Pacquiao declares all-out support for Villar

WORLD boxing champion and Time magazine cover Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao declared his all-out support for Nacionalista Party (NP) president and standard-bearer Sen. Manny Villar.

Villar swore in Pacquiao, who is running for congressman of Saranggani, along with his People’s Champ Movement local party slate, in the boxing icon’s mansion in General Santos following his 31st birthday celebration at the KCC Events and Convention Center attended by over 2,000 guests including Villar.

“Manny Pacquiao, who has thrown his best punches to hoist our country’s pride and honor, is a deeply valued partner in our campaign to help keep our people from being knocked out by extreme hardships,” the NP standard-bearer who was born to poverty in Tondo said.

Villar likewise emphasized, “Our affinity is anchored on our common backgrounds in poverty where we harnessed the Filipino values of hard work and determination which have seen us through our struggles.”
Pacquiao said, “Talagang nanggaling siya (Villar) sa hirap, at kung tutuusin, galing din ako sa hirap gaya niya. Siya ang karapat-dapat suportahan dahil alam niya ang damdamin ng mga mahihirap. Ito ay pabor sa atin, ang damdamin ng mahihirap, alam niya ‘yan.”
Taking oath as Nacionalistas with Pacquaio were his gubernatorial running mate Juan Domino and vice-gubernatorial bet newly retired provincial administrator Fred Basino, along with two board members and seven mayors of Saranggani. Pacquiao’s lawyer Franklin Gacal, congressional candidate for South Cotabato’s first district, also took oath before the NP standard-bearer. NP senatorial bet Ilocos Norte Rep. Bongbong Marcos attended the event.

At his birthday bash, Pacquiao introduced Villar as “the upcoming president” of the Philippines, and asked the NP standard-bearer to draw the winner of a brand-new car which the world’s no. 1 pound-for-pound boxer raffled off.
The well-loved Pacman is the first fighter in boxing history to win seven world titles in seven different weight divisions, following his victory over Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas on Nov. 14 via technical knockout in the 12th round. It was the most watched boxing event of the year where Pacman gained the WBO World Welterweight title.
As cover of the prestigious Time Magazine, Pacquiao earlier said, “It is a great honor for me to be the face of my people and let everyone know we are a small but mighty country." He joined the ranks of international sports superstars Michael Phelps, Serena and Venus Williams, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods as covers.

He arose from a niche sports star to a mainstream figure worldwide, with Time Magazine citing him anew as among its list of “people who mattered.” Pacquiao is also the first athlete the Philippine Postal Corp. has honored with his own stamp. The crime rate in the country dips during Pacquiao’s bouts, which are heavily viewed and cheered.

Taiwanese exec vows to donate 20 initial wheelchairs

A high-ranking government official from Taiwan, People’s Republic of China has pledged to donate an initial 20 units of wheelchair intended for the persons with disabilities in Cagayan de Oro City.

This was bared recently by City Mayor Constantino “Tinnex” Jaraula after Representative Donald C.T. Lee of the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) assured the wheelchair donation when he visited the city last week.

The Taiwanese Ambassador came over to formally turnover to the city officials the five (5) units of firetruck which were donated by the City Government of Tainan in Taiwan, the sister city of Cagayan de Oro.

In the wake of this development, Mayor Jaraula thanked the Taiwanese official for the wheelchair donation, saying that the units will greatly help disabled persons who can’t afford to buy their own wheelchairs.

It can be recalled that Mayor Jaraula invited the Taiwanese Ambassador to visit the city in an effort to strengthen the ties between the two (2) cities on areas along trade and diplomatic relations, cultural exchange and economic cooperation.

During his two-day visit in Cagayan de Oro City, Mayor Jaraula and city officials toured Ambassador Lee and TECO political division executive assistant Vincent Chen to the MacArthur Memorial Marker and the Malasag Eco-Tourism Village, aside from hosting a special dinner and cultural night in honor of the Taiwanese dignitaries.

The firetruck donation is considered as a major gain emanated from the sisterhood agreement entered into by and between the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Tainan, Taiwan sometime in 2005 when then Mayor and now Vice Mayor Vicente Y. Emano led a trade mission to Tainan.

It can be recalled that Tainan City Mayor Hsu Tain-Tsiar and then Ambassador Hsin-Hsing Wu led an 11-man delegation when they made a reciprocal visit to Cagayan de Oro City in April 2008.

After a successful two-day visit which they were feted with a special dinner and warmly received by the city officials, the Tainan city top officials pledged the five-unit firetruck donation as a show of their mutual cooperation on the sisterhood ties between the two cities.

The five (5) firetrucks are now assigned in barangays Balulang, Bulua, Macasandig, Bugo and to the Cagayan de Oro City Fire Station Headquarters. (City Information Office)

Safety nets for OFWs should be in place all year round

Nacionalista President Senator Manny Villar says the government, through the labor and employment authorities should put in place a permanent and proactive contingency measures involving so-called safety nets for returning overseas Filipino workers or OFWs.

“I notice that we only act when there is a problem or crisis already. We should be proactive not reactive. At any given time, there are OFWs that need assistance, thus our efforts should be non-stop. Our support should also be speedy and should not get caught up in red tape,” said Villar.

According to Villar, many parts of the world are experiencing economic slowdown and some form of financial crisis, from the Middle East to the United States. Thus, OFW’s jobs are not secure anywhere in the world.

“We should always be prepared with alternative employment for OFWs. They have been instrumental in propping up our economy year in year out through their remittances. It is but fair to extend support to them when need it,” said Villar.

Villar has been pushing for an efficient reintegration plan for repatriated or returning OFWs. He earlier filed the Overseas Filipino Investment Bill or Senate Bill 635, which seeks to promote the reintegration of OFWs in the Philippine society by helping them save, invest and engage in business ventures that would translate their hard-earned money into economic gains of the country and to create a new generation of overseas Filipino investors or OFIs.

Villar's bill proposes the issuance of short and long-term OFI bonds by government banks; provision of government financial institutions (GFIs) of credit facilities for OFIs; the allocation of 10% of the total equity of governments existing businesses or enterprises for OFIs and their families; among other benefits and incentives such as income tax exemptions.

According to Villar, job creation remains crucial not only in addressing the requirement of returning OFWs but to meet long-term goals of lasting economic growth and development. “Many of our countrymen are still reeling from the devastation of recent typhoons. They haven’t even rebuilt their homes and sources of livelihood. Thus, we need to make create jobs in a much faster pace given the urgency of the situation,” said Villar.

Villar said local governments should conduct as many job fairs and forums as possible to bring together the private sector and job applicants in communities. Livelihood trainings, according to him, provide instant help as well. Villar’s office has been conducting on-the-spot livelihood courses to interested people. Through Sagip-OFW, Villar has also helped hundreds of OFWs in trouble.

“It is also important to support the growth of small businesses and entrepreneurs. I have always maintained that entrepreneurship generates job. For every small business established, at least three people are provided with jobs. We need to free up capital and funds. Tax incentives are also a good come-on for entrepreneurs,” cited Villar.

Subic media condemn 'monsters of Maguindanao massacre'

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT -- Members of the Olongapo City-Subic Bay chapter of the Union of Journalists of the Philippines (UJP-OS) yesterday set lighted candles adrift on Subic Bay as a symbolic petition for justice for media colleagues slain in the infamous Maguindanao massacre last month.

Calling for an end to impunity and demanding immediate justice for the massacre victims, the UJP-OS said that media killings is a “direct assault on our democracy and way of life as peace-loving and law-abiding citizens.”
“As journalists fall prey to the dangers inherent in our profession, the freedoms that the public enjoy also became diminished and undermined,” said UJP-OS chairman Jun Dumaguing.

“The death of our colleagues in the media should now signal our call to arms against the reign of violence and impunity perpetrated by those who wield power without regard for the sanctity of human life,” Dumaguing stressed.
The UJP-OS, in a statement, also expressed its outrage at the “monsters who perpetrated the Maguindanao massacre”, adding that the culprits must be brought to justice.

“We condemn with equal fury the government that has condoned the culture of guns, goons and gold in various areas of the country for political reasons,” it added.
The UJP-OS said the Maguindanao killings “could well be the biggest single massacre of journalists in the world, unparalleled in its brutality and ruthlessness, and unequalled in its brazen disregard for life and liberty.”

But while the local media “cringe in shame” for this episode, “make no mistake that the media will be cowed by wanton brutality and insane violence,” the UJP-OS warned.
“Our colleagues who have fallen in the massacre are now martyrs in the eyes of the Philippine press, and of the world. And this has only made us stronger,” the mediamen added. .

The UJP-OS conducted its candle-lighting rites here at the Subic Boardwalk Park in time for the “International Day of Global Action” that was called by the International Federation of Journalists, the mother organization of the UJP.
Prior to the ceremony, a healing mass conducted at the same venue by Fr. Jerry Orbos also prayed for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre.

Villar Calls for Justice, Indemnity for Human Rights Violation Victims

Nacionalista President Senator Manny Villar reiterated his stand of condemning any form of human rights violation past, present, and future. He joins the cause of human rights advocates and activists nationwide who are tirelessly fighting for their rights and principles.

Villar vows to work with various human rights groups to help them, once and for all, attain what they are clamoring for and what rightfully belong to them—justice and indemnification.

“We have to learn from the past in order to go on with the future. We have to give justice and indemnity to the victims of human rights violation during the Martial Law years up to the present. We will work for recovery of all ill-gotten wealth in accordance with the rule of law,” said Villar on the commemoration of Human Rights Day

Upholding of Filipinos’ human rights is among the key priorities of the Villar-led Nacionalista Party. Yesterday, NP announced that it is severing its ties with the Marcos-led Kilusan Bagong Lipunan (KBL). Rep. Bongbong Marcos Jr., however, remains as an official senatorial candidate of NP.

Villar slams continued attempts in curtailing human rights and freedom in various parts of the country. In particular, he cited as an example Maguindanao, where people continue to live in fear. He considers the declaration of Martial Law in Maguindanao as “unnecessary” and calls for the dismantling of private armies to quell lawlessness.

“We support all efforts for the swift delivery of justice for the murdered victims of Maguindanao massacre. We need a justice that is without fear and favor. Aside from bringing the perpetrators behind bars, the government must dismantle private armies with dispatch and that can be done without declaring Martial Law," he said in an earlier statement.

“In today’s civilized world and in a democratic country such as the Philippines, there should be no room for violation and abuse of human rights. Nobody, particularly those in power, has any right to trample on the innate rights of people as human beings,” said Villar.

NP no longer allied with KBL

The alliance between the Nacionalista Party (NP) and the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) has been set aside due to issues internal to the KBL.

“In as much as the Nacionalista Party-KBL alliance has been questioned, it is now replaced by the adoption of Rep. Bongbong Marcos as a Nacionalista Party official senatorial candidate,” NP spokesman and senatorial bet former Rep. Gilbert Remulla said.

Representative Marcos, who remains a member of the KBL, underscored his full commitment to NP’s crusade against poverty in empowering the majority of Filipinos who are in dire straits.

On Nov. 20, NP and KBL announced an alliance at the Laurel House in Mandaluyong City where Villar declared the inclusion of Marcos in the NP senatorial lineup.

At the age of 23, Marcos began his political career as Ilocos Norte vice-governor in 1980. In 1992, he was elected representative of the province's second district. Then he became Ilocos Norte governor in 1998, serving for three consecutive terms. In 2007, he was elected back to the House of Representatives, where he now serves as its Deputy Minority Leader. During this term, one of the important pieces of legislation he authored was the Philippine Archipelagic Baselines Law or Republic Act 9522.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts Major in Political Science, Philosophy, and Economics degree from Oxford University; and Masters degree in Business Administration from the Wharton School of Business.

Chiz to palace: disarm armed groups to prevent bloodshed

OPPOSITION Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday called on the military and police to take immediate steps at disarming private armies of all known warlords, specifically in provinces deemed hot spots by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), to reduce the possibility of political vendettas and electoral violence.

“If only one group or clan is disarmed and not their political opponents, you might see another massacre with the other clan being the next victims,” the 40-year-old lawmaker said.

Referring to the recent Maguindanao massacre, Escudero added that “it might just be a case of transferring the ‘warlord’s crown’ from the Ampatuans to the Mangundadatus.”

He said it was time that the law was implemented to the fullest in all parts of Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

“All of this can be done without the declaration of martial law, since it is a peace and order problem. President Arroyo could have just called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines to suppress ‘lawless violence’.”
Among the provinces tagged political hot spots by the authorities based on their respective political histories as well as a current simmering feuds among identified political clans there are Abra, Basilan, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Masbate, Nueva Ecija, Samar and Sulu.

“Unlicensed firearms have proliferated in these places and it has allowed private armies to rule with impunity through intimidation, resulting in the breakdown of law and order even during non-election years,” Escudero noted.

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, he said the murder of at least 60 people, including journalists, in Maguindanao last month is an indication of the failure of a firearms control program initiated by the Philippine National Police.

“Both the military and police should take on these private armies as well as criminal gangs to prevent a repetition of the Maguindanao massacre.”

Martial law declaration defective – Chiz

OPPOSITION Sen. Francis Escudero on Saturday said the imposition of martial law in Maguindanao is legally defective and expressed concern that it could be a prelude to dictatorial rule.

“I hope this is not the case of Maguindanao today, the Philippines tomorrow,” he said.

The opposition senator pointed out that Section 18, Article 7 explicitly states that only in case of invasion or rebellion, and when the public safety requires it, can the commander-in-chief exercise the extreme option of declaring martial law.
“These are not obviously present in Maguindanao,” he said. “The current state of emergency would have sufficed to address the clamor for justice for the massacre victims and restore the rule of law in the province.”

Escudero added that he does not remember any time in his life when a military commander was asked to take over a civilian elective position.
He also pointed out that former President Estrada did not have to impose martial law when he launched an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2000.

“The theater of war then included Maguindanao and even parts of Lanao del Sur, del Norte, and North Cotabato. But he did not declare martial law,” said Escudero.

“For the longest time, this government has tolerated and promoted warlordism in Mindanao. Now, it seeks to be a warlord to undo what it has done,” Escudero noted.
“On its face, the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao is legally defective. The President’s decision as well to suspend the writ of habeas corpus even during martial law is highly irregular. I am sure that Congress will act on this matter without delay.”

The senator urges all military and police commanders to make sure that human rights are respected during the 60-day period decreed by the constitution if Congress does not revoke the martial law proclamation. The President is required to submit a report to Congress within 48 hours from the declaration of martial law or the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

“I will oppose any attempt to use this tragic and reprehensible incident to prevent the truth about these arms caches and documents that may related to electoral fraud from coming out through the imposition of martial law. I call on the people to be vigilant and to resist moves by those who seek to rule beyond 2010.”

Martial law declaration in Maguindanao unnecessary, says Villar

SEN. Manny Villar today said the declaration of Martial Law in Maguindanao was unnecessary and only hints of weak leadership and the inability of government to quell lawlessness in this part of the country.

“It is unfortunate that the declaration of Martial law has been resorted to after the government appeared reluctant to go all-out against those responsible for the Maguindanao massacre. The state of emergency should have already been enough to dismantle the private armies operating in the province. We don’t even need to declare martial law in Maguindanao; we only have to enforce existing laws,” Villar said, even as he expressed confidence on the capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to restore law and order in the area.

The standard-bearer of the Nacionalista Party also said the government might have overreacted when it imposed Martial Law in the province.
“We support all efforts for the swift delivery of justice for the murdered victims of Maguindanao massacre, we need a justice that is without fear and favor. Aside from bringing the perpetrators behind bars, the government must dismantle private armies with dispatch and that can be done without declaring Martial Law,” he said.

Villar, former Speaker of the House and Senate president, also called for a review of the Martial law declaration during Monday’s resumption of session to check whether or not there was constitutional basis for it.

Section 18 Article VII of the Constitution states that, “The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”

The law also empowers Congress to revoke the declaration by a vote of majority of all its members.

Survey showing most Filipinos clueless about automation alarming – Chiz

OPPOSITION Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday expressed alarm about the latest Pulse Asia survey showing that 6 of 10 Filipinos are clueless about the automated election system for the 2010 polls.

“If the Comelec can’t even conduct an effective information campaign on the system, what more a full automation of the elections?” asked Escudero, who is the co-chair of the congressional oversight committee on poll automation.

He said the Comelec should now give a full update on the progress of the implementation of full automation of the 2010 polls.

“Except for the occasional press release and sound bite, we have not heard the Comelec provide a complete picture of where we are now insofar as this historic undertaking is concerned,” the 40-year old lawmaker said.

Conducted between Oct. 22 and 30, the Pulse Asia survey shows that only 13 percent of the 1,800 respondents said they know a lot about the automated election system while another 26 percent said they know enough of it.

Most of those who expressed knowledge about the system were from Metro Manila and among higher income classes, the pollster said.

“With barely five months to go before the elections, more than half of our people don’t know how the system will work. If the survey did not come out, the Comelec would not have bothered to tell us about their plan to launch a massive information drive,” Escudero said.

Villar leads gift-giving in Bataan

SEN. Manny Villar was in Bataan today to lead the gift-giving activities in his mother’s hometown in Orani. It has been the tradition of Villar, and his wife Rep. Cynthia Villar, to visit Bataan every December to share gifts to their friends and neighbours in their ancestral home in Rizal St., Bgy. Pacar.

“It always feels good to visit Bataan and be reminded of how my Nanay Curing, the original Ms. Sipag at Tiyaga, lived as a young woman,” Villar, the standard-bearer of the Nacionalista Party, said.

Villar’s mother, Curita Bamba Villar, was a native of Orani. She was daughter of a fisherman and a housemade. To help her family, she would collect empty tin cans and sell these to bagoong dealers. It is also in Bataan where Nanay Curing started selling fish.

Villar said he inherited his mother’s business mindedness, which guided him to succeed in business.

“She taught me the value of sipag at tiyaga, which has become my mantra in both my private and public life,” he added.

The traditional gift-giving is Villar’s way of thanking his fellow Bataoenos for their unfailing support for him as an “Anak ng Bataan.” The people of bataan warmly received Villar, Who erupted in cheers at the sight of him.

Villar gave out toys, toiletries and grocery items in water lily baskets to the neighbours. He also took the opportunity to touch-base with local leaders of Orani, led by Mayor Benjie Serrano and Vice Mayor Tonton Bernales, and listen how he could further help his hometown.

DND Secretary reiterates directive on “zero casualty” during calamities

THE Dept. of National Defense (DND) has reiterated the implementation of National Disaster Coordinating Council (DCC) Directive No. 24, series of 2003, entitled “Zero Casualty” during calamities.

The reiteration order was issued by Secretary Norberto Gonzales during his recent visit to Northern Mindanao, particularly, Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro City, to assess the damage of Typhoon Urduja that brought an enormous volume of rain causing flashfloods and landslides to occur in some parts of the region.

Gonzales who just assumed the post of DND Secretary called on Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Constantino Jaraula and Misamis Oriental Governor Oscar Moreno accompanied by NDCC Administrator Glenn Rabonza, Regional DCC Executive Officer Carmelito A. Lupo of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), region10, 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army Commander, Brig. Gen. Mario F. Chan and P/Chief Supt. Danilo T. Empedrad, Regional Director of the Philippine National Police (PNP), region 10.

Directive No. 24 of the NDCC is aimed at reminding all concerned DCC’s to implement response preparedness measures in their areas of responsibility (AOR) and prepare their constituents for the next typhoon.

These measures include, among others, the prepositioning of response assets, stock piling of food and non-food items, identification of evacuation centers and the implementation of pre-emptive evacuation.

The directive also calls for the PNP nationwide to support the local chief executives (LCE) and the DCC‘s to ensure that response preparedness measures are proactively implemented at all levels. (Rutchie Cabahug-Aguhob, Philippine Information Agency, Region 10)

A Day of Infamy for Philippine Democracy

THE entire community of journalists in Misamis Occidental expresses our outrage over the gruesome fate suffered by our colleagues who were reportedly part of a group of some 50 people massacred in Maguindanao on Monday, November 23, 2009.

Some 20 of our colleagues were merely covering what should have been the filing of a certificate of candidacy of an aspirant for Maguindanao governor. It was just horrible that in the course of doing their work, they also become secondary targets, if not collateral damage, in the clash of people gunning for control of political power.

Such a highly abominable act of slaughtering scores of innocent people should be utterly condemned in the strongest sense. It is a conduct not befitting civilized society.

Suffrage is a Constitutionally-guaranteed right of everyone that provides the underpinnings of elections as a democratic exercise. Press freedom, which is equally sanctioned by the Constitution, guarantees unhampered chronicling of the travails of this political activity through the news media.

But last Monday’s Maguindanao carnage showed how brute force was employed to replace civilized and dynamic interaction in the political and social communication platforms in order to maintain hegemonic dominance over local fiefdoms. No doubt, this practice is further undermining the state of democracy which is still fragile throughout the country, and a seeming failure in Maguindanao.

By the sheer brutality of the incident, we will forever consider this date a day of infamy for Philippine democracy.

We demand justice and full responsibility by the perpetrators no matter who they are. We ask the government to do a no-nonsense probe into the incident and bring those responsible before the bar of justice.

Chair NUJP-OZamiz City

IFJ Calls for Urgent Action over Massacre of Philippine Journalists

The IFJ has called for the international community to intervene to demand a full investigation to bring to justice those responsible for the biggest single massacre of working journalists in recent history.

The IFJ call came after at least twelve journalists were murdered when a political convoy of over 36 persons was ambushed and slaughtered by gunmen in the Maguindanao province of Southern Philippines.

“This is an event which shocks journalists around the world to the core,’ said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “We need a strong and urgent response from the Philippine government and the international community.”

The political convoy was led by Genalyn Tiamzon-Mangudadatu, who was on her way to file her husband’s nomination as a candidate for the forthcoming election for governor of Maguindanao province. Journalists were part of the convoy along with several members of her family.

The convoy was ambushed Monday morning by around 100 armed men, who took them to a remote location before massacring them all. Most were shot; some were beheaded and driven over by vehicles.

According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) among the victims were at least 12 journalists covering the political development who were accompanying the political convoy.

This is the darkest day in the history of journalism in the Philippines, which, outside of Iraq, has topped the tables of countries where journalists are most at risk in recent years.

Tangub city prepares for the 5th heritage, culture week celebration

TANGUB CITY: Now on its 5th year heritage and culture week celebration, Tangub city government through the Tangub City Historical Commission (TCHC) has lined-up activities starting November 28 to December 4, 2009.

With this year’s theme, “Ang Kaalam sa Katigulangan, Gabayan sa Kabatan-onan,” the historical commission focuses mainly on instilling the importance of the historical past and culture of Tangub city to the youth.

In an effort to come up with special presentations and a memorable week, Narcisa A. Naron, General Commissioner, TCHC, together with Judith Tablan, General Secretary, and Prof. Emilio Pascual, Commission Consultant, designed and prepared activities that would capture and showcase the totality of the whole affair.

On its first day, is the cultural extravaganza, a grand salute to the outgoing City Mayor Jennifer Wee-Tan for her contribution to the city’s developments for the past nine (9) years.

On the 29th, is the annual Grand Bayle, the Tangubanons way of giving respect to the senior citizens of the city. Attire is Filipiniana and Barong Tagalog.

Balak Competitions will be competed among students from various elementary and secondary schools of Tangub on November 30. Non-students or any participants resided in Tangub have its own category for the same competition.

On the same day, an oratorical contest will also be done between students from Gov. Alfonso D. Tan College (GADTC) and Northwestern Mindanao State College (NMSC). The competitions will be aired live over DXJT Radyo ng Bayan with simulcast over a cable TV.

On December 1, the 17th edition of the Christmas Symbols Festival will be opened with its annual fireworks display. All Christmas symbols will be officially lighted, which is expected to draw thousands of spectators.

On December 2, is the “Tigi Sa Kaalam,” an academic competition on the history of Tangub City. Participants are from elementary and secondary students of Department of education (DepEd), Tangub Division. This competition is also the output of the museum viewing conducted by the Historical Commission in the last five (5) months.

On December 3, the city will be having its history day. Activities included are unveiling of municipal and city mayors framed pictures at the Aspiracion Hall. In the afternoon, a massive museum orientation and viewing among government employees will be conducted.

Folk dance competition will cap the week-long activities on December 4. This will be participated in by elementary, secondary and tertiary students of Tangub. (Richly A. Tagbacaula, Tangub City)

President Arroyo declares November 27, 28 as non-working holidays

ISLAMIC City of Marawi– To mark the celebration of Eid’l Adha, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has declared November 27 (Friday) and November 28 (Saturday) as non-working holidays in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) per Presidential Proclamation No. 1808-A.

Eid’l Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice is one of the holiest Islamic holidays as it commemorates the

During this day, Muslims in every part of the globe will troop to mosque early morning to start the celebration with a congregation prayer.

The Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA) said the observance of Eid’l Adha is a recognized legal Muslim holiday as mandated by Presidential Decree No. 1083 otherwise known as the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines. (Apipa P. Bagumbaran / PIA-Marawi City)

Mindanao Week of Peace kicks off on November 26

ISLAMIC City of Marawi– The annual Mindanao Week of Peace which aims to raise peace consciousness and promote people’s participation in building a culture of peace will again be unfolded this year from November 26 to December 2.

The weeklong celebration is in line with Presidential Proclamation No. 127 which declares the last Thursday of November up to the first Wednesday of December every year as the Mindanao Week of Peace.

The proclamation also enjoins and encourages all concerned government agencies and instrumentalities including government owned and controlled corporations as well as members of the private sector and civil society based in Mindanao to engage in relevant and meaningful activities in celebration of the week of peace in coordination with the Bishops-Ulama Conference of the Philippines.

This year’s celebration is bannered on the theme, “Think Mindanao, Feel Mindanao, Bring Peace to Mindanao” which stressed that needs and aspirations for a lasting peace in Mindanao must influence the individual thoughts and feelings of every Mindanaons.

Here in the city, an interfaith forum will be conducted to jointly highlight the Mindanao Week of Peace and Eid’l Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) celebrations.

With the theme, “Sacrifice as the Key to Peace and National Reconciliation,” the forum is a collaborative effort of the Ulama League of the Philippines (ULP) and the Mindanao State University – King Faisal Center for Islamic, Arabic and Asian Studies (MSU-KFCIAAS). (Apipa P. Bagumbaran / PIA-Marawi City)

Now is not the time to run for the presidency – Chiz

OPPOSITION Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday declared that it is not time for him to run for the presidency but vowed at the same time that he would continue his fight for good governance.

“Napagpasyahan ko, na hindi tumakbo bilang pangulo sa darating na halalan. Napagpasyahan ko na hindi man bilang kandidato, ako’y may papel na pwedeng gampanan bilang Pilipino at ordinaryong botante sa panahong ito,” the 40-year old lawmaker said in a speech at Club Filipino.

“Napagpasyahan ko na hindi lang ngayon ang panahon para matupad ang pinanghahawakan kong pangarap at layunin kong panguluhan nang hindi nakatali. Patuloy kang panghahawakan ang pangarap at pangakong iyan. Hindi man ngayon kundi sa darating na panahon,” he said.

Escudero announced his decision almost a month after he resigned from the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) so he could freely make up his mind without any other interest and agenda in mind but his hopes and dreams for the country.

“I’ve always said that for me, it’s the presidency but not at all cost. Not at the cost of losing my soul, not at the cost of losing myself, not at the cost by being eaten up by the system and the process and certainly not at the cost of not being able to do the things that I was and set out to do,” he told a crowd of supporters and allies.

Escudero, who has been among the frontrunners in the latest presidential surveys, said he had consulted with family, close friends, and supporters on his plans for the 2010 polls.

“Hindi ko rin kayang gawin ang dapat at gusto kong gawin at kung makakain lamang ako ng sistema. Para sa akin, hamon itong dapat tingnan ng lahat na ng unang nagdeklara, sila ba’y nakain na ng sistema o hindi pa, sa daan tungo sa panguluhan,” said Escudero.

“Sila ba ay kaya pa ring gawin ang lahat ng pinangako sa atin na magaganda at matatamis habang nangangampanya. Hindi ko makokonsensyang sabihin ‘yan kung hindi ko rin lang kayang gawin kung ako ay pagtitiwalaan niyo. Dahil po sa lahat ng nabanggit ko, akala ko’y madali pero hindi,” he said.

Escudero thanked his supporters for their trust and confidence and vowed to continue his fight for a “new Philippines” in the days ahead.

Palace will help Z Gorres

MALACANANG vowed to extend all necessary assistance to International Boxing Federation (IBF) super flyweight champion Z “The Dream” Gorres, who met an accident after winning the non-title fight against Luis Melendez on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde told a media briefing in the New Executive Building in Malacanang on Tuesday that the Palace would extend all the help and assistance the Gorres’ family needed.

He said that like pound-for-pound boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, Gorres was also one of the pride of the country.

”The government is willing to give him (Gorres) any assistance that he deserve which is in accordance of law and definitely we want to take care of them because we want to produce more Manny Pacquiao in the future,” Remonde said.

Gorres, who hails from Dumaguete City, is now in stable condition after undergoing a brain surgery due to internal hemorrhage when he received a lucky punch from his opponent in the 10th and final round of their match last Saturday.

Gorres was immediately rushed to University Medical Center in Las Vegas after their fight. Gorres won against Melendez.

Remonde assured the Gorres’ family of the government’s assistance they will need.

Meanwhile, Remonde also said that the Palace was coordinating with the Philippine Sport Commission (PSC) for the preparation of giving Pacquiao a “heroes welcome” when he arrives on Friday.

Remonde said that Pacquiao was now considered one of the great boxers in the world after snatching his 7th title in defeating Miguel Cotto.

PGMA orders DepEd to fund classroom construction

BGY. MANUALI, Porac, Pampanga :President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday instructed Education Secretary Jesli Lapus to provide funding for the construction of a two-classroom school building here.

The Chief Executive issued the instruction during a site inspection for the new school building. She also told the Lapus to source personnel who would work as teachers from this remote village.

In an interview, Lapus said that funds were readily available for the construction of the school building.

He said the P1.2-million needed to put up the two classrooms would be processed so that construction could start immediately.

The classrooms, measuring 7x7 meters each, would soon provide a suitable learning venue for elementary school students.

Also joining the President were DepEd Region III Director Mario Ramirez and local government officials led by Pampanga Rep. Carmelo Lazatin, CORD 3 Ed Pamintuan, Presidential Management Staff Director General Hermogenes Esperon and Manuali Barangay Captain Fernando de Leon.

Palace to ask Atienza’s explanation on Mindoro mining project

MALACAÑANG will ask Environment Secretary Lito Atienza to explain his decision allowing a big mining project to be put up in Mindoro despite the 25-year mining moratorium in the province.

In a press briefing on Tuesday morning, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the President will ask Atienza to justify the issuance of an ECC (Environmental Compliance Certificate) by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) to a Norwegian-based company to mine 11,000 hectares of public land in Mindoro.

Government officials of Mindoro have complained that the project would displace around 20,000 residents mostly Mangyans. The officials claimed the mining project would affect agriculture and threaten forest conservation areas, where tamaraws roam and in nearby Puerto Galera, a favorite tourist destination.

The officials are also asking DENR to respect the 25-year mining moratorium in the province.

When asked if Atienza’s action violates the policy of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in environment conservation and protection, Remonde said the government needs to strike a balance between development and the protection of environment. That’s why, he added, the palace would ask Atienza to explain himself.

It’s Villar-Legarda tandem for 2010

MANDALUYONG CITY—The tandem of Nacionalista Party (NP) presidential bet Sen. Manny Villar and Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) vice-presidential hopeful Sen. Loren Legarda has been officially sealed, following their long-awaited announcement at the historic Laurel House in Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City.

On his vice-presidential pick, Villar said, “Our team-up is founded on and solidified by our common advocacies such as poverty alleviation, climate change mitigation and environment rehabilitation, and protection of our migrant workers which we have been passionately pursuing.”

“It is Sen. Loren Legarda who best complements and represents my ideals and visions for the country and our people who long to get up from the twin scourge of poverty and calamities,” Villar said.

Villar, whose edge among presidential aspirants is his managerial skills developed from hard work and perseverance amid poverty, is a known advocate of overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs) rights. He has repatriated and assisted 754 distressed OFWs, mostly from the Middle East, since last year. Villar started his OFW advocacy 30 years ago, while still in the private sector.

At the same time, the NP president continues to focus on combating climate change, initiating tree-planting projects, river clean-up drives, and other environmental endeavors. He has planted over one million trees.

Likewise, Legarda is a known environmentalist who was recently appointed by the United Nations as champion of disaster risk reduction in the Asia-Pacific region. She is also the founder of the Luntiang Pilipinas Foundation which advocates environmental awareness. Through the years, the foundation has supervised the construction of forest parks and the planting of two million trees nationwide.

Legarda is acknowledged to be the only woman in history who has placed number one in two senatorial elections, in 1998 and again in 2007. She is also the first woman who became majority floor leader of the Philippine Senate.

The lady senator believes that among all the candidates eyeing the presidency, Villar is the only one who possesses the leadership and management skills necessary in mitigating poverty and addressing the needs of the Filipino people.

Chiz to comelec : be honest with Filipino people

OPPOSITION Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to be honest and transparent with the Filipino people and say once and for all if the planned automation of the May 2010 polls can still be undertaken.

“It is the Comelec’s obligation to be honest with the people and tell us if the May 2010 poll automation can still be implemented. Speculations are rife again that the Comelec will not be able to pull it off and the feared confusion come May 2010 may lead to a failure of elections,” Escudero said.

“Kaya ba o hindi? Uubra ba o hindi? Kung kakayanin, ipaliwanag at sagutin ang mga duda sa automation. Kung hindi, aminin ngayon pa lang at gumawa ng mga alternatibong mga plano upang masiguro ang mapayapang pagsasagawa ng halalan sa May 2010,” he said.
Lawyer Harry Roque, Jr. and nine other petitioners filed a supplemental motion for recommendation with the Supreme Court last week over “relevant supervening events” that included:

• The alleged inability of Comelec, Smartmatic International and TIM to comply with the automation contract because of their failure to provide telecommunications facilities that will assure 100 percent communications coverage at all times during the May 2010 polls;
• The move by Smartmatic and TIM to resort to subcontracting for the manufacture of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, which has now been subcontracted to a Chinese company called Quisdi after it was first subcontracted to Taiwanese supplier Jarl-Tech. This, the petitioners said, violated the Comelec’s own bidding rules as well as RA 9184;
“Time and time again, I have welcomed full automation of our electoral process. But we must deliberately calibrate its implementation in accordance with the law, and taking into consideration current developments,” Escudero said.

The opposition senator warned that the Comelec could find itself with a bigger “Mega-Pacific” scandal in its hands if it chooses to pursue poll automation under questionable circumstances.
The co-chairman of the Committee on Oversight on the Automated Election System stressed the need to “learn from the Mega-Pacific deal and make sure that we will not waste the people's money because of our desire to have automation for automation's sake.”

“We cannot and should not gamble with automation if it will not be ready by May 2010 because this is tantamount to gambling with our nation’s future,” Escudero said.

“The Comelec should realize that unless it adheres closely to the laws of the land relative to the automation of the May 2010 polls, it will defeat the very purpose of automation in the first place – to conduct honest elections and allow the true sentiments of the nation to be heard,” he added.

Gun amnesty posts 219 loose firearms in Lanao Sur

MARAWI CITY: The Final General Firearms Amnesty (FGFA) of the government posted some 219 loose firearms in the province of Lanao del Sur.

Police Superintendent Esmael Pua Ali of the Provincial Police Office revealed that they have processed 142 new firearms registration and 77 firearms license renewal.

The FGFA is the government’s intensified campaign against loose firearms.

Under EO 817, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is mandated to implement the FGFA and conduct continuing and intensified law enforcement actions to confiscate and seize all loose firearms.

The Provincial Director also disclosed that the amnesty period has been extended through EO 817-A in recognition of the public’s request for more time to register their firearms.

He said the original period was only from October 1-31 but it was extended until November 30 of this year.

Under EO 187-A, individual and juridical entities may register their unregistered firearms and/or renew their expired firearms licenses with the PNP during the extension period.

The Implementing Rules and Regulations issued by the PNP Chief to carry-out EO 817 is the same in EO 817-A. (Apipa P. Bagumbaran / PIA-Marawi City)

Chiz : genuine land reform can improve lives of poor farmers

OPPOSITION Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday urged government to implement true agrarian reform to enable landless farmers to live decently, improve their income and provide proper education and nutrition to their families.

Of the country’s estimated labor force of 36 million, close to 40 percent are directly and indirectly engaged in agriculture.

“The lack of political will on the part of this administration to redistribute land in rural areas, and its inability to provide basic farming resources has kept farmers poor and stymied production,” he added.

Escudero stressed that a continuing situation such as this, where farmers are mired in poverty, could lead to a repetition of the Nov. 16, 2004 labor protest over workers’ benefits and wages at Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

The incident resulted in the death of seven peasants who were shot dead by a combined force of police and military personnel who tried to enforce an order from the Department of Labor to assume jurisdiction over the strike.

Data from the Department of Agriculture show that farm output growth in the second quarter of 2009 missed targets.

It was also the slowest in four years at .87 percent and was markedly lower than the 5.4 percent recorded during the same period a year ago.

“Lack of opportunities in rural areas has only led to the inequitable distribution of or limited access to resources. And until this is addressed, many farmers will continue to wallow in poverty,” Escudero stressed.

Villar files resolution honoring Pacquiao

SEN. Manny Villar today filed a resolution commending Manny Pacquiao for winning over Puerto Rican boxer Miguel Cotto during the “Firepower” boxing match held in Las Vegas last Sunday.

“Pacquiao brings great pride and inspires all Filipinos to excel in their undertakings to achieve success and world recognition even during challenging times,” Villar said.

Proposed Senate Resolution No. 1466 said Pacquiao’s technical knockout triumph over Cotto made him not only the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter today but also the first fighter to win world titles in seven divisions.

There are no safe firecrackers or fireworks—DOH

THE Department of Health (DOH) today strongly advised parents not to allow children to use firecrackers or fireworks whether of the legal or illegal kind.

“These devices are not toys and are very dangerous, especially in the hands of innocent children,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said. “We recommend a ban on the use of these devices in residential areas and encourage local authorities to designate an area where fireworks could be lighted, displayed and handled by professionals or those who are trained in using explosive devices,” he added.

Health authorities said that the top 5 firecrackers that caused the most injuries in 2008 were (1) piccolo, (2) kwitis, (3) 5-star, (4) luces and (5) home-made or altered firecrackers.
“Piccolo, an illegal firecracker, continued to be the number one cause of injury during the last holiday season and it did not only cause minor injuries but also severe ones like the ruptured eyeball of a boy in Bicol,” Duque disclosed.

He explained that the public should always be cautious and not to regard the legal fireworks as safe because Kwitis and Luces, both legal fireworks, were No. 2 and No. 4 in the list.
“The seemingly harmless Luces can burn up to 1093 ºC (2000 ºF) or 10 times the boiling point of water,” Duque said.

Duque also disclosed that the top 5 Firecrackers causing “Blast Burn with Amputation” were (1) Home-made or Altered Firecrackers, (2) 5-star, (3) camara, (4) rebentador, (5) and whistle bomb.

DOH records show that Watusi, long considered as illegal, continued to sneak in the market and caused two cases of injuries this year. The youngest case was a 9-month old girl from Tondo, Manila who was left unattended in the house by her parents while an elder sibling played with Watusi. She was brought to the Philippine General Hospital for treatment.

The second case was a 31 year-old male from Rodriguez, Rizal with a history of psychiatric treatment. He allegedly ingested 2 boxes of Watusi. He was brought to East Avenue Medical Center for treatment. Both patients survived.

Health authorities said that there is also a significant increase in the number of stray bullet incidents caused by the indiscriminate firing of guns. These were reported in the two regions in Mindanao with no previous records.

Chiz to gov’t: clean up your act

OPPOSITION Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday reminded government to resolve hundreds of cases of human rights violations that have cropped up in the last eight years, particularly now that the Anti-Torture Bill (Republic Act 9745) has been signed into law.

“This development is a significant milestone in our efforts to address this country’s human rights violations, particularly the use of torture by agents of government,” the 40-year-old lawmaker stressed.

Numerous cause-oriented groups and organizations have documented hundreds of cases where members of left-leaning political groups and the clergy as well as outspoken activists and journalists were either kidnapped or killed since the Arroyo administration took power in 2001. More than 1,000 cases of torture have also been recorded.

Escudero added that his colleagues in the House of Representatives and the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, as well as human rights and people’s organizations also played an important part in having the bill made into law.

He noted that for years, the bill languished in the legislative mill despite the fact that the Philippines was a signatory of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

“The enactment of R.A. 9745 is a concrete step towards fulfilling our commitment to an agreement we signed over two decades ago. More importantly, this law now gives our people another shield against human rights abuses.”

Escudero said that from the dawn of Martial Law to this very day, many Filipinos have suffered because of their political beliefs.

“Under this administration alone, political activists have been tortured and have had to seek the protection of our courts against these abuses. With this new law on their side, the hope is that this will pave the way for the conviction and imprisonment of their perpetrators, and discourage those planning to use it,” he emphasized.