the powers of political dynasties like the Ampatuans because they deliver votes during elections.

"Because of the absence of viable political institutions, powerful men are taking over," he said. "Big political forces and personalities in the national government are sustaining the warlords, especially during election time, because they rely on big families for their votes." - AP

Senate, House leaders condemn Maguindanao massacre

Leaders of both chambers of Congress on Tuesday urged the government to set aside political considerations and bring the perpetrators of the gruesome Maguindanao massacre to justice.

“Those who perpetrated this dastardly crime should be brought to justice, whoever they are, whatever their political affiliations and connections," said Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile in a statement.

Enrile said the “unparalleled violence" which claimed the lives of more than 40 people, including a big number of women and journalists, was not just a blow to peace and stability in the southern Philippines “but a blow against the rule of law, freedom and democracy."

In line with this, Enrile said all the government’s resources must be used to ensure the public that justice would be served and credible elections would take place in 2010.


'So brutal and cold-blooded'

House Speaker Prospero Nograles expressed the same sentiments in a separate statement, even as he called on the military and the police to beef up security measures to avert the escalation of violence in the area.

Nograles said what happened to Maguindanao “was already beyond political alliances" and that the masterminds must be brought to justice "even if it takes the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police to do it."

"I still cannot imagine how a man can be so brutal and cold-blooded in employing violence just to achieve one's political end. It is really unbelievable," Nograles said.

At least 46 people were abducted and later killed on Monday by gunmen allegedly led by members of the Ampatuan political clan. Most of the victims were identified with Buluan town vice mayor Datu Ismail "Toto" Mangudadatu, and included journalists.

Toto's wife, Genalyn Tiamzon-Mangudadatu, was among those killed.

AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner said some 100 armed men identified with Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. flagged down the Mangundadatu convoy while it was on the way to file Toto’s certificate of candidacy for the gubernatorial race in Maguindanao province.

Following the incident, Mrs. Arroyo placed the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City under a state of emergency and formed a crisis management committee to resolve the conflict.

‘Arroyo must resign’

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said Mrs. Arroyo should resign if she could not uphold the rule of law “because the main suspect is reportedly her man."

In another statement, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the Ampatuan clan was credited for the incredibly one-sided victory in Maguindanao of Mrs. Arroyo in the 2004 elections and of the administration senatorial candidates in 2007.

But while cheating in elections was forgettable, Lacson said, killing political opponents was a different matter.

“Such senseless killing and violence must be dealt with firmly just to show the rule of law can still prevail in a part of the country where the Ampatuans act like ‘gods,’" Lacson said, adding the perpetrators must be shot if necessary.

The Ampatuans have yet to comment publicly on the incident. However, according to Presidential Adviser on Mindanao Affairs Jesus Dureza, who met with key members of the family on Tuesday morning, they are willing to cooperate with the government’s investigations.

Dureza, who was designated head of the crisis management committee handling the incident, also said the Mangudadatus have assured that government that their family would not avenge the deaths of their relatives and supporters. – Aie Balagtas See, GMANews.TV

Prosecutor in Maggie de la Riva case named MMDA OIC

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has named a former Quezon City judge as officer-in-charge of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), replacing Bayani Fernando who resigned last Friday to prepare for his presidential bid in the May 2010 elections.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said Judge Oscar Inocentes' appointment would take effect next month.

Prior to his appointment, Inocentes served as undersecretary for political coalition affairs under the Office of the President. He also served as assistant Quezon City fiscal and member of the board of trustees of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).


Inocentes was given a presidential award by Arroyo's father, former President Diosdado Macapagal, for prosecuting the kidnap-for-ransom case against the “Big Four Syndicate" and by former President Ferdinand Marcos for the conviction of the suspects in the Maggie de la Riva case.

The announcement came less than a week after Fernando quit the administration Lakas-Kampi-CMD party to pursue his political ambitions. He will be running as an independent candidate next year. - Aie Balagtas See/KK, GMANews.TV

In Maguindanao, spared journalists are thankful for being late

Sometimes, it pays to be late.

Such was the case for journalist Joseph Jubelag, a Maguindanao-based correspondent for a national daily, who signed up for covering what local media there considered as a major news event.

On Monday November 24, the relatives of Buluan town Vice Mayor Datu Esmail "Toto" Mangudadatu had set forth on a journey to the provincial capital, Shariff Aguak, to file a certificate of candidacy on his behalf.

Toto, who belongs to a powerful political clan in southern Philippines, was planning to run as governor of Maguindanao, which is the turf of the Ampatuans – another powerful clan and a known rival.

It was clearly a tinderbox scenario.

The Mangudadatu and Ampatuan clans, both aligned with the Arroyo administration, used to be allies but later turned into bitter rivals. Photo shows Buluan vice mayor Toto Mangudadatu (left) and ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan. Malu Manar/Ronald Navarro
Jubelag and more than 30 other journalists rode with the convoy to the capital town. While on the road to Shariff Aguak, however, Jubelag and his other colleagues riding in one of the vans decided to break off from the group.

Aquiles Zonio, a Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent in Mindanao who was with Jubelag in the same van, recalled the incident.

"Si Joseph, nakikiusap na dumaan muna kami sa hotel, kasi kukunin niya raw ang laptop niya at mag-c-CR siya sandali," Zonio recalled in a radio interview.


(Joseph was requesting that we go back to our hotel because he had to fetch his laptop and needed to use the bathroom.)

Despite knowing that they might miss the main event and end up having no story to file, Jubelag’s group took their chances and stopped over at the hotel.

Zonio later found out that Jubelag insisted on going back to the hotel not only to pick up stuff he forgot, but particularly because he was having doubts about the trip.

"Iyong assessment ko lang sa situation. Kasi, bago kami umalis, sinabi na ng Mangudadatu na hindi pumunta ang military at PNP para sa security (That was how I assessed the situation, because before we set off, the Mangudadatus already told us that the military and PNP did not provide any security)," Jubelag said.

"Inisip ko kasi ang aming safety (That’s because I was thinking about our own safety)," he added.

The two journalists said the Mangudadatu camp earlier made separate requests to the military and the police to provide escorts for the convoy.

The provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato City - all shaded in red - were placed under a state of emergency after the death of at least 22 people in Maguindanao. Google Maps

On both occasions, their requests were "turned down," Zonio said. Nevertheless, the convoy pushed through with the trip.

During Zonio's hotel stopover, building personnel told him about two unidentified men who had asked for the names of all the journalists joining the convoy.

When the hotel staff members were unable to produce any list, the two men left. But the odd incident fuelled Jubelag and Zonio's fears that they were under surveillance and were not safe in the convoy.

"Sabi ko, huwag na tayo tumuloy dahil parang hindi maganda ang sitwasyon (I told them, let’s not proceed because the situation doesn’t look good)," Zonio said.

Zonio, Jubelag, and a third journalist not identified in the radio interview, all agreed to just stay in the hotel and wait for their colleagues to return from Shariff Aguak.

The three must have spent time thinking of other ways to write the story that they were sure to miss.

Bodies of victims of the 'Maguindanao massacre' were recovered inside and near their abandoned vans in Ampatuan town. courtesy of Supt. Siegfredo Ramos of the ARMM-PRO
As it turned out, none of their colleagues returned alive.

The three reporters would later find out that almost the entire convoy numbering almost 50 people, including their media colleagues, were stopped by about a hundred armed men, and then brutally slaughtered like animals by the roadside.

Now, the three surviving reporters will have to write that thankless story anyway, if only to honor their colleagues who paid with their lives. – JV, GMANews.TV

Arroyo schedules 50th visit to Pampanga

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will visit Pampanga province Wednesday - the 50th
time so far this year - this time to inspect a dredging project.

A Malacañang statement Tuesday night said the dredging involves the Sapang Maragul-Antipolo River by the Mt. Pinatubo Rehabilitation Project Management Office (MPR-PMO).



The Palace said Mrs. Arroyo will take a five-minute boat ride from the Masantol wharf to the dredging site, adding the project is due for completion Dec. 16.

"The Sapang Maragul-Antipolog River is one of the tributaries that serve as outlets for Macabebe and Masantol. Dredging will speed up the water flow," the Palace said.

Macabebe and Masantol are in the province's fourth district.

The visit further bolsters speculation Mrs. Arroyo will run for congresswoman in her home province in 2010, while her allies push to shift to a parliamentary form of government.

Under a parliamentary form of government, Mrs. Arroyo can run for Prime Minister. However, Mrs. Arroyo has so far kept mum on her political plans. - GMANews.TV

Noynoy wants Chiz to be LP's campaign manager

Presidential aspirant Sen. Benigno “Noynoy" Aquino III on Tuesday made an offer to Sen. Francis “Chiz" Escudero: to be his party's campaign manager.

“Kung gugustuhin po niya, dahil si Butch Abad ay naghahanap ng katulong (If he wants it, because Butch Abad is looking for someone to help him)," Aquino said.

Abad is the campaign manager of Aquino’s political group, the Liberal Party (LP).

Earlier Tuesday, Escudero, who recently bolted out of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), announced that he is abandoning his presidential plans in next year’s elections, saying he is not ready for it.

Aquino said he would try to convince Escudero to join his team.

“Lalapitan ko siya, papakiusapan kung pupuwedeng gusto niyang sumama sa krusada naming baguhin ang lipunang ito (I’ll try to convince him to join our crusade of changing this society)," he said.

Aquino said his recent meeting with Escudero had nothing to do with Escudero’s decision.

“Halos wala namang bagong binanggit sa atin si Chiz noong nag-usap kami (He didn’t say anything new when we talked), nothing towards today’s decision," Aquino said.

Another LP member, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, urged Escudero to support the tandem of Aquino and Senator Manuel “Mar" Roxas II.

“We encourage him now to support the candidacies of Noy and Mar. We all need to unite behind the true reform agenda our country desperately needs," he said.

Pangilinan gave up his plan to run as an independent vice presidential candidate to support the Aquino-Roxas ticket. - Amita Legaspi/KBK, GMANews.TV

No Comelec control yet for Maguindanao - Melo

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is not yet keen on putting the entire Maguindanao province under its control despite Monday’s massacre that killed dozens of people, including several journalists.

“As of the moment, the Comelec is not yet ready to have the province under Comelec control, but if the situation worsens then we will definitely consider putting that province under [our] control," Chairman Jose Melo told reporters in a press conference Tuesday.

The election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) earlier in the day called on the Comelec to immediately place Maguindanao under its control to prevent the further escalation of violence.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has placed Maguindanao - as well as Sultan Kudarat province and Cotabato City - under state of emergency to prevent the further escalation of violence in southwestern Mindanao.

Once an area is put under Comelec control, the poll body’s officials will serve as the acting provincial governor or mayor during the election period, according to Commissioner Rene Sarmiento.

The area will also be under the “supervision" and “control" of the police, he added.

Latest figures from the military and police pegged the number of victims at 46 with the recovery of 22 more bodies in a hillside mass grave Tuesday. On Monday, 24 bullet-riddled bodies were recovered near the scene of the massacre.

The victims - journalists, supporters and relatives of gubernatorial candidate Ismael “Toto" Mangudadatu - were abducted and later on executed by dozens of gunmen allegedly connected with the powerful Ampatuan clan.

The victims were traveling through Amputuan township Monday to file the candidacy documents in behalf of Toto in the provincial capital for the May 2010 elections. The Mangudadatus and the Ampatuans have a long-standing political rivalry.

PPCRV chairperson Henrietta de Villa suggested the disarmament of all relatives and supporters of the two warring camps in Maguindanao.

Melo said they are prepared to disqualify candidates who are proven to be linked to the brutal killings. “If they [suspects] are political candidates or political office holders, we will be ready to disqualify them if they are linked to these killings," he said.

Commissioner Elias Yusoph, a Muslim, said the Comelec is condemning “in strongest term" the massacre. He added that the crime could not have been perpetrated by followers of the Islamic faith.

“Islam opposes killing, and even in war women are spared. So whoever is responsible for this should answer for it because Muslims are peaceful people and these [killings] are not done by Muslims," he said. - with AP/KK GMANews.TV