Thursday, 30 July 2009

Yap’s marching orders from Cory: Play for flag

James Yap has been given an all-important instruction he’s bound to follow. According to Powerade-Team Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao: “I’ve been informed that Tita Cory (former President Corazon Aquino) instructed (her son-in-law) James to keep on playing for the country."

James Yap, center, will have to continue his stint for Team Pilipinas as instructed by his ailing mother-in-law, former President Corazon Aquino. Guiao of course, has been a known close family friend of the former Chief Executive, who's currently battling cancer. His late father, one-time Pampanga Governor Bren Guiao, was a close ally of Mrs. Aquino during her term, while Yeng himself had her as godmother during his wedding. He said the 27-year-old Yap apparently got Mrs. Aquino’s order when he visited her at the Makati Medical Center last week shortly upon arriving from Chinese-Taipei, where the RP men’s team was seeing action in the 31st William Jones Cup basketball tournament. Yap is husband of Aquino’s youngest child, popular movie and TV personality Kris, with whom he has a three-year old son. Mrs. Aquino has been confined at the hospital for more than a month now due to colon cancer. Next week, the Nationals are bound for Tianjin, China to compete in the FIBA-Asia tilt, the tournament that serves as qualifier for the World Basketball Championship next year in Turkey. The FIBA Asia meet is set August 6-16, with Yap considered the best pure-shooter in the 12-man roster mostly composed of professional players. Guiao believes Yap, a former PBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) and star player of Purefoods, is bound to follow the wish of her ailing mother-in-law. Despite her condition, Ma’am (former President Corazon Aquino) still knows that this is a service James (Yap) will have to do for the country. – Yeng Guiao, Team Pilipinas coach “Knowing James, I believe na gagawin niya yun," he said. Yap didn’t suit up in the RP team’s last two games in the Jones Cup against Taiwan-B and Iran as he hurriedly returned to the country to personally see Mrs. Aquino. “The coaching staff saw the need for him to go back. Kailangan siyang umuwi dahil mas priority naman talaga yun," said Guiao of his decision to allow Yap to come home ahead of the team.

Perhaps so as not to distract Yap when faced with the same situation come the FIBA-Asia meet, Mrs. Aquino deemed it wise to urge her son-in-law to give his service for the country first instead of minding her. “Despite her condition, Ma’am still knows that this is a service James will have to do for the country," Guiao added. -

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Apple to unveil tablet computer: reports

WASHINGTON (AFP) - – What's next from Apple? According to various reports, the California-based company plans to come out later this year with a portable tablet-sized computer that can surf the Web and may also serve as an electronic book reader.

London's Financial Times was the latest publication on Monday to report on the long-rumored device from the company behind the iconic Macintosh computer, the iPod and the iPhone.

The FT story follows reports in Silicon Valley technology blogs that Apple was developing a new touch-screen computer described by some as a large-screen iPod Touch.

Apple was hoping to offer the tablet computer in time for the Christmas shopping season, according to the newspaper, which said the device would have a screen that may measure up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) diagonally.

It would be able to connect to the Internet like the iPod Touch, allowing access to Apple's online stores, but probably would not have phone capability.

"It's going to be fabulous for watching movies," an unidentified entertainment executive told the FT.

The newspaper said book publishers have also been in talks with Apple about offering books on the new device, which could emerge as a potential rival to Amazon's popular Kindle electronic reader.

Apple, the FT said, is simultaneously working with the four largest record labels -- EMI, Sony Music, Warner Music and Universal Music Group -- on a project codenamed "Cocktail" aimed at stimulating digital sales of albums.

Album sales have fallen sharply as consumers opt for purchases of individual songs from online stores like Apple's iTunes.

"Cocktail" would offer interactive features, such as lyric sheets, photos and videos with music album downloads.

"It's all about re-creating the heyday of the album when you would sit around with your friends looking at the artwork, while you listened to the music," an unidentified executive told the newspaper.

The FT did not reveal any details about the price of the planned tablet computer.

Apple is traditionally highly secretive about projects under development, revealing them only at launch and guarding zealously against leaks.

Monday, 27 July 2009

No classes in Metro Manila on Monday

No classes in Metro Manila on Monday

MANILA -- Education officials on Saturday announced the cancellation of classes in all levels in Metro Manila on Monday, July 27 in anticipation of President Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address and Iglesia Ni Cristo’s grand anniversary. Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Emmanuel Angeles told radio dzMM they had decided to cancel classes on Monday due to the traffic that will be caused by the 95th celebration of the Iglesia ni Cristo. “Inaasahan natin ang mga taga Iglesia ni Cristo from provinces na pumunta sa Manila for their anniversary, so malamang na magkaroon ng problema sa trapiko,” Angeles said in an interview over dzMM. Angeles said the cancellation is only for schools in Metro Manila. Meanwhile, Teresita Domalanta, National Capital Region chief of the Department of Education also announced the suspension of classes in the elementary and secondary levels. “Dahil po sa dalawang malaking okasyon sa darating na Lunes, nagpasya kaming isuspindi muna ang klase,” she said. President Arroyo is scheduled to deliver her 9th and last State of the Nation Address at 4 p.m. Activists have also organized various anti-SONA protests which will culminate on Monday. Earlier, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) and San Sebastian College-Recoletos Manila announced the suspension of their classes. According to a media advisory sent by the PUP Public Affairs Office, the suspension of classes applies to all its campuses and branches all over the country. “PUP President Dante Guevarra wants the politically-oriented and socially aware PUP students to have the once in a lifetime opportunity to listen to the great speech of the President of the Philippines,” the advisory stated. For its part, San Sebastian said demonstrators are expected to converge near their front gate at Legarda corner C.M. Recto. "This convergence may possibly bring an unfavorable scenario that may endanger the students, teachers and employees of SSC-R Manila," the school said.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Cory camp denies death rumor

The spokesperson of former President Corazon Aquino has denied reports the former leader has succumbed to colon cancer. “It’s not true,” said Deedee Siytangco, former President Corazon Aquino’s spokesperson in a telephone interview with Yahoo! Philippines when asked about the report. “If there’s anything to be announced, it would be them who will do so,” she said.

“The family appreciates the concern for the mother but if it does not come from any of the five kids and the grandsons or her nephew, she’s not yet (gone),” said Siytangco. However, the spokesman admitted Aquino’s condition has not improved with her continued loss of appetite.

She also said family’s mood has been quite gloomy. “They’ve been not very well,” she added. Siytangco reiterated that visitors were still not allowed at the Makati Medical Center, where Aquino has been confined. She has been battling with colon cancer since 2008 and has been confined since last month.

In a separate interview, Jiggy Cruz, Aquino’s grandson said that Aquino was getting pain relievers. “She’s stable yesterday. She’s getting pain relievers and she’s asleep now,” he said. Cruz, who was at the hospital at the time of interview, also clarified the former president was not on a life support system. However, he said the former leader could not talk well.

“She’s having a hard time to talk so it’s either a yes or a no for her,” said Cruz. “We’re all here. We’ve been praying the rosary together,” he added.

A text message claiming Aquino has succumbed to colon cancer circulated late Friday, prompting the British Embassy to send its condolences to the family. A staff member of Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, however, declared that she was still alive but in “critical condition.”

Aquino’s supporters had been tying yellow ribbons in Makati City and Manila to show their continued support for the ailing leader.

The British Embassy has issued an apology after it sent its condolences to the Aquino family.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wished a speedy recovery for the former president.

Aquino, who has been diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer, was hospitalized for loss of appetite. She is the widow of assassinated opposition leader Benigno Aquino. The assassination sparked a “people power” revolt in 1986 that led to ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Have you tied a yellow ribbon to support Aquino?

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Fil-Am activist recounts 'ordeal' before CHR

MANILA, Philippines - The Filipino-American activist who alleged that she was abducted two months ago testified yesterday before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), recounting her six-day “ordeal” and saying that she saw the faces of some of her alleged abductors who she could recognize if she would them again.

Melissa Roxas, 31, a member of Bayan-USA, tried several times not to break down while recalling her alleged abduction and torture by supposed military men during the CHR’s public hearing on her case.

She cried when she began narrating how she was dragged from a house in Tarlac into a blue van, where she was subsequently blindfolded and handcuffed and brought to an undisclosed place.

Roxas said 15 armed men suddenly barged into the house they were staying at in Barangay Bagong Sikat in La Paz, Tarlac in the afternoon of May 19 this year.

She said she and her two companions, Juanito Carabeo, in his early 50s, and John Edward Handoc, 21, were watching a popular noontime show when men brandishing long firearms and wearing ski masks forcibly took them.

Roxas recalled that a man in a maroon shirt was told to punch her as she vehemently refused to be blindfolded and gagged by a tape and repeatedly shouted her name, hoping that some other people around would hear her.

She said shouting her name as many times she could “was the only thing I can do” at the time.

“I kept ripping the tape the men were trying to put on my mouth,” Roxas said. “I don’t want to go with them. I don’t want to get in that van. They were holding me and punching me, dragging me (toward the van).”

“I was the last one (they hurled in the van). They had a hard time with me… They were too powerful for me,” she said.

Inside the van, Roxas said the man in the maroon shirt sat beside her and took off his ski mask, and at this point, she claimed she was able to see one side of his face.

“I said to him, ‘Maawa ka sa akin, kuya,’” recalled Roxas. Then the man subsequently put his ski mask back on and they blindfolded her.

She said she vomited while they were in transit. And in “my sense of time,” she said they probably traveled for about an hour, with a smooth ride on a concrete pavement and a bumpy road, similar to a graveled path, as they slowed down probably nearing their destination.

She said she walked barefoot all throughout because the armed men took her from the house without any slippers or shoes on.

While in captivity, Roxas said, “There were people always watching.” She said she heard radio communications, gunshots from a supposed firing range, and sounds from aircraft, an ongoing construction and goats.

Trembling and crying, she said her six-day detention inside what she believed was a military camp was tough and dangerous since she was subjected by almost ceaseless and hostile interrogation by her captors, prodding her to admit her association with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

“They were choking me, I couldn’t breathe… slapping me… punching me… hitting me on the chest… banged my head on the wall,” she recalled.

“They covered my head with a plastic bag… with the plastic sticking to my nose as I tried to breathe… when I wasn’t breathing anymore (for quite a long while) then they took off the bag,” she added.

Major Gen. Ralph Villanueva, commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, failed to show up during the CHR hearing. His representatives said he was in Mindanao, visiting his battalion that was sent there.

Col. Leonido Bongcawil, chief of staff of Villanueva, and Lt. Col. Hernilo Barrios, a lawyer, said they could not believe what Roxas recounted before the CHR.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

(UPDATE) First-ever Binibining Pilipinas winner dies

MANILA - Celebrities and fashion designers poured out their grief, just moments after first-ever Binibining Pilipinas winner Maria Myrna Sese Panlilio died of gall bladder disease at the Makati Medical Center last night. Binibining Pilipinas-Universe and actress Maria Isabel Lopez, who had once knocked horns with Panlilio, feels sorry about her death. Lopez, speaking sadly, said she had already forgiven Panlilio for barring her from attending the Bb. Pilipinas coronation night at the Araneta Coliseum last May. Panlilio cited Lopez's sexy image during the 1980s. “I respected and understood what she had to do that time,” Lopez said. "I pray for her soul. I am sure she's happy now with the Lord." Lopez said she will pay her last respects to Panlilio's remains at the Sanctuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park. Panlilio was an officer of the Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc., which former beauty titlist Stella Marquez-Araneta heads. She was also the Executive Director of the Nayong Pilipino. She developed a number of tourist attractions on the site and actively campaigned for the advancement of Philippine tourism. Panlilio, who married Dr. Ramon N. Borromeo, was also a socio-civic leader and TV co-host of beauty expert Ricky Reyes. When she represented the country at the 1964 Miss Universe, she relished opportunities to socialize. During the beauty pageant's socials events, she attended a Democratic Convention at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, California. Society writer Bob Zozobrado said that early last year, on Panlilio's 65th birthday, she hosted a soiree at the Philippine International Convention Center to help raise funds for cancer victims. This year, she held a simpler party, but her friends and colleagues in the tourism business took time out to donate to her cause just the same. The death of her daughter, fashion model Patricia Borromeo, in 2003 prompted Panlilio to form the Trisha P. Borromeo Legacy Association, which aims to support the University of the Philippines- Philippine General Hospital Pediatric Cancer Ward. Patricia, known to all show business people as actor Richard Gomez’s ex-sweetheart, was a very charming lady just like her mom. Goulle Gorospe, a noted fashion designer who used to dress up Bb. Binibining Pilipinas contestants, said Panlilio was a gracious woman. “Ang bait-bait niya. Siya ang epitome ng kagandahan at kasosyalan,” Gorospe said. The late beauty icon, according to Gorospe, was a noted member of high society. “The last time I saw her was during actress Liberty Ilagan’s birthday last week. She was so gorgeous. Para siyang hindi tumatanda. I told her she’s lucky to have been associated with both people from show biz and the elite. She just chuckled,” Gorospe reminisced. Gorospe said he felt sad when Panlilio’s name was dragged into the Maria Isabel Lopez controversy. “I think it wasn’t Myrna’s real sentiment. She was just following orders from above,” shared Gorospe.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

NBI identifies body of girl in suitcase

MANILA, Philippines - The National Bureau of Investigation positively identified yesterday the body found inside a suitcase floating in Manila Bay in North Harbor way back in 2007 as that of Geraldine Palma, a seven-year-old child who went missing also during that time.

“We have already established this time that the body recovered from the breakwater is that of Dindin (Geraldine) Palma through the DNA result released by the bureau. I understand that the case is ongoing. It is really kidnapping. With this development, we will be filing a motion to amend the information from ‘kidnapping’ to ‘kidnapping with homicide’ because we are positive about the identity,” said Deputy Director for Technical Services Reynaldo Esmeralda during a press conference held at the NBI headquarters in Manila. “What is important is our scientific finding proving that Dindin Palma was positively identified through the DNA,” said Esmeralda.

The DNA tests were conducted in the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Sarajevo, Bosnia. The one-page consolidated report of the NBI dated March 24, 2009 said, based on the above findings, the following conclusions were made.

“The partial female DNA profile generated from the portion of femur from un­identified female child was found consistent with half of the profile from Felma Estravela; and there is a 99.99 percent probability that the femur originated from Geraldine Palma than if it is from another individual unrelated to Felma Estravela,” said the DNA report.

Gerald Palma, 56, of 136 4th St., Riverside Village, Pasig City, is known as the father of the victim, the DNA report said. Felma Estravela, 27, of Block 2, Lakas Tao Floodway, Cainta, Rizal, is known as the mother of the victim, the DNA report said.

Geraldine, known as Dindin to her relatives and family, went to school at the St. Paul’s College in Pasig City. Esmeralda also said that the results, which are now conclusive, showed that Gerald Palma is not the biological father of Geraldine. The DNA also showed that Felma, is the mother of Geraldine. Estravela is the live-in partner of Gerald, who has identified himself as the father of Geraldine. Esmeralda, on the other hand, said it does not matter in their case that the father did not say he was not the biological father of Geraldine. “We informed the mother about the DNA test. At least they were comforted by the fact that the body recovered is that of her daughter,” said Esmeralda.

For his part, the NBI Special Task Force, which handles the case, said that they will be furnishing copies of the DNA test results to the Pasig Regional Trial Court where one of the cases was filed by the NBI. The case filed was against Geraldine’s nanny identified as Maritess Ontog, who went missing the same time Geraldine was kidnapped. She is a primary suspect in the kidnapping case.

The NBI said Ontog is still missing as of yesterday afternoon. Five other suspects have already been arrested by the Manila Police District and charged with kidnapping with homicide.

Special Investigator III Darwin Francisco, of the STF, said the defense in the Manila RTC case questioned the identity of the body. He said the court will be issuing a “subpoena duces tecum” to subpoena the documents on the report of the NBI. He said they will also furnish the MPD a copy of the DNA test results to strengthen the police’s case against the five arrested suspects.

Francisco said the “Dindin Palma case” was first handled by the Presidential Anti-Crime and Emergency Response (PACER), which handles kidnapping cases. However, Francisco said there were problems in the negotiations for the release of Geraldine. Then, eventually, after a few days, Geraldine’s body was found inside a suitcase floating on Manila Bay.

“We filed a case against Maritess Ontog before the Pasig RTC. With the police’s case, five persons have been arrested and detained at the Manila City Jail. Manila RTC Branch 5 handled the case. They were charged with kidnapping with homicide by the Manila Prosecutor’s Office,” he said.

DNA tests

Francisco said there were DNA tests made in the Philippines, but these were inconclusive since there was too much formaline in the body found. It was contaminated, he said. The two were made in the NBI forensics lab and the other was in the University of the Philippines Natural Science and Research Institute. Both were inconclusive. The DNA specimens used were portions of the femur, liver and right thigh muscle tissues. He said the NBI will provide the police the DNA test results. The Manila City prosecutors will be the ones who will amend the information. The NBI will only be concerned with the amendments of the case in the Pasig RTC where they filed the case against Ontog, he said.

The MPD had arrested in 2007 Renato Bohol, alias Rick-rick, who earlier surrendered to the civil military operation battalion and turned over to the MPD. The other suspect, Joey Nodalo, was arrested in Bulacan by the police. Henry Tesado, Ramil Diorico and Rosdam Mesias were also arrested later on by the police.

Francisco said it cannot be concluded that no rape occurred even with the medico legal report.

Francisco also suspected that Ontog may also have been murdered since she has been missing for so long. The NBI has launched a manhunt against Ontog. Francisco said the NBI requested on Sept. 9, 2008 ICMP of Bosnia to conduct the latest DNA tests.

A DNA sample from the femur, or thigh bone, of the victim was sent to ICMP. The final consolidated report of ICMP and the NBI-DNA tests was finished on March 24, 2009. But it was just signed recently by the forensic experts who conducted the tests, said the NBI. Suspicions were also made earlier by the NBI that Geraldine was killed for insurance, but later on this was not pursued.

Geraldine was reported missing on Aug. 11, 2007. She was last seen with her nanny Ontog and the victim’s family has received ransom demand for her release. However, five days later, on Aug. 16, 2007, a girl’s body was found stuffed in a green traveling suitcase floating on Manila Bay off the North Harbor. There were speculations that she was raped before she was killed, but NBI later on said no rape was committed

Friday, 10 July 2009

Do You Care?

Comelec to tap 80,000 IT people for 2010 elections

MANILA, Philippines — With the obstacles to poll automation for the 2010 elections almost all cleared, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is now looking for information technology (IT) people to handle the voting machines.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento on Thursday said at least 80,000 IT personnel are needed to assist board of elections inspectors (BEIs) in the forthcoming polls.

RELATED LINKS» Smartmatic Backgrounder» Report/ Recommendation on the 2010 Automation Elections Project Procurement» Comelec to trim down polling precincts by 70%Anticipating the possibility that not enough public school teachers would be able to fill the required staff, the Comelec plans to tap IT personnel from various government agencies.

Should that still not be enough, the Comelec might tap the private sector, Sarmiento said.

He explained that the Comelec is allowed to tap IT-capable persons to be present in each precinct during Election Day.

Only those accredited by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) would be tapped, he added. Sarmiento said the mechanics of tapping IT people will be up for discussion at the Comelec very soon.

With the signing of a contract designating Smartmatic and Total Information Management (TIM) as the automation partner of the Comelec for the May 2010 elections, the poll body said it will go ahead with the clustering of the 250,000 precincts used in the 2007 polls to reduce these down to only 80,000 precincts.

Under the P7.2 million contract, Smartmatic and TIM will supply the 82,500 voting machines for the 2010 elections, with 2,500 machines serving as backup. One precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine is to cover about 1,000 voters.

Aside from the reduced number of precincts, the number of personnel manning the precincts will also be significantly reduced.

In the 2007 elections, the Comelec had to tap private school teachers to serve as members of the BEIs due to lack of public school teachers.

Records of the Department of Education (DepEd) showed that it had only 500,000 teachers during that most recent election, short of the 750,000 teachers required to serve as election inspectors. While Smartmatic Corp and TIM have promised to send their own computer technicians to manage the voting machines, the Comelec said such technicians won’t be allowed inside polling precincts.

Sarmiento said the law is specifically states that only BEI members and the IT-capable person are allowed inside polling precincts.