SLB Newsbriefs...daily news from different sources, truncated and compiled. updated daily.
Newsbriefs 21 November Afternoon
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

JBC announces 3 remaining candidates for Ombudsman (

"THE JUDICIAL and Bar Council (JBC) has narrowed down to three from 14 the candidates for Ombudsman and will submit the list to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo later on Monday.

They are Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Merceditas Gutierrez, Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, and Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Victor Fernandez, the JBC said.

Gutierrez got the highest number of votes from the JBC members, with Peralta and Fernandez ranking second and third consecutively, the JBC said.

The President has 90-days to make the appointment under Article 11 Section 9 of the Constitution.

Earlier on Monday, Congressman Simeon Datumanong, chairman of the committee on justice of the House of Representatives and JBC member, said Arroyo was expected to announce Simeon Marcelo's replacement within the week. Marcelo's resignation takes effect on November 30.

He said the President preferred that the new Ombudsman take over by December 1."

DFA presses RP jurisdiction on Subic rape case (

"The Philippines will continue to press the United States Embassy to turn over to the Philippines the custody of six US marines accused of raping a 22-year-old Filipina in Subic, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said Monday.

"The department has formally asked the US Embassy to turn over the custody of the six accused to Philippine authorities citing the extraordinary nature of the case pursuant to Article 5 Paragraph 6 of the Visiting Forces Agreement," Romulo said in a press conference at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) office in Manila.

Romulo said that it is the Philippine government's primary interest "to ensure that justice prevails and that the rights and welfare of the victim are secured." He said the Philippine government's concern on the case were underscored in notes verbale issued to the US Embassy.

"The United States government has been made fully aware of the importance that the Philippine government and the Filipino peole are giving to this case as well as our sentiments and position that the Philippine has primary jurisdiction and that the Philippine laws shall govern," he said.

Romulo said DFA officials have coordinated with the Department of Justice in pressing US authorities to have Philippine jurisdiction of the case, saying it is an urgent concern of the Philippines."

Palace: NPA countryside attacks complimenting urban protests (

"THE STEPPED-UP attacks of the communist New People's Army (NPA) against government forces in the countryside are being done to complement the street protests in the urban areas of organizations, known as communist fronts, according to Malacañang.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said on Monday that the Palace had information that the attacks "were being done in tandem with stepped up militancy of CPP-NPA-NDF fronts" in urban areas, as well as the recent incidents of extortion by the rebels of private firms.

"This strategy of terror cum mass actions and extortion has been rejected by the people and deserves the condemnation of every peace-loving Filipino," he said in a statement.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the authorities to go after the insurgents responsible for the killing of at least nine soldiers and the wounding of 20 others in Calinog town in Iloilo Sunday, Bunye said.

At the same time, Bunye said the President was extending her sympathies to the families of the slain soldiers.

"This is a dastardly attack that shows the CPP-NPA to be fully deserving of the terrorist tag by the international community," he said."

Congress urged to probe P25-M spoiled vaccines (

"A group of health workers on Monday called on Congress to investigate the spoilage of P25-million worth of medicine purchased by the Department of Health.

Emma Manuel, national president of the Alliance of Health Workers, said it is highly questionable that the health department bought in bulk medicines that were about to expire.

"We will be vigilant but we call on our lawmakers to heed and attend to the needs public health workers," Manuel told ANC.

She said millions of children could have been vaccinated had the P25-million worth of medicines did not expire.

She added that the Senate should still approve the health department's request for supplemental budget, which would provide for the needs of health workers and to procure additional medicines and supplies.

A Commission on Audit report earlier showed that P25-million worth of vaccines expired in 2004. Senate President Franklin Drilon said he also received a separate report that P10-million worth of vaccines for measles also expired last June."

National health service in crisis as doctors leave (

"MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines has become one of the biggest suppliers of healthcare workers in the world but the exodus of nurses and doctors in the last five years for higher paying jobs overseas has left the country's health system in a state of near collapse.

At a summit of healthcare professionals called by the Philippine Medical Association recently delegates were told in a conference paper: "The crisis in medical human resources is now upon us. The delivery of health services is being compromised. We have to address the problem before the health system completely collapses."

Jossel Ebesate, general secretary of the Alliance of Health Workers, said the situation had become so bad that the country's healthcare system would collapse within the next two to three years.

Former health secretary Jaime Galvez Tan, who has been studying the exodus of doctors over the past five years, told AFP: "We are facing a serious problem and we need to address it now before it is too late."

He said the demand for nurses, especially in the United States, is outpacing supply.

"Doctors are leaving for a variety of reasons: political instability, low pay, corruption, poor working conditions and the threat of malpractice. But above all they don't see much hope for the future and the future of their children," he said."
Newsbriefs 21 November Morning
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

RP won’t force custody rights over 6 Marines (

BUSAN (via PLDT) — Malacañang will not insist on getting custody of the six American servicemen accused of raping a 22-year-old Filipina in Subic even if a note verbale demanding just that has already been sent to the US embassy in Manila.

In an interview, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the government is content with having primary criminal jurisdiction over the Marines in light of the lack of a provision under the Visiting Forces Agreement that compels the US embassy to turn over custody of the accused.

“In practical terms, it’s insisting on criminal jurisdiction that is important. What is important is they would be tried by our Philippine courts,” Bunye said.

The US embassy in Manila received the note verbale from the Department of Foreign Affairs Wednesday last week but American officials have yet to give a formal response to the document, which seeks custody of the Marines.

Under Article V, Section 3.a of the VFA, the Philippine government has “primary right to exercise jurisdiction over all offenses committed by US personnel.”

The only exemptions provided in the article are when the crime committed is not punishable under Philippine laws, and when the offense arises out of any act or omission done in performance of official duty.

Pinoy's coconet tops BBC World Challenge (

LEGAZPI CITY, Albay -- Agricultural engineer Justino Arboleda of the Philippines won the first prize in the First World Challenge contest sponsored by BBC World television in London on Nov. 17 for his soil erosion control net or coconet.

Coconet, made from waste coconut husk, was adjudged the best environmental grassroots project in the world. It was among 456 entries from 90 countries.

Malta, which introduced a biodiesel product, took the second prize, while Vanuatu was in third place for its rechargeable battery.

From 12 finalists, the field was cut down to three.

Fifty percent of one's score was given by the judges and the other 50 percent by votes cast on the Internet, according to Arboleda's wife Julie. She, however, could not give the exact number of the Internet votes her husband received.

Arboleda, who is still in London, told the Inquirer in a text message that he received the award at 7 p.m. (London time) on Nov. 17, [2 a.m. on Nov. 18 in the Philippines]. He also received a cash prize of $20,000.

The winners will be featured by the BBC in a special program on Dec. 3 and 4 and by Newsweek magazine in its Dec. 3 issue, according to the agricultural engineer.

P152-M fertilizer money diverted to foundations (

At least P152.2 million in fertilizer and farm input funds Malacañang released three months before last year’s presidential election to 110 members of the House of Representatives ended up with the favorite foundations of many of these lawmakers.

The foundations and other non-government organizations (NGOs) were tasked to buy farm inputs. Most of them bought liquid fertilizer, which, in the case of six congressional districts in the Bicol Region that were allocated farm input funds, was overpriced by 800 percent to 1,300 percent.

Government auditors estimate that of the P60.7 million given to these districts, nearly P49 million was skimmed through overpricing. They discovered that liquid fertilizer was bought at P800 per 300ml bottle, when it was available on the market for only P58.50 to P90.54.

Asked to comment yesterday on the use of foundations, Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., chairman of the House appropriations committee, told The STAR that as far as he knows, regulations on the handling of funds appropriated for members of Congress prohibit such practice. Andaya did not avail himself of farm input money.

Massive rainforest replanting plan up (

Various pro-environment and non-government organizations have launched a national movement to restore at least one million hectares of the country’s rainforest by 2020.

They raised the alarm over the continuing rapid rate of destruction of the country’s forests, which they predicted may dwindle to a mere 320,000 hectares of primary forest, or a measly six percent of the country’s total land area, by 2010.

"The forest is our social security system. We owe it protection for the free forest benefits and ecosystem services it provides," said Prof. Blas Tabaranza, director of Haribon Foundation, which recently turned over to legislators, local government units, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) at least one million signatures against logging and mining especially in natural forests.

The Haribon Foundation and Rainforest Restoration Initiative (RFRI) would serve as the core group of the social movement, dubbed as ROAD 2020, which would be supported by the Netherlands.

"The national movement for rainforestation is not just about planting individual trees," said Dr. Edwino Fernando of RFRI. "It is (also) about bringing back the rainforest."

"In this way, the amazing diversity of forest life survives, there is clean water and abundant food, soil erosion is minimized, among many other ecological services. It is guided by the reality of the need to protect the natural forest and to ensure there is also a production component for the livelihood of communities," he added.

According to Tabaranza, the target of one million hectares of restored forests would support viable populations of native tree species and other plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects throughout their natural range.

The ROAD 2020 would only use native tree species.

High oil prices to boost job opportunities in Mideast (

CEBU CITY - Filipinos are reeling from soaring consumer energy prices due to the spike crude oil prices. But if its any consolation, the lofty price of "black gold" is also giving oil-producing countries in the Middle East a big economic boost, thus spurring the demand for more Filipino workers in that region, according to a senior member of Congress.

"We foresee a dramatic increase in the demand for both skilled and unskilled foreign workers in the Middle East, which is being buoyed by high oil prices," Rep. Eduardo Gullas of Cebu said.

9 soldiers killed in Iloilo ambush (

Nine soldiers were killed and 20 others were wounded in an ambush by communist rebels in Iloilo Saturday night.

Lyndo Sollesta, the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division spokesman, on Sunday said that the soldiers were on their way to the headquarters of the 47th Infantry Battalion in Calinog town to replenish supplies when they were waylaid.

Sollesta said the ambush happened about 50 meters from the Army headquarters.

The soldiers were in an M-35 truck and an Elf truck that hit mine insurgents from the New People’s Army had planted. The explosion instantly killed the nine soldiers.

After the blast, about 40 rebels opened fire at the convoy and even attempted to board the vehicles. They retreated after the wounded soldiers fired back and called for reinforcements.

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