SLB Newsbriefs...daily news from different sources, truncated and compiled. updated daily.
Newsbriefs 22 November Afternoon
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

Arroyo lauds Hong Kong OFWs for their 'record remittances' (

”President Gloria Arroyo lauded Monday overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) based in Hong Kong for their "record remittances" which, she said, have contributed to the upliftment of the country’s "macro economic" figures.

Macro-economic figures include indicators in the field of investment, tourism, foreign exchange rate, OFW remittances and other factors that reflect the overall economic progress of a country.

In a roundtable discussion in Malacañang with members of her economic team, the President said that the unprecedented growth of these figures contributed to the favorable outlook and renewed confidence of foreign investors in the Philippines.

"The record remittances of our OFWs in Hong Kong this year, which comprise part of our rising macro figures, have given the country the much-needed boost of confidence to attract foreign investors," she noted.”

DBM orders govt agencies to declare savings (

“The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has ordered government agencies to declare their savings for the year, which will be used to determine the additional cash bonuses of government workers, DZMM reported Tuesday.

Budget Secretary Romulo Neri said he issued a circular to government agencies to declare their savings before the end of the month. He said the amount of government savings will determine how much each government employee will get as cash gift in addition to the mandated one-month Christmas bonus.

"There are about a million (government) employees so let’s say if we get about P3 billion to P4 billion worth of savings, that’s about P3,000 to P4,000 per employee," he told DZMM.

The DBM released P3,000 cash gift per government employee in February after declaring savings of P3.4 billion last year due to the government's austerity program.”

Palace brushes off Pulse Asia survey on Arroyo exit (

“Saying even US President George W. Bush suffers a slump in popularity, Malacañang claimed on Tuesday that it was not bothered by a recent survey, which showed that most Filipinos wanted President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo out of office.

"Rarely can one see a President rating high in surveys," Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said in reaction to a Pulse Asia poll, which showed that nearly six out of 10 Filipinos did not trust Arroyo and believed that she cheated in the May election in 2004.

"Even George W. Bush, who is the President of America, suffers from low rating," he said.

The administration should simply work hard and do what it is supposed to do so that its rating would improve, Ermita said.”

DA official denies blackmail try on Magsaysay (

”A Department of Agriculture official on Tuesday denied that DA officials tried to pressure Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. to stop the Senate inquiry into the P728 million fertilizer fund scam involving President Arroyo.

Belinda Gonzales, agriculture undersecretary for administration and finance, said she and Assistant Secretary Felix Jose "Joey" Montes only tried to warn Magsaysay about the senator's endorsement of what they thought was a bogus foundation.

Magsaysay is chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture and foods, which is investigating the alleged misuse of P728 million in government funds for the purchase of fertilizer.

"I have no intention of blackmailing the senator and stop the fertilizer probe. I cannot remember saying anything that could make the senator think that we are blackmailing him," Gonzales told ANC.

She said she was concerned after finding out that the senator had allegedly endorsed a spurious foundation as one of the recipients of agricultural funding assistance.”

Jimenez release reset to Dec 13 (

”The release of former Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez from the US Bureau of Federal Prisons has been reset to December 13, ANC reported Tuesday.

ABS-CBN North America Bureau chief Ging Reyes reported that Jimenez, who was originally scheduled for release last November 5, would have to wait a few more weeks before being released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Allenwood, Pennsylvania.

Philippine Consul Lourdes Legaspi told Reyes that the Bureau of Federal Prisons had reset Jimenez’s release to December 13 because he committed an infraction. Legaspi did not say what the infraction was, which could have been a violation of prison rules.”

Senate holds closed-door hearing on defense, military budget (

“THE SENATE acting as a committee of the whole held the budget hearing of the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in executive session on Tuesday.

The closed-door hearing was conducted on the request of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile who said that openly discussing government plans to liquidate the insurgents was like "telling the enemy what we're doing to finish them up."

Asked if the three-billion-peso Kalayaan fund for 600 villages would be discussed in the executive session, Enrile said that it should be since this was an internal security issue.

He suggested that these closed-door discussions should include operational matters, capabilities, development, degrees of losses and victories, and the general program of government against insurgency.”

Solon: Media knew about Palo vigil (

”Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño scored the military on Tuesday for opening fire on a vigil of land reform beneficiaries in Palo, Leyte, which left eight people dead.

The lawmaker said the group had told the media about their plan to gather at Barangay San Agustin for a rice-planting ceremony on a disputed farm on Sunday. He said the farmers were not allowed to till the land despite receiving certificates of land ownership from the Department of Land Reform.

"They invited media to cover the event. As early as the day before, the media were already announcing the activity,"Casiño told ANC.

Robert de Castro, Bayan Muna national deputy secretary-general, earlier said local radio stations had been covering the protest after the farmers gathered in Barangay San Agustin on Sunday.

Casiño denied that a firefight had erupted between the soldiers and the farmers who, he said, were not New People's Army (NPA) rebels as claimed by the military.

"The witnesses are disputing the military's claim that there was a 45-minute exchange. They said that it was basically one way. There was no exchange of gunfire. All the shots were fired from outside the hut [were the farmers were staying]," he said.

He added that the recovered firearms could have been planted to make it appear that the farmers were armed. He said the military stayed in the area from the time of the alleged encounter at 5 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday.”
Newsbriefs 22 November Morning
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

Pulse Asia dims GMA’s glad return (

President Arroyo’s happy arrival -- she brought good news from the APEC summit, where the Philippines was hailed as a model in the antiterrorism war, and enjoyed a relaxing stopover in Hong Kong with her family -- was dimmed by the result of the latest Pulse Asia survey.

The research company’s "October 2005 Ulat ng Bayan," released Monday, shows that her following in the Visayas has gone down. Forty-seven percent of the Visayans believe her resignation would be most beneficial for the Filipino people, while only 43 percent think the best thing is for her is to remain.

Nationwide, nearly 6 in 10 Filipinos, or 58 percent, preferred exit scenarios for her.

What would be the most beneficial thing to happen after her exit?

Seventeen percent think it would be a presidential election. Twelve percent believe it would be Vice President Noli de Catsro’s assumption of the presidency. Only 11 percent want her replaced by a temporary junta, which would prepare the nation for the election of a new president or a prime minister.

AFP retaliates: Nine Leyte militants slain (

TROOPS raided a gathering of suspected communist rebels on a farm in Palo, Leyte yesterday, killing at least nine and wounding six others, but a leftist lawmaker said the fatalities were just farmers.

Military officials dismissed charges by Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo of a massacre of activist farmers who were holding a vigil at a rice granary.

“It’s natural for them to say the fatalities were not NPA (New People’s Army rebels). But our assets will prove they’re NPA rebels and it was no massacre. The incident was a legitimate encounter because our troops engaged them in a firefight,” said Maj. Lope Dagoy, commander of the 19th Infantry Battalion.

Dagoy said the firefight broke out at 5:45 a.m. in a rice field in Barangay San Agustin, where some 40 rebels fired on soldiers who were responding to a tip that armed men were meeting there.

DND not worried by NPA warning (

The government’s military units on Panay Island are being reorganized after an NPA-planted land mine blew up a convoy of soldiers of the 47th Infantry Battalion, and about 40 rebels lying in ambush opened fire, killing nine soldiers.

Lt. Col. Jefferson Omandam, the spokesman for the AFP’s Central Command, said that troops have been rushed to Calinog, Iloilo, to hunt down rebels responsible for the attack.

The wounded soldiers managed to repulse the NPA rebels.

This was just another of a growing number of NPA activities in Panay, which the military claims to be at the same level of anti-NPA alertness as before.

Sources in Iloilo and Antique, however, told The Times that growing unrest in Panay is scaring the population. The Haribon Foundation in Antique has recalled its chief worker in Panay to Manila because of the fighting.

Journalist killed in Laguna; ninth in RP this year (

CABUYAO, Laguna — A newspaper reporter was shot dead by two motorcycle-riding men Sunday night, police said, bringing to nine the number of journalists killed in the country this year.

Robert "Roby" Ramos, a reporter for the weekly local tabloid Katapat, was waiting for a ride home in front of a public market in Barangay Banlic in Calamba City at around 7:30 p.m. when suspects fired upon him at close range, according to Cabuyao police chief Superintendent Remilo Bamba.

Bamba said Ramos, a resident of Barangay San Juan also in Calamba City, died on the spot from two gunshot wounds — one to his cheek, another to his neck.

Manila-based radio dzRH quoted Ruby Garcia, Ramos’ colleague, as saying he had exposed various illegal activities, including gambling and prostitution, in the province.

House sure to pass Charter bill Nov 23 (

The House leadership told The Times on Monday that it will approve on Wednesday its version of a concurrent House-Senate resolution calling Congress to convene as a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution.

At the same time, the Consultative Commission is optimistic that its proposals, which it will submit to the President on December 15, will be considered by the House and the Senate when they deliberate as a constituent assembly.

Expectedly, however, opposition leaders had negative words to say about the whole thing, promising to object to Speaker Jose de Venecia’s constituent-assembly formula.

Having an overwhelming majority in the House, the Lakas coalition is expected, as its leaders told The Times, to pass the concurrent resolution in a marathon session that could last until past midnight on Wednesday.

DoJ vows to resolve rape case in one year (

THE Department of Justice yesterday promised to resolve the controversial rape case filed against six American servicemen in one year, as mandated by the Visiting Forces Agreement, even if the accused remain in the custody of the United States embassy.

However, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said he doubted if the US would give up custody of the accused until the charges filed against the marines are resolved.

But he still held out hope that public opinion may influence the US to turn over the US servicemen to Philippine authorities.

The preliminary investigation will start tomorrow, Nov. 23, whether or not the Philippine government has the custody of the accused, he said.

Gonzalez said what is important is that US authorities have committed to physically producing the accused during the preliminary investigation or during trial, if the case is
filed with the court.

Arroyo wants gov't workers' non-wage benefits set (

PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered government agencies discussing non-wage benefits for their workers to firm up their proposals soon so that workers can enjoy them this Christmas.

Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas said on Monday that this was the instruction given by the President in their brief conversation at the Second International Maritime Employers Awards in Malacañang.

Departments concerned include labor, finance, budget, and trade and industry, which are expected to submit their proposals to the President at the end of this month so that it could be implemented in December, Sto. Tomas said.

Income tax exemption will be the biggest non-wage benefit workers can get from the government package, which also includes transportation assistance and
cheaper drugs, Sto. Tomas said.

Immigration to bar Viet sports official (

THE Bureau of Immigration said yesterday it would bar the head of Vietnam’s sports delegation from entering the country if Congress declares him persona non grata for accusing the Philippines of fixing the results of the 23rd Southeast Asian Games.

“Under Philippine immigration law, any foreigner who insults, abuses or discriminates against the country’s sovereignty and honor is considered undesirable and unwelcome,” said Raymundo Salting, BI spokesman.

The Vietnam embassy, however, denied reports that the Vietnamese delegation head, Nguyen Hong Minh, had made any such accusations and wrote off the incident as a misinterpretation by the local press.

“Something (is) wrong with the media,” said Vu Trong, first secretary of the Vietnamese embassy in Manila. “He didn’t say the country fixed the results.”

Vu said ties between the Philippines and Vietnam are healthy and said his country would never make such comments.

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