Sunday, August 30, 2009

Erap 99.9% sure he'll run again

MANILA - Former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada is 99.9% sure of making another bid for the presidency after realizing that opposition unity is no longer possible, his spokesman said on Saturday.

Margaux Salcedo, Estrada's spokesman, said at a forum that after Estrada talked to Senators Manuel Villar and Mar Roxas, it appears the two other opposition candidates are already bent on running for the presidency, which makes opposition unity in 2010 virtually impossible.

Salcedo said Estrada has been frustrated by efforts to unite and field a single candidate against the administration, which is why he [Estrada] is "99.9% sure to run."

However, she added there are still many possibilities, with over three months still to go before the deadline for the filing of certificate of candidacy for the 2010 elections closes on November 30.

Salcedo said the opposition's experience in the 2004 elections showed that the administration has a better chance of winning if the opposition is divided.

In 2004, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo narrowly defeated opposition bet, the late movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., in a five-way race. Many believe Poe would have won if third placer Senator Panfilo Lacson withdrew from the race.

Estrada eligible to run

Meanwhile, a former dean of the UP College of Law believes Estrada is qualified to run again despite a provision in the 1987 Constitution that says a president is only eligible for a six-year term.

Dean Froilan Bacungan said the provision in the 1987 Constitution which says, "The President shall not be eligible for any re-election," does not apply to Estrada.

He said the Constitution provides that "election may no longer be allowed if an incumbent president has served for four years." Estrada is not an incumbent president and served for only two and a half years, from June 1998-January 2001. His term was cut short by military-backed people power revolt.

Aside from this, Salcedo also said that the Constitution states that whoever the next President will be is dependent upon who the people want to lead them. This is the principle behind a democracy.

She said it is for the people to decide whether Estrada should be reelected.

Last Wednesday, former Senate President Jovito Salonga predicted that the 2010 presidential elections will be a two-way fight between Senators Manuel Villar and Mar Roxas since he believes the Supreme Court will disqualify Estrada.

“In the ultimate analysis, ang maglalaban siguro, subject to qualifications, sina Manny Villar at Mar Roxas,” Salonga told reporters

Salonga said the Supreme Court will still have to decide on the presidential bid of Estrada. He said he doubts if Estrada is qualified to seek re-election. “Sa paniwala nya, lagi siyang qualified. May duda ako,” he told reporters.

Estrada was convicted of plunder in 2007 although President Arroyo immediately granted him pardon and restored his civil and political rights.

Network offers 'Wowowee' settlement

The legal counsel of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board on Tuesday asked the complainants against TV station ABS-CBN, which is under fire in connection with host Willie Revillame's alleged unethical behavior in his show "Wowowee", to appear before the board Thursday for a possible settlement with the network's management.

Jonathan S. Presquito, MTRCB chief legal counsel, said the complainants should come to their office at President's Tower on Timog Ave. in Quezon City at 1:30 p.m. Thursday to consider the network's proposed a settlement.

Revillame, 48, filed an indefinite leave of absence from ABS-CBN as a result of the barrage of criticisms hurled against him for allegedly showing disrespect to the late President Corazon Aquino during the transfer of Cory's remains from the De La Salle gym to the Manila Cathedral which was aired live at the same time that "Wowowee" was airing.

Aside from the alleged discourtesy to Mrs. Aquino, the TV host was also condemned by concerned citizens over his alleged offensive hosting style.

Last August 11, Presquito filed a consolidated complaint against Revillame based on the statements of at least three aggrieved parties identified as Arlene de Guzman-Ronquillo; Edward Berador and a certain "M. Ballesteros."

Also named respondents in the six-page complaint were ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation; Socorro Vidanes, ABS-CBN vice president for TV programming and entertainment; and Raymond Ronquillo, estranged husband of Arlene and a resident of 40 Spinach St., Valle Verde 5, Pasig City.

Arlene claimed that Revillame caused psychological pain on her three children - aged three, 11 and 12 - when he teased her estranged husband for a "Wowowee" dancer in at least five separate airings of the game show from March to July this year.

She said her two older children refused to go to school after they were subjected to humiliation by classmates who either viewed or heard about Revillame's uncalled for statements.

Arlene claimed that the two are now undergoing "psychological consultation".

Her eldest daughter also launched an "anti-Willie" campaign through her Facebook account.

The two other complainants called the attention of the MTRCB over "Wowowee's" alleged failure to comply with its Parental Guidance rating by repeatedly showing dancers in skimpy attires.

Presquito asked the MTRCB to impose a preventive suspension on "Wowowee's" showing of "indecent and obscene" performances while the investigations are ongoing.

The MTRCB has set another hearing on the issue on September 3, it was learned.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tourist plane skids off runway at Manila airport

MANILA (AFP) - – A plane carrying 32 people from the Philippines resort island of Boracay skidded off the runway after landing at Manila's main international airport on Sunday, officials said.

The small plane belonging to SEAIR, a local airline mainly serving tourist routes, was hit by crosswinds as it came in to land but no one was hurt in the incident, said airport official Harold Balucatin.

The plane got stuck in the grass at the side of the runway, he said. The runway was temporarily closed while repair crews tried to move the plane, which suffered damage to its landing gear.

The plane was returning from Caticlan, the town that serves the foreign tourists, one of the country's leading beach resorts, airport officials said.

Neither airport nor airline officials were able to say if there were any foreign tourists aboard the plane.

The accident came less than a month after a hard landing by a SEAIR plane at Caticlan airport forced flights there to be briefly suspended.

In January, at least two passengers were seriously injured when a small plane operated by Zest Airways missed the runway on landing and smashed into a concrete wall at the Caticlan airport.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Filipino elected vice president of UN rights council body

A Filipino has been unanimously elected vice president of the United Nations Human Rights Council's advisory committee.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the official, Purificacion Valera-Quisumbing, presidential envoy for human rights and humanitarian law, was elected unanimously on August 6.

“It is an honor for me to accept this important position. I feel it is fitting for the Philippines to be acknowledged as an advocate for human rights in the global arena. Tita Cory was a symbol of our national quest for justice and freedom, and we must remain true to her spirit and reverence for human rights," Quisumbing said in an article on the DFA website (

The HRC advisory committee is the expert think-tank body of the UN Human Rights Council, of which the Philippines is a founding member.

Some 17 independent human rights experts comprise the advisory committee, which conducts studies and accomplishes tasks given to it by member states.

Ambassador Erlinda Basilio, the Philippines permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, served as vice president of the Human Rights Council representing the Asian Group of states from June 2008 to June 2009.

One of the most significant tasks given to the advisory committee is the elaboration of a draft UN Declaration on Human Rights Education.

The DFA said the Philippines plays a leading role in this task, with Quisumbing’s inclusion as a member of the drafting group which is preparing the initial text for consideration of the council.

Also, the Philippines is a member of the cross-regional Platform for Human Rights Education and Training composed of delegations from Costa Rica, Italy, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland.

The Platform supports the efforts of the advisory committee in preparing a draft UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I have never profited from my office - GMA

MANILA, Philippines - President Arroyo maintained yesterday that she has never and will never use her position for personal profit even as she strongly denied manipulating her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) that showed her net worth doubling in the last eight years.

Her lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, said the President vehemently denied “any report or speculation alleging defect or her non-compliance with the law in filing her SALN.”

A report from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) said that based on her SALNs, Mrs. Arroyo’s declared net worth more than doubled from P66.8 million in 2001 to P143.54 million in 2008, or bigger than the combined growth in declared wealth of her three immediate predecessors, including former President Joseph Estrada, who was convicted for plunder.

“The President reiterates that she has never used and will never use or take advantage of her position for personal profit as she had declared in her State of the Nation Address and as expected of her by the people,” Macalintal told a news conference at the Palace that was also attended by First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo’s lawyer, Ruy Rondain.

He said he spoke over the phone with the President who was in Ilocos Norte yesterday and received instruction that he speak for her on the matter. She did not sound upset, he said.

He said Mrs. Arroyo prepared and signed her SALN under oath to the best of her knowledge and in full compliance with the Constitution.

“She honestly believes that she has been very transparent on her assets and liabilities and she has nothing to hide,” Macalintal said.

He said the report insinuating irregularities in the preparation of her SALN “is most unfair and uncalled for.”

He said the report “would accuse the President’s SALN as somewhat irregular just because she reported an amount bigger or higher than her predecessors.”

“We do not know what standard used by the reporter in coming up with her analysis. It is as if that if you reported a big asset, this must be investigated; if small, it’s okay and there should be no more investigation,” Macalintal said.

He said Mrs. Arroyo is inviting anyone to question before the Office of the Ombudsman, where the SALNs are filed, “if he or she has any evidence that the President violated or did not comply with the constitutional requirements in the filing of such disclosure documents.”

He said the President filed her SALNs in good faith and without any intention to deceive anyone.

“Those who alleged otherwise should come up with evidence to prove their uncalled for or self-serving accusations instead of being speculative or judgmental on the matter,” he said.

Macalintal and Rondain said if there were any vagueness in the SALNs, the Office of the Ombudsman should have already pointed out the matter to the First Couple.

Rondain also criticized the article’s use of the term “token compliance” to describe the First Couple’s handling of the requirements of the law.

“Under the law, there’s no such thing as token compliance. Either you comply with the law, with the requirements or you don’t comply. Either you’re alive or dead,” Rondain said.

On the issue of the alleged non-disclosure of the First Couple’s business in the stock market, he said the data is open and available in the records of the Philippine Stock Exchange.

“My feeling is that if the PCIJ has any evidence, it would be better if they bring it out. Because the report is just full of insinuations,” Rondain said.

“It’s a clear indication that democracy is in action in the Philippines and nobody is prevented from making this report but of course the President expects the report to have evidence and not based on speculations,” Macalintal said.

A lot of explaining to do

Senators said the president has a lot of explaining to do regarding the allegations in the PCIJ report.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said every public official should account for the wealth he has acquired as stated in the Constitution and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Sen. Manuel Roxas II said the Office of the Ombudsman should be the one to look into accountability of a public officials but it was unfortunate that the anti-graft body was sitting on many scandals involving the Arroyo government.

“Of course it will raise eyebrows and the people will wait for an explanation on how it happened because she has no other businesses that can be the source of (her additional wealth),” Roxas said.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said it would be wise to check the income taxes filed by Mrs. Arroyo.

Enrile said the figures must be justified. “I’m a lawyer, I know how to handle that,” he said.

Roxas said if the President and her financial advisers would say she earned from her shares of stocks, it would be good to check the rates at the time she said she made money out of them.

Sen. Francis Escudero said he had not seen the SALNs of the President but that her salary was considerably low.

Moreover, he said, there is always conflict of interest when a president ventures into a business.

“There is also a worldwide crisis not only in the Philippines, so you wonder why her wealth grew much bigger considering ordinary interest rates, ordinary return on investments on any business that one gets into,” Escudero said.

“I hope she will put that in her SALNs, the explanations of where her wealth came from and that she must be transparent along with the public officials,” Escudero said.

Escudero said it’s doubtful that the wealth had been acquired legally by the President and that her lawyers’ defense should be examined in detail.


The United Opposition (UNO) said it is seriously concerned over reports of “exponential growth” in the wealth of President Arroyo and her family during her term, which exceeded the growth in the wealth of all the three presidents before her, spokesman Ernesto Maceda said yesterday.

“The PCIJ report confirms what people have long known. Arroyo has flouted the rules on accountability and transparency in government and has made a bad example for the million and a half other civil servants running the government,” Maceda said.

“Now we know why she has made token compliance to the requirement of regularly stating a public official’s assets. It’s because she has much to hide. In her eight years in office, Arroyo’s declared net worth more than doubled, from P66.8 million in 2001 to P143.54 million in 2008. The increase of P76.74 million represents a growth rate of 114 percent.” Maceda said quoting the PCIJ report.

Maceda said the PCIJ report showed that the late President Corazon C. Aquino’s declared net worth grew by only 4.8 percent from 1989 to 1992.

He said, by comparison, Fidel V. Ramos’ rose by 34.2 percent from 1992 to 1998, and Joseph ‘Erap’ Ejercito Estrada’s, by 7.2 percent from 1998 to 1999.

If various allowances are thrown in, Mrs. Arroyo’s monthly pay would total P100,000 at most or P1.2 million a year before tax. Yet even then, this represents only 10 percent of the P10.97-million average annual increase in Mrs. Arroyo’s net worth since 2001.

The president’s SALNs, however, offer few clues to explain the big difference, or whether she has other lawful sources of income.

PCIJ said that since 2001, the president has apparently taken the path of “token compliance” instead of going for full disclosure in form and substance of her assets and liabilities, in accordance with the Constitution. As a result, her SALNs in the last eight years have been remarkably full of gaps in data.

Allies come to GMA’s defense

Mrs. Arroyo’s allies at the House of Representatives defended her from insinuations that she had enriched herself during her eight years in office.

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III saw nothing wrong in Mrs. Arroyo’s net worth since her wealth came from legitimate sources.

“Baka nga interes lang ng pera iyan sa bangko o kaya sa stocks, shares and other investments,” he said.

“Critics are trying to throw everything because they have no more legitimate issues to raise. It is very clear that politics is behind everything.”

Camiguin Rep. Pedro Romualdo said the report on Mrs. Arroyo’s wealth is incomplete.

“It should have included details about the increase on President Arroyo’s net worth,” he said.

Romualdo said being an economist, Mrs. Arroyo had made some good significant investments that earned dividends.

“It seems that the battle among newspapers to boost its circulations is to report negative stories,” he said.

“How about good news? What happened to the positive gains of this administration? Do these good stories and positive achievements of the administration have been given enough space and prominence?” — with Aurea Calica , Jose Rodel Clapano, Delon Porcalla, Jess Diaz

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Hacker attacks silence Twitter, slow Facebook

SAN FRANCISCO - Twitter and Facebook said they suffered service problems from hacker attacks on Thursday, raising speculation of a coordinated campaign against the world's most popular online social networks.

Twitter, the popular micro-blogging service, was knocked down by a malicious attack that prevented people from accessing its website for several hours on Thursday.

Facebook members saw delays logging in and posting to their online profiles, which the social networking site said was related to an "apparent distributed denial of service attack."

Facebook was working with Twitter and Internet search company Google Inc to investigate further, said a person familiar with Facebook but who was not authorized to speak to the press.

Speculation swirled on the Internet that other social networking sites had also come under attack, after relatively lesser-known site LiveJournal said it too had been targeted by hackers on Thursday. But those rumors could not be confirmed.

The incidents follow a wave of similar cyber attacks in July that disrupted access to several high-profile U.S. and South Korean websites, including the White House site. South Korea's spy agency said at the time that North Korea might have been behind the attacks.

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said on Twitter's blog that the site was the victim of a denial-of-service attack, a technique in which hackers overwhelm a website's servers with communications requests.

"We are defending against this attack now and will continue to update our status blog as we continue to defend and later investigate," Stone wrote.

A separate Twitter status Web page said later on Thursday that the site was back up, but that Twitter was continuing to recover from the attack.

Google said in an emailed statement that it was in contact with some non-Google sites that were impacted by Thursday's attacks to help investigate.

"Google systems prevented substantive impact to our services," the statement said.


Motives for denial-of-service attacks range from political to rabble-rousing to extortion, with criminal groups increasingly threatening to hobble popular websites that don't pay demanded fees, according to security experts.

Twitter's newfound fame makes it an easy target for hackers, said Steve Gibson, the president of Internet security research firm Gibson Research Corp.

Twitter, which lets users publish short, 140-character messages to groups of online "followers," is one of the fastest-growing Internet companies.

The number of worldwide unique visitors to the Twitter website reached 44.5 million in June, up 15-fold year-over- year, according to comScore data.

Security experts said a single group could have been behind the problems on Twitter, Facebook and the other sites as hackers evolve their ability to attack multiple sites at once.

"History would tell us that it's probably the same attacker or group of attackers that is launching both attacks," said Kevin Prince, the chief technology officer of security services provider Perimeter eSecurity.

A representative for blogging website LiveJournal said the site was also affected by a cyber attack for about one hour on Thursday morning.

While the company "can't be 100 percent sure that it was the same attacks as on Twitter, Facebook, et al, it would be a huge coincidence if they aren't tied to one another," said LiveJournal representative Tim Smith.

A denial-of-service attack on Twitter would be particularly effective since "it's going to be very visible to a huge population of people who have now, to some degree, become dependent on this next-generation, real-time service," said Gibson.

Some Twitter users appeared to be taking the incident in stride.

"It's just an annoyance. Remember Twitter was down in 2007 and 2008 all the time," said Robert Scobble, a commentator on the technology industry who boasts 93,000 "followers" on Twitter, referring to a period when Twitter's rapid traffic growth occasionally led to several service disruptions.

For lawyer Zabi Nowald, it was just another day -- Twitter or no Twitter -- as he headed to work in downtown Los Angeles with a laptop in one hand and a Blackberry in the other.

"None of my friends do Twitter; none of my employers do," said Nowald, 27. "It affects my life zero. I lost something I never had."

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Ramos-Horta pays homage to Cory, Filipino people

MANILA, Philippines -- East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta said today (Aug.5) he admires the Filipinos' resiliency in the face of adversity.

"Filipinos have always smiled and hoped. They are very resilient," said Ramos-Horta when he arrived this afternoon at the Manila Memorial Park in Paranaque City to pay his last respects to former President Corazon Aquino.

Ramos-Horta also underscored the importance of the Edsa People Power Revolution, which ousted the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. The peaceful uprising was spearheaded by the church, civil society groups, the then political opposition headed by Mrs. Aquino and ordinary citizens.

"This was the first democratic movement in Southeast Asia," he said, noting that many Filipino priests and nuns are working as missionaries in East Timor, which has also experienced several political upheavals in the past.

Ramos-Horta said he wants to pay homage to Mrs. Aquino whom he last met in August 2008 for her contributions to empowering the Filipino people and for her role an "icon of democracy."

Though not a state funeral, today's farewell for Mrs. Aquino was well attended by tens of thousands of mourners who braved the rains and traffic. Ramos-Horta said he made the decision to attend the last rites for Mrs. Aquino since he was a journalist in East Timor before he became the head of state.

He also disclosed that there is no scheduled meeting with President Arroyo after the burial for Mrs. Aquino.

Ramos-Horta and his entourage arrived in Manila at around 4 a.m. today. He will fly back to East Timor tomorrow

Monday, August 03, 2009

Thousands line streets for Cory

Just like Ninoy's funeral in August 1983

MANILA - An estimated crowd of 17,000 lined the whole length of Ayala Avenue in Makati City and thousands more viewed the funeral convoy of former President Corazon Aquino as she was brought to Manila Cathedral from La Salle Green Hills on Monday.

In scenes reminiscent of the 1986 People Power revolution that catapulted Aquino to the presidency, Makati employees threw confetti out of their office windows while the electronic ticker outside the Insular Life Building on Paseo de Roxas-Ayala Avenue flashed pictures of Aquino and the words "Paalam, Cory."

Footage taken by ABS-CBN's Sky Patrol showed the crowds flashing the "L" for Laban sign, which was popularized during Aquino's presidential campaign in 1986. Others clapped and cheered as Aquino's funeral convoy pulled in close near the Benigno Aquino monument on Ayala Avenue corner Paseo de Roxas.

Escorted by around 50 policemen, Aquino's funeral convoy left De La Salle Greenhills Gym in Mandaluyong City around 11 a.m. enroute to the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros Monday.

Aquino's coffin was loaded on a flatbed trailer, which was adorned with yellow and white flowers.

The presidential cortege passed through EDSA, then right on Ayala Avenue in Makati. It is expected to turn left on Buendia, then right on South Luzon Expressway. It will then turn left on President Quirino Avenue and right on Roxas Blvd., then finally right on Intramuros.

Supporters of the former president also showered the convoy with yellow confetti and released yellow balloons as it reached EDSA-Ayala Avenue.

Tarlac Bishop Florentino Sinese earlier celebrated Mass at the De La Salle Greenhills Gym before the convoy left.

In his homily, Sinese said Filipinos see in Cory "the best in each and everyone of us."

"The more we praise her, the more we reveal that we too desire to be like her. May these stories continue to be told and better still may these stories unfold forever," he said.

Sinese said critics of the former president often criticized her for always resorting to prayer in everything. "Prayer cannot be a last recourse but instead the first recourse in everything," he said.

"Certainly, Cory Aquino was not perfect but her imperfections were never an excuse not to govern and rule wisely. As we pay tribute to our beloved former president may we not only heap praises on a dead person but instead let her lfe and virtues challenge us to strive to do even better. We all dream to have a better country. She did her share. We also must do our own share," he said.

Sen. Mar Roxas, meanwhile, filed a resolution declaring January 25, the date of birth of former President Corazon Aquino, as “Cory Aquino Day.”

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Saguisag: It's like 1986 again

MANILA - Through her death, former President Corazon Aquino has reunited the Filipino people once again, the late president's former spokesperson said Saturday.

"I think today, the Fillipino nation is again united the way it was in 1986. Ninety-nine percent are very admiring, sympathetic and grateful for what she and Ninoy have done for us," human rights lawyer Rene Saguisag, Mrs. Aquino's former presidential spokesman and legal adviser, told radio dzMM in an interview.

Saguisag said he had mixed feelings of pain and relief when he learned about Mrs. Aquino's death.

“Of course it’s painful, but at the same time, relieved that she is now beyond all pain,” he said.

He said the last time he saw the former president was in early 2008 when he was recuperating from the injuries from a car accident that killed his wife.

"Mahigit isang oras na consoling me, comforting me. That was early 2008," Saguisag said.

He remembers Mrs. Aquino as how she is perceived by all Filipinos--a true symbol of democracy. He said Mrs. Aquino did not only restore democracy in the country, she practiced it during her administration from 1986 until 1992.

Saguisag was one of the many opposition figures who convinced Mrs. Aquino to run for president against Marcos. He served as Mrs. Aquino's campaign spokesman and was eventually appointed presidential spokesman and legal adviser.

He said it was also Mrs. Aquino who convinced him, through his late wife, to run for senator in 1987.

"Ayaw ko rin namang pasukan iyon, pinatawag ang asawa ko. They had a very tearful session in the guest house," Saguisag said.

Saguisag said that from 1987 to 1992, Mrs. Aquino practiced what she preached.