Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cops fined over Davao death squads

For neglect of duty that resulted to 720 murders allegedly carried out by the 'Davao death squad', the Office of the Ombudsman ordered 21 Philippine National Police officials to give a fine equivalent to a month's salary.

Police Senior Superintendents Catalino Cuy and Jaime Morente and Police Superintendents Harry Espela, Michael John Dubria, and Rommil Mitra were found guilty of Simple Neglect of Duty over the killings. Also found guilty were other police chief inspectors, police senior inspectors, and police inspectors from the Davao City Police Office.

Although the usual penalty for neglect of duty is suspension for one month, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved the modification of the penalty to just a fine.

A fact-finding team from the Office of the Ombudsman found that 720 people were murdered from 2005 to 2008, with deaths reaching as high as 259 in 2008. The murders were usually done by men riding in tandem on motorcycles and most of the deaths were related to the drug trade, the Office of the Ombudsman said.

Less than half of the murders were ever solved, the fact-finding team found.

"From the foregoing figures, it is evident that the respondents were remiss in their duty to significantly reduce the number of killings," the Ombudsman's decision read. The police officers were found guilty under the doctrine of command responsibility under Executive Order No. 226 (1995).

According to the complaint letter that prompted the Ombudsman to investigate the Davao Death Squad killings, high-ranking PNP officers were "directly involved" in the murders.

The Ombudsman said the officers were guilty of failing to "take preventive or corrective action either before, during, or immediately after (the crimes)."

Under that Executive Order, the police officials are presumed to have known about the crimes since they were both widespread and were "repeatedly or regularly committed within (their) area of responsibility."

The Davao Death Squad is a vigilante group believed responsible for the deaths of drug dealers and delinquents in Davao City. According to a Human Rights Watch report in 2009, the murders were done with the knowledge and cooperation of local authorities.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Three Philippine police linked to kidnap and murder

A Philippine policeman has been detained in connection with the kidnapping and murder of a woman after he was caught on camera driving the victim's vehicle, an official said on Tuesday.
Authorities are also searching for two other officers in what is the latest embarrassment for the country's law enforcers, struggling to fight off widespread perceptions of corruption.
The trio were caught on camera driving the sports utility vehicle of Lea Angeles Ng, wife of a shopping mall executive, into a secured parking lot near Manila on the day she vanished, national police spokesman Agrimero Cruz said.
"We beg the bereaved family to bear with the often tedious process of criminal investigation and police procedures that are being conducted to establish an airtight case against those responsible for this crime," he said.
A fourth suspect, a civilian, has also been arrested and confessed to the crime, which led police to the woman's already decomposing remains last week, Cruz told reporters.
The footage shows Superintendent Rommel Miranda, deputy police chief in the central Philippines, and two lower-ranked officers, Otelio Santos and Jifford Signap, leaving Ng's vehicle in the parking lot, Cruz said.
Santos and Signap are both listed as having gone on unauthorised leave while Miranda has been detained, Cruz added.
Earlier this month, Philippine authorities ordered the arrest of 10 Manila policemen who went into hiding after being accused of kidnapping four South Korean tourists. Officials said the victims were freed after a ransom was paid.
In January, the head of the justice department's National Bureau of Investigation was sacked for allegedly covering up the kidnapping for ransom of a Japanese woman by his aides.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

GMA pleads not guilty to poll fraud

MANILA, Philippines - Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday pleaded not guilty to the crime of electoral sabotage, and vowed to clear her name during her arraignment at the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC).
Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative, wore a neck brace and an all-white ensemble as she arrived at around 8:30 a.m. for the proceedings in the courtroom of Pasay RTC Branch 112 Judge Jesus Mupas.
She was accompanied by her husband Jose Miguel, son Juan Miguel and a medical team from the Veterans Memorial Medical Center where she is currently detained due to her spine ailment.
The arraignment lasted less than an hour.
Arroyo’s lawyer Benjamin Santos said his client waived the reading of information on the charges against her since she fully understood the indictment.
After the case number was announced, Arroyo said, “Not guilty.”
Pre-trial was set on April 19.
Arrested in November, Arroyo is facing electoral sabotage charges filed by a joint panel of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) for allegedly manipulating the results of the 2007 midterm polls in Maguindanao to favor the senatorial bets of the then administration party.
She faces life in prison if convicted.
Charged along with Arroyo were former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol.
In a statement issued prior to her arraignment, Arroyo vowed to clear her name and that of her family and abide by the rule of law.
Arroyo also called on the Aquino administration to respect the rule of law in prosecuting cases against officials of the previous government and other perceived enemies.
“Despite the continuous and massive vilification campaign against me and my family, I have always said that I will dispute all charges in the proper forum,” Arroyo said.
“I am submitting myself to this process not only to clear my name but also as part of my commitment to respect and abide by the rules and orders of our courts,” she said.
“It is my fervent hope that our leaders uphold and our people have faith in the Constitution and the rule of law,” she said.
Arroyo was seen smiling as she entered the Pasay City courtroom but her husband said the former president is frustrated over the case.
“She feel it’s an injustice… there is no case, she is frustrated,” Mr. Arroyo said.
Hundreds of Arroyo’s supporters, who also wore white, converged in front of the city hall to show their support for the former leader.
“We will not abandon you,” their streamers read.
Speedy trial
Santos told the court his client waived her right to appear in the next hearings of her case.
He also said they are requesting a speedy trial – at least three hearings a week.
But clerk of court Joel Pelicano said the court can only handle two trials per week because of their tight schedule.
The arraignment of Arroyo had earlier been moved from Feb. 20 to March 19 but Santos filed a motion to proceed with the arraignment for security and health reasons of his client.
Plea expected
With Arroyo’s not guilty plea, the Comelec yesterday said it is prepared for a court battle with the former leader.
In an interview, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said they had expected Arroyo not to admit the offense during her arraignment yesterday.
“That was expected. That’s why we have been preparing hard because we know it is not going to be handed to us on a silver platter. We expected this ‘not guilty’ plea and we are ready to prove that she is, in fact, guilty,” he said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares also said he expected the not guilty plea.
“After all, she had been covering up all accountability issues raised against her during her nine-year presidency,” he said.
He said he expects Arroyo to deny any and all charges filed or to be filed against her.
He said the former president’s arraignment would not have taken place had impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona succeeded in allowing her and her husband to leave the country last Nov. 15.
The Arroyos went to the airport and tried to board planes for Singapore and Hong Kong, but immigration officers prevented them from leaving.
Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, for her part, said the administration should not forget to prosecute Arroyo for plunder and violation of human rights.
One step closer
Malacañang, meanwhile, welcomed the arraignment of Arroyo on electoral sabotage charges – to whuch she pleaded not guilty – and hoped that a ruling would come out within the current administration’s term.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Arroyo’s arraignment “brings us one step closer towards attaining closure to the many controversies that have hounded our country during the previous administration.”
“Accountability escapes no one. This is the very foundation of the rule of law: The scales of justice should tip towards no one; her blindfold must continue to shield the system from being susceptible to the temptations of pandering to those with power and influence,” Lacierda said.
He said the Comelec-DOJ task force that investigated the alleged role of Arroyo in the cheating during the 2007 senatorial elections would not press any charges if there was no prima facie case of electoral sabotage.
“Now that she has been arraigned, she is now under the jurisdiction of the court, so we can expect the trial to move on. Arraignment is the very first step towards trial on the merits,” Lacierda said. – With Paolo Romero, Sheila Crisostomo, Jess Diaz, Reinir Padua, Aurea Calica - By Perseus Echeminada (Philstar News Service, 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Philippines' Arroyo pleads not guilty to vote fraud

A smiling ex-Philippine president Gloria Arroyo pleaded not guilty on Thursday to rigging an election, denouncing the charge that could see her jailed for life as part a vilification campaign against her.
Arroyo is accused of conspiring with a feared political warlord to rig the 2007 senatorial elections, one of many corrupt acts her successor, Benigno Aquino, alleges she committed during her near-decade in power.
"Not guilty," Arroyo, 64, told the judge after standing up in a tiny Manila courthouse wearing a neck brace to support her spine that she says is weakened from a rare disease.
Arroyo smiled and waved to a crowd of journalists after she arrived at the court from a military hospital where she had been detained for nearly three months.
She smiled repeatedly again after the brief arraignment hearing ended and headed back into a police vehicle for the return trip to hospital, then issued a statement insisting that Aquino was unfairly harassing her.
"Despite the continuous and massive vilification campaign against me and my family, I have always said that I will dispute all charges in the proper forum," Arroyo said.
"I am submitting myself to this process not only to clear my name but also as part of my commitment to respect and abide by the rules and orders of our courts."
Prosecutors allege Arroyo ordered that ballots in 2007 elections be switched in the southern province of Maguindanao so that one of her allies won the final position available in the nation's Senate.
Arroyo is alleged to have conspired with then-Maguindanao governor and close political ally Andal Ampatuan Snr to tamper with the ballots.
Ampatuan Snr, who had a reputation as a ruthless political warlord, is a co-defendant in the vote-rigging case.
He is also facing multiple murder charges for allegedly organising with his relatives the massacre in 2009 of 57 people in Maguindanao to stop a rival's election challenge, an event that forced Arroyo to end their alliance.
Aquino, the son of democracy heroes, won a landslide election victory in 2010 on a vow to fight corruption that has plagued Philippine society for decades but he said worsened dramatically during Arroyo's reign.
Arroyo has been the top target of his anti-graft campaign.
She was hit in December with a second criminal charge in relation to a $330-million telecom deal with a Chinese firm, in which her husband and a political ally allegedly received kickbacks.
Three weeks after Arroyo's arrest for alleged vote-rigging, Aquino's allies in the lower house of parliament also impeached Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona on charges of corruption and protecting the ex-president.
The Senate is now conducting a lengthy trial to determine if the impeachment was valid and whether Corona, appointed by Arroyo just before she stepped down in 2010, should be sacked.
In a speech on Tuesday, Aquino warned his anti-corruption efforts hinged on successful prosecutions of Arroyo and Corona.
"We want to send a stern yet simple message: justice evades no one. There are no exceptions in our campaign against corruption," he said.
Arroyo was arrested at an exclusive hospital in November shortly after immigration authorities stopped her at Manila's airport from leaving the country.
Arroyo's lawyer said then her spinal disease was life-threatening, and the Supreme Court under Corona issued an order saying she was allowed to leave the country for treatment.
But Aquino insisted Arroyo was trying flee to evade prosecution and that she was not allowed to leave.
Arroyo, who is now a congresswoman after winning a parliamentary seat in the 2010 elections, was transferred to the military hospital shortly after her arrest.
No date has been set for Arroyo's trial, which could take years to complete. Arroyo applied to spend the intervening time under house arrest, but the government denied her request.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Philippine police wanted for S.Korean kidnap

Philippine authorities have ordered the arrest of ten policemen accused of kidnapping four South Korean tourists in a plot involving their countrymen tour guides, the Manila City government said Monday.
The capital's mayor, Alfredo Lim, also ordered that the 10 be dropped from police rolls after they went into hiding on February 14, around the time the kidnapping incident occurred.
"The incident is a tremendous and serious flaw on the good name of the police department," a statement issued by Mayor Lim's office said.
The order came after a South Korean tourist guide was arrested in his home country last week for allegedly conspiring with the Filipino police officers in the abduction.
The guide, identified by Lim's office as Choi Jang Tae, arrived in Manila with 12 South Korean tourists for a four-day vacation and enticed four of them to go shopping with him last week.
As they were walking to a popular mall, the four tourists were accosted by armed men who forced them into a van, the statement from the mayor's office said.
The four were then told by their captors they would be charged with illegal possession of drugs unless they paid $30,000. Another South Korean tourist guide later facilitated the transfer of the money, the statement added.
This South Korean has since been arrested in the Philippines, the mayor's office added.
Law-enforcement officials have assured that all the policemen involved in the crime will be charged and the money they extorted will be returned to its owners.
Lim, a former Manila police chief, also ordered a revamp of Manila police anti-narcotics units to prevent further incidents.
The Philippines has long struggled with corruption and abuse among the police which has sometimes led to foreign tourists being victimised.
In 2011, five Philippine policemen were sacked after they forced a German tourist to buy laptops for them by threatening to charge him with terrorism.

Three killed in failed Philippine jailbreak

Three people including a local Red Cross volunteer were killed when dozens of armed men tried to free an Islamic militant from jail in the southern Philippines, authorities said Monday.
About 50 men wearing black military-style fatigues attacked the jail in the trading city of Kidapawan late Sunday, with one launching a rocket-propelled grenade at the main gate, said deputy police chief Inspector Rolando Tillera.
"They fired an RPG but it misfired. It failed to hit the jail's gate which was securely locked," Tillera told AFP.
The gunmen then opened fire on the jail with assault rifles but they fled when guards shot back, according to Tillera.
He said the gunmen sprayed bystanders with bullets as they retreated and left two bombs to stop security forces from pursuing them.
The fighting lasted only about five minutes but three civilians, including a Red Cross volunteer, were killed, Tillera said. Fifteen other people, most of them civilians, were also wounded by bomb shrapnel and bullets, he said.
Philippine Red Cross spokeswoman Gwendolyn Pang told AFP the volunteer was an ambulance driver who had gone to the scene to help victims after the fighting had ended, then died in one of the ensuing bomb blasts.
The gunmen were trying to rescue Datukan Samad, a fighter from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who is awaiting trial on kidnapping charges, said local military spokesman Colonel Leopoldo Galon.
However MILF spokesman Von al-Haq denied that the group was involved in the incident. He insisted Samad was not a member of the organisation, describing him as just "a notorious criminal".
The 12,000-strong MILF has been waging an armed struggle to create an independent or autonomous Islamic state in the southern Philippines since the 1970s.
More than 150,000 people have died in the conflict, according to military estimates.
The MILF has been involved in peace talks with the government for about a decade, and a ceasefire has been in place for much of that time, but dozens of people still die each year in violence related to the MILF's campaign.
In 2009 armed men broke 31 inmates out of a jail on the southern island of Basilan, including at least one MILF figure and several members of the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militant group.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

GMA can stay at Veterans

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) dropped its motion yesterday to transfer former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) to a regular jail after doctors testified that the patient still needs close supervision for her therapy.
“We will not insist on the transfer, provided a regular medical report is submitted to the court,” Comelec lead prosecutor Esmeralda Ladra said.

The Comelec lawyer made the manifestation after defense lawyer Benjamin Santos asked for clarification of a press statement made by Comelec that they are no longer pursuing the transfer of the former president.

“We want to know if the Comelec is withdrawing its motion,” Santos said.

Ladra clarified that they are leaving it up to the court to decide on the motion but as far as they are concerned they are no longer interested in pursuing the issue.

Pasay Regional Trial Court Branch 112 Judge Jesus Mupas ordered the prosecution and the defense to submit their respective memorandum on the issue.

Santos reiterated their earlier motion for the house arrest of Arroyo, adding that the request cannot be considered special treatment because of her unique status as a former head of state.

In his supplemental motion, Santos cited the case of former President Joseph Estrada, who was placed under house arrest while the trial of his plunder case was ongoing at the Sandiganbayan.

Santos added that under the law, former presidents are entitled to security in his or her lifetime.

“Former president (Arroyo) thus belongs to a unique class, and the accused is among the select few,” he said.

Arroyo, along with former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former election officer Lintang Bedol, is facing electoral sabotage charges in relation to the May 2007 midterm election.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 supporters of Arroyo converged yesterday in front of the Pasay City Hall of Justice, where the hearing on the electoral sabotage charge was being held.

Pasay City deputy police chief Superintendent Samuel Turla told The STAR that the group arrived at about 8 a.m. waving pictures of Arroyo and posters seeking house arrest for the former president.

Turla said there was no visible leader of the group and after they held Mass, he requested them to leave the premises since they were already causing traffic.

“I told them if they will not voluntarily leave, we will disperse them with water,” he said.

The police official added the group did not have a permit to hold a rally so they could be charged with illegal assembly.

The group peacefully dispersed after the hearing ended.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Vehicle Impound offenses.

                                                 Impoundable Violations
DOTC-LTO (MC 89-105)
The following violations shall cause the impounding of a motor vehicle:
(Sec. 73, MC 89-105)
  • Unregistered/Improperly registered/delinquent or invalid registration
  • Unregistered substitute or replacement motor, vehicle engine, engine block or chassis
  • Unauthorized change of color or configuration
  • Operating, allowing the operation of a motor vehicle with a suspended or revoked Certificate of Registration
  • Using license plates different from the body number
  • Illegal Transfer of plates, tags, or stickers
  • Violations involving absence of required parts, accessories or devices or defective parts, accessories or devices which pose danger to the public
  • Authorized route not properly painted
  • Unauthorized/improvised number plates
  • Failure to paint on vehicle business or trade name
  • Failure to paint required markings
  • No body number (for PUV)
  • Using radio or stereo in violation of existing regulation or without the necessary permit, or in breach of the condition in permit regulation.
  • Installation of jalousies, curtains, dim colored lights, strobe lights, dancing lights or similar lights, colored tinted or painted windshield on window glass on "for hire" vehicles
In addition, the following violations shall also cause the impounding of the motor vehicle:
  • Driving without a license plate
  • Fake drivers license/TVR
  • Fake sticker
  • Fake license plate
  • Fake Official Receipt and Certificate of Registration
  • Tampered documents pertaining to franchising, registration and licensing
  • Failure to present any document regarding motor vehicle ATTA
  • Breach of Franchise Conditions
  • Improper use of drivers license
  • Expired drivers license
  • Expired Traffic Violation Receipt

MMDA Enforcers

10 Things That Drivers Should Know (Updated May 25, 2011)
  1. MMDA Enforcers are not allowed to group together while apprehending a motorist. They are not even allowed to stand together in groups of two (2) or more, except in actual times of special operations (e.g. apprehending groups of smoke-belching/colorum buses).
  2. Swerving is not a traffic violation per se. It is defined as a movement wherein vehicles shift from a lane to another. However, it can constitute the offense of reckless driving if it is done without precautions (e.g. swerving in an abrupt and careless manner, swerving without the use of signals, swerving across solid lines).

    Swerving can also constitute the offense of Disregarding Traffic Signs if there are signs present that explicitly prohibit swerving in the area.
  3. A driver's license cannot be confiscated by a Traffic Enforcer during traffic apprehensions except on the following situations:
    1. The driver was involved in a traffic accident
    2. The driver has accumulated three (3) or more unsettled violations
    3. The driver has been apprehended for the following violations:
    • Allowing another person to use driver's license
    • Broken sealing wire
    • Broken taximeter seal
    • Colorum operation (cargo/passenger vehicle)
    • Driving against traffic
    • Fake driver's license
    • Fake/altered taximeter seal
    • Fake/altered sealing wire
    • Fast/defective/non-operational/tampered taxi meter
    • Flagged up meter
    • Illegal or unauthorized counter-flow
    • Illegal transfer of plates/tags/stickers
    • Joined/reconnected sealing wire
    • No driver's ID
    • Ignoring Organized Bus Route (OBR) interval timers (for 2nd offense)
    • Skipping or bypassing designated OBR terminals or loading bays (for 2nd offense)
    • Operating on contractual basis
    • Out of line operation
    • Overcharging (with or without conductor) (for the 2nd offense)
    • Overspeeding
    • Refusal to convey passengers to destination/trip-cutting (Taxis and Public Utility Vehicles)
    • Refusal to render service to public (Taxis and Public Utility Vehicles)
    • Tampered sealing wire
    • Tampered taximeter seal
    • Tampering of OR/CR/CPC & other documents (spurious documents)
    • Undue preference/unjust discrimination
    • Using motor vehicle in commission of crime
    The above-mentioned administrative violations also require a minimum of 2 hours seminar (for the drivers) at the Traffic Academy.

    However, any driver who has committed three (3) or more unpaid violations, whether administrative or moving, shall also be subject to attending seminars, whose length shall be based on the results of the diagnostic exam (exam that will determine the contents of the seminar progress), which will be administered by the Agency.

    *Note: If the license is to be confiscated, the Traffic Enforcer should inform the driver of the reason/s for the confiscation and the ticket validity.

    If the driver refuses to surrender his driver's license, his plate may be detached pursuant to Section 74 & 75, MC 89-105.
  4. Private Vehicles are not allowed to use the yellow lane except when they are about to turn - provided that they start shifting lanes upon seeing the transition lane (broken white lines painted diagonally), that you can see around 50 meters away from an intersection. However, selective apprehension of private vehicles using the yellow lane is highly prohibited.
    The yellow lanes (1st and 2nd lanes in EDSA) are only for City Buses. City Buses are not allowed to go beyond the yellow lanes. If they do so, they will be apprehended for violating the yellow lane policy.
    Provincial buses are also not allowed to use the yellow lane. Instead, they are encouraged to use the third lane.
  5. Each Traffic Enforcer has his/her own written mission order issued by the MMDA Central Admin. Apprehended drivers are free to ask for the apprehending officer's mission order, which includes his area of responsibility, time of duty, official function. It also indicates whether or not the enforcer is authorized to issue tickets.
  6. Traffic Enforcers should issue TVR in complete uniform, with visible nameplates. Traffic Enforcers are instructed to accomplish the TVR (Traffic Violation Receipt) without any delay or argument on the road, so as to avoid traffic congestion.
  7. The Apprehending Enforcer is allowed to issue another TVR for Towing Fee. If the owner of the impounded vehicle fails to release his vehicle after payment of fine in the stipulated date, the impounding officer shall issue a separate TVR indicating no. of days it has remained at the impounding area.
  8. Before apprehending, the Traffic Enforcer should flag down the vehicle and lead it to the roadside where it will not obstruct the flow of traffic. Traffic Enforcers should courteously inform the driver of his violation.
  9. Traffic Enforcers are not allowed to ask drivers to alight from their vehicles while the apprehension is taking place. Most importantly, Traffic Enforcers are not allowed to ask or receive bribe money.
  10. During traffic apprehensions, the following can be considered as a valid driver's license:
  • ID Plastic Card
  • DLR / Temporary Driver's License
  • TOP (Temporary Operator's Permit)
  • International Driver's License
  • Foreign License
The Traffic Enforcer should exercise extra diligence in verifying the veracity of the data or documents presented.
If you encounter any Traffic Enforcer violating any of these, get the name of the Traffic Enforcer indicated on his/her name plate, and submit a letter of complaint addressed to the Traffic Adjudication Board (TAB), MMDA Bldg. EDSA cor. Orense St. Guadalupe Nuevo, Makati City, within 5 days after the apprehension.
In case you are involved in an argument with a Traffic Enforcer, call the MMDA Hotline 136, or the Metrobase at 0917-561-8711. Ask the Metrobase to send inspectors to go to the place where the argument is taking place for proper investigation.
You may also e-mail complaints against erring Traffic Enforcers to the MMDA thru Include full details of the incident (attach photos or videos if possible), so that they will be able to act promptly on the matter.

Lost License Plates in the Philippines


  • The MMDA and the LTO implement a "NO PLATE, NO TRAVEL" policy.

    If your plate was lost, file for an affidavit of loss and submit it to the LTO, and apply to get or use an improvised plate.

    Once authorized, make sure that the original copy of your Authority to Operate with the use of Improvised Plate is always carried by the driver on all his travels.                                            

    Littering law in the Philippines

                                                     Anti-Littering Law: 10 Things You Should Know
    1. What is the Anti-Littering Law?
    3. When did the Anti-Littering Law take effect?
    4. The law originally took effect on September 15, 1996. The implementation of the law was suspended last August 2002. The law will again be implemented in Metro Manila starting September 16, 2010.
    5. What acts are prohibited by the Anti-Littering Law?
    6. The Anti-Littering Law prohibits the following acts:
      • Littering, Illegal dumping, Illegal disposal of garbage;
      • Urinating, defecating, spitting in a public place;
      • Dirty frontage and immediate surroundings for establishment owners;
      • Improper and untimely stacking of garbage outside residence or establishment;
      • Obstruction (any dilapidated appliance, vehicle, and etc., display of merchandise, illegal structure along sidewalk);
      • Dirty public utility vehicles, or no trash can or receptacle;
      • Spilling, scattering, littering of wastes by public utility vehicles; and
      • Illegal posting or installed signage, billboards, posters, streamers and movie ads., etc.
    7. Who has authority to apprehend violators of this law?
    8. The MMDA will have deputized Environmental Enforcers monitoring the major thoroughfares of Metro Manila. These Environmental Enforcers (EE) will initially be in their mint green polo-shirt uniform (with MMDA logo), with identification cards (both employee ID and Deputation ID) clearly visible and displayed. They will be in charge of issuing Environmental Violation Receipts (EVR) to persons caught violating the Anti-Littering Law. The EE's ID shall contain a written Deputation Order, stating the name and deputation number of the EE, his authority to issue EVRs, and until when the order is effective.
    9. How much is the fine if you violate this law?
    10. The penalties for violating the provisions of the Anti-Littering law, according to the nature of offenses, are as follows:
      Code Nature of Offense Option 1 (Payment of Fines) Option 2 (Render Community Service)
      01 Littering, Illegal dumping, Illegal disposal of garbage P500.00 8 hours (1 day)
      02 Urinating, defecating, spitting in a public place P500.00 8 hours (1 day)
      03 Dirty frontage and immediate surroundings for establishment owners P1000.00 16 hours (2 days)
      04 Improper and untimely stacking of garbage outside residence or establishment P500.00 8 hours (1 day)
      05 Obstruction (any dilapidated appliance, vehicle, and etc., display of merchandise, illegal structure along sidewalk) P1000.00 16 hours (2 days)
      06 Dirty public utility vehicles, or no trash can or receptacle P500.00 8 hours (1 day)
      07 Spilling, scattering, littering of wastes by public utility vehicles P500.00 8 hours (1 day)
      08 Illegal posting or installed signage, billboards, posters, streamers and movie ads., etc. P1000.00 16 hours (2 days)
    11. What is the MMDA's protocol in deploying Environmental Enforcers?
    12. Environmental Enforcers will be deployed in teams. Each team will have a team leader and an assistant team leader, who will both have the exclusive authority to issue EVRs. These two will be assisted by one photographer and one recorder to document each apprehension made by their team leader or assistant team leader. A spotter shall be deployed by the MMDA for each team to monitor possible violators of the agency's regulations. It is the spotter's duty to bring the violator to the Environmental Enforcer for issuance of ticket. The Environmental Officer should tell the violator of the details of his/her violation, and the proper payment process.
    13. What are the procedures for payment of administrative fines?
    14. Upon apprehension, a violator will be given an option to either pay the fine, or to render community service. For payment of fines or rendering of Community Service, the following procedures should be observed: Option 1 (Payment)
      1. Report to MMDA HPSEPO for Order of Payment of the charged Administrative Fine according to the nature of offense committed.
      2. Go to the MMDA Treasury Operations Service for the payment of fine
      3. Submit the initial receipt to HPSEPO for clearance and documentation
      Option 2 (Community Service)
      1. Report to MMDA HPSEPO for proper orientation on the Environmental Regulations Schedule and Instruction
      2. Render Community Service
      3. Go to HPSEPO for clearance and issuance of Certificate of Compliance
    15. What if I don't pay the fine nor render Community Service?
    16. If you do not show-up within 3-days after the receipt of the apprehension, you will be given the 1st summon which will only be valid for 15 days. If you still don't settle your violation within 15 days, you will be given the 2nd summon which is also valid for 15 days. If you still don't settle your violation after 15 days, the final summon, which is valid for 1 (one) month, will be given to you. If you still ignore the final summon, your case will be filed at the Metropolitan Trial Court of the city where you were apprehended. If you do not show up to the scheduled hearings, you will be given a Warrant of Arrest. In addition, your violation will be forwarded to the NBI. Failure to pay the administrative fine of P500 or render 8 hours Community Services shall be penalized, after conviction, by a fine of One Thousand Pesos (P1,000.00), or imprisonment of three (3) to seven (7) days, or both, at the discretion of the court. Failure to pay the administrative fine of P1,000 or render 16 hours of Community Service shall be penalized, after conviction, by a fine of Two Thousand Pesos (P2,000.00) or imprisonment of seven (7) days to one (1) month, or both, at the discretion of the court.
    17. If I have a pending violation of the Anti-littering law, will it be possible for me to obtain an NBI clearance? If not, what is the procedure for getting myself cleared from the violation?
    18. No, you will not be able to get an NBI clearance. To clear your record, you need to go to the MMDA and pay your fine. After paying, go to the HPSEPO and get your "Motion to Withdraw Information" certificate signed by the Senior Prosecutor of the DOJ. After this, bring the "Motion to Withdraw Information" certificate to the concerned Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC). After submitting, the MTC will give you the "Certificate of No Case." Finally, bring your "Certificate of No Case" so that you'll be allowed to obtain an NBI Clearance.
    19. What do I do if I want to protest my EVR or file a complaint against an Environmental Enforcer?
    20. If you feel your EVR was issued without any legal basis or in violation of the protocol, you may contest by going to the MMDA-HPSEPO Adjudication Office (7th floor MMDA Main Bldg. EDSA cor. Orense St. Guadalupe Nuevo, Makati City) to fill-up the protest form indicating all relevant details regarding your complaint, within 1 week (7 days) after the receipt of the apprehension.

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    HR group: AFP men aiding Palparan

    MANILA, Philippines - A US-based human rights group yesterday urged President Aquino to order the military to cooperate with civilian authorities in arresting retired general Jovito Palparan and others charged with the enforced disappearance of two activists in 2006.
    Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said they have information that some sympathetic military personnel were thwarting attempts by civilian authorities to capture Palparan.
    “President Aquino should get the message to the military that the years of protecting Palparan for grievous abuses are over. Officers and soldiers alike should be on notice that if they block civilian authorities in arresting Palparan, they, too, will face legal consequences,” Pearson said.
    The military, however, yesterday challenged Human Rights Watch to name the soldiers providing protection to Palparan.
    Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said they are ready to work with agencies that would probe the supposed coddlers of the retired general.
    “We challenge them (Human Rights Watch) to submit names. You file a complaint and this will be addressed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Burgos said in a press briefing.
    “We are willing to cooperate with any agency to help us also in further protection and promotion of human rights,” he added.
    Burgos said they will not tolerate any soldier providing safe haven or sanctuary to wanted personalities.
    He, however, said sanctions can only be slapped on active soldiers and not the retired ones.
    “We don’t have any jurisdiction anymore for those who are retired in the Armed Forces but provide us with the names of those in the active service then we would initiate action,” Burgos said.
    Palparan has been on the run since he was charged in December with kidnapping University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño in 2006. The two activists remain missing.
    Apart from Palparan, the Department of Justice also filed charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention against Sgt. Rizal Hilario, who is also on the run, while Lt. Col. Felipe Antado and S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio have surrendered and transferred to military custody.
    For her part, Cadapan’s mother Erlinda said efforts of the government in hunting down Palparan are not enough, adding that it should have issued a shoot-to-kill order for the retired general instead of just offering P1-million reward for his capture.
    “I don’t think the government is serious in helping us get justice for our children,” Mrs. Cadapan said in Filipino.   – With Alexis Romero, Dino Balabo, AP - By Rhodina Villanueva (Philstar News Service, 

    Sunday, January 29, 2012

    'Accuser's kin all in drug business'

    MANILA, Philippines - The Northern Police District (NPD) anti-illegal drugs division officials charged with extortion before the National Police Commission said yesterday the complainant only wanted to get back at them for arresting her relatives for drug offenses.
    Chief Inspector Romeo Ricalde Jr., NPD-District Anti-Illegal Drugs (DAID) Special Operations Task Group head, said the family of Editha Morales, 33, a resident of Bagong Barrio in Caloocan City, is at the top of their list of suspected drug peddlers.
    “The complainant’s husband is in jail for a drug offense, her mother and her three siblings were also arrested for the same offense. Drug peddling is their family’s business,” Ricalde told The STAR yesterday.
    Ricalde said Editha’s younger siblings – Christopher, Peter and Bernadeth – all residents of Bagong Barrio in Caloocan City, have been charged with drug offenses by the NPD-DAID. Senior Police Officer 1 Fernando Gomboc led the team who arrested them.
    Editha’s mother Edna, and Editha’s two other sisters – Irene and Daisy – were arrested by the Caloocan City police anti-narcotics unit, he said.
    Ricalde said on Dec. 30, 2011, his men also conducted a drug bust targeting Edna’s other brother, identified only as “Pogi,” in Bagong Barrio but failed to arrest him.
    Chance encounter
    On Jan. 3, at around 4 p.m., Ricalde tasked a team led by Police Officer 3 Doelethone Gatdula to turn over to the custody of the Caloocan City Jail drug suspect Brandon Buenaventura.
    Ricalde said when his men were about to return to the DAID office, they encountered Editha and Edna outside the jail. The two women confronted the police officers about their failed operation against Pogi, accusing them of trying to shoot him.
    Gatdula told Editha and Edna to follow them to their office if they want to file a formal complaint, Ricalde said.
    Record at the DAID blotter showed Edna and her daughter arrived at the anti-narcotics unit office at around 5 p.m. on Jan. 3 but both left after a heated argument with the police. Ricalde said Edna resented it when he scolded her about allegedly consenting to her children’s illegal activities.
    Ricalde said Edna warned him and his men that she would sue them.
    On Jan. 5, Editha filed a complaint before the Napolcom accusing Ricalde, Gatdula and Gomboc of illegal arrest, arbitrary detention and extortion.
    In her statement Editha claimed two men forced her into a gray Toyota Innova car and brought her to the NPD-DAID office, where the accused allegedly asked P300,000 in exchange for her freedom.
    Edna claimed that she followed her daughter to the NPD-DAID office upon learning of her arrest. Editha said she and her mother agreed to pawn her house to a certain Francisco Abella for P170,000.
    At about 10 p.m., Edna said she returned to the DAID office with the P170,000, which she allegedly gave to Gatdula and to a certain “Toto.”
    After the alleged payoff, the police allowed them to go home.
    “Those are malicious allegations and very self-serving,” Ricalde said. - By Pete Laude (Philstar News Service, 

    Thursday, January 26, 2012

    4 Dominguez carjack gang men slain

    MALOLOS CITY, Philippines – Four suspected remnants of the Dominguez carjacking syndicate, supposedly including the one who burned car dealer Emerson Lozano, were killed in a shootout with lawmen and operatives of the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) in Meycauayan City, Bulacan yesterday morning.
    Senior Superintendent Fernando Mendez, Bulacan police director, said only one of the slain suspects was identified as Nestor Samonte, 32.
    But HPG director Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina said one of the three others had the same build and complexion of Napoleon Salamat, who was wanted for the 2011 killings of Lozano, fellow car dealer Venson Evangelista and Lozano’s driver Ernani Sensil.
    Espina said another member of the Dominguez syndicate, Rolando Talban, tagged as the group’s triggerman, could be the one who managed to escape on a motorcycle along with a companion at the height of the shootout at around 1:45 a.m. at Muralla Park in Meycauayan.
    The syndicate leaders, brothers Raymond and Roger Dominguez, are locked up in jail and being tried on car theft with homicide charges for the killing of Evangelista.
    Told about the shootout, lawyer Oliver Lozano, the slain car dealer’s father, said, “They have been killing their victims like chickens. Now they died like rats.”
    “That’s what I have been saying that while you can ran away from the law, you cannot escape karma,” he said.
    In his testimony, state witness Alfred Mendiola said it was Salamat who burned the young Lozano.
    For his part, Evangelista’s father Arsenio said, “I also believe he was the one who burned my son.”
    Espina said elements of the HPG Task Force Limbas responded to a report on a group of men detaching and replacing the license plate of a gray Isuzu D-Max.
    As the lawmen were approaching the scene, the suspects opened fire, triggering the shootout. Two of the suspects died on the spot, and the two others in a nearby hospital.
    A check showed that the license plate being attached to the Isuzu D-Max – NOA-153 – was for a Honda Civic stolen in Cabuyao, Laguna.
    Seized at the scene of the shootout were an Ingram machine pistol with live bullets, three caliber .45 pistols with bullets, another license plate (NHI-625), an ATM card of one Pablo Baguiwet, a copy of Salamat’s release order dated Nov. 4, 2010, and a driver’s license of one Eduardo Lopez who matched Talban’s description.
    Meanwhile, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo ordered the police to hunt down the killers of a female witness against the Dominguez brothers.
    Robredo issued the order after receiving a report that Cristina Bruan Rojas was shot dead in a passenger jeepney yesterday after attending a court hearing in Malolos City on the car theft case against Raymond Dominguez. – With Reinir Padua, Ric Sapnu, Cecille Suerte Felipe - By Dino Balabo (Philstar News Service, 

    Comelec says Gloria Arroyo’s hospital arrest has limits

    Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s hospital arrest is a temporary arrangement, with the Pasay City Regional Trial court last year taking into consideration that she was sick.   Sixto Brillantes, Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair, explained that from the very beginning government wanted her confined in a detention cell but agreed to have her placed under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City.   “Noong una pa, gusto namin sa regular detention na, e. Pumayag lang kami na ilagay lang sa hospital dahil may sakit. Kung wala nang sakit, e ‘di pumunta na siya sa regular cell,” he said.   Comelec, which filed an electoral sabotage complaint against the former President that prompted the lower court to have her arrested on Nov. 18, 2011, is leaving it up to the court to decide where Arroyo should spend her days while waiting for her case to proceed.   Arroyo was then confined at the St. Luke Medical Center in Taguig City’s Bonifacio Global City.   “Maski ano pa i-counter nila, okay lang sa amin pero ang judge ang magde-desisyon diyan in the end… We will definitely oppose already their  motions,” said Brillantes.   On Tuesday, the commission asked the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) to compel Arroyo’s attending physician to issue a medical report recommend if she is now fit for discharge from the hospital.   GMA News Online called Arroyo spokesperson Elena Bautista-Horn for a statement, but she wasn’t picking up her phone.  — VS, GMA News

    Lapid's wife on smuggling: Sorry, I screwed up

    The wife of Sen. Lito Lapid reportedly apologized repeatedly to US authorities following her arrest in Las Vegas last year for allegedly smuggling $50,000 in cash.
    “I’m sorry, it’s for my house,” US authorities quoted Marissa Lapid as saying. “I screwed up.”

    Senator Lapid, for his part, said in a statement yesterday, “My wife can defend herself.”

    The senator said his wife has submitted herself to the jurisdiction of a US court, which has authority over the case.

    “This is sad, but my wife is ready to answer all the issues related to the incident. A lawyer is assisting her,” Lapid’s statement, which was in Filipino, read.

    He added that they are waiting for details from Marissa’s lawyer. Lapid, who attended the seventh day of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona yesterday, confirmed the arrest of his wife on Wednesday, adding that she had posted bail.

    Lapid’s spokesman Alex Marcelino has denied claims that Marissa went to Las Vegas to gamble.

    “She and the senator have never gambled. They are never known to be fond of any form of gambling,” Marcelino told The STAR.

    Marcelino said he was unaware why Marissa had been flying to Las Vegas recently, except that she was working on the citizenship of her grandchildren by daughter Mitchi who were born in the US.

    He said Mark, who went on leave as general manager of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, is supposed to study in the US.

    Marissa was arrested after arriving at the Las Vegas International Airport last Jan. 15. The arrest was based on a warrant issued last Jan. 5 for allegedly smuggling $50,000 in cash last Nov. 27.

    The case was filed before US Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen, who gave weight to the testimony of Albert Giangregorio, special agent of the Homeland Security Investigation.

    Giangregorio said that when Marissa arrived in Las Vegas from Manila, she declared she “was not carrying currency or monetary instruments over $10,000 in US currency or a foreign currency equivalent.”

    Upon reexamination by a Customs Border and Protection officer, Marissa said she also had P10,000. But two socks containing $10,000 each and a cloth bag with $20,000 were found during an examination of Marissa’s carry-on luggage.

    When asked about the money, Marissa reportedly replied, “I’m sorry. It’s for my house.”

    Giangregorio said Marissa then apologized and repeatedly said “I screwed up.”

    And now, plunder

    Meanwhile, the arrest of Lapid’s wife in Las Vegas for alleged dollar smuggling has encouraged former Pampanga governor Ed Panlilio to pursue a plunder case against the senator and his son Mark.

    In an interview, Panlilio said he would ask the Commission on Audit (COA) to reopen its investigation into reports that P500-million worth of lahar sand quarry income of the Pampanga provincial government when the Lapids were still governor were missing.

    * Panlilio said the case of Marissa was similar to that of former Armed Forces comptroller Carlos Garcia, who was charged with plunder when his two sons were held at the San Francisco International Airport in 2009 for failure to declare $100,000 in cash.

    He said the plunder case he had filed against the Lapids was dismissed by former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez two weeks before she resigned in May last year.

    “The Ombudsman cited insufficiency of evidence, but COA has the data as to what happened,” Panlilio said. - Christina Mendez, Ding Cervantes  (Philstar News Service,

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    Lapid's wife arrested in US for smuggling $50,000

    The wife of Sen. Lito Lapid was arrested shortly after her landing in Las Vegas last Jan. 15 in connection with the dollar smuggling charges filed against her after she was accosted at the international airport there last November.
    Senator Lapid confirmed yesterday that his wife Marissa was arrested but she was released on bail. She will, however, remain in Las Vegas pending the resolution of the case involving the alleged smuggling of $50,000 in cash last November.

    He said an American lawyer is now assisting Marissa.

    “I have also sought the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs to find out what really happened,he said, adding that he has coordinated with the US embassy in Manila for clarification.

    Reports from the US said agents of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested Marissa Lapid at the Las Vegas International Airport last Jan. 15.

    Marissa’s arrest arose from a US federal warrant issued against her on Jan. 5, 2012 in connection with her earlier arrest on Nov. 27 last year for the dollar smuggling attempt.

    US authorities filed an affidavit that said Marissa was caught after she declared to Customs personnel at the Las Vegas airport that she had in her possession only $10,000.

    A search of her luggage, however, yielded two socks containing $10,000 each and another $20,000 was recovered inside a cloth bag.

    Under US laws, anyone carrying more than $10,000 cash should fill out Customs Form 4790 and submit it to Customs authorities at the point of entry or departure. The possessor must also be prepared to prove legitimate ownership of the cash.

    US Customs officials at the Las Vegas airport reportedly seized the $50,000 cash pending investigation of the case.

    Apparently, Marissa was released without posting bail and no charges were filed against her pending the investigation.

    Lawyer Filmer Abrajano, Sen. Lapid’s chief of staff, said that the information they had received regarding Marissa was still sketchy and he could not say why she was released last November.

    Abrajano said that Marissa spent Christmas here in the Philippines.

    He said Marissa was nabbed when she returned to Las Vegas last Jan. 15.  She was apparently not aware that a case had already been filed against her.

    Abrajano declined to give other details upon the instruction of Marissa’s American lawyer in Las Vegas.

    Sen. Lapid said that he was informed that a hearing on the case has been set on Feb. 7.

    Marissa could be sentenced up to five years in jail, fined up to $250,000, and made to forfeit the $50,000 cash recovered from her if she is convicted of the offense.

    The criminal complaint against Marissa cited violation of US laws, regardless of whether or not the $50,000 was acquired legally.

    After a court appearance, Marissa was allowed to post bail.

    The court reportedly ordered Marissa to surrender her passport, restrict her travel to only within Clark County, Nevada unless the pretrial services office of the court gives her permission to leave.

    The court also ordered her to wear an ankle bracelet monitoring device.

    Marissa is the mother of former Pampanga Gov. Mark Lapid, now the general manager of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Authority under the Department of Tourism.

    Sen. Lapid and Marissa have four children, with Mark being the youngest.

    Personnel at Mark’s tourism office in Manila said their boss left for the US sometime last week with the permission of Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. and that he is on leave without pay.

    Sen. Lapid said that Mark is in the US to arrange for his studies at Stanford University.

    Similar dollar smuggling charges were filed against two sons of former military comptroller Gen. Carlos Garcia who were arrested at the San Francisco airport after they tried to smuggle $100,000 cash in 2003.

    Garcia’s sons Juan Paulo and Ian Carl were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bulk cash smuggling, and one count of bulk cash smuggling.

    Juan Paulo also faced charges of failing to file a report on the import of monetary instruments and one count of making false statements to a government agency.

    Gen. Garcia is now detained at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa after a military court martial found him guilty of misdeclaring his assets and hiding his status as permanent US resident while still in active service.

    Garcia, his wife and three sons, including Juan Paulo and Ian Carl, were also charged with plunder before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly amassing P303.27 million in unexplained wealth during the former comptroller’s active military service. (Philstar News Service,

    Philippines sets February date for Arroyo arraignment

    A Philippine court has ordered ex-president Gloria Arroyo to be arraigned over alleged vote rigging on February 20, with trial dates to be set soon afterwards, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
    Pasay City Regional Trial Court rejected Arroyo's application to have her arrest warrant revoked and set a date for her arraignment, said court legal researcher Selda Domingo. Arroyo is expected to plead not guilty.
    The 64-year-old former leader was arrested in November on charges she led a conspiracy to rig the 2007 elections to favour her senatorial candidates. She is in detention.
    Arroyo's arrest came after her successor, President Benigno Aquino, launched a drive to stamp out endemic corruption which he blames for worsening poverty in the archipelago nation.
    Domingo told AFP that Pasay court judge Jesus Mupas had denied Arroyo's "motion to recall the warrant of arrest", as evidence put forward on her behalf would be better presented at a trial.
    "There is no more reason to unduly delay the proceedings and she is ordered to be arraigned on February 20," she said.
    Trial dates for Arroyo, who says she is suffering from a rare spinal illness, would be set soon afterwards, she said.
    Arroyo, who was president from 2001 to 2010, has also been charged over a second criminal case involving a telecom deal with a Chinese firm, in which her husband and a key political ally allegedly received kickbacks.
    Arroyo denied any wrongdoing over the scandal but she was forced to scrap the telecom deal due to public pressure.

    Ramgen slay suspect surrenders to NBI

    MANILA, Philippines - A suspect in the murder of actor Ram Revilla (real name Ramgen Bautista) surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) yesterday morning.
    Ryan Pastera, accompanied by his aunt and lawyer, showed up at the NBI headquarters on Taft Avenue at around 7 a.m.
    Pastera’s aunt, who refused to be identified, said they learned that Pastera was implicated in Ramgen’s murder from the media. She said her nephew surrendered to clear his name “and defend himself. He is innocent.”
    She said Pastera noticed unidentified people casing their home at night, so he went to the province for a vacation. Pastera’s aunt said they went to the NBI to seek protection from the threats her nephew has been receiving.
    The Parañaque City regional trial court earlier ordered the arrest of Pastera, Glaiza Visda, Norwin de la Cruz and Ramgen’s sister, Ramona, in connection with the attack on Ramgen and his girlfriend, Janelle Manahan, on Oct. 28, 2011. Only Ramona, who fled to Turkey, remains at large.
    Pastera may have to stay in NBI custody until the Parañaque court decides where he will be detained.
    NBI coddled Pastera?
    After condemning the NBI for allegedly coddling Pastera for over two months, Manahan’s lawyer, Argee Guevarra, welcomed reports of Pastera’s surrender.
    “Did Ryan Pastera really surrender to the NBI or was he in the company or custody of the NBI all this time?” he said, noting that NBI agents “were caught on video” escorting the suspect in to the Parañaque prosecutor’s office during the preliminary investigation last year.
    According to Guevarra, Pastera is a fraternity brother and best friend of Hiro Furuyama, the husband of Gail Bautista, a sister of Ramgen. The Furuyamas are undergoing preliminary investigation before the city fiscal.
    He called on the NBI to hand over Pastera to the police, as commanded by Judge Fortunato Madrona in a Jan. 13 arrest warrant.
    “If the Paranaque City Jail is good enough for RJ Bautista, then it should also be good enough for Pastera. To grant Pastera’s whimsical desire to be detained at the NBI would be a tell-tale sign of special privileges being accorded by the NBI to him,” Guevarra said.
    He said they are prepared to “appropriate criminal and administrative charges against recalcitrant NBI agents” if Pastera is not turned over to the police.
    Guevarra also urged Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to probe the NBI’s alleged coddling of Pastera so that the NBI “will be purged of elements who see the agency as a private bureau of investigation whose powers can be availed of by paying clients.” - By Sandy Araneta and Aie Balagtas See (Philstar News Service, 

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    Army unit to Palparan: Surrender

    ANGELES CITY, Philippines  – The Army’s 7th Infantry Division, which retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan used to lead, has appealed to him to surrender to authorities and “take the opportunity of proving that he is not guilty of the accusations against him.”
    In a statement, the 7th ID said, “The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) is a professional organization composed of disciplined and law-abiding soldiers.”
    “It is not the policy of the AFP to provide safe harbor to any person wanted by law,” it added, apparently in reaction to reports that Palparan is being coddled by supporters in the military.
    The 7th ID said it would inform authorities of any sighting of the fugitive retired general in their “duty assignments.”
    But it added, “It would be better for Maj. Gen. Palparan to take the opportunity of proving that he is not guilty of the accusations against him.”
    Palparan, who carries a P1-million reward for his capture, was commander of the 7th ID, also known as Kaugnay Division, from September 2005 until his retirement in September 2006. The 7th ID is based at Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija.
    The Bulacan court has tasked the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police to serve the arrest warrant for Palparan who, along with three other officers, was tagged in the disappearance of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2005.
    Also accused in the case were M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario, S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio and Col. Felipe Anotado. Osorio and Anotado are now under government custody, while Hilario is still at large.
    Saying that at least 108 of its members and sympathizers were among the victims of Palparan, the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) said it is joining the nationwide manhunt for the retired general.
    “Palparan imposed the reign of terror in Central Luzon that implemented the countless extra-judicial killings of activists and supporters. He is indebted to farmers and various sectors of the region,” said AMGL chairman Joseph Canlas. -

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    Impeachment court secures Corona's SALN

    After a long discussion, the impeachment court finally got hold of Chief Justice Renato Corona Jr.'s controversial Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SALN).

    Supreme Court clerk of court, lawyer Enriqueta Vidal had no option but to turn in Corona's SALN despite her apprehensions she might be sanctioned by the High court.

    Vidal, a custodian of the records, initially refused to submit Corona's SALN despite admitting she brought it to the Senate.

    She cited SC's May 2, 1989 resolution which states the Clerk of Court could furnish copies of SALNs "to any person upon request, provided there is a legitimate reason for the request" unless the "person making the request and the request for information appears to be a “fishing expedition” intended to harass or get back at the Judge."

    "We are covered by the rules of the Supreme Court and also by this honorable court. But may I request that I get the authorization from the court before I submit [SALN]," a calm but apparently nervous Vidal said.

    But Senator-juror Franklin Drilon noted that Senate as an impeachment court is allowed by the Constitution to do its duty to resolve the case.

    "This court under the Constitution has the sole power to try and solve this case and must not be impeded by any other agency in our in our performance of duty," Drilon said.

    This was however opposed by Senator-judge Joker Arroyo, who noted that compelling the witness might spur more problems.

    "We will now run the risk of having a showdown between the impeachment court and the Supreme Court. We cannot have another problem of the clash between SC and Congress," said Arroyo.

    "In our desire to have a fair trial, [let us] give her a day to ask the Supreme court whether it's alright with her," he added.

    But Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Jinggoy Estrada noted that the impeachment court was not requesting but ordering Vidal to hand over the SALN.

    Defense panel's Serafin Cuevas warned that the witness may then be subject to disciplinary action.
    SC to clerk: Don't worry
    Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez said Vidal need not worry about handing over Corona's SALN.
    "Just for the assurance of the clerk of court, I was told by the Chief Justice to assure her she has nothing to worry about as far as the Chief Justice is concerned," Marquez said in a separate press conference.
    Vidal was called to testify on the authenticity of Corona's SALN, which comprises Article II of the Articles of Impeachment.

    Vidal has been working in her current post since September 24, 2010 but has been in the judiciary for 36 years.

    Prosecution's lead private prosecutor, Mario Bautista earlier asked her to explain how justices file their SALNs.

    But when asked further why the SALNs were not disclosed when the law states it should be made available to the public, Vidal said: "It is not within my competence, it is within the competence of the court."

    In the course of the examination, Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, acting as impeachment presiding officer, repeatedly told Bautista to rephrase his questions and treat Vidal not as a hostile witness.

    "Frame question in such a manner you are eliciting facts," Enrile told Bautista.

    Second witness
    The prosecution panel then called its second witness, Marianito Dimaandal, head of the Malacanang Records Office.

    Dimaandal, the custodian of SALNs for the Office of the President, brought with him Corona’s SALNs while he was working in Malacanang from 1992 to 2001.

    After the Dimaandal authenticated and Corona's SALNs, the prosecution and the defense teams marked them as evidence.

    Lawyer Jose Justiniano, private prosecutor of the House panel, said Corona’s SALNs will show the trend of his gained wealth.

    Can Corona still testify?

    Meanwhile, despite a decision not to compel Corona to testify, the defense panel said they still have the option to put the chief justice himself on the witness stand.

    Lawyer Tranquil Salvador, spokesperson of the defense team, clarified that the court only prohibited the prosecution team from asking the Senate to summon Corona and his family and to testify against the chief justice.

    “It is our option if we feel that it is necessary but it also depends on the chief justice and his family if they will voluntarily testify. It’s a matter of strategy,” Salvador said.

    He added that even if the prosecution team can cross-examine Corona once he submits himself as a witness for the defense team, the chief justice would still be protected by his constitutional right against self-incrimination. This means that the questions of the prosecution team would be limited and can be objected upon.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    New case on fund misuse vs Philippine president

    Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has recommended the indictment of former Philippine president Gloria Arroyo and three former officials in her administration for two counts of technical malversation in connection with the alleged misuse and illegal transfer of 546 million pesos (US$12.4 million) in Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) funds in 2003.
    The DOJ preliminary investigation panel also recommended the filing of charges against former Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, former Owwa Administrator Virgilio Angelo and former PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Francisco Duque III, currently chairman of the Civil Service Commission (CSC).
    Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, former Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, former Labor Undersecretary Manuel Imson and Owwa trustees Mina Figueroa, Caroline Rogge, Victorino Balais, Gregorio Oca and Virginia Pasalo were cleared by the panel due to absence of probable cause.
    The Owwa trustees were absolved of the charges because, according to the panel, they were only following Arroyo's order.
    The case will be referred to the Office of the Ombudsman for its approval and action. The DOJ panel, headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva, left it to the Ombudsman what to do with the case against Duque, who, as CSC chairman, may only be removed by impeachment.
    In technical malversation, a public officer applies public funds under his administration not for his or another's personal use, but for public use other other than that for which the fund was appropriated by law.
    It is punishable with six months to six years imprisonment plus a fine of up to half of the amount misappropriated.
    Case filed
    The charges arose from the case filed last year by lawyer Francisco Chavez accusing Arroyo and the others of having "purposely and systematically orchestrated the diversion and/or misuse" of Owwa funds.
    The panel dismissed Chavez's other complaint for plunder, graft and corruption, violation of election laws, misconduct and qualified theft that he filed against the respondents.
    In March 2003, Romulo sought Arroyo's approval for the release of $293,000 to finance the preparatory activities of the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait for the purchase of vehicles and stockpiling of supplies in Philippine posts in neighboring countries as the United States and its allies readied their invasion of Iraq.
    Arroyo, according to documents, approved the release and ordered the amount be charged to Owwa funds.
    In July of the same year, Angelo shelved the general assistance program of Owwa and stopped the processing of Owwa members' claims worth P16.5 million, roughly the equivalent of the $293,500 at the time.
    Only for Owwa members
    Chavez, in his complaint, said the release was illegal because Owwa funds were only for the direct and exclusive benefit of Owwa members-overseas Filipino members who paid $25 each.
    Duque, for his part, also sought an executive order from Arroyo for the transfer of the health insurance funds of OFWs from Owwa to PhilHealth.
    He said in his letter to Arroyo that the transfer "will have a significant bearing on the 2004 elections" and "far reaching political implications."
    In February 2003, Arroyo ordered the fund transfer through Executive Order No. 182, after which the Owwa board of trustees approved the transfer of an amount worth 530,382,446 pesos.
    The respondents, in their defense, said the Chavez complaint was identical to the one filed in the Office of the Ombudsman, that the Ombudsman's investigation had terminated and that the transfer complied with the laws.
    They also pointed out that the Owwa funds in question were devoted to lawful public uses to protect OFWs and to finance the national health insurance fund.
    The panel, however, said the Ombudsman's termination of its case did not mean no new one may be filed if new evidence cropped up.
    The panel members said the DOJ had joint jurisdiction with the Ombudsman in investigating public officials.
    No legal basis
    The DOJ said there was no legal basis for the release of the $293,500 to the Philippine posts in Kuwait and other countries.
    It pointed out that the Owwa board did not approve the transfer. The panel asked why Owwa funds were used and not the funds of other government agencies.
    The transfer of the Owwa healthcare funds to PhilHealth "obviously had nothing to do with the direct and exclusive benefit and welfare of OFWs," the panel said.
    Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda expressed satisfaction over the DOJ panel's recommendation to file technical malversation against Arroyo.
    "It would not do us any good if we file a case which will not merit us a conviction. We would rather have a case that would secure us a conviction based on the evidence submitted and based on the review of the Department of Justice" Lacierda said. With a report from Norman Bordadora

    Palace not keen on Associate Justice Carpio's alleged Makati penthouse

    Malacañang is not keen on investigating the penthouse unit in Makati City, allegedly owned by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, saying the focus now is on the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.   “The focus right now is on the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona. So all those who are trying to divert our attention to Justice Carpio, if you have any ground to file against him, then do so in the House of Representatives,” Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said at a press briefing Tuesday.   He added that Carpio can very well defend himself against the allegations. “He is in a position to explain himself. Let him defend himself. Nobody is a sacred cow in the judiciary,” he said.   Reports have it that Carpio owns an 800-sqm unit atop Avignon Tower on H.V. De la Costa Street in Makati’s upscale Salcedo Village.   “If anybody has proof of that, let them produce it. What we are concerned right now is the issue on the leadership of Chief Justice Corona. We have asked him to produce his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth,” he said.   “We have asked him because on account of the properties that he allegedly owns, in spite of his 20 years of service in government. So, again, this is a simple request. We ask the Chief Justice respectfully to settle all issues on alleged hidden wealth, to produce his SALN,” he added.   Carpio, on the other hand, released a summary of his SALN to Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership.   Carpio’s net worth in 2010 was P47,269,928.          Lacierda expressed hope the Supreme Court would reverse itself and “decide to come out with their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth. It is not an unreasonable request in the light of transparency and accountability.”

    Manila prisoners draw knives for "Iron Bar Chef"

                  MANILA (Reuters) - Convicted murderers and rapists in the Philippines faced off against each other in a prison battle using knives, but also aprons, hats, pots and pans.
    Enter "Iron Bar Chef," the latest recreational effort at the largest prison in the Philippines -- part of a broader programme that officials say has vastly helped tame the mood of the jail's restive inmates.
    Inspired by reality TV cooking show "Iron Chef," the version at Manila's New Bilibid Prison pitted six teams against each other, tasking them to create an appetizer, a main course and a dessert in 60 minutes.
    Each three-man team was given a box of ingredients including meat, fish, vegetables and fruits. When the clock started, the inmates began frantically chopping, frying and steaming.
    "This is my passion, that's why I was really interested in doing this," said Bienvendio Diaz, who worked as a cook and caterer before receiving a 27-year-sentence for fraud.
    The January 7 showdown at the prison, which has 12,000 inmates in maximum security alone, was just the latest venture in a wide-ranging rehabilitation program that aims not only to reform inmates but also to cultivate their skills and prepare them for a possible return to the work force.
    "Our ultimate goal is for the inmates to be productive while in prison," said Chief Superintendent Richard Schwarzkopf.
    "That's what we want to give them. So that when the time for their freedom comes, they can be of benefit to society."
    The densely populated prison has seen its share of gang violence and drug use, but Schwarzkopf said the environment has vastly changed due to a well-rounded reform program.
    Inmates at New Bilibid prison get to paint, create handicrafts, play tennis, attend church, and now exercise their gourmet talents.
    Convicted for crimes ranging from murder and rape to drug peddling and illegal recruitment, the inmates are serving sentences of a few years to life imprisonment. The latest prison population figures are unavailable, but estimated around 17,000.
    No strangers to the kitchen, most of the cookoff participants had worked in restaurants and catering businesses before entering prison, and were glad to put their kitchen skills to use.
    Maximo Delmo, who worked as a cook in Japan and as chief steward of a cargo ship, is serving multiple life sentences for murder. He hopes his time can be reduced for good behavior.
    "Even if we're here inside, we can use our skills and prepare ourselves. Maybe, if no one will give us jobs, we can open up our own business," he said.
    The event also aimed to encourage camaraderie between rival gangs. Other inmates watched the cookoff, and even got to taste the finished products.
    After closely watched judging, Delmo's team tied with Diaz's for first place. They wowed judges with dishes like roast beef in marinara sauce, squash nuggets with fresh fruits, and Chinese-style steamed tilapia.
    One of the judges, executive chef Mark Crisologo of All Seasons Resort in Katherine, Australia, was impressed.
    "I was very surprised with the dishes that they created, with the limited time and the limited resources," he said.
    The contestants were delighted with the day, both with their gourmet creations and cash prizes. The top winning team received 15,000 pesos while runners-up got 5,000 pesos.
    But the best rewards were intangible.
    "This is a big deal, it helps and encourages our fellow inmates who have lost hope," said Rommel Chua, a former restaurant cook serving a three-year sentence for illegally recruiting workers for overseas jobs.
    "Even if you're behind bars, you can still do what you want to do."

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Maguindanao massacre trial resumes with 5 not guilty pleas

    The Maguindanao massacre trial resumed Thursday from a two-week  holiday break with five suspects pleading not guilty to 57 counts of murder.  

    Those arraigned were Senior Police Officer 1 Oscar Donato, Police Officer 3 Abibudin Abdulgani, Police Officer 2 Hamad Nana, and Police Officers 1 Abdullah Baguadatu and Esmael Guialal.  

    The arraignment was held in a makeshift courtroom, just below the suspects’ prison cells inside the Quezon City Jail Annex Building at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.  

    Including prominent members of the Ampatuan clan, 196 suspects are facing multiple murder charges for the killing of 57 people, including  32 journalists, in Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009.   Also implicated in the killings were hundreds of members of the clan's private army and members of the local police.  

    More than two years after the killings, only 96 or less than half of all suspects have been so far arrested with around 30 still to be arraigned.  

    Of the eight prominent Ampatuans charged with the crime, only two have been so far arraigned —patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son and namesake Andal Jr.  

    Senior Police Officer 4 Raymundo Oquendo, the brother of victim and lawyer Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon, testified during Thursday's hearing.

    He told Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes that he learned of his sister's death in a text message.   Apart from her sister, Raymundo's father Catalino was also killed the massacre dubbed as the worst single, election-related violence in Philippine history.  

    Raymundo told the court he was still able to read the series of text messages from his sister Cynthia, indicating that her life was in danger.  

    Raymundo said one of the messages from his sister read: "Advise client Ampatuan tama na please. We might get killed. Please tell Tom."  

    Tom refers to Tomas Falgue III, a legal counsel for the Ampatuans, Oquendo noted.  

    The text messages were first sent by Cynthia to her law firm associate Arnold Oclarit, who in turn forwarded the message to Raymundo.  

    Another text was in Visayan and read: "There were many dead. We're next. Tell Tom."  

    The prosecution also presented in court the damaged mobile phone of Cynthia recovered from the crime scene in Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town.  

    The phone was given to Raymundo at a funeral parlor in Maguindanao. — VS, GMA News

    Philippines doubles bounty on fugitive ex-general

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine government has doubled to 1 million pesos ($23,200) the reward for the capture of a former army general accused of kidnapping two left-wing student activists.
    Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Thursday the bounty will be given to anyone with "significant information" that will lead to the arrest of former Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan.
    Palparan is charged with kidnapping Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2006. They remain missing. Palparan has retired and has denied involvement in their disappearance.
    A fact-finding commission that investigated extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations has named Palparan as one of the military commanders who could be held responsible. Palparan has called the allegations communist propaganda.

    Janelle to file charges vs Ramgen’s siblings

    Janelle Manahan, girlfriend of slain actor Ramgen Revilla, plans to file another case against her late boyfriend’s siblings for allegedly spreading online, a private video that shows her intimate moments with Ramgen.

    Lawyer Luke Espiritu, Janelle’s legal counsel said in an interview on TV Patrol on Tuesday, January 3, that Ramgen’s siblings have an access to his belongings, even as Genelyn Magsaysay, the slain actor’s mother, denies responsibility for the leaked video.

    “They have access to all of Ramgen’s personal effects, including laptop computers. They have the motive because the effect of this sex video is precisely in order to harass Janelle Manahan,” Espiritu said.

    The Anti-Voyeurism Act of 2009, co-authored by Ramgen’s half-brother Sen. Bong Revilla, prohibits the creation, copying, selling and publishing of photos or videos of persons performing a sexual act or any similar activity without the consent of the persons involved.

    Genelyn explained that she cannot do something that would harm her son.

    “Kung makita man namin iyon, mas lalo naming itatabi. Di namin ilalabas iyon dahil kawawa naman ang bata. Patay na ang anak ko, nasisira pa,” she said on “TV Patrol” on the same day.

    ‘Sick people’

    Paranaque City Police also denied spreading the video, saying that the camera used in the said clip is not in their possession.

    “Definitely, wala pong gagawa nito sa aming side. Whoever did this sa tingin namin are the same sick people,” Senior Superintendent Billy Beltran said.

    'CJ has ill-gotten wealth'

    MANILA, Philippines - A key member of President Aquino’s Cabinet said yesterday the government has evidence to prove that Chief Justice Renato Corona has ill-gotten wealth that could not have been acquired with his salary in the judiciary, and the evidence would be presented by the House prosecution team in the impeachment trial.
    “The House prosecution panel obtained documents that would show that Corona may have amassed ill-gotten wealth, including at least four multimillion-peso real estate properties,” Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas said in a statement.
    Corona, who was appointed to the Supreme Court (SC) in 2001 and promoted to chief justice in May 2010, “could not have paid for (the properties) out of his salary and allowances as an associate justice and chief justice of the SC,” Llamas declared.
    Llamas believes that the government’s case is “very strong” and that all of the pieces of evidence – including documents on a P14.5-million penthouse unit at the Bellagio condominium in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig – could withstand “the most rigorous scrutiny” by the senator-judges in Corona’s trial.
    Corona said yesterday that his acquisition of the Bellagio unit was aboveboard.
    Llamas said the impeachment complaint “is the product of thorough research and inputs submitted by concerned citizens who could no longer stand the willful and deliberate trampling of the Constitution and the rule of law by Corona,” Llamas said.
    “The impeachment complaint is not the complaint of 188 representatives of the people against Corona. It is the complaint of the overwhelming majority of Filipinos who want Corona removed because they want a clean, honest and impartial judiciary,” Llamas said.
    “Corona sits in the High Tribunal on the basis of an illegal appointment by disgraced former President Arroyo who now faces serious charges of electoral sabotage and plunder during her nine years of misrule,” Llamas said.
    He said that apart from being a midnight appointee as chief justice, “Corona has shown obvious partiality and bias for Arroyo in 19 cases brought before the Supreme Court.”
    Llamas was reacting to the recent statement of court administrator and spokesman Midas Marquez that his (Llamas’) admission that Corona’s likely acquittal by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court was an indication that the cases against him are weak.
    The Cabinet member said he was merely talking of likely outcomes in the trial, and “an acquittal is a possibility, just as a conviction is also a distinct - and very real - possibility.”
    “For the SC spokesman to speculate that the senator-judges would dismiss the complaint because it is weak is very unseemly, and preempts the decision of the Senate. He has no authority to spread rumors about how the senator-judges would vote,” Llamas said.
    Zeroing in on Corona’s SALN
    Meanwhile, the House prosecution panel will ask the Senate impeachment court to subpoena Corona’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) for 2010.
    “They are refusing to release the SALN despite our repeated appeal. We have no option but to ask the impeachment court to subpoena it during the trial,” panel spokesman Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo told a news conference.
    Quimbo said prosecutors want to find out if Corona made a “proper declaration” of the 300-square-meter penthouse unit at the Bellagio Tower in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, which the Chief Justice and his wife acquired in 2009 for P14.5 million.
    “We want to ask him how they purchased the property, if they had the legal means to acquire it. We will prove that they did not have such means,” he said.
    Quimbo said under the law on forfeiture, an asset is deemed ill-gotten if its owner does not have the legal resources to own it.
    He said they would also ask the impeachment court to subpoena sales documents and witnesses from Megaworld Corp., owner of the Bellagio condominium complex.
    “We want to find out if P14.5 million was the correct selling price for the Coronas’ penthouse. The unit is now worth at least P30 million. We do not think it was worth only P14.5 million two years ago. The difference between the selling price for the Coronas and prevailing market prices could have been a gift to the Chief Justice and his wife,” he said.
    In his answer to the impeachment complaint, the Chief Justice acknowledged declaring a 300-square-meter property in his SALN but gave no other details.
    Two other panel members, Reps. Erin Tañada of Quezon and Juan Edgardo Angara of Aurora, said they did not believe that two to three congressmen would testify for Corona’s defense.
    “Good luck to them, if they do testify,” Angara said.
    They also took exception to statements from some senators that they are violating the sub-judice rule of the Senate in revealing the Coronas’ Bellagio penthouse.
    “This is a case of the people versus the Chief Justice. The people have a right to know,” Tañada said.
    Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., who heads the prosecution panel, said he and his colleagues did not touch on the merits of the impeachment charges in revealing the Bellagio penthouse.
    “We only stated a fact as alleged in the complaint. Further, the people have the right to know the facts in an impeachment proceeding, which is actually the power of the sovereign people,” he said.
    Tañada also said they would agree to a pre-trial conference but not to Corona’s proposal for a preliminary hearing on how the House impeached him.
    “That motion is clearly intended to delay the trial proper,” he said.
    He said a pre-trial conference could expedite the trial as the prosecution and the defense could agree on issues that no longer have to be proven. - With Jess Diaz - By Delon Porcalla (Philstar News Service,