SLB Newsbriefs...daily news from different sources, truncated and compiled. updated daily.
Newsbriefs 09 December Morning
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

Peso hits 53.67 on money from OFWs

Driven by robust remittances from overseas Filipino workers, the peso on Thursday posted its highest level against the dollar since July 2003.

The peso closed at 53.67 to the dollar. It gained more than half a percent from Wednesday’s close of 53.98.

At the Philippine Dealing System, the peso opened at 53.95 against the dollar, effectively also its lowest level for the day. It averaged 53.76 on a turnover volume of $570.5 million.

A trader at a local bank said the foreign-exchange rate is being influenced more by an overall positive sentiment than by political uncertainty.

He was referring to the congressional hearings on accusations of electoral fraud against President Arroyo.

"We are seeing continuing confidence in Philippine markets. We are also having more offshore flows. The political uncertainty is being ignored compared with the positive sentiment," the trader said.

SWS: GMA rating slips again

After climbing back from rock bottom, President Arroyo’s net public approval rating has slid to its second lowest level, according to an independent survey.

The Nov. 4-Dec. 4 quarterly survey of pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS) found 24 percent of Filipinos satisfied with Mrs. Arroyo’s performance while 54 percent said otherwise, for a net approval rating of negative 30 percent.

This is also the second lowest net approval rating — the difference between the number of satisfied and dissatisfied respondents — for any Philippine president since the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.

Mrs. Arroyo’s net approval rating hit negative 33 percent in May. It climbed to negative 23 percent in August before sliding back down.

"It has now been negative for six consecutive quarters, and was last positive in August 2004," SWS noted in a statement issued to the media.

Malacañang, however, shrugged off the low rating.

"The economy is on a roll and political stability is firm," Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said. "We understand that public sentiment may still be affected by residual political turmoil but we are optimistic that the ratings have no way to go but up."

Government Mass Media Group head Cerge Remonde said Mrs. Arroyo is exercising "genuine leadership" by implementing unpopular but necessary economic policies.

"The business of governance is not necessarily about what is popular but about what is right," Remonde said. "The positive performance of the economy under the most adverse political conditions is proof positive that the President is doing right."

Doble's lover says ISAFP team behind Garci tapes (

IT WASN'T exactly a place for lovers, but Marietta Santos sauntered in and out of one of the most restricted areas in the country and heard claims by her boyfriend about how he and 13 others had bugged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Santos sheepishly admitted before the Senate committee on defense and national security how she had access to the one-story white building beside a manmade lagoon in the heart of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) compound in Camp Aguinaldo military headquarters.

The 25-year-old Santos even talked about the fancy equipment she saw in the ISAFP's "blue room," purported provenance of the controversial "Hello Garci" tapes, where Technical Sergeant Vidal Doble took her when he was on duty.

Santos said a 14-man ISAFP team was involved in the Hello Garci wiretaps. She said it included Lieutenant Colonel Pedro Sumayo Jr., head of ISAFP's Military Intelligence Group, or MIG 21, Doble himself, Captain Windell Rebong, Capt. Rex Sagge, a certain "Captain 214," Master Sgt. Velledo, M/Sgt. Callos, T/Sgt. Abanto and T/Sgt. Cando, among others. She could not name the rest.

Con-com approves shift to parliamentary form of government (

The 55-member presidential consultative commission (con-com), tasked to recommend amendments to the Constitution, approved on Wednesday night the proposed shift to a parliamentary form of government.

"Subject only to styling and formatting, the commission has approved the shift from a presidential-bicameral form of government to parliamentary with a unicameral parliament," former University of the Philippines president and con-com chairman Jose Abueva said.

Abueva said the proposal to change the country’s form of government to a parliamentary-unicameral form was first made during the 1971 Constitutional Convention by new con-com commissioner and La Union Gov. Victor Ortega.

"It is a drastic shift that Ortega had initiated as early as the 1971 Con-Con. As early as then, it was decided to adopt a parliamentary government. However, we were overtaken by events and martial law was imposed and we had a different form of government," he said.

"We hope that the idea that was initiated in the 1971 con-com will now be implemented," Abueva added.

Under the proposed parliamentary form of government, the powers of the executive and the legislative will rest with the prime minister and members of the Cabinet.

Members of parliament will elect among themselves the prime minister who will serve as the head of government and the president would serve as head of state with only ceremonial powers.

The president, with a non-renewable term of five years, would have the "power" to ceremonially appoint the prime minister within seven days following the latter’s election by members of parliament; convene the parliament following the election of its members; dissolve the parliament when the prime minister and his Cabinet receive a vote of no confidence; declare a state of emergency or a state of war on advice of the prime minister; accredit ambassadors; promulgate all laws, treaties and international agreements; address messages to the parliament; and receive the annual reports of the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Tribunal and the Constitutional Commissions within 30 days from the opening of Parliament.

Blasts in Metro blamed on NPA (

The Army on Thursday blamed communist rebels for an attack on an office building owned by the family of President Arroyo’s husband and the bombings of vehicles in three places in Metro Manila.

The incidents Wednesday were meant to destabilize the government and take advantage of a tense political situation as Congress revived a probe into alleged election fraud involving Mrs. Arroyo, it said.

"Our initial [intelligence] report is that the NPA has done it," said Army chief Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, referring to the 8,000-strong New People’s Army, which is waging a 36-year insurgency.

"This is actually directed at aggravating the situation in order to attain what they call a revolutionary situation. In other words, this is all part of destabilization," Esperon told reporters.

The suspects shot up the building owned by Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo’s family in Makati City at dawn Wednesday.

Hours later, a bomb went off beneath a parked van owned by Rep. Ronaldo Puno, an ally of Mrs. Arroyo. Two other devices damaged cars in Caloocan City and Parañaque City.

A previously unknown group allegedly composed of disaffected military officers had claimed responsibility for the attacks in statements sent to news agencies. But the military said no such group existed.

"We believe these so-called Enlightened Warriors are a bogus group just exploiting the military to serve the purpose of an ambitious few," Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said, referring to the name used by the suspects.

"These incidents have all the earmarks of a scheme to sabotage the government at a time when we are clearly moving ahead," he said. "We assure the public that these acts of lawlessness and terrorism will not go unpunished once we unmask those responsible for them."

AFP not keen on holiday truce (

Military leaders are not inclined to recommend the declaration of a holiday truce with communist rebels, citing the New People’s Army’s habitual violation of any ceasefire agreement with the government.

Armed Forces Chief Generoso Senga, for one, said a nationwide ceasefire may seem improbable during the Christmas season since there are areas where soldiers remain on the thick of anti-insurgency operations.

Should there be any truce, Senga said it could only be “partial.”

Hacienda Luisita, workers end 13-mo labor strike (

THE 13-MONTH-LONG labor dispute at the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita finally ended yesterday following a P40-million settlement, raising hopes that the estate's management could still save the stock distribution option (SDO) agreement that the government appears likely to revoke next week.

The sugar estate's two labor unions signed separate memorandums of agreement with the Hacienda Luisita management which agreed to pay more than P40 million to cover P19 million worth of claims of unpaid wages by the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and a P21.5-million financial package for a new collective bargaining agreement with the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU).

The two unions said in a statement that they considered the 13-month strike when 13 striking workers and supporters were killed, "a historic victory for the people of Hacienda Luisita."

Rains force more people to flee rising floodwaters (

MORE than 121,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes as torrential rains continued to punish three provinces yesterday, disaster relief officials said.

Many of those who fled to safety came from Calapan City in Oriental Mindoro, where a protective dike collapsed, the Office of Civil Defense said.

No new casualties were reported on top of the two people that were reported dead Wednesday, but the weather bureau has forecast more rain in the area.

A total of 136 barangays from four towns and a city in Quezon and 23 barangays in Lucena City, Candelaria, Mauban, Atimonan and Perez towns were under water.

In Camarines Norte, three barangays from Capalonga town also went under, forcing 351 people to flee. There were also reports of scattered landslides in the province.

Various evacuation centers were only able to house 6,531 families or 32,657 people.

Calapan City accounted for the most number of evacuees since it became the catch basin for rushing floodwaters that escaped the dike in Barangay Del Pilar in the town of Naujan. Floods there displaced more than 47,000, relief officials said.

Authorities declared a state of calamity over the flood-hit municipalities and cities.

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