False alarm

The Japanese Embassy in the Philippines denied “false news” that Japan has effectively lifted the visa requirement for the Philippines and other neighboring countries, Indonesia and Vietnam.

We were rejoicing after we leaned about this news two weeks ago. And now we are dismayed because it’s just false alarm! sigh..

Philippines allows phone use on planes

The Philippines’ civil aviation authority said Tuesday it would allow passengers to use mobile phones and laptops to make calls and access the Internet during flights.

Civil aviation director general William Hotchkiss said the order covered “transmitting portable electronic devices”.

With immediate effect, the move will allow “people on board the aircraft conditional use of laptops, cellular phones, Internet or short-based-messaging service, voice communications and other broadband services during flights”, he said in a directive.

However, devices should still be turned off pre-flight, when the aircraft is refuelling, and be switched to silent mode.

“The use of MP3s should always be with earphones and not with additional or separate speaker or amplifiers,” Hotchkiss added.


Invest in Philippines now says global reports

I read in yahoo news that now is the best time to invest in the Philippines so if you’re planning to do business here consider these reports:

Philippines was tagged as the most improved among the 60 economies in Grant Thornton’s “Global Dynamism Index” released Monday, jumping 25 places to the 21st spot this year.

The Philippines even posted greater improvements compared to China, which jumped 17 places to being third globally, topped only by Australia and Chile.

The report, which ranks countries according to changes implemented to make it easier for businesses to grow, gave the Philippines an index score of 55.7 points.

The Philippines performed best in economics and growth where it got 80 points, owing primarily to high gross domestic product growth.

This comes after the Philippine economy’s 7.5 percent growth from April to June, the fourth consecutive quarter with expansion above 7 percent under President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s III’s watch.

The Philippines also posted high scores in terms of labor and human capital, 67.9 points, as well as business operating environment, 62.4 points.



Solons visit disputed island, China protest

THITU ISLAND – FIVE congressmen visited this island in the disputed Spratlys yesterday, infuriating China which claimed the trip would destabilize the region and damage ties.

The five lawmakers, joined by a small party of soldiers, local officials and journalists, arrived on Thitu island aboard two private planes and raised two Philippine flags above a government building.

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said the delegation came to promote a peaceful solution to the territorial dispute, but stressed that Filipinos who know the island as “Pag-asa” are ready to defend “Philippine” territory.

“We come in peace, we support a diplomatic solution. But let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind, in any foreign powers’ mind, that if they dare to eject us from Pag-asa… Filipinos will not take that sitting down,” he said.

“Filipinos are born to resist aggression. Filipinos are willing to die for their soil.”

The visit comes as tensions rise over the Spratlys chain which is wholly or partially claimed by China and the Philippines as well as Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Thitu is the largest of the Philippine-occupied islands in the Spratlys, an archipelago believed to sit on vast natural resources and which also straddles shipping lanes vital to world trade.

About 60 Filipinos live on Thitu, which is just 37 hectares in size and lies about 450 kilometers northwest of Palawan.

Bello brushed aside China’s criticism.

“Maybe they are not used to democratic processes,” he told around 80 people gathered for the flag-raising ceremony.

Malacañang also defended the lawmakers’ visit, saying Filipinos can visit any Philippine territory.

“It’s already a done deal. They did not have to secure the executive’s consent. They went there on their own accord,” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.        AFP

Noy’s uncle Pedro Cojuangco dies

MANILA, Philippines – The maternal uncle of President Aquino passed away yesterday due to cardio-respiratory arrest secondary to multiple organ failure at the Makati Medical Center. He was 83.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda announced Pedro Cojuangco died at 10:33 a.m. and the wake will be held at the Cojuangco residence in Forbes Park, Makati City.

“The burial will be on July 26 at the Manila Memorial Park,” Lacierda said.

Cojuangco was the eldest brother of the late former President Corazon Aquino, the President’s mother.

Cojuangco was chairman and president of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac that operates a sugar mill and refining, distilling and carbon dioxide plants in Tarlac City.

Cojuangco was also listed as the chairman of Jose Cojuangco and Sons, which owns 28 percent of Central Azucarera de Tarlac, as well as a building in Legazpi Village, Makati City, that served as the campaign headquarters of Mrs. Aquino in 1986 and as her private office after her term ended in 1992.


Time to come out, Garci told

“Come out in the open”.

Malacanang yesterday dared former Commission on Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to emulate former Comelec official Lintang Bedol and come out, saying the noose is tightening on the perpetrators of the electoral fraud in 2004 and 2007 including former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Several senators,  notably Sen. Panfilo Lacson, believe that Garcillano is the “missing piece” in the jigsaw puzzle.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda also told Arroyo’s counsel Raul     Lambino to shut up if he can’t prove his allegations that the Palace has struck a deal with former governor Zaldy Ampatuan.

“[Lawyer Raul Lambino] only talks if his principal is already affected. We already know that the noose is tightening, that’s why he’s trying to misdirect [the issue].”

Lambino also alleged that Malacañang had a deal with Bedol, who recently surfaced to support Ampatuan’s claims that Arroyo planned the massive cheating in the 2004 and 2007 elections.

The Comelec will start investigating today three new witnesses to the poll cheating.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said aside from Bedol, three others – Saliao Amba, Magsaysay Muhamad and Salonga Edzela Tamontaka — executed their affidavits.

Robredo said other witnesses may also come out to reveal what they knew of the poll fraud.


3 Maguindanao poll execs corroborate Lintang Bedol claims

Two municipal election officers and an aide have corroborated Lintang Bedol’s claims of massive cheating in Maguindanao province during the 2007 senatorial race to favor Arroyo administration candidates, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Wednesday.

Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. released copies of the affidavits of Magsaysay Mohamad and Saliao Amba, poll officers of Sultan sa Barongis and Shariff Saydona towns, respectively, and Salonga Edzela, a computer voters’ list technician assigned to Bedol.

The affidavits appear to support the claim of Bedol, a former Maguindanao poll supervisor, that election documents with falsified results were used to put the administration candidates on the winning column.

Mohamad and Amba tagged then provincial administrator, Norie Unas, as the leader of the operation.

“I observed everything but I just kept quiet,” Mohamad said in his account of how, on Election Day, May 14, Unas’ men seized the election returns (ERs) for national candidates from the board of election inspectors (BEIs), who were then asked to sign and thumb-mark unfilled documents.

“I just kept silent because I know that it would be dangerous for me to say my observations,” Amba said in his affidavit, which recounted how Unas’ people, led by a certain Butch, put doctored ERs in the ballot boxes after the voting ended.

Based on the two statements, no actual counting for the national candidates took place because the ERs were in the possession of Unas’ men and these were filled up by the time the BEIs turned over their ballot boxes.

Zero votes

Amba said the canvassing in his town showed then opposition Senatorial candidates Benigno Aquino III, Panfilo Lacson and Alan Peter Cayetano got zero votes while the administration’s Luis “Chavit” Singson topped the list.

Mohamad and Amba said that after the canvassing, they submitted the dubious ERs to the provincial board of canvassers (PBOC), led by Bedol. However, around three days later, they learned that Bedol’s office had been ransacked and the election documents to be transported to Manila were stolen.

The two said they were later instructed by the Comelec main office to submit their extra copy of the ERs.

Amba said he no longer had the copy so Unas prepared one for him, which Amba later signed.

Mohamad said he took the copy of the ERs that was posted in the canvassing hall and noticed that it was not the same paper he submitted to the PBOC. He said the results also were different.

Abalos’ authentication

The two poll officers went to General Santos City and turned over the ERs and other documents to then Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. and Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, who, they said, certified the documents as authentic.

Abalos and Ferrer were members of Task Force Maguindanao that was formed by Comelec to recover the copies of the election documents after Bedol reported the theft to the main office.

However, Amba and Mohamad made no attestation if the ERs submitted to Bedol, even with falsified results, were genuine in the first place.

Edzela recounted how Bedol told him to verify a report that Bedol’s office had been ransacked and all election documents were stolen.

He also related how he accompanied Bedol to General Santos. He said Bedol, unwilling to swear to the authenticity of the election documents submitted by Amba, Mohamad and other poll officers, opted not to attend the hearing conducted by Abalos and Ferrer.

Brillantes said the supporting affidavits “appear to have basis” because it was based on events observed by the witnesses. “The things they’re saying can have some credibility provided they’re supported also by documents,” he said.


He said the document submitted by Bedol was a mere “rehash” of statements he had made in an interview with ABS-CBN last week.

Asked if he regarded Bedol a credible witness, Brillantes said:

“Not yet. Actually for practical purposes all that he said could not have been true. Maybe some of them might be false but we’re not saying that falsehoods were deliberately put in the affidavit. You have to consider the fact that this was four years ago. We won’t be able to recall everything that happened in 2007. That’s why we sent our lawyers to assist him in recalling the incidents.”

Brillantes, a former election lawyer for the opposition, said Bedol’s claim that Arroyo ordered the rigging was “hearsay.”

Bedol claimed it was then Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. who told him that Arroyo ordered that Aquino, Cayetano and Lacson get zero votes.

Ampatuans’ claim

In an unsigned affidavit, Ampatuan’s son Zaldy, the former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, also made the same claim.

In this document, Zaldy said his father told him that Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel had ordered the vote-padding.

The Ampatuans are in jail pending trial for the massacre of 58 people in Maguindanao. Zaldy had offered to turn state witness against his father and brother.

Brillantes said that if Zaldy submitted a signed affidavit, this may provide the “connecting link” between Bedol and Arroyo.

“The link to former President Arroyo is only the statement of Bedol that it was mentioned to him by Ampatuan. That’s the only link. If that is the only link, that to me, as a lawyer, is simply hearsay as far as Bedol is concerned. If Ampatuan collaborates that statement, then that is no longer hearsay,” he said.

Election sabotage

Brillantes said Arroyo could be charged with election sabotage, a nonbailable offense punishable by life imprisonment.

However, with Bedol’s affidavit remaining unsubstantiated and the Comelec unsure about his credibility, Brillantes said he could not even say if the poll body could conduct a preliminary investigation at all.

“If we’ll find basis, then we’ll go to the formal preliminary investigation,” Brillantes said.

“We’re still gathering facts so that we can get one general picture that cheating really took place and that the testimonies are clear. We’ll be looking for documents to build the case. It’s difficult to launch an investigation with the respondents getting hurt even if we have not yet built our story. Only one witness has come out—Bedol.”

Philippine Daily Inquirer