Sunday, October 25, 2009

Villar on ‘Wowowee’ gives away 6 houses, lots to OFWs

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Manuel Villar turned up yesterday on ABS-CBN’s noontime show “Wowowee” hosted by Willie Revillame and gave away houses and lots to six overseas Filipino workers.
He handed symbolic house keys and land titles to Sarah Felecio of Negros Occidental, Marnelli Recabar of Iloilo, Rosemarie Jaca of Romblon, Judith Vicente representing Hazel Vicente also of Romblon, Jennifer Sonbise representing Joanne Sonbise of Parañaque and Jolinald Chan representing Jenny Chan of Manila.
The fully furnished two-story, two-bedroom townhouses, each with a market price of P1.2 million, are located at the Villar-owned subdivisions Camella Seville in Caloocan City and Camelle Lessandra in Molino, Bacoor, Cavite.
Villar, who was accompanied and assisted by his daughter Camille, thanked the studio crew and the show audience for giving him the chance to help OFWs fulfill their lifelong dream to own a house.
“It is important that we are part of the fulfillment of their dreams. I myself was once poor, so I feel their suffering, their problems. As I’ve said earlier, it is imperative that families have their own houses, which will give them a chance to be together,” Villar said, lamenting that Filipinos had to go abroad to be able to feed their families.
The six new homeowners were contestants of the show’s “Willie of Fortune,” a special segment dedicated to migrant workers.
While at the studio watching the show with his daughter, Villar was requested by Revillame to grant him the personal favor of giving select contestants a house and lot.
Villar quickly agreed.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Manny-Loren shaping up

Legarda turns down offer to run with Teodoro

MANILA, Philippines – The possible tandem of Senators Manuel “Manny” Villar and Loren Legarda for 2010 took shape Saturday as he closed the door on a teamup with Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, the administration standard-bearer.
With Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno pulling out of the vice presidential race, the administration’s Lakas-Kampi-CMD was pressing Legarda to form a tandem with Teodoro.
To sweeten that offer, the ruling party said it was not averse to coalescing with Legarda’s party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition. It’s actually the NPC’s decision, according to Lakas-Kampi-CMD secretary general Gabriel Claudio.
“She continues to be a viable, desirable running mate to Gibo. That is certainly open and seriously considered by the party,” Claudio said by phone on Friday night.
But Legarda is not biting.
“With due respect, gratitude and admiration for Gibo, I hope that he can share my advocacy and platform … even as I stay with the opposition,” she told the Inquirer yesterday on the phone.
Asked about the chances of a teamup with Villar, the standard-bearer of the Nacionalista Party (NP), Legarda said:
“I am quietly, deeply reflecting on who could best help me accomplish my goals for the people.
“I will only consider it if he accepts my platform on sustainable development, good governance and climate change adaptation, and priority on migrant workers, which is so close to my heart.”
Legarda had earlier revealed that she was being courted by Villar, Teodoro, and Senator Francis Escudero, the presumptive standard-bearer of the NPC.
Same advocacies
Villar could not be reached on the phone.
Sought for comment, NP spokesman Gilbert Remulla heaped praise on Legarda, saying she was “an advocate of the same issues and programs that Senator Villar has been pursuing for the last two decades, which are OFWs [overseas Filipino workers] and the environment.”
“Her politics is only secondary to her advocacies, and that is the basis of a true leader,” Remulla said.
Legarda declared her intention to run for vice president at a press conference that followed a Friday rally at the Rizal Park where she launched her “green” candidacy. But she did not say whether she would run under her party, and who she would be running with.
Hours earlier, Puno announced that he would no longer run in tandem with Teodoro in order to focus on the rehabilitation of areas devastated by the recent back-to-back storms.
Legarda said she found Teodoro “intelligent and a man with integrity.”
“Amid the call of the times due to the recent typhoons, it’s not easy to be defense secretary, doing the work of an NDCC [National Disaster Coordinating Council] head while trying to campaign [for president],” Legarda said.
She said that despite her decision not to team up with Teodoro, they would still find a reason to work together in pursuit of her advocacies.
Escudero spurned?
Lakas-Kampi-CMD had been holding talks with Legarda for her to run with Teodoro under its banner. It is to hold a national convention on November 12 where Teodoro, his running mate and senatorial candidates are to be proclaimed.
There are reports that NPC chairman emeritus Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco has changed his mind about bankrolling Escudero’s presidential candidacy.
If the reports are true, these would free Legarda and clear the way for a coalition between Lakas and the NPC for the 2010 polls, said Claudio, who advises President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on political matters.
“It was previously presumed that NPC would have its own candidate for president. There’s a lot of speculation – indication that Senator Escudero just might not be endorsed by the party itself. So that gives rise to the prospects of a Lakas-NPC coalition,” Claudio said.
Only weeks ago, the Escudero-Legarda tandem appeared to be a done deal, with the two senators starting to map out their national campaign strategy.
Escudero was to have announced his presidential run early this month.
But in a surprise move, he deferred his announcement, purportedly in deference to the rescue and relief operations for typhoon victims.
Ball in NPC court
Claudio said the ruling party had no objection to a coalition with NPC, which, if formalized, could be the institutional basis for “a Gibo-Loren tandem.”
Party officials had described the tandem as “a potent combination.”
“[But] this is something we can’t decide unilaterally,” Claudio said.
Yesterday, he sent this text message: “The ball is in NPC’s court.”
Claudio said it was the League of Provinces of the Philippines that had endorsed the Teodoro-Legarda tandem as a condition for the coalition of the ruling party and the NPC.
There is a “rainbow coalition” of Lakas, Kampi, NPC and other parties in the House of Representatives, but none has been forged at the national level.
On the other hand, an NP stalwart said negotiations were ongoing for an NPC-NP alliance.
One issue being resolved is Legarda’s request to stay with the NPC in deference to Danding Cojuangco, said the source, who is privy to the talks but asked not to be named for lack of authority from Villar to discuss the matter publicly.
The NP stalwart admitted that the Villar camp was engaged in one of its most vital negotiations to defeat the Liberal Party tandem of Senators Benigno Aquino III and Manuel “Mar” Roxas.
Vilma et al.
As for Batangas Governor Vilma Santos running for vice president under the administration banner, Claudio said the ruling party had yet to get “a formal declaration of availability or non-availability” from her.
“No truth to that,” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said over the state-run dzRB. “Somebody told me – I think it was Gabby [Claudio] – that there’s nothing definite about Vilma. Somebody just floated the idea that she could run as VP.”
If the party fails to get Legarda, or even Santos, to team up with Teodoro, it can fall back on its allies, Claudio said.
He named some of them as Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, both Lakas-Kampi-CMD members, and Tourism Secretary Ace Durano of the NPC.
“If [the NPC] will not allow Senator Legarda to be Gibo’s running mate, Lakas-Kampi will proceed to field somebody from its own ranks, where other excellent materials for vice president, can be drawn,” he said.
Popular VP candidate
A ranking Lakas-Kampi-CMD executive conceded that if the administration’s problem was Teodoro’s low popularity, “then obviously we will go for a popular vice presidential candidate.”
He said the administration actually had “a stable of ‘vice presidentiables.’”
To those named by Claudio he added business leader Manuel V. Pangilinan and actor and TV host Edu Manzano.
He cited Pangilinan’s “financial clout and muscle,” Garcia’s “Visayan bailiwick” and Manzano’s “celebrity appeal.”
But a governor from the Visayas said both Garcia and Durano had refused the offer to become Teodoro’s running mate.
Revilla is said to prefer the senatorial race where he is practically a sure winner, if recent survey results are any indication.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Are you a Facebook addict?

MANILA - Facebook users beware. Psychologists are now probing a new kind of addiction called Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD).

Psychologist Dr. Michael Fenichel, who has published numerous writings on FAD online, describes it as a situation in which Facebook usage "overtakes" daily activities like waking up, getting dressed, using the telephone, or checking e-mail.

"The amazing thing is that, like cellphones, nobody seems to notice the vast amount of time and energy - at work, at home, and now while on the move - people are devoting to Facebook. It has become a given," Fenichel writes in an online post titled "Facebook Addiction Disorder- A New Challenge?"

FAD could be classified under the more broad "internet addiction disorder" or internet overuse.

Academic papers have already posed theories on internet addiction and social networking addiction, and even less, cellphone addiction.

"Like most activities, moderation and integration are key. Those that may seriously label and treat FAD as a behavioral addiction will clearly need to use context in determining if a behavior has become demonstrably harmful to overall social, work, or face-to-face interpersonal efficacy," Fenichel added.

You are a Facebook addict if...

According to Joanna Lipari, a clinical psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles who was interviewed for a CNN report, here are some signs that you are addicted to Facebook:

1. You lose sleep over Facebook. When using Facebook becomes a compulsion and you spend entire nights logged on to the site, causing you to become tired the next day.

2. You spend more than an hour a day on Facebook. Lipari said it is difficult to define how much is too much when it comes to Facebook usage, but that an average person need only spend half an hour on the site.

3. You become obsessed with old loves or exes you reconnect with on Facebook.

4. You ignore work in favor of Facebook. This means you do not do your job in order to sneak time on Facebook.

5. The thought of getting off Facebook leaves you in cold sweat. If you try going a day without Facebook and it causes you stress and anxiety, this means you need help.

According to the same report by Elizabeth Cohen, Senior CNN Medical Correspondent, Facebook addiction is not yet an actual medical diagnosis.

However, the report notes that several therapists in the United States have noticed a rise in the number of clients who get hooked on social networking, to the point of social dysfunction.

Facebook fun

Facebook, launched by the world's youngest billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, has over 300 million users worldwide, half of whom log on to the site every day.

Further, about 2 billion photos and 14 million videos are uploaded on various Facebook pages a month and about 6 billion minutes are spent on Facebook a day, worldwide.

According to Willis Wee, founder of the social media and marketing blog, this is twice as much time that people spend on Google.

The global social networking website allows users to post and share content (like photos, links, videos, and notes), play casual games and applications, and interact with friends and family through messaging and chat.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Countries with the Biggest Gaps Between Rich and Poor

The U.N. Development Program recently came out with a report looking, among other things, at income inequality worldwide.

The UNDP ranked countries and regions based on a number of factors, including their Gini coefficient, named for Italian statistician Corrado Gini.

We have listed the world's most advanced economies based on their Gini score, with zero marking absolute equality and 100 absolute inequality. Scandinavian countries, Japan, and the Czech Republic have the least amount of inequality. The U.S. is among the most unequal, but it's not No. 1. To see which economy is, read on.

Top 11 Countries With the Biggest Gaps Between Rich and Poor

No. 1 Hong Kong

ED Jones/AFP/Getty Images, PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Gini score: 43.4
GDP 2007 (US$ billions): 207.2
Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 2.0
Richest 10%: 34.9
Ratio of income or expenditure, share of top 10% to lowest 10%: 17.8

Renowned for its high concentration of Rolls-Royces, expensive real estate, and posh shops, the Chinese special administrative region has plenty of rich who enjoy showing off their wealth. However, Hong Kong also has one of the largest public housing sectors in the world, with about half the population living in government-supported or -subsidized housing estates. The city has no minimum wage—except for domestic helpers from the Philippines, Indonesia, and other countries.

No. 2 Singapore

Gini score: 42.5
GDP 2007 (US$ billions): 161.3
Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 1.9
Richest 10%: 32.8
Ratio of income or expenditure, share of top 10% to lowest 10%: 17.7

Singapore is one of the world's most open economies, and it suffered badly following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers last year. Recently, though, the city-state's economy has rebounded, with GDP growing an annualized 14.9% rate in the third quarter compared with the previous quarter.

No. 3 U.S.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Gini score: 40.8
GDP 2007 (US$ billions): 13,751.4
Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 1.9
Richest 10%: 29.9
Ratio of income or expenditure, share of top 10% to lowest 10%: 15.9

The share of income for the top percentile of Americans was 23.5% in 2007, the highest since 1928, according to Emmanuel Saez, a Berkeley economist who won the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal in April. Income for the top 0.01% hit a record-high 6.04%. And the recession may be exacerbating income inequality.

No. 4 Israel

Gini score: 39.2
GDP 2007 (US$ billions): 164.0
Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 2.1
Richest 10%: 28.8
Ratio of income or expenditure, share of top 10% to lowest 10%: 13.4

Gone are the days when Israel was one of the world's most egalitarian societies. Early Labor Zionist pioneers built kibbutzim for Jewish immigrants, but those collectives have fallen on hard times. The growing number of haredim, or ultra-Orthodox Jews, with large families and men who study the Torah rather than work has worsened the inequality problem.

No. 5 Portugal

Spencer Platt/Getty Images, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Gini score: 38.5
GDP 2007 (US$ billions): 222.8
Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 2.0
Richest 10%: 29.8
Ratio of income or expenditure, share of top 10% to lowest 10%: 15.0

While Portugal emerged from recession in the second quarter, the unemployment rate tops 9%. The ruling Socialists retained power in elections last month but lost seats to parties on the far left.

No. 6 New Zealand

Gini score: 36.2
GDP 2007 (US$ billions): 135.7
Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 2.2
Richest 10%: 27.8
Ratio of income or expenditure, share of top 10% to lowest 10%: 12.5

According to the OECD, New Zealand had the biggest rise in inequality among member nations in the two decades starting in the mid-1980s. The country's economy emerged from recession in the second quarter, but with growth of just 0.1%, the central bank is likely to keep interest rates low until well into 2010.

No. 7 (tie) Italy

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images, GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images

Gini score: 36.0
GDP 2007 (US$ billions): 2,101.6
Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 2.3
Richest 10%: 26.8
Ratio of income or expenditure, share of top 10% to lowest 10%: 11.6

Italians are focused now on the melodrama surrounding embattled Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The political crisis comes at a time when the economy is still mired in recession even as countries like Germany and France are growing again.

No. 7 (tie) Britain

Gini score: 36.0
GDP 2007 (US$ billions): 2,772.0
Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 2.1
Richest 10%: 28.5
Ratio of income or expenditure, share of top 10% to lowest 10%: 13.8

According to Britain's Institute of Fiscal Studies, a government-funded think tank, the average national income, adjusted for inflation, grew 0.5% between 2004 and 2008. In contrast, the same figure for the top 90% income bracket jumped 1.2% over the same period. That was predominantly driven by large salaries and bonuses from the financial services sector in the pre-credit crunch era.

No. 9 Australia

GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images, Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Gini score: 35.2
GDP 2007 (US$ billions): 821.0
Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 2.0
Richest 10%: 25.4
Ratio of income or expenditure, share of top 10% to lowest 10%: 12.5

While developed economies elsewhere fell into recession, the Lucky Country's good fortune held out, with Australia continuing to grow thanks in part to strong demand from China for its resources. This month the central bank raised interest rates, making Australia a leader among countries moving away from monetary easing.

No. 10 (tie) Ireland

Gini score: 34.3
GDP 2007 (US$ billions): 259.0
Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 2.9
Richest 10%: 27.2
Ratio of income or expenditure, share of top 10% to lowest 10%: 9.4

Put aside the old comparisons to Asia's tiger economies. Ireland's workers are suffering badly from the recession; the unemployment rate soared in August to 12.5%. That's the second-worst in the EU, behind only Spain.

No. 10 (tie) Greece

getty images, ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Gini score: 34.3
GDP 2007 (US$ billions): 313.4
Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 2.5
Richest 10%: 26.0
Ratio of income or expenditure, share of top 10% to lowest 10%: 10.2

Newly elected Prime Minister George Papandreou's government faces potential disciplinary action from the European Union, which has reprimanded Greece for a budget deficit of 6% of GDP, twice the EU limit. The IMF projects the economy will shrink 0.8% this year.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Police convinced 'balloon boy' family telling truth

DENVER, Colorado (AFP) - – The eccentric family in Colorado's runaway balloon drama will be questioned to clear up suspicions of a hoax but investigators are convinced they are telling the truth, police said.

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said while police were adamant that the event that gripped US media on Thursday was real, officers would seek clarification of remarks made by six-year-old Falcon Heene.

Falcon became the focus of a massive multi-agency rescue operation after he was initially believed to have floated away on a homemade helium balloon built by his father for a weather experiment.

Heene was later discovered hiding in the attic of his garage to the relief of investigators and the boy's family. But Falcon fueled skepticism about the incident during an interview with CNN's Larry King Live late Thursday.

Asked by his father, Richard Heene, why he had not come out of his hiding place sooner, Falcon replied: "You guys said that we did this for the show."

The remark was swiftly seized upon by commentators and bloggers as evidence of a hoax, suggestions Richard Heene angrily denied Friday.

Asked on NBC television's "Today" show Friday if the incident had been a hoax, Heene replied: "Absolutely not. Absolutely not. And now I'm starting to get a little bit ticked off I'm repeatedly getting asked this in interviews.

"What have I got to gain out of this? I'm not selling anything, I'm not advertising anything."

Yet the Heenes' media offensive appeared to be taking its toll when Falcon vomited live on national television in separate interviews.

Police chief Alderden said the Heene family would be re-interviewed, probably on Saturday, but stressed during a press conference on Friday that investigators believed they had not been hoaxed.

"We were convinced yesterday after talking to the parents and having investigators on scene during the duration of this event that the parents were being honest with us," Alderden said.

"They appropriately expressed statements, non-verbal communication, body language, and the emotions during this event that were entirely consistent with the events that were taking place."

"We believe at this time that this is a real event," Alderden said.

When the balloon finally made a soft landing and Falcon was not inside, the Heene parents had shown a "significant deflation of their emotional state which our people did not think could be faked or was being faked," he said.

Alderden said it was "inconceivable" that Falcon could have been "coached" by his parents to stay silent in his attic hiding place for hours.

"It seems much more likely that the boy was in fact frightened because he somehow thought he was responsible for this device becoming untethered and therefore decided to hide," he said.

Alderden also noted that Falcon's parents had freely allowed investigators to interview their son in private after his discovery.

However, he acknowledged that the youngster's remark to CNN had "raised everybody's level of skepticism." "We feel it is incumbent upon us to go back to the family and interview them to establish whether in fact this is a hoax or if it is an actual event," he said.

Alderden said if the Heenes had faked the episode they could face misdemeanor criminal charges and demands to pay for the costs of the aborted rescue operation. "If there is criminal conduct, we will seek restitution," Alderden said.

Yet the Heene family's colorful hobbies -- they appeared on a reality television show, build wacky inventions and chase after powerful storms -- has left many convinced that the balloon story is a fake.

A former associate of Richard Heene told ABC television he believed the incident had been faked.

"I believe that Richard had a plan to send this craft aloft," said Scott Stevens, who used to work as a "storm chaser" with Heene. "Whether it was to leave the illusion that there was a boy on board, I don't know."

Other media commentators were not sure what they had witnessed.

"Did life imitate art or did art imitate life or is it possible anymore to tell the difference?"

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Senators oppose government calamity plan

MANILA, Philippines - Senators expressed yesterday strong opposition to Malacañang’s decision to declare the whole country under a state of calamity and even extending it to a year, saying it might lead to abuses on the part of the executive branch and misuse of funds.

President Arroyo last week issued Proclamation 1898 placing the entire country under a state of calamity.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Senators Benigno Aquino III, Manuel Villar Jr., Manuel Roxas II, Francis Escudero, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Alan Peter Cayetano all warned against relaxed rules in the disbursement of funds during a state of calamity, which Malacañang and local government units might abuse.

The senators questioned why the entire nation was placed under a state of calamity when not all areas were affected by tropical storm “Ondoy” and typhoon “Pepeng.”

They said this would give local government units (LGUs) power to spend their calamity funds for other purposes. With the general elections approaching, the funds could be misused, the senators said.

They argued that the state of calamity should only be for a few months since prolonging it would give wrong signals to the international community and create a bad image for the country before prospective investors.

Aquino said the move was like “closing the barn door after the horses left” since government should have prepared for disasters.

He said rules in the disbursement and utilization of funds were more relaxed under a state of calamity because of the urgency for their use. “When you declare that is going to be for a year, there might be calls for augmentation as far as those funds depleted are concerned. (The question is) will all the funds really address the calamity or will be used for something else because the rules have been relaxed?” Aquino said.

Villar, for his part, said the task of rebuilding was needed to help typhoon victims to truly recover from the tragedy but this would not merit too drastic actions and sweeping calls from the government.

More bad than good

The Makati Business Club, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines and the Federation of Philippine Industries, among other business groups, also expressed alarm about the planned extension of the state of calamity status.

They said it could create more problems for the country such as job losses and supply shortage. Other business groups even fear that it may lead to a state of emergency and the exercise of police powers.

“It is understandable that we have to prioritize the needs of the flood victims but we have to take into account the repercussions of our actions to other sectors. In this case, if the business sector will be affected, it will have a chain reaction if our economy will slow down because of it,” Villar said.

He said there is a need to put a semblance of normalcy to the people’s lives as soon as possible.

“This early, the concerned government departments and agencies should already put in place mechanisms to ensure the stable supply of food until next year. At the same time, help should be extended to farmers who suffered losses due to the typhoons,” he said.

Roxas, for his part, said placing the whole country under state of calamity was a knee jerk and overreaction. “This was not carefully thought out. It was very clear that in Mindanao, there were no rains,” he said.

He agreed with Escudero and Santiago that funds for projects could be disbursed without bidding and checks and balances since the laws on procurement might be sidestepped.

“Price control should only be in areas affected be calamities,” Roxas said, adding that the extra powers and leeway for government under a state of calamity could be used for “last two minutes” or midnight deals and the coming elections.

Santiago, on the other hand, said that the prolonged declaration of state of calamity could be counterproductive in the long run since it would cause the release of the calamity funds of all the local government units.

She said the state of calamity could be limited to three months and make people return to normalcy the soonest time possible.

No need for supplemental budget

Santiago also objected to the passage of a P10-billion supplemental budget for the victims of Ondoy because the executive branch has more than enough funds to provide for them.

“We don’t need a supplemental budget. Last year, when we were discussing the budget for 2009, Congress allocated appropriations even beyond the amounts that were sought by Malacañang for certain government offices. If we take back all those amounts that were added to the budget of certain government departments, we will be able to source the much-needed funds for our rehabilitation efforts,” Santiago said.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri also said they were no longer sure if Congress could pass the supplemental budget before the break next week.

“It’s (joint resolution) being worked out by the House (of Representatives). It must emanate from the House. I don’t know if they have approved it,” Enrile said.

Asked about the chances of the budget being approved, Enrile said: “Malabo na ngayon (It’s a long shot).”

He said he could not remember if there was an agreement to have the budget passed before the congressional recess and would just wait for the advice of Sen. Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, regarding the matter.

Zubiri voiced the same concern but said a special session could be called if the budget was really needed.

But Santiago said it would be easy to augment the calamity funds simply by asking the President to exercise her power to transfer appropriations.

“I do not want a prolonged state of calamity, because in the same way that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, calamity tends to corrupt. The longer the declaration of a state of calamity, the longer the corruption,” Santiago said.

However, Enrile said that placing the country under a state of calamity was okay to protect the public during times of crises.

He argued that a state of calamity was acceptable because there is a need to control the rise of prices, especially prime commodities, during such time.

“This is not the first time that that is done. It has been done post-Marcos many times. It has been done during the Marcos years and it was done also even before the Marcos years,” Enrile said, adding that it can be declared beyond the term of the President.

Palace: No excessive use of power

But Malacañang assured that there will be no excessive use of state powers for the duration of the nationwide state of calamity even if the Philippine National Police (PNP) has been mobilized to enforce price controls amid pockets of violence from some businesses defying orders not to increase prices of basic goods.

The Palace also appealed to critics to stop blaming the government for the destruction brought about by the two typhoons.

Deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said that while different parts of the country, including Metro Manila, are facing numerous crises--health, garbage, and education-- the government will not go overboard in exercising its powers while the declaration of the state of calamity is in effect.

He said the main tools of the authorities, particularly local government units, in addressing the problems remain to be the use of their emergency funds and enforcement of price ceilings, both triggered once a state of calamity is declared.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raul Gonzalez earlier said that under general welfare provisions of the Constitution, the state can take over vital installations during emergencies, and the current calamity can also be considered a national emergency.

He, however, said that the situation, while serious, does not warrant the exercise of extraordinary powers of the government.

“Those (violent incidents and threats) are focused on certain persons, groups of people with a certain interest so we don’t see any widespread disorder in the streets. We are focused on rebuilding communities as of the moment,” he said.

Mrs. Arroyo also ordered that lands near the permanent relocation sites for families displaced by the calamity be developed for agri-business to sustain the new communities.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, for his part, said it’s not definite yet if the government could prolong the declaration of a state of calamity in the entire country for one year.

“That’s speculative,” he said.

Admin lawmakers lashed at MBC

Coming to the defense of the President, administration lawmakers appealed to the Makati Business Club (MBC), a perpetual critic of President Arroyo, to be humane enough and understand the sorry plight of victims who were hit by the typhoons.

“This is an extraordinary time and extraordinary steps are required to be taken. I think the one-year period (for state of calamity) is necessary to impress upon the people and businesses about the depth of the situation and the need to do something about it,” Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao said.

The MBC is a group of businessmen based in the financial district of Makati City. Its members are mostly employers of big companies in the Philippines, who employ thousands that generate jobs locally.

Rep. Marcelino Teodoro of Marikina, however, lashed out at MBC, saying the group should set aside its “self-serving financial goals” and realize that the people are rebuilding their lives after the two typhoons.

“They should be more contributive to the restoration of devastated areas than to be anarchic moguls,” he said, seeing the government focus on slowly bringing things back to normal in the country.

Lanao del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo, on the other hand, said the MBC should not paint a grim picture of the government’s plan to extend the state of calamity for a year. It would be better for them if they could come up with a counter-proposal, he suggested.

“The MBC should first check with the administration and recommend constructively. For example, we have seen how President Arroyo handles crises, (and it’s) definitely not dictatorial. To them, the President is always wrong or bad, and has done nothing right. Is MBC gearing up to be a political party?” he said.

One of the perceived effects of the planned extension of the declaration of a state of calamity would be price controls of goods, business groups like MBC fears. If carried out, it said the plan would spawn more problems like job losses and supply shortage.

Dimaporo views the threat of an extended price control as something “persuasive.”

“The price control will most likely be monitoring and persuasion, and can be in phases of six months. Weather these days is unpredictable. And we can’t assume that we alone can solve climate change. The MBC should not be a political opposition, hitting the President at every corner and creating situations to hit her,” he said.

Message to CBS: Top 10 reasons Letterman should “voluntarily” suspend himself!

Comedian and talk-show host David Letterman found out last week that life in the big leagues on television is not always a laughing matter.

Letterman opened his Thursday night monologue by sharing what he told a grand jury earlier that day: He had been the victim of a $2-million extortion and blackmail attempt by a CBS producer. The producer, Robert “Joe” Halderman, allegedly threatened to expose a number of affairs Letterman has allegedly had with women who work for CBS. He was arraigned Friday and charged with first-degree grand larceny, punishable by five to 15 years in jail. He’s out on bond and promises he has more to tell about Letterman that will vindicate the Emmy-Award winning producer.

While the audience laughed at times last Thursday, it is clear CBS and Letterman’s company, Worldwide Pants, Inc., which rakes in millions annually according to published reports, are not laughing right now as it’s only a matter of time before more ugly and sordid details come out.

Only Letterman knows how many women he squired and whether the 62-year-old engaged in these work-related affairs during his 6-month marriage to Regina Lasko, the mother of his 5-year-old son.

Letterman regularly cracks me up with a list of “Top 10 Reasons…” on any given popular subject of the moment.

Whether A-Rod or Madonna or Michael Jackson or Obama, nothing is off-limits with the gap-toothed funnyman —even Sarah Palin’s daughter was the subject of a much-discussed joke in his monologue.

However, with last week’s revelation and Letterman’s attempt to do damage control by breaking the story first on his own show, CBS should add to that damage control and apologize immediately.

CBS should also give Letterman the “Top 10 Reasons” he should voluntarily take a leave of absence and suspend himself to quiet the damage he has done.

READ: Don’t have the women’s rights groups and our advertisers call us about your behavior, Dave, and then force the network brass to issue a statement and loose particular sponsors.

Since Letterman likes to talk in lists, the CBS brass should tell him these are the “Top 10 Reasons” and if you step down briefly, it will allow the network to:

10- Show women that after the Sarah Palin fiasco and other insensitivities to women, Letterman FINALLY gets it;

9- Give Letterman time to revisit the CBS manual on sexual harassment and workplace affairs and the dangers;

8- Save the women involved any more embarrassment (the young assistant whose face has been shown everywhere as one of the women name will not be mentioned in this column, will have a very hard time rebounding and will be known in the same chuckle under your breadth that greets Monica Lewinsky’s behavior with a man of similar age as Letterman);

7- Give Letterman time meet with these women and apologize, hopefully, seal their silence, and most likely, if necessary, make a small contribution to their retirement fund;

6- Give this humiliating nightmare time to die-down in the media (the more Letterman is on air, the more the jokes will come and columns, like this one);

5- Give Letterman time to spend with his son and family and to explain “what’s all the fuss about Daddy and this young assistant…”

4- Give Letterman time for some therapy and counseling, if needed;

3- Give Letterman time to privately remove his wife from the humiliation he has caused her (even if the relationships were pre-marriage –it is still embarrassing, akin to your wife publicly finding out you were into something crazy in college or law school)

2- Save advertisers the pain of dropping him due to pressures from its consumers; and

(as Letterman says often, “The Number One reason is…..”:)

1- Show that Letterman is owning-up as the boss and manager of his company by admitting “I was wrong and I will take a leave of absence to think about how I can do better.”

Letterman, stop the laughing, giggling and flirting with female employees (and guests) and get serious here and do the right thing before CBS is forced to do the right thing!!!!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Demi Moore, Ricky Martin, others pledge help for Ondoy

Some Hollywood actors and foreign music artists are one with Filipinos still struggling to build life from tragedy. A week past Ondoy, people from all walks of life have expressed their desire to help and are doing their share.

It's interesting to know even foreign singers gave help for us. Dionne Warwick and Air Supply who had their concerts at the Araneta Coliseum last Oct. 2 and 3, respectively, gave donations from the proceeds of their concerts to victims of Ondoy.

Even Hollywood celebrities such as Demi Moore, Ricky Martin and author Paulo Cuelho, pledged their support through their Twitter accounts to Red Cross to help Ondoy victims in the country, this reported.

Akon, Apl.De.Ap do their share

Fil-Am member of Black Eyed Peas Apl.De.Ap also appeals to his fellow Filipinos to help through the Apl Foundation by logging on to, ABS-CBN News reported.

"My heart is broken to see so many of my Filipino brothers and sisters hurt by this disaster. We must all bond together and move forward to restore the city we hold dear. I'm asking the global community for their support and donations to assist the thousands of Filipinos affected by this tragedy."

Meanwhile, Akon has also decided to lend a helping hand. Amidst his busy touring schedule, Akon was deeply saddened upon finding out about the tragedy wrought by the recent typhoon. "My heart grieves for all Filipinos who lost their lives, their loved ones and their cherished possessions during that tragic weekend," he said.

"It is in these trying moments that we find our greatest strength, faith and capacity for self-sacrifice. I pray for the safety and well-being of all of you out there in the Philippines."

Akon is scheduled to perform at the Araneta Coliseum on October 23, together with our very own international R&B livewire Billy Crawford, in a concert dubbed "Freedom Tour '09."

The show will definitely push through; with Akon himself spearheading the charity campaign by donating a sizeable chunk of the concert proceeds to the typhoon victims.

Through the auspices of the concert's producer, ALV Events International, Akon is funneling his contributions through a still unnamed beneficiary.

"For every ticket you buy, you do your own humble share in assuring your calamity-stricken brothers of food, clothing and shelter," Akon says. "My music and my own life story have always been a testament to freedom, and it's only fitting that I pay back by helping other people find their own freedom from pain and strife."

Friday, October 02, 2009

Autopsy with King of POP : Jackson was healthy

LOS ANGELES - Michael Jackson's outward appearance was marred when he died with puncture marks to his arms, surgical scars around his body and cosmetic tattoos on his lips and scalp.

But internally, the pop star was in mostly fine physical shape for a 50-year-old man, according to his autopsy report obtained by The Associated Press.

The Los Angeles County coroner's report shows Jackson's weight of 136 pounds was in the acceptable range for a 5-foot-9 man. His heart was strong with no sign of plaque buildup. His kidneys and most other major organs were normal.

The singer did have health issues, however, including arthritis in the lower spine and some fingers, and mild plaque buildup in his leg arteries. Most serious was the condition of his lungs, which the autopsy report said were chronically inflamed and had reduced capacity that might have left him short of breath.

But the lung condition was not serious enough to be a direct or contributing cause of death, according to the document.

"His overall health was fine," said Dr. Zeev Kain, chairman of the anesthesiology department at the University of California, Irvine, who reviewed a copy of the autopsy report for the AP. "The results are within normal limits."

Kain, who was not involved in the autopsy, said most of the scars appeared to be from plastic surgery though others, like a scar on the knee, could have been from a medical procedure.

The medical examiner found numerous punctures on both arms and on a knee and ankle. The leg punctures could have been from intravenous therapies not described in the autopsy report, Kain said.

Jackson had several tattoos, all of them cosmetic, including dark tattoos in the areas of both eyebrows and under his eyes, and a pink tattoo around his lips.

The singer died at his rented Los Angeles mansion June 25 after his personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, administered the anesthetic propofol and two other sedatives to get the chronic insomniac to sleep, court documents state. Propofol, normally a surgical anesthetic used in operating rooms, acts as a respiratory depressant and requires constant monitoring.

Murray told police he left the room to use the bathroom and phone records show he also made calls for 47 minutes around the time Jackson encountered problems. When Murray realized Jackson was unresponsive, he began frantic efforts to revive him, but Jackson never regained consciousness and was declared dead at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center.

The coroner's office announced last month that Jackson's death was a homicide caused by "acute propofol intoxication," with the other sedatives listed as a contributing factor. They said the standard of care for administering propofol was not met and the recommended equipment for patient monitoring, precision dosing and resuscitation was missing.

Murray is the target of what Los Angeles police term a manslaughter investigation. The decision on criminal charges will come from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. Murray has been interviewed twice by police.

Except for a brief video posted to YouTube, Murray has not spoken publicly since Jackson's death, and his lawyer Ed Chernoff did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday. In the video, Murray said: "I told the truth and I have faith the truth will prevail." Murray's attorney, Edward Chernoff, previously has said nothing Murray gave Jackson "should have" killed him.

Jackson was declared dead a little more than two hours after paramedics were called. Evidence of the desperate struggle to save the star were evident on his body. He had chest bruising and cracked ribs from CPR, and a mechanical device known as a balloon pump was inserted into his heart to try to restart it, according to the autopsy report.

Jackson's body was taken by helicopter to the coroner's office where the following morning Chief Medical Examiner Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran and Dr. Christopher Rogers carried out an extensive review and ordered a toxicology screening to look for drugs in his system.

Aside from propofol and the sedatives, the only substances found in his system were the local anesthetic, Lidocaine, sometimes used to numb injection sites and ephedrine, a commonly used resuscitation stimulant.

No other drugs — legal or otherwise — were detected, nor was any alcohol.

Kain said he was surprised that three other sedatives, known as benzodiazepines, were present with propofol. Anesthesiologists sometimes mix one "benzo" with propofol to help put a patient under, but using three increases the danger for the patient.

"People don't mix the benzodiazepines together because they interact with each other and increase the risk of respiratory arrest," Kain said, adding it was likely Jackson first stopped breathing and then suffered cardiac arrest.

Court records state Murray told police he administered 25 milligrams of propofol to Jackson. But that's a very small dose that would not have kept the star under for long, raising questions about whether Murray misspoke or police misinterpreted what he told them.

The autopsy report says the drug was detected in several samples taken from Jackson's system but does not provide an estimate of the dosage. Kain said it's difficult to calculate the dose based on the report's data because, among other things, the precise time Jackson died and stopped processing the drug is not known.

The autopsy findings cut off a potential defense for Murray — that Jackson hid serious pre-existing conditions that increased the risk of death from the drugs he willingly took. Even if he did hide a condition such as his weakened lungs, a prosecutor could argue Murray should have detected the condition before administering drugs, said Michael Brennan, a clinical law professor at the University of Southern California who specializes in criminal defense.

"A doctor has some obligation to know what his patient's physical condition is," Brennan said. "The doctor is going to try to substantiate whatever the patient told him ... and not simply rely on a patient's descriptions of his physical condition."

At the time of his death Jackson was preparing for a series of comeback concerts in London. Rehearsals were rigorous and there were questions about whether Jackson would be physically able to hold up.

But aside from his lungs, the autopsy report did not identify any serious physical problems that might have limited Jackson's ability to perform. It also said he was actively producing sperm.

The report provided details about Jackson's state from head to toes.

He had a 3/4-inch scar behind his left ear and another apparent scar behind his right ear. He had a scar beside each of his nostrils and another, 4-inch scar on his right shoulder. He had a pair of additional scars about 3-inches long at the base of his neck and smaller scars on his arms and wrist. He also had a small scar near his navel and a 2-inch scar on the right-hand side of his abdomen.

He was going bald at the front of his head, with his remaining hair described as short and tightly curled. The bald part of his scalp was darkened with what appeared to be a tattoo stretching across the top of his head from ear to ear.

The coroner found depigmentation of his skin around his chest, abdomen, face and arms.

Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman April Harding said the investigation was ongoing and she couldn't comment further.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Mikey refutes controversial pic on Facebook

fter having had to defend himself over alleged irregularities concerning his Statement of Assets and Liabilities or SALN, presidential son Mikey Arroyo is embroiled in another controversy involving a picture posted on Facebook that purportedly shows him buying liquor in the aftermath of typhoon "Ondoy."

The picture of a man hunched over a rack of alcoholic drinks was captioned: "Was buying food for keeps... then we saw Mikey Arroyo in Rustan's Liquor Section asking the salesman for a brand of hard alcoholic drink. Effin Crazy! Just a few kilometers away from Katipunan, people are needing [sic] help for search and rescue, and there he was buying bottles of alcohol. See for yourself and tell me what you think."

The negative responses it garnered were so immediate and widespread that the person who uploaded the picture removed it, citing concerns over "safety and security."

Copies of the picture, however, could still be accessed through blogs and web-based networking sites such as Twitter.

Reacting on the controversy, Arroyo, a former action star and comedian turned congressman, refuted its accuracy, saying, "How could I be at Rustan's on Katipunan Avenue at the height of Ondoy when Katipunan was impassable at that time?"

According to Arroyo, he was in Malacañang with his family trying to mobilize rescue and relief operations.

"This is another malicious attack on my person. It is so depressing," he bewailed.

Arroyo added: "It's so unfortunate that while we were so busy then trying to help ease the sufferings of our kababayan, some people had the guts and the temerity to peddle malicious innuendos at the expense of others."

Arroyo now believes Facebook should be "regulated" as it is predisposed to misuse.

"Facebook is easily susceptible to abuses as people can easily hide their identities," he stressed.

Arroyo didn't say, however, how he proposes to go about "regulating" the site, which claims to have over 65 million users worldwide.