Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Filipino HS students placed third in American math contest

Zamboangueno is top scorer of the Phil. Team

Filipino high school students once again gain international recognition as they placed third in the recently concluded International Regional Mathematics League (IRML) contest held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The IRML is part of the American Regions Mathematics League (ARML) contest. The ARML contest is for American teams while the IRML is for international teams that compete in the contest.

Among the team of Filipino students is a fourth year high school students from Zamboanga who was awarded a gold medal for being the top scorer of the Philippine team in the contest which was held at the University Nevada in Las Vegas.

The other members of the Philippine team were Jomar Anthony Sastrillo of Siliman University, Matthew Chris Chan of St. Stephens High School, Ralph Joshua Sarrosa of Angelicum School de Iloilo, Ricci Ryan Rojo of Zamboanga Chong Hua High School, Hanz Vladimir Cabanes of Zamboanga Chong Hua High School, Maria Moper Dionaleigh Nunez of Philippine Science High School Main, Charles Kyle Mupas of Colegio San Agustin in Biñan, Laguna, Dennis Ong Betito Jr. of Philippine Science High School Main, Noelle Paola Santos of Philippine Science High School Main, Geomarie Concepcion of Philippine Science High School Main, Misaki Ueki of Canossa Academy in Laguna, John Ostin Ong of Trinity High School in Bacolod City, and Ralph Henry Kimoden of Quezon City Science High School.

Dr. Simon Chua, president of the Mathematics Trainers Guild-Philippines (MTG) said, “The ARMM is a warm-up of Filipino students who are slated to compete in different international math contest this year.” He said the Philippine team’s score this year was better than last year’s performance.

The Philippine delegation was headed by team leaders Rechilda Villame and Misael Jose Fisico, and Dr. Ofelia Sison as the deputy team leader.

MTG trains and sends Filipino students to different international math competitions including the IRML. (Source: Pinoy Business)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ninth ray to RP flag’s sun proposed

Senator Richard J. Gordon wants to add a ninth ray to the sun in the Philippine flag to symbolize the Muslims who fought against foreign invaders.

“Our national flag not only represents principles of sovereignty and solidarity of the Philippine nation, but also embodies the ideals and traditions of the Filipino people developed over the course of national history,” he said in a statement.

Gordon said the Philippine flag symbolizes the nation’s struggle for independence and victory against foreign colonizers.

The three stars in the flag represent the three major geographical divisions of the country: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao; while the eight rays of the sun represent the eight provinces that revolted against the Spanish regime: Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Manila, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and Tarlac.

Gordon said that behind the stories of the most celebrated names of national heroes who fought for our independence lie the stories of our mostly-forgotten Muslim heroes, including Lapu-Lapu, Sultan Kudarat, and Rajah Sulayman, who displayed courage and integrity.

The senator explained that this is the reason he proposed to add a ninth ray to the sun in the Philippine flag—to acknowledge the courage and integrity of Muslim Filipinos who fought for the nation’s independence.

“Our Muslim heroes left an imprint on national history that, at the very least, must be given due recognition in the most heraldic item of national importance—the Philippine flag,” he said.

Gordon authored Senate Bill 2590, which proposes that the rays of the sun on the Philippine flag be increased from eight to nine, to symbolize the community of Muslim leaders who defended the country from foreign invasion.

“By adding a ninth ray in the sun to represent our Muslim brothers, I think we make ourselves one with them. They are the Filipinos who were very successful in thwarting colonialism in our country,” Gordon said.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gov't. employees’ salary increase approved by Congress

Public school teachers will soon be receiving a P6,000 pay hike spread over four years. That is because the House of Representatives has unanimously approved on final reading a resolution granting salary increases to all government workers, including public school teachers.

According to Speaker Prospero Nograles, the House Joint Resolution 36, which passed 178 to 0, “would upgrade, rationalize and standardize” the compensation of all government employees starting this July. “This program applies to all civilian government personnel, regardless of status. Military and uniformed personnel are also covered by a separate compensation system provided under HJR 36,” Nograles said.

The salary upgrades which would cost a total of P150 billion, would be implemented gradually over the next four years, said Quirino Rep. Junie Cua, chair of the appropriations committee. “All told, this will rationalize the salaries of government officials depending on their rank, skills, work and education requirement,” he said.

Just like in private companies where employees are classified in ranks, government employees are also categorized as sub-professionals, professionals and executives.

Nograles noted however, that the salary adjustment for the President, Vice President and members of Congress would not apply to incumbents.

Meanwhile, the salary increases in the said resolution was assailed by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) as being inequitable. They said that government employees in the sub-professional level will receive a 28 to 36 percent increase, while those in the professional level will receive a 38 to 100 percent increase. The ACT further added that those in the executive category will receive an increase between 71 to 142 percent.(Pinoy Business)

Friday, May 22, 2009

RP’s driver’s license honored in Belgium

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has finally entered into an administrative arrangement with the Belgian government to honor the driver’s licenses issued in the Philippines. Because of this, Filipinos who are living and/or working in Belgium can now exchange their valid Philippine driver’s license with Belgian license without the need to take any written and practical examinations.

This arrangement has been under discussion for the least eight years, before it was finally implemented last April 22. Before the implementation, Filipinos living in Belgium were required to take written and practical examinations in either French or Dutch/Flemish to obtain Belgian driver’s license. Those who wanted to take the exam in English are made to pay a translation fee of €50.

Filipinos who did not want to take the exam then were still allowed to drive around in Belgium, provided that they have an international driver’s license issued in the Philippines.

The requirements for exchanging the Philippine driver’s license to the Belgian driver’s license are: a valid Philippine driver’s license; Belgian identity card or work permit; one passport-size photo; and a fee of €16. Other requirements may also be asked by the Belgian authority as deemed necessary.

Likewise, Belgian nationals living in the Philippines can exchange their valid Belgian driver’s license for a Philippine driver’s license at any Land Transportation Office (LTO) in the Philippines.

For more information, Filipinos in Belgium can visit the Federal Public Service, Mobility and Transport website at the www.mobility.fgov.be or contact their local commune.

Philippine Ambassador to Belgium Cristina Ortega reported that husband and wife Alex and Jovelle Fernandez were the first Filipino expatriates to get their Belgian driver’s license under the new arrangement last April 22. “They had absolutely no trouble. They simply presented the requirement including their valid Philippine driver’s licenses at their local commune, and a week later, they received their Belgian driver’s licenses,” she added.

The LTO submitted to the Belgian Embassy a list of security features with which the Belgian official can check the validity of the driver’s license. (Source: Pinoy Business)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Manny Pacquiao's Boxing Titles

Below is a list of the boxing titles Pacquiao has won:

World Titles

1. Pacquiao first held the WBC Flyweight title in 1998 when he defeated Chartchai Sasakul in Bangkok, Thailand. Pacquiao won by TKO in the 8th round. He defended the title once before losing it in a bout vs. Medgoen Singsurat in 1999.

2. Pacquiao first held the IBF Super Bantamweight title in 2001 after defeating Lehlohonolo Ledwaba in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. He won by TKO in the 6th round, then proceeded to defend and retain the title four times.

3. Pacquiao then bagged the WBC Super Featherweight title on March 15, 2008, when he defeated Juan Manuel Marquez in a match in Las Vegas.

4. Pacquiao knocked out David Diaz in the 9th round of their June 28, 2008 Las Vegas match, clinching the WBC Lightweight title.

5. Pacquiao earned the IBO Light Welterweight title when he knocked out Ricky Hatton in the 2nd round of their May 2, 2009 bout in Las Vegas.

Pacquiao defeated Marco Antonio Barrera in a non-title featherweight bout on November 15, 2003, in Texas, USA. Pacquiao's victory in this match earned him titles such as the "People's Featherweight champ" and Ring Magazine's "Featherweight Championship of the World" award, although these are not considered world titles.

Other Titles

Pacquiao held the Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation (OPBF) Flyweight title in 1997.

Pacquiao first held the WBC International Super Bantamweight title in 1999 after defeating Reynante Jamili at the Elorde Sports Center in Manila. Pacquiao won by TKO in the 2nd round; he successfully defended the title five times.

Pacquiao first held the WBC Super Featherweight International title in 2005 after defeating Hector Velasquez in Los Angeles, California, USA -- TKO in the 6th round. He successfully defended the title five times. Pacquiao initially vied for the said title in a match vs. Eric Morales earlier that year, but he lost to the Mexican boxer. Pacquiao was able to get the title in the bout vs. Velasquez. Morales twice attempted to snatch the title from Pacquiao in 2006; Pacquiao defeated him in both rematches.

Pacquiao won the RING Super Featherweight title in 2008 when he defeated Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas. It was in the same fight as the one where he got the WBC Super Featherweight title. This was his last boxing match as a featherweight. (Source: GMA News Research)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Detained SK Mayor tries to escape

MANILA, Philippines—Sheriffs and security guards of the Sandiganbayan detained a Sultan Kudarat mayor and his wife after they allegedly tried to flee while he was being arraigned for murder charges Wednesday afternoon.

Columbio, Sultan Kudarat mayor Edwin Bermudez and his wife Sheryl allegedly left the courtroom after the charges against him was read, took the stairs from the third floor down to the ground floor and went out the main gate of the six-story building in Quezon City.

Bermudez and his wife denied they were trying to escape and said they were just looking for the witness they will present for his bail petition, Chief Sheriff Edgardo Urieta said.

The Office of the Ombudsman had accused Bermudez of masterminding the killing of two supporters of his political rival Mohamad Paglas on May 15, 2004. The victims were gunned down in front of the town hall while joining a convoy to transfer ballot boxes to a nearby town.

Voluntary surrender

His arraignment was scheduled Wednesday afternoon. He also filed a petition for bail which is still pending with the court.

Bermudez had been at large since the case was filed with the Sandiganbayan in August 2008, but in an endorsement to the Sandiganbayan Wednesday, Columbio police chief Insp. Nathaniel Panaguiton said the mayor had voluntarily surrendered.

But Urieta noted that Bermudez was without any police escorts.

Second Division court bailiff Dennis Macaranas said that during the court hearing, the phone of Bermudez’ female lawyer suddenly rang. He advised her to answer the call outside the courtroom, but as she stepped out, Bermudez and his wife followed her.

The wife allegedly said they would be fetching a witness for the mayor’s bail petition.

Macaranas said he had asked them not to leave the court and that they had to be escorted by court sheriffs while the lawyer had insisted to return to the courtroom, her phone still in her ears, that the security guards had to take turns in telling her that it was not allowed.

But amid the commotion, Bermudez followed his wife who had already taken the stairs.

In his official report, Urieta said the guard on the third floor immediately asked through two-way radio his fellow guards on the ground floor “to hold the fleeing Bermudez and his wife” while Sheriffs Alexander Valencia and Federico Gamugamo ran after the couple.

The couple dashed out of the main gate fronting the Don Mariano Marcos Avenue, but security guard Noel Haddad saw them running. He also gave chase.

Haddad finally caught up with Sheryl about 30 meters from the main gate. Bermudez allegedly stopped running after seeing his wife had been accosted.

The couple were detained at the Office of the Sheriff as a nurse attended to Bermudez whose blood pressure reportedly shot up after the chase.

Urieta said because of the mayor’s condition, they would remain detained in his office instead of being turned over to the Quezon City Jail.(By Edson C. Tandoc Jr.; INQ.net)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

There’s only one Manny Pacquiao

LAS VEGAS – Four years ago, in the very same ring where he scored a crushing second-round knockout over an opponent many thought would give him the challenge of his career, Manny Pacquiao lost a decision to Erik Morales.

Morales was one of the most entertaining fighters of his time, but never once were “Morales” and “all-time great” ever used together in the same sentence.

In 2005, Pacquiao was good and exciting but hardly great fighter. After Saturday’s K.O. of Ricky Hatton, though, he stands atop the boxing world, even with the heavily hyped return of Floyd Mayweather Jr., who had been a near-unanimous choice as the world’s top fighter prior to his untimely retirement in June 2008.

Mayweather Jr. unretired on Saturday said he’d fight Juan Manuel Marquez in July, but he’ll have to defeat Pacquiao if he wants to be regarded as the best after Pacquiao decimated Hatton at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Pacquiao knocked Hatton down twice in the first round and then knocked him cold with a crushing left hand that may have been the best punch of his career late in the second round. Hatton fell face first and laid motionless for several minutes as the arena erupted.

If the Pacquiao Era hadn’t started with his decimation of Oscar De La Hoya in December, it began with a straight left that left promoter Bob Arum squealing.

Arum has promoted many of the game’s finest fighters, including Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler. Arum was so ebullient after Pacquiao’s devastating victory, he was comparing Pacquiao favorably to Ali.


“I promoted Muahmmad Ali and the best Ali I ever saw was the one who fought before he was forced to take a sabbatical for 3½ years,” Arum said. “That was the best Muhammad Ali. He had phenomenal speed and he had terrific reflexes, but he sure as hell didn’t have the explosive power that Manny Pacquiao has. … He was a great, great fighter, but there has never been a fighter with the same combination of speed and explosive power as Manny Pacquiao.”

It was hard to argue with any superlatives hurled Pacquiao’s way after the finest effort of his career. He picked apart a guy who was 45-1 coming into the fight and who was the linear super lightweight champion, making Hatton look like an upstart amateur.

Pacquiao was far too fast and far too strong for Hatton, who fought his entire career as a 140-pounder. Pacquiao, who began at just 106, hurt Hatton with nearly every shot on Saturday.

“Before the fight, a lot of people were saying I’m small at 140 and Ricky Hatton is bigger than me,” an unmarked Pacquiao said. “I didn’t put that in my mind.”

Ever since that disappointing loss to Morales, Pacquiao has made a transformation that has turned him into a superstar and has old-school boxing experts talking of him as an all-time great.

He barely squeaked out a victory over Marquez 14 months ago, but his trainer, Freddie Roach, said it would be no contest if they were to fight now.

“He’s a different now than he was [when he lost to Morales],” Roach said. “He’s not that guy. He’s a different guy. If he fought Marquez right now, I guarantee you he’d knock him out in three rounds. I’m telling you. I know that’s a bold statement, but he’s a much better fighter than the guy who fought those guys.

“Something clicked inside of him. I can’t pinpoint it. He’s just a different guy.”

Pacquiao isn’t a guy who simply goes to the gym to shed pounds to make the weight. He uses his training sessions as a classroom and takes a studious approach to improving himself.

Roach worked diligently with him to improve his right hook and on Saturday, it was his key punch. Hatton would cock his left as he went to throw it, a sign for Pacquiao to unleash his right hook, which he did in devastating manner.

He hurt Hatton with a combination that began with a right hook about 90 seconds into the fight, sending the British star spaghetti-legged in the corner. As Hatton’s many fans in the sellout crowd of 16,262 sang “There’s only one Ricky Hatton,” you had to wonder if Hatton somehow thought there might have been two Manny Pacquiaos the way punches were raining down upon him.

Hatton wasn’t in Pacquiao’s class, though he might have beaten him a few years ago. Pacquiao and Roach now form the best team in boxing as Pacquiao has developed his game to a point where he compares favorably with any man alive.

“What I am watching is something that is astounding,” Arum said. “Usually when a world championship-caliber boxer reaches the top, he can be good for a number of years. But most of the time, there is no improvement. This young man improves every single fight.

“He’s doing things he didn’t do two years ago. He’s doing more things and he’s doing other things he didn’t do before. His defense is tremendous and his reflexes now are tremendous. I have never, ever in more than 40 years – and I say this without hyperbole – I have never seen a fighter combine speed and explosive power the way he does.”

Boxing now needs a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. If it occurs, it could be the most significant fight in the sport in decades.

But Pacquiao doesn’t need Mayweather to affirm himself as one of the sport’s greats. Pacquiao answered that question plenty well in the ring. (Source: Yahoo! Sports)

Pacquiao out to make a big difference

LAS VEGAS—Who’ll get knocked out? And in what round?

Manny Pacquiao, the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter, and Ricky Hatton, the light welterweight king, will supply the answers when they clash for the International Boxing Organization light welterweight crown on Saturday night (Sunday in Manila).

With both fighters known for their power and aggressive brawling styles, ring experts believe the megabucks “Battle of East and West” won’t last the 12-round distance at the sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Pacquiao, who has defied logic by hopping from one division to another in his last three fights, will try to become the first boxer—living or dead—to fight in four different divisions and sweep them all.

The Associated Press noted that Pacquiao returns to the ring much the same fighter he was five months ago, taking on Hatton in a lucrative 140-pound fight matching two guys who love to brawl. The big difference now, though, is that everybody expects him to win.

One big fight can create a lot of expectation, and the biggest task for Pacquiao may be managing them in the ring, said AP.

Betting odds in this gambling haven favor Pacquiao, holder of a 48-win, 3-loss, 2-draw record, to score a knockout victory that will etch his name in boxing annals. (Follow a real-time, online round-by-round account of the Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight through the sports channel of www.inquirer.net. The fight starts at 9:54 p.m. in Las Vegas, 12:54 p.m. Sunday in Manila.)

Last year, Pacquiao bested Juan Manuel Marquez for the World Boxing Council junior lightweight title, knocked out David Diaz in the ninth round for the WBC lightweight crown and pounded Oscar De La Hoya into submission after eight rounds in a non-title welterweight bout.

It was a feat reminiscent of the great Henry Armstrong, the only boxer to hold three world titles simultaneously, from November 1937 to August 1938.

Elite company

If he dethrones Hatton, holder of a 45-1 slate and unbeaten at 140 pounds, Pacquiao will clinch his fifth world title, joining the elite company of Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Floyd Mayweather Jr. De La Hoya, the man whom Pacquiao forced into retirement last month, is the lone six-division champion.

The 30-year-old Pacquiao copped the WBC flyweight title in 1998 and the International Boxing Federation junior featherweight plum in 2001.

Pacquiao knows the historical significance of a victory over Hatton, also 30, but his main intention is to give pride and dignity to a country longing for heroes.

“Wala nang atrasan, bakbakan na ito (There’s no turning back, it’s going to be a brawl),” Pacquiao said before retiring to his suite Friday night.

Like Pacquiao, who tipped the scales at 138 pounds during the official weigh-in Friday afternoon, Hatton commands a huge following in England and this was aptly proven when 25,000 Britons flew in for the bout this weekend despite the recession and the threat of an impending influenza pandemic.

Official weigh-in

They were able to gobble up about 60 percent of the sold-out tickets, but many of the Britons will wind up just betting in the casinos and drinking in bars.

During the official weigh-in Friday, Hatton barely made the light welterweight limit and overcame reported weight problems, tipping the scales at exactly 140 pounds.

The British star boasted to his countrymen that they won’t go home disappointed.

According to Hatton, he’s going to be the biggest man Pacquiao has ever faced as he intends to climb the ring at 154 pounds. The biggest man Pacquiao ever fought was De la Hoya, who was just 147 pounds.

As usual, Pacquiao refused to predict the outcome, insisting that his fists will do the talking in the ring.

‘Only God knows’

“Only God knows what will happen tomorrow,” said Pacquiao after the weigh-in.

With Pacquiao and Hatton, whose lone defeat was inflicted by the retired Floyd Mayweather Jr., son and namesake of his trainer Floyd Sr., refusing to get into a word war in the fight build-up, attention has shifted to the verbal sparring between trainers Freddie Roach and Mayweather Sr.

The elder Mayweather went as far as saying that Roach is a joke as a coach, later improving the name-calling to “cockroach.”

And just to rile Mayweather, Roach predicted that he’d be disappointed if Pacquiao fails to finish off Hatton in three rounds.

But after feeling Pacquiao’s newfound power in the punching mitts during training, Roach changed his mind and insisted that Hatton will definitely fall in three rounds.

Trainer’s trophy

To further drum up interest in the Roach-Mayweather sideshow, a four-tiered trophy over five feet tall will be given to the winning trainer.

The fight card, jointly promoted by Top Rank of Bob Arum and Golden Boy Promotions of De La Hoya, will also be shown worldwide on pay-per-view and closed circuit television, with sales expected to approximate the 1.25 million buys Pacquiao-De La Hoya generated.

Officiating the Pacquiao-Hatton showdown will be referee Kenny Bayless with Michael Pernick, Glenn Trowbridge and CJ Ross as judges.

The main supporting event pits Mexican Humberto Soto (47-7-2 with 30 KOs) against Canadian Benoit Gaudet (20-1 with 17 KOs) for the WBC super featherweight title.

Also seeing action in the non-televised bouts is rising Filipino star Bernabe Concepcion, who will be facing Colombian Yogli Herrera in an eight-round lightweight encounter.(INQ.net)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

RP Braces for Pacquiao Fight

The streets of the Philippines could resemble a ghost town for a few hours on Sunday morning as everyone from taxi drivers to petty thieves makes time to watch Manny Pacquiao's fight against Ricky Hatton.

Pacquiao, known as the "nation's fist," is idolised in the Southeast Asian nation and his every appearance in the ring has a majority of the 90 million people glued to their television and radio sets, causing a surge in demand for electricity.

"In terms of sports events, every Pacquiao fight is the Philippines' Super Bowl," said Carlito Claudio, vice president for systems operations at the National Grid Corp of the Philippines.

Power demand normally rises by two percent, or around 140 megawatts, whenever Pacquiao fights and this Sunday is likely to be no different, Claudio told Reuters by phone.

Pacquiao, a former four-weight world champion, will try and snatch the IBO light-welterweight title from Hatton in a 12-round bout in Las Vegas on Sunday morning Phillipines time.

"I'll skip work in the morning to watch the fight," Danilo Santos, a 28-year-old taxi driver in Manila, told Reuters.

"I'm sure all Filipinos will also stay home so it will just be a waste of time driving around. If Manny wins, then I'll have a busy afternoon," added Santos, who expects people to be partying in the streets should their man triumph.

Lolita Cruz has set up a cable television at her small, neighbourhood canteen in a Manila suburb so her customers can watch the fight while eating.

"I am praying for Manny's victory because that will bring honour and pride to all Filipinos anywhere in the world," Cruz said. "He's my hero because he always makes us proud."

Restaurants with cable television will open early as will shopping malls with cinemas, where people can watch the fight live via satellite.

The SM group, the country's largest cinema operator, said the tickets, priced at 551 pesos each, were selling fast.

"So far we've sold only 50 percent of the tickets but many people usually buy during the day of the match," said Armando Cortez, supervisor at the SM North EDSA cinemas which sold the most tickets in the country for Pacquiao's December 7 defeat of Oscar de la Hoya.

Pacquiao, nicknamed "Pac-man," is clearly popular with the nation's criminals as well.

"We have historical and statistical data to show that there's always zero crime during Pacquiao's actual match," said Nicanor Bartolome, national police spokesman.

In the southern Mindanao island, government soldiers will set up a giant screen in a former camp of the militant rebel group Abu Sayyaf to watch the match, according to a local radio report.

Pacquiao, widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, has also distracted politicians.

Congress adjourned its session early this week so about 50 lawmakers, including the speaker of the House of Representatives, could fly to Las Vegas for the fight. (By Manolo Serapio Jr. and Manny Mogato)

Friday, May 1, 2009

"It's going to be a war" - Pacquiao

LAS VEGAS—RICKY HATTON promised to “shock the world” when he meets Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night (Sunday morning in Manila) in a title fight that both boxers said would be a war.

The expected fireworks at the two fighters’ joint press conference at the MGM Grand hotel-casino on Wednesday fizzled out, but just the same promoters of the “Battle of East and West” succeeded in raising interest in the blockbuster card.

But Pacquiao’s mother, Dionesia, in the United States for the first time, provided the sizzle.

Oddsmakers have installed Pacquiao a 2-1 favorite in their 140-pound (63½-kilogram) fight for Hatton’s IBO junior-welterweight title.

“I’ve been here before,” Hatton said, reveling in his role as underdog. “People say (I’m) over-hyped, overprotected, a fat, beer-drinking Englishman. Well, I’m going to shock the world again.”

Pacquiao said he and his team had been repeatedly watching video tapes of previous Hatton fights and were ready for Saturday’s showdown.

“Everyone knows the style of Ricky Hatton,” the 30-year-old Filipino added. “He always comes forward, throwing a lot of punches. It’s going to be a war.”

Hatton was quick to echo his opponent’s forecast. “Oh yeah, it’s going to be a war,” he said. “We’re going to make it one.”

Poet Mayweather Sr.

Hatton said “I will be shocked” if the fight went against him. “And I say that with no disrespect for my opponent.

“But just standing next to him—and I hope this doesn’t come back to haunt me because he can punch—the first thing that goes through my mind is: ‘How is this man going to keep me off him for 12 rounds?’ That’s how confident I feel.”

Bob Arum of Top Rank and Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions took turns extolling the virtues of their respective fighters, Pacquiao and Hatton, during the fight’s final press conference even as Floyd Mayweather Sr. failed in his bid to lure counterpart trainer, Freddie Roach, into a verbal tussle.

Roach keeps his cool

Mayweather, who recited a poem, referred to Roach as a joke of a coach and insulted the three-time Trainer of the Year and Hall of Famer by likening him to a cockroach.

Roach kept his cool, opting not to answer the taunts. Roach’s speech was short and sweet. He said he had the better fighter, reiterating that he would be disappointed if Pacquiao did not get Hatton in three.

Mayweather taunted Pacquiao in poetic verse as he predicted a knockout by the British “Hitman.”

“After this fight, Pacman will never be the same,” Mayweather said.

“Hey Pac, it’s over, so quit wishing on a four-leaf clover.

“You will be uncrowned, with your head down, on your chest, knowing that Ricky Hatton is the best.

“I hope you know, you have got to go, it’s going to be Hitman Hatton by KO.”

The 78-year-old Arum called Pacquiao the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter and the Social Welfare System of the Philippines for sending 500 children to school, donating hospital beds and giving dole-outs to the destitute.

De La Hoya cited Hatton’s iconic stature in England, citing the 60,000 fans who packed the Wembley Stadium in one of his fights.

Hatton sounded a little bitter

“I think you (media) have all made your mind up already,” Hatton said. “I have been reading what you have been saying and what everyone has been saying. That doesn’t scare me. I have been here before. I have been the underdog before.

Hatton added: “This is my weight division, but I understand that I am the underdog. I understand why people are picking on me especially since Manny Pacquiao is the No. 1 pound for pound fighter in the world who just had an exceptional win over Oscar.”

Pacquiao refused to predict the outcome

“I respect Ricky Hatton. He is a good person. He is a nice guy and I would like to remind everyone that there is nothing personal (in) this fight and we are just doing our job to give a good fight to the people and make them happy.”

Dionesia a hit

It was Pacquiao’s mother, Aling Dionesia, who grabbed attention when he was introduced by Arum to the hundreds of broadcast and print journalists.

A swarm of photographers swarmed all over Dionesia, who is in the United States for the first time to lend support to his favorite son. She still can’t bring herself to watch her son fight.

“She is scared to watch it live,” Pacquiao said. “To have her here, it’s going to give me more inspiration to do my best and win. It’s going to be one of the best times I’ve had in my life.”

Dionesia says she plans to pray for her son while he is in the ring.

“I’m not scared,” she said through a translator. “I’m confident he’s going to win. Manny is going to go all the way.”

Lessons in humility, generosity

“I wasn’t feeling too well and also I wanted to take care of everything at home so it was ready when Manny got home,” she said. “I love the United States. It’s wonderful. I have wanted to come here for a long time.”

Pacquiao has pleased his mother by learning the lessons she taught of humility and generosity.

“It’s the way he processes everything, humbly and with kindness,” she said.

A sell-out

Though the Hatton fight is for a lightly regarded IBO crown, winning at junior welterweight will mean Pacquiao has won titles in six weight divisions, beginning at 112 pounds (51 kilograms).

Both fighters had spectacular performances the last time they were in the ring. For Pacquiao it was the win over De La Hoya, but Hatton showed off some himself a few weeks earlier by stopping Paulie Malignaggi in front of thousands of his ever-singing fans.

Promoters claim the fight has already sold out the 15,000-seat arena at the MGM and are selling closed circuit viewing at other Las Vegas hotels. They’re also hopeful that even an ailing economy won’t stop people from spending $50 to order the fight on pay-per-view, perhaps with a few friends.

With reports from AP, Reuters and AFP

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pacquiao hits 140 lbs a week before fight

HOLLYWOOD -- WHILE WINDING DOWN his training on Saturday (Sunday in Manila), Manny Pacquiao took off his sweaty red shirt to flaunt his well-chiseled body and bulging muscles.

Then, while doing abdominal strengthening exercises, he blurted out: “Am I small at 140?”

Pacquiao actually doesn’t look like somebody who can readily be swept aside by a bigger guy like Ricky Hatton.

Pacquiao, in fact, overpowered sparring partners Alisher Rahimov and David Rodela in five rounds with his dazzling speed.

As it turned out, Pacquiao had already made the 140-pound limit for his light welterweight clash with Hatton a week before the megabuck bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

“He didn’t even need to diet,” assistant trainer Nonoy Neri said in Filipino. “Hard work in training kept his weight in check.”

Neri’s disclosure was rather surprising as master trainer Freddie Roach put Pacquiao’s weight at around 145 on Thursday.

Based on Pacquiao’s movements, however, his weight is likely to be less as he zooms and glides with power to match during the training session presided by three-time former heavyweight champ Michael Moorer.

Atlanta Olympic silver medalist Onyok Velasco, now a close pal of Pacquiao, was impressed.

“He (Manny) is very fast and strong,” said Velasco in Filipino.

Matchmaker and Pacquiao confidant Wakee Salud added that Pacquiao seems to have gotten stronger than when he stopped Oscar De La Hoya at 147 lb last Dec. 6.

Rodela, who was knocked down by a body blow from Pacquiao during sparring last week, also praised Pacquiao.

“Damn, he’s too fast,” said Rodela. “I was about to catch him and then he was gone.”

Despite the betting odds piling up in his favor, Pacquiao, however, refuses to be drawn into complacency.

“I don’t know why people trust me so much,” said Pacquiao.

Pacquiao even likened the bout, a blockbuster with 16,300 tickets sold to a cockfight.

“We both have spurs and gaffers, so let’s just wait and see,” he said. Team Pacquiao will proceed to Las Vegas on Monday.

NOTES: Amir Khan, the rising British star who beat Marco Antonio Barrera last month, dropped by at Wild Card on Friday. He went to see Pacquiao, with whom he was able to spar with at Wild Card… Aside from Bernabe Concepcion, another Filipino, lightweight Dennis Laurente will be seeing action in the undercard of the Pacquiao-Hatton showdown, where he fights Marvin Cordova Jr. (20-0-1 with 11KOs)… Rodel Mayol guns for Ivan Calderon’s WBO light flyweight crown on June 13 at the Madison Square Garden in New York… The presence of his mother Dionisia, brothers Bobby and Roel and wife Jinkee inspires Manny to go the extra mile in training… Team Pacquiao members are in a for windfall as Manny is going to reward with a substantial amount those who surpass his weight challenge of reducing by 10 percent their respective weights on Sunday.(By Roy Luarca)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"I’m ready", declares the Pacman

HOLLYWOOD – It’s not the weight, but the impact of the punches that matters.

A reinvigorated Manny Pacquiao said on Thursday that he didn’t care if Ricky Hatton would come in heavier for their “Battle of East and West” date on May 2 (May 3 in Manila) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

“It’s OK if he comes in at 150 [pounds] or over,” said Pacquiao in Filipino. “It’s the punches that will decide the outcome.”

Though betting odds are heavily stacked in his favor at minus 285 – meaning a $285 bet wins just $100 if he prevails, Pacquiao refuses to be complacent.

“I’m already in top condition, but we can’t really tell until the fight is over,” he said. “Hatton is just as fast, he’s also good, strong and a champion.”

Pacquiao even prefers to consider himself as the underdog.

“Let’s not presume that this is going to be an easy fight, that I have the advantage” the General Santos lefty told Manila-based sportswriters over lunch at Nat’s Thai Restaurant, which is just a few steps away from the gym.

“Come fight night, it’s our hands that will do the talking in the ring. Let’s not say anything, so that we can’t be blamed whatever happens.”

Nibbling on fresh strawberries and slices of watermelon while signing autographs, Pacquiao said he felt he was in the same condition now as when he beat Oscar De La Hoya into retirement last December 6, also in Las Vegas.

Pacquiao said he’s totally focused on taking away Hatton’s International Boxing Organization light welterweight crown and that weight was the least of his concerns.

According to Pacquiao, he pigged out on his favorite foods on Wednesday, when Roach ordered him not to do gym work. Despite the extra food, he still tipped the scales at 147 pounds.

Asked about Hatton’s supposedly dirty tactics and brawling style, the Filipino ring superstar said he was not worried as Roach and chief assistant Michael Moorer have devised strategies to counter them.

Pacquiao said he would prefer that Hatton would fight him toe-to-toe because they have the same style. He said he would need to be careful to avoid the enemy’s phantom punch.

“When the bell rings, let’s get it on,” said the only Asian four-division world champion. “The fight lasts just 30 to 40 minutes, but we trained for two months.

“All I can say is I’m ready.”(By Roy Luarca)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Troops clash with Abus holding aid worker

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines—Troops clashed with Islamic extremists holding hostage a sick Italian Red Cross worker in the southern province of Sulu as the crisis entered its 99th day Thursday, the military said.

There were no immediate details of casualties and no word on the fate of Eugenio Vagni, 62, who intelligence reports earlier said was unable to walk due to a hernia.

The fighting took place Wednesday as the Abu Sayyaf group holding Vagni tried to escape from a jungle area on the island of Jolo, military spokesman Brigadier General Gaudencio Pangilinan told reporters in Manila.

"It was a big group, about 50 of them," Pangilinan said of the Abu Sayyaf unit, adding they were carrying high-powered firearms including rocket launchers.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno confirmed the fighting and said troops have set up naval blockades near Jolo's coastal villages to prevent the Abu Sayyaf from escaping by sea.

"We have to pursue them and remain close to them to make sure they will not escape," he said.

He said the rebels holding Vagni were trying to reach the town of Talipao, where they were said to be planning to merge with a bigger Abu Sayyaf command entrenched in the area.

Vagni was abducted along with fellow International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) colleagues Andreas Notter of Switzerland and Mary Jean Lacaba of the Philippines in mid-January while on a humanitarian mission in the area.

Lacaba was freed on April 2 while Notter was safely recovered by authorities on April 18.

There have been mounting fears that the increasingly desperate Abu Sayyaf group may try to harm Vagni as they evade troops in the jungle.

The Geneva-based ICRC on Wednesday said it was "extremely worried" for Vagni and repeated a call for his immediate and unconditional release.

"We have serious concern for his worsening health condition," ICRC operations director Pierre Kraehenbuehl told a news conference.

Notter, who also spoke at the press conference, said he last saw Vagni on April 16, the day the militants separated them and moved in smaller groups.

He said it rained constantly in the tropical jungle and the harsh condition took its toll on the hostages physically and mentally.

"I am very concerned about my colleague, Eugenio Vagni, particularly because of his health," Notter said. "He has a hernia which is making it difficult for him to walk."

In an intelligence report Wednesday, the military said Vagni was unable to walk and was being carried by his captors.

The Abu Sayyaf was founded in the 1990s ostensibly to fight for an independent Islamic state. The group later branched off into high-profile abductions and bombings and is on the US government's list of wanted foreign terrorist organizations.(Agence France-Presse)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Donaire, Viloria crush Mexican foes

Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire lived up to his moniker, crushing Raul “Cobra” Martinez in just four rounds while Brian Viloria scored an emotional win knocking out Ulises Solis to snatch the IBF light flyweight crown in their title bout at the Araneta Coliseum.

Despite a painful left hand, Donaire pummeled his Mexican-American challenger from the get-go, hitting Martinez with left-right hook combinations in the first and second rounds.

Donaire, who retained his IBO/IBF flyweight title, delivered the decisive killer blows in 2:42 mark of the fourth round, ending the fight on a technical knockout (TKO).

He improved his win-loss record to 21-1-0 (14 by way of knockout) while handing the erstwhile undefeated Martinez his first loss after 24 fights.

“He’s a real champion. I’m a big fan of him now,” Martinez said after the fight. He also acknowledged that he was “not invincible,” when asked about the lessons he learned from the bout with Donaire.

Donaire, whose father was not able to watch him fight, said he felt a stinging pain in his left hand.

“My father will always be my father and I thank him because he got me where I am today,” Donaire said during post-fight interviews.

Meanwhile, Viloria, nicknamed “The Hawaiian Punch”, knocked down Ulises Solis in the 11th round to steal the IBF light flyweight crown.

Viloria was aggressive in the first two rounds but Solis recovered in later rounds, before the Fil-Am fighter opened a cut in his right eyebrow in the fifth round.

A former WBC junior flyweight king, Viloria again struggled on the sixth round as Solis briefly regained control of the fight. Both fighters exchanged punches in later rounds until a solid right hook from Viloria knocked his opponent cold towards the end of the 11th round.

During post-fight interviews, Viloria, who improved his record to 25-2-0 (15 by knockout), admitted that Solis was a “tough nut to crack”.

The Mexican fighter, who earlier christened himself “The Filipino Executioner”, previously defeated Filipino boxers Rodel Mayol, Bert Batawang and Nonito’s older brother, Glenn Donaire.(By Marjorie Gorospe; INQ.net)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Another ICRC hostage freed

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- (UPDATE 8) A Swiss Red Cross worker is now free after being held hostage for over three months by Islamic extremists, officials said.

But conflicting version of how Andreas Notter regained his freedom Friday evening gave rise to confusion whether he was freed by the Abu Sayyaf or rescued by government security forces.

Notter himself said he was still confused because "everything happened very quickly."

"I'm still a little bit confused how it happened," a haggard looking Notter told reporters as he was formally turned over to Red Cross representatives by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

Notter talked about walking with his captors prior to his freedom, but exactly how the authorities got hold of him remained unclear.

"I walked out and I'm happy to be alive and safe," he said.

Notter, along with Italian national Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, was seized by Abu Sayyaf group on January 15 while on a humanitarian mission as volunteer workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sulu. Lacaba was released on April 2.

The government said it had no immediate details about the fate of 62-year-old Vagni, who was believed to be unwell and in need of hernia surgery.

Notter called on authorities to do everything they could to rescue Vagni, whom he said was in pain from his condition.

Malacañang welcomed news Notter has regained his freedom.

"This is very good news not only for Notter's family, friends or co-workers but everyone else who prayed for his safety, and for our military, police and government officials who worked tirelessly for his release,'' Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said over the government-run Radyo ng Bayan.

"We reiterate our call to the kidnappers to release the last hostage, and we commend the local crisis management committee, the police, military, the ulama and all those who in one way or the other has helped in the release of Mr. Notter,'' he said.

ICRC spokesperson Anastasia Isyuk said they had yet to talk to Notter.

“So far, we have not been able to see him or talk to him,” she said

But she said the ICRC remained concerned about Vagni.

"We're relieved to hear the latest news (about) Andreas and remain concerned about the safety of Eugenio," Isyuk said. "We are hopeful that he remains safe and unharmed."

Prior to Notter’s release from his abductors, the ICRC said it last heard from the two on April 14, two weeks after Lacaba’s April 2 release.

“Andreas and Eugenio made contact with the ICRC on Tuesday 14 April. They were also able to call their families on Sunday 12 April. Hearing their voices again more than two weeks after their last call was a relief for all of us,” said Alain Aeschlimann, head of delegation of ICRC Asia-Pacific.

Chief Superintendent Felizardo Serapio, chief of the Western Mindanao police's integrated police operation, said Notter was actually rescued by militiamen and members of the Indanan police force on Saturday morning.

"Notter was rescued by these groups consisting of Civilian Emergency Force (CEF) and the Indanan police. Actually I don't have a clear picture yet, everything is still garbled," he said.

Serapio said what was clear was that Notter was now free.

He said Notter was rescued near a government security cordon in the municipality of Indanan early Saturday morning.

"We got Notter near an established cordon," he said.

Lieutenant General Nelson Allaga, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said Notter was found in Indanan town.

"I'm not sure what particular barangay in Indanan, but whether he was recovered, released or rescued, that I cannot say," Allaga said.

A leader of the civilian volunteers said he was one of those who fetched Notter.

But unlike Serapio and Allaga, the source said Notter was released by the Abu Sayyaf in the village of Lipunos in Parang, Sulu, near midnight Friday.

He said they initially thought that he was Vagni.

"Inaalalayan namin kasi nahihirapan lumakad kaya akala namin si Vagni (We helped him because he had difficulty walking and that is why we thought he was Vagni)," said the source, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter.

In a press conference aired on ANC, Tan said that Notter was taken by policemen to his residence at around 7 am Saturday.

Tan said that on Friday, he informed the Ulamas or Muslim scholars who have been helping in negotiation efforts, that a tactical operation would be undertaken by security forces on Saturday.

He added that Notter was left behind by the Abu Sayyaf group in Indanan while they were being pursued by police early Saturday morning.

During the press conference, Tan said that he hasn't spoken with Notter directly since he only allowed doctors to enter the room where the rescued kidnap victim was staying.

Armed forces chief General Alexander Yano declined to give further details of the rescue mission as he said it would compromise efforts to free the remaining hostage.

He said "non-violent" efforts were underway to free the Italian including dialogue headed by five Muslim clerics who were dispatched to the Abu Sayyaf's stronghold last week to negotiate.

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross chapter, said there had been reports of intense clashes around Indanan late Friday, just a day after the military said it was prepared to rescue the hostages.

The Abu Sayyaf had threatened to behead one of the foreign hostages unless government forces pulled back from around their positions on Jolo.

They have been locked in an intense stand-off with troops after being cornered in a jungle area near Indanan, where the military said their supplies were running low.

Abu Sayyaf militants have kidnapped other Westerners over the past decade, many of whom, according to the Philippine military, were released after the payment of large ransoms.

The militants also murdered an American hostage, Guillermo Sobero, in 2001. The following year a second American, Christian missionary Martin Burnham, was killed in a military attack that led to the rescue of his wife.

The group is on the US government's list of foreign terrorist organisations, and a small number of American forces have been rotating on Jolo island since 2003 to provide intelligence information to their Filipino counterparts

By Julie Alipala with reports from Abigail Kwok, INQUIRER.net; Kristine L. Alave and TJ Burgonio, Philippine Daily Inquirer; and Agence France-Presse

Saturday, April 11, 2009

RP courting P3B halal investments for Mindanao

The country has arranged separate discussions with Kuwait and Brunei on about P3 billion worth of investment opportunities in the domestic halal sector, particularly in Mindanao, the Agriculture Department said in a statement.

The department said Mindanao has a comparative edge over other countries in the region because it was free of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and the avian influenza (AI) or bird flu virus.

Agriculture Undersecretary Jesus Emmanuel Paras said the DA was offering foreign investors at least two big-ticket halal investment project proposals in Mindanao: The Halal Economic Zone in Davao City and a Halal model poultry farm in Cagayan de Oro City.
“The proposed Halal Economic Zone, which will cost at least P2.2 billion, is the centerpiece of the halal investment portfolio being offered to overseas investors by the Arroyo administration,” Paras said in a recent forum.

To be located in Davao City, the zone is expected to generate 24,000 new jobs for Muslim Filipinos, and boost the Philippines’ export earnings by at least $200 million per year, he said.

The other investment proposal packaged by the department, said Paras, is a P840-million project involving the establishment of a halal model poultry farm complete with research laboratories, abattoirs and other modern facilities.(By Riza T. Olchondra; INQ.net)

Friday, April 10, 2009

500,000 new jobs in Mindano from the BPO sector

Mindanao is bound to benefit from the continuing growth of the business process outsourcing industry, as Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) undersecretary Merly Cruz said in a report that they are projecting at least 500,000 new jobs in two regions, three provinces and a city in Mindanao this year.

By the end of 2009, Cruz said the combined revenues from BPO and tourism industries in Mindanao will likely reach to an amount more than $10 million. For the BPO sector alone, they are projecting more than $7 million revenue this year, which is very realistic since the said industry raked in close to $6 million last year.

Cruz said that the BPO sector is expected to produce about 500,000 jobs in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City, and in southern Mindanao.

For the tourism industry, the agency is projecting an income that would reach $5.5 million. Last year’s income $4.3 million. Cruz said they are the increase in tourism because of the government’s active push to make Mindanao a medical tourism area. “The government targets to enhance the medical and wellness facilities in Mindanao in a bid to make it the medical and wellness tourism destination in Asia,” she said.

To boost the tourism in the area, the Department of Tourism also endorsed, in behalf of the government, a P9-billion package for tourism projects, which includes hotels, resorts and spa, and medical centers.

Cruz also said that aside from the tourism and BPO sector, the government is also projecting increased revenues in other sectors like the processed food industry, especially halal products. The agency is projecting an income of about $2 million by the end of 2009 from this industry.

The government is also looking to generate more jobs through various infrastructure projects in the area, to cushion the effects of the global recession on OFWs and workers in the manufacturing sector. It also offered training programs for the OFWs who were removed from their foreign jobs as a result of the recession.(Source: PinoyBusiness)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Binay draws applause in Bukidnon

MALAYBALAY CITY (8 April 2009) -- Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay drew both applause and flak in his recent visit to three areas in Bukidnon.

He related his city’s success story, his personal struggles and victories, and his opinion on the national scene in an hour-long meeting at the Malaybalay City People’s Hall.
The president of the United Opposition put a message across that this martial law activist, lawyer, opposition leader, and “successful” Makati mayor, is among the “presidentiables” for 2010 and is “Handa para sa bansa” (ready for the nation).

A Makati City councilor who introduced the mayor in the program described Binay as “most fit as chief executive” for his success in Makati.

A “comics” presentation of Binay’s biography distributed in the meeting showed that Makati’s income rose from P280 million in 1985 to P10.6 billion last year under his administration.

He cited his achievements and the city’s feats in computerization and benefits to senior citizens, and other areas. He said they have a P112 million budget for senior citizen benefits in Makati.

Binay invited city officials and barangay captains to a “free board and lodging” tour to Makati to see their achievements which could be replicated locally.

Malaybalay City started its computerization program last year and has offered benefits to senior citizens similar to those started in Makati.

Binay has registered his stand against automation of the 2010 elections, saying “programmed results” might prevail over actual votes.

He criticized the Commission on Election’s ineptitude in preventing cheating when he explained how Makati’s computerization has prevented “dagdag bawas” (padding-shaving) in taxation.

Binay hit corruption in government when he told barangay captains it is one reason why the government cannot afford to pay premium for their coverage to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

“It is a question of priority, character, and leadership,” he said.

He cited a proposed bill to make internal revenue allotment higher for low income local governments and decrease those who already have high incomes.

He offered scholarships for students from Malaybalay in the Pamantasan ng Makati and admission at the Ospital ng Makati, both owned by the city government.

Binay’s offers and his light humor drew applause from the audience.

The courtesy call actually included an audience with the city councilors, the barangay captains of poblacion barangays and the top three kagawads in the said barangays.

Flores assured his fellow mayor he was welcome and appreciated the precious time he spent to come to the City of Malaybalay in “fellowship and to bring good tidings”.

Binay’s handlers said he was in town to sign sisterhood agreements with the municipality of Kalilangan and the City of Valencia. In his speech, he offered a sisterhood agreement with Malaybalay City.

The letter requesting the courtesy call said Binay is in town as guest speaker of the reunion of his fraternity, the Alpha Phi Omega (APO). Binay tagged along some Makati City councilors in his Bukidnon sortie.

Tarpaulins bearing Binay’s picture and campaign slogan were posted in many parts of Malaybalay and Valencia. The posters said it was put up by the “Binay for President Movement”.

Businessman Joey de Venecia III, who was with Binay’s party, talked about the harassments he suffered since he faced the Senate hearings over the ZTE-NBN controversy.

De Venecia, son of the ousted House speaker, called for change in 2010 and at one point spelled Binay’s family name for residents to remember. (Source: MindaNews)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Abus demand $5 million for hostages' release

he Abu Sayyaf had demanded $5 million or more than P200 million for the release of three kidnapped workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a military document shows.

The document, which details the kidnap-for-ransom activities perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf since 2003, was apparently prepared prior to the release on Thursday last week of one of the three ICRC workers Mary Jean Lacaba.

“The kidnappers are reportedly demanding $5 million (for Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina engineer Mary Jean Lacaba),” the document read.

Lacaba was released reportedly in exchange for a sizeable “board and lodging” fee, but authorities have denied that ransom was paid for her release.

Lacaba, Notter and Vagni were snatched last Jan. 15 near the Sulu Provincial Capitol in Patikul town after inspecting a water supply project.

Notter and Vagni are believed held in the jungles of Mt. Tukay in Indanan.

But Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan, who chairs the local crisis management committee dealing with the hostage crisis, claimed no knowledge of hostages of the Abu Sayyaf released without the payment of ransom.

“Although I have not seen payment of ransom, yun talaga ang ginagawa nila (it’s what they have been doing),” Tan said in an earlier interview.

Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo, the military’s spokesman for the hostage crisis, said that they do not have any information regarding the alleged payment of ransom for Lacaba’s release.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno and Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro also maintained that Lacaba’s release was a result of military pressure on the kidnappers.

The document said the Abu Sayyaf has kidnapped 54 people since 2003 in Sulu, including ABS-CBN news anchor Ces Drilon and her TV crew.

The same document said P20 million changed hands for the release of Drilon and her companions.

In the same period, 17 cases of abduction involving 33 victims were carried out in Basilan by the Abu Sayyaf or by rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In Western Mindanao, particularly in the Zamboanga Peninsula, 59 people were reportedly kidnapped in 2008, and 24 have been taken this year.

Most of the victims were snatched in Zamboanga and taken to Basilan by their abductors.

Hostages free ‘anytime soon’

Tan said he is confident the two remaining hostages would be freed soon.

“While they (kidnappers) continue with their stand, they have toned down. Hopefully, we will be able to convince them to free their last two hostages unconditionally,” Tan said.

Tan did not discuss the details of his recent contacts with Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad.

Puno, for his part, said the bandits are on the run and appeared jarred by the crackdown on their alleged supporters, seven of whom have been charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

He said kidnappers were preoccupied with two things: receiving ransom and escaping.

“Yung sa dalawa, mas mahalaga sa kanila yung pagtakas nila (Between the two, the more important is their escape),” he said.

“Wag magbigay ng ransom kasi ang ransom ang nagpapatuloy ng mga ganyan na kidnapping (Don’t pay ransom because paying ransom perpetuates kidnapping),” he said.

No order to evacuate

The military yesterday denied reports that it has ordered the evacuation of residents from some villages in Sulu, allegedly in preparation for a rescue operation.

“Although we have contingency plans for that, there is no order yet for them to evacuate,” Arevalo, the military’s spokesman on the hostage crisis, said in a phone interview.

Arevalo said they have received reports that more than 200 people have been forced to flee Indanan due to sightings of Abu Sayyaf bandits in the area.

“We have not told them to move, because we don’t want to cause the unnecessary flight and panic among the public,” he said.

Arevalo said those who spread the rumor might be planning to seize crops and livestock and other belongings of fleeing residents.

“They might be interested in the harvest of the residents. That’s why we are appealing to these people that in these trying times, in times of hardship, sana isantabi muna ang panlalamang sa kapwa (they should not takw advantage of others),” he said.

He said that while it has not ordered an evacuation, the provincial government has prepared contingency plans such as the stockpiling of relief goods.

DND’s Teodoro said the other day that crisis managers were still pushing for negotiations instead of a military solution to the crisis.

But he remained firm against a pullout of troops as demanded by the kidnappers. He said giving in to the bandits would embolden them to commit more atrocities.

Tan’s group stays

Meanwhile, Malacañang clarified that the local crisis management committee headed by Tan remains in charge of the negotiations for the release of the two remaining hostages.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said he is not aware of any new appointments and that Sulu Vice Gov. Lady Ann Sahidula remains as the only emissary to the kidnappers.

“I don’t know. I just read it in the papers myself that there is a new group of emissaries. But as far as we are concerned, the local crisis team continues under Gov. Sakur Tan,” Ermita said.

On Monday, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said new negotiators would be sent to Sulu to help secure the release of the hostages.

“Suffice it to say that that’s further proof that our local crisis committee is doing its best to secure the safe release of the hostages,” Remonde told Palace reporters. He did not name the new negotiators but said they are known to the kidnappers.

But Ermita insisted he was not aware of the reported designation of new emissaries and even warned that this could work against the interests of the government and the hostages.

“We should not muddle the situation very much. There is a saying that more (sic) cooks spoil the broth,” he said.

However, he said having new emissaries working side by side with the current emissary could also be helpful.

Ermita said that the new emissaries could provide the negotiators with additional sources of information about the actual condition of the hostages.

“What is important is that we should be able to reach out and find out the status of the hostages and see what we can do. Maybe they could get some new information,” he said.

Ermita said the reported designation of new emissaries could have been the result of the legal action taken by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group against seven relatives of Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad. The seven, including three policemen and two village chiefs, have been charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention for allegedly conspiring with the kidnappers of the three ICRC workers.

“So maybe because of that they are reviewing this (appointment of emissaries). But we are not replacing the local crisis team headed by Gov. Sakur Tan,” Ermita said.

Ermita said that the charges against the seven individuals should deter anyone from colluding with terrorists and other criminal elements.

On the debate between Teodoro and Sen. Richard Gordon over how to deal with the hostage crisis, Ermita argued that the government has its reasons for wanting to limit the airing of statements or demands coming from the Abu Sayyaf.

Ermita pointed out that terrorist organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf should not be given publicity considering that this is their primary objective apart from getting ransom.

“I agree with any action that would prevent giving too much attention to the other side. One of the objectives of terrorists around the world is to call attention to their existence,” Ermita said.

“We should not give them the opportunity of getting publicity for what they are doing,” he added. – With Roel Pareño, Marvin Sy, Cecille Suerte Felipe, James Mananghaya (Philippine Star)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Text cost to go down by 50 centavos

By May 1, 2009, the cost of text messaging would go down from P1 to 50 centavos per text. This is according to House oversight committee chairman Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, as the panel agreed on the decision in a meeting with representatives from telecommunication companies (telcos) together with officials of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

The decision will be formalized in a resolution that he would file when Congress resumes session in April 13, Suarez said. “The resolution will be binding on NTC, which will fix the maximum cost of text messaging at 50 centavos per message based on our agreement. The current average cost is about P1,” he added. The 50-centavoes includes a five-centavo computer education tax.

Suarez said that their estimate of telcos’ text messaging cost is 18-19 centavos, adding the 5-centavo tax would make the cost reach about 25 centavos. “So if they offer text messaging at 30 centavos per text, they have a profit of five centavos,” he said.

Suarez continued with his illustration, “since Filipinos send two billion text messages per day, making us the texting capital of the world, a five-centavo profit translates to P100 million a day, P3 billion a month and P36 billion a year.” He added that if they offer it at 35 centavos, their net profit would soar to P73 billion a year.

President Arroyo, Speaker Prospero Nograles and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile are all supporting his text cost proposals, according to Suarez.

Representatives of the country’s leading mobile service providers, refused to comment on the congressional plan. Smart Communications and Globe Telecoms have both opposed previous proposals from lawmakers to reduce text messaging costs and impose additional taxes on texting.

Suarez, also reiterated that the additional 5-centavo text tax should be spent exclusively for free information technology (IT) and computer science education. “I will make sure that collections go to a trust fund for IT and computer science education. We will build computer laboratories and offer IT and computer science education for free, “ he added.

He also assured that the money would be beyond the reach of congressmen and other politicians, and that a board composed of educators would administer the trust fund.

(Source: Pinoy Business)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Militants renewed threat to kill 2 remaining hostages

Al-Qaida-linked militants renewed their threat to kill their two Red Cross hostages unless government loosen a security cordon around their southern jungle stronghold, an official said Saturday.

Sen. Richard Gordon, who also heads the Philippine Red Cross, said he spoke late Friday by cell phone with Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad who wanted security forces to pull back after the militants released Filipino Red Cross worker Mary Jean Lacaba without any ransom.

The Abu Sayyaf refused to free the two Europeans from the International Committee of the Red Cross, Swiss Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni. They were last seen Thursday when Parad handed over Lacaba to provincial Vice Gov. Lady Anne Sahidullah near Jolo island's Indanan township.

The three were abducted Jan. 15 after visiting a Red Cross water sanitation project in a Jolo jail.

"I will do what I told you I will do," Gordon quoted Parad as telling him, referring to a threat made earlier in the week that the militants would behead one of the hostages if troops did not pull back. Parad had promised he would release a hostage if his demand was met.

The government did withdraw before Tuesday's beheading deadline lapsed, but not as much as the militants demanded. Troops later retook their old positions.

Parad promised to start negotiations for the release of Notter and Vagni after the pullout of Philippine marines, police and armed civilian volunteers, Gordon said. He said the militants wanted an area to move around that's much smaller than what they had earlier demanded.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said security forces will pull back only if it will lead to the release of the hostages.

Puno indicated the kidnappers could be seeking a ransom in releasing Lacaba but not the two others.

"Maybe they feel that there is still some hope they will get some money from the (families of the) other two hostages and not from the family of Lacaba," he said.

Gordon said Parad did not indicate what the militants wanted in exchange for the hostages, but that he told them the Red Cross does not pay ransom.

He said Parad sounded angry and may have taken a personal risk when he ventured outside the militant camp to get a cell phone signal to communicate.

The Abu Sayyaf group has beheaded hostages in the past, including an American in 2001 and seven Filipinos in 2007.

The U.S. government has placed the Abu Sayyaf, which has about 400 fighters, on its list of terrorist organizations because of its attacks on American citizens and links to al-Qaida.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

No ransom paid--DILG chief

There was no ransom paid for the release of Abu Sayyaf captive Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno said on Friday.

At a press briefing in Camp Crame, Puno said that Lacaba's release on Thursday night was brought by the "change of environment for the kidnappers in Sulu," as government troops assumed their former positions in the province.

At the same time, Puno said that as of 9 a.m., Lacaba was promptly turned over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as the organization requested that Lacaba be given private time with her family.

"We are very happy but there is much more to be done. We intend to do whatever is necessary," Puno said, referring to the two remaining hostages, Eugenio Vagni and Andreas Notter."(By Abigail Kwok)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Filipina ICRC worker released

Fate of 2 foreign captives remains unknown

MANILA, Philippines—“We already shed so many tears.”

These were some of the first words of Mary Jean Lacaba upon her release Thursday night after 78 days of captivity. Her kidnappers left her in a village without ransom being asked or given.

But the fate of the two other workers of the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)—Swiss Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni—remained unknown.

Alain Aeschlimann, ICRC’s regional chief, expressed relief at the release of Lacaba but said he remained concerned about the safety of the two other staff members.

“The nightmare of this abduction is not over,” he said.

“Once again, we ask that they remain unharmed. While we welcome this first positive move, especially after a very tense and difficult week, we reiterate our appeal to the kidnappers to let Eugenio Vagni and Andreas Notter go without delay and unconditionally.”

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said that the 37-year-old Lacaba was abandoned by her kidnappers on Jolo Island, where the three ICRC workers were kidnapped Jan. 15 while on a mission to improve water facilities in a Jolo jail.

Vice Gov. Anne Sahidulla later fetched Lacaba in Barangay Paligi along the border of Indanan and Parang towns at around 7 p.m. and turned her over to the military, the officials said.

“She’s fine and she is undergoing medical treatment,” said regional police Chief Supt. Felizardo Serapio.

The ICRC worker was expected to be brought immediately to the Marine camp for “processing,” said Puno through his assistant, Brian Yamsuan. If she is fit to travel, she will be flown to Manila on Friday for a thorough medical checkup, he said.

“All of us are excited and happy,” said Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga, Western Command chief. “It is good that she was safely recovered. Right now, she is resting and being attended to by physicians.”

Film footage shown by GMA 7 showed Lacaba being pushed in a wheelchair to a trauma clinic in the Jolo military camp. She wore a red hijab Muslim headdress and was talking on a cell phone.

Sahidulla, who has previously visited the hostages, said she went back to the kidnappers’ camp and talked to the Abu Sayyaf.

“When I reached the place, the talks were good. I convinced them to free Lacaba” she said.

“No ransom was asked or given,” said Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Philippine National Red Cross.

Gordon said that he talked by phone to Lacaba, who was weeping.

“I said, Jean, you make me cry,” he said. “She cried herself and she said ‘we already shed so many tears.’ I said calm down and relax.”

Gordon said Lacaba told him that the two other hostages had been through severe hardship and were exhausted and that if it was possible for the military to ease its operations.

“You can imagine their ordeal. It’s raining out there. Then it’s suddenly hot and they are walking at night. They are scratched by thorns. They get eaten up by mosquitoes. There is no water that is clean. They are under guard all the time,” the senator said.

“I hope we can get the other two,” said Gordon.

Arroyo’s statement

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in a statement Thursday night, said:

“We are happy that Ms Lacaba is back with us and we hope that the Abu Sayyaf Group will also release the other hostages very soon. This is the answer to our people’s prayers and also confirmation that we should always stand behind our policy of dealing firmly with any form of lawless behavior.”

State of emergency

Lacaba was freed two days after Abu Sayyaf kidnappers put off a planned execution on Tuesday of one hostage despite the failure of the military to comply with their demand to withdraw all forces on Jolo Island.

Troops pulled out from the kidnappers’ hideout were redeployed after a state of emergency was declared in the area. Officials said Thursday that government forces had sealed off the area where the abductors and their hostages had been spotted.

Cell phone signals out

A Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter earlier attempted to contact by phone the kidnappers who had been relaying information about conditions of the hostages.

Rep. Yusop Jikiri said cellular and satellite phone transmissions covering Indanan, Parang and Patikul towns had been shut down by authorities since 8 p.m. Wednesday following the declaration of a state of emergency in the province.

“We know the forest and the mountain so we can find a way to locate them even without a cell phone signal,” said Jikiri.

He said that electricity also had been turned off in Indanan, his hometown, prompting him to go to Jolo town to communicate.

Phone calls by the Inquirer reporter to the Abu Sayyaf leaders holding the hostages had not gone through since the kidnappers put off a threat to behead one hostage Tuesday.

But in Rome, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini indicated that he had been able to contact Vagni, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

The hostages “are alive, according to information in our possession,” said Frattini, following “contacts with our compatriot,” ANSA reported. It was unclear when the contact was made.

Jikiri, along with Muslim religious and political leaders, was able to negotiate a stay of execution, according to Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan, head of the hostage crisis management committee who earlier reported the hostages were alive.

Palace negotiator

Jikiri, who was dispatched by Malacañang to negotiate with the kidnappers, his former comrades in the separatist Moro National Liberation Front, had been in the Indanan area since Tuesday.

Jikiri also said that farmers reported that they saw around 300 armed men and possibly the three hostages at Sitio Pansul, Barangay Lipunos, Parang, but that he was treating this information as “second hand.”

No possibility of escape

Interior Secretary Puno said the authorities were trying to reestablish contact with the kidnappers, who he insisted had been prevailed upon by local religious leaders not to carry out their threat.

“Our focus is on trying to make sure that these kidnappers will get back in the direction of negotiations,” he said in a television interview.

Puno said the kidnappers were penned in a 15 square-kilometer area of Jolo.

“It is raining hard (there) and they cannot get away too far from that because it is the only source of water in the area,” he added.

“This has been their situation for a while now, and although there has been no offensive action taken against them, they have absolutely no possibility of getting away from the area,” Puno said.

Road checkpoints

He said the focus of government efforts was to make sure that kidnappers “head back in the direction of negotiation with anyone.”

Governor Tan said the kidnappers and captives were on the run as the government redeployed troops around a hilly area on Jolo close to their camp.

Provincial police chief Julasirim Kasim said earlier Thursday that government forces were “sealing off” areas where the gunmen and the Italian, Swiss and Filipino hostages had been sighted.

He said police were continuing to set up road checkpoints around Jolo but refused to give other details.

Also Thursday, the National Disaster Coordinating Council reported that about 100 families had sought shelter in evacuation centers in Indanan and Jolo town, fearing clashes. About 70 tents and food packs had been sent to the area by the provincial social welfare office. With reports from and Arlyn dela Cruz, TJ Burgonio and Jocelyn R. Uy

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sec. Teodoro sorry for delay in hostages' release

Military says no timetable for release

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Thursday apologized for the delay in the release of the three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aid workers held captive by Abu Sayyaf bandits in Jolo Island, Sulu province, since Jan. 15.

But the Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff Alexander Yano said the government was not setting a timetable for the hostages’ release.

“I am asking for our people’s forgiveness and understanding,” he said in Filipino at a press briefing in Malacañang. “It’s not easy to work under this situation because we are dealing with an irrational organization.”

Teodoro said the governments of Italy and Switzerland were naturally “very concerned about the plight” of their nationals—Eugene Vagni and Andreas Notter, respectively. The third hostage is Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba.

“But I’m thankful that they understand the difficulty of the situation and have supported our efforts to secure the release of the hostages,” he said.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has directed the government negotiators to “exert and exhaust all measures to ensure the safe release of the hostages,” according to Teodoro.

He said Ms Arroyo wanted “a speedy resolution” but was aware of “the balance that needs to be done, which is to ensure the hostages’ safety.”

Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad has demanded that government troops withdraw from areas near where the bandits were holding out.

Early this week, he gave the government until March 31 to pull back its troops or one of the hostages would be beheaded.

‘Time running out’

Lacaba on Thursday called on the government to move quickly.

“Please tell them (the government) that if they can help, to make it faster because time is running out on us,” she told ANC television by mobile phone.

Lacaba said she and her colleagues were afraid for their lives “every minute, every second, because we don’t know when a firefight will suddenly start.”

She also said the three of them sometimes had nothing to eat because their captors were busy eluding the pursuing troops.

According to Lacaba, the hostages heard gunfire and explosions just above their heads last week, after Marine snipers fired as the bandits tried to breach a loose military cordon.

The episode sparked two days of clashes that killed three Marines and up to seven bandits.

The hostages were not harmed, but Parad later threatened to kill all of them if another clash erupted or if the military tried to rescue them.

In the same interview with ANC television Thursday, Parad repeated his earlier promise to free a hostage if troops moved farther away, and to behead one if they did not.

“They know I do what I say,” he said.

Fundraising for 2010

Said Teodoro at the press briefing: “I don’t see any positive thing that can be gained by the Abu Sayyaf if they make good their threat to behead the hostages. It would not do anybody any good.”

He also said the government had not ruled out the possibility that some local officials might be involved in kidnappings in the south, and that these activities could be aimed at raising funds for the 2010 elections.

“There could be some connection … We can surmise, but we cannot do anything about it without concrete evidence,” he said.

“And first things first: We have to secure the safe release of the hostages … We will deal with the problem later, when we have less pressing matters to [attend to].”

No timetable

At the same briefing, Yano said the government was “trying to explore all possibilities of peaceful action to recover the hostages safely.”

Yano said the government was not setting a timetable to recover Lacaba, Notter and Vagni.

“We have continued to maintain the pressure within the vicinity,” he said.

“We have seen to it that there would be no offensive action on the part of the government troops at this time … We will [give] time and space to allow peaceful measures to be undertaken.”

No pullout

On the phone from Jolo, Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo, the newly appointed spokesperson for the hostage crisis, said the military was continuing to assess the bandits’ demand because, he pointed out, to give in would be to virtually desert the local residents.
“We have repositioned our troops as [the bandits] had demanded,” Arevalo said, adding:

“There is no need for us to pull out any further. We are virtually giving them 92 percent of Jolo.”

Logical consequence

The Associated Press quoted Arevalo as also saying that the troops might be forced to launch an assault if the bandits harmed the hostages.

“It may sound a threat, but actually it isn’t. It is but a logical consequence of what they might do,” he said. “If they’ll harm or kill the hostages, they will remove the reason for us to talk to them.”

Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga, the highest ranking military commander involved in the ground operation to secure the hostages’ release, also said the military was not pulling out.

“The troops are staying put, awaiting further advice of development, because we have observed that the Abu Sayyaf is becoming weaker, is disintegrating and under pressure,” he said.

‘Problem is the media’

Reacting to Lacaba’s plea, Brig. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan, one of the military officials authorized to speak on the matter, Thursday expressed hope that the hostage crisis would be resolved before the March 31 “deadline” set by the bandits for the withdrawal of troops.

But he said the media were adding to the pressure being brought to bear on the military.

“No one can tell [if these beheading threats are true or not] but these are taken seriously by the negotiating team. But the problem is the media, which doubles the pressure on us,” Pangilinan, the chief of the military’s Civil Relations Service, told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo from Zamboanga City, where he was attending a battalion commanders’ seminar.

According to Pangilinan, it is “customary” that the media desist from airing threats and demands so as not to affect the decisions of the negotiating team.

To Lacaba’s statement that occasionally she and the other hostages had nothing to eat, Pangilinan said the military was not enforcing a food blockade in the area.

Allaga made a similar denial, rebutting the claim of police Senior Supt. Julasirim Kasim on Wednesday that a food blockade had been implemented to deprive the Abu Sayyaf of provisions.

Now in command

Allaga, the chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said he was now taking charge of the military operation vice Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban.

Sabban has gone on leave; his superiors said it has nothing to do with Sen. Richard Gordon’s earlier criticism.

Gordon, the chair of the Philippine National Red Cross, has assailed Sabban for purportedly subverting efforts for the release of one of the hostages late last week.

Allaga said the government should not allow itself to be held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf.

“It’s only a threat. Why should we also become their hostage?” he said.

Asked to comment on the hostages’ own appeal for the withdrawal of troops from the area, Allaga said: “What’s not good is that [some government officials and the media] play up the plight of the hostages. I have been saying time and again that the hostages are already slaves, and that everything they do or say is [a result of being] under duress.”

Allaga said the media and other government officials could help in securing the hostages’ release by holding back on information.

He said media interviews with the kidnappers were beyond the control of the military, which was ending up in a bad situation.

Hostages safe

Allaga said that despite the clashes, Lacaba, Notter and Vagni were safe.

He said Chief Supt. Felizardo Serapio Jr., the head of the Western Mindanao police’s directorate for integrated police operations, was in charge of the police troops, and that Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan was supervising Task Force ICRC. With reports from Associated Press and Agence France-Presse

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pacquiao to face legal battle as he dumped Solar Sports in favor of ABS-CBN

Pambansang Kamao Manny Pacquiao is getting yet another distraction as he prepare for his upcoming fight with Ricky Hatton. Solar Entertainment Corp. will be seeking legal venues as Pacquiao terminates his exclusive contract with them.

Solar Sports legal counsel Enrique dela Cruz, Jr. announced their plan in a television interview. He also warned third parties of meddling or intervening with contract. Dela Cruz specifically mentioned ABS-CBN in the interview as one of the parties who meddle with their contract with Pacquiao.

Pacquiao already announced his decision that he will give ABS-CBN the exclusive coverage of his fight in recent TV interview.

Solar, through Dela Cruz, said that they will file for breach of contract as they insist that their contract with Pacquiao’s MP Productions is still in effect. Solar said that Pacquiao granted them (Solar Entertainment) the exclusive rights to the audio-visual presentation of all bouts of Manny Pacquiao from May 7, 2009 to May 6, 2009.

Any attempt of Manny Pacquiao to rescind the License Agreement without any factual or legal basis is ill-advised. Solar warned third parties against interfering with their agreement with Pacquiao. “Solar shall avail of all its legal remedies to the fullest extent against any undue breach of and/or tortuous interference with the License Agreement,” Solar added.

Pacquiao, for his part, based his decision to rescind his contract with Solar Entertainment because of the latter’s delayed in the payment of the fees stipulated in the contract.

Solar reported that Pacquiao sent them a letter stating, “This is to inform you of the decision of the undersigned to rescind the subject contract, effective immediately. Despite repeated demands, SOLAR has failed to fulfill its obligation to pay the undersigned the stipulated fees for the subject rights.”

So even as he prepare for his fight in the right with Hatton, Pacquiao could also be preparing for a legal battle as well.

Hostages: ‘Why does gov’t want us to die?’

Angry, exhausted and frustrated, the three Red Cross workers held hostage for two months by Abu Sayyaf kidnappers poured their hearts out in a phone conversation Thursday with Sen. Richard Gordon.

First allowed to speak at 2:20 p.m. by gang leader Albader Parad was Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, who sounded afraid in the forested Indanan hideout on Jolo island, which was encircled by troops a day after clashes over the previous 48 hours had left five dead and 19 wounded.

“It is difficult to remain calm if your life is constantly on the line,” Lacaba said in Filipino in a soft pleading voice, obviously shaking in fear as Gordon, who was in his Makati City office, coaxed her to remain strong.

“You don’t know where a bullet will hit you,” she said, “your head, your back … you can see the fire fight.”

Gordon replied: “Do not show them that you are weak. I am proud of you. Be strong.”

Lacaba said she and the two other workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)—Eugenio Vagni of Italy and Andreas Notter of Switzerland—remained together during the clashes.

“It was terrible. We saw the gun battles in front of us. We saw the killings. It was really terrible,” said the 37-year-old Filipino engineer.

“We have been here for 64 days,” she said. “I don’t know if we are ever going to be free.”

Gordon told Lacaba not to lose hope. But Lacaba replied that it was tough to be courageous in the situation they were in. “It is easy for you to say that, senator, but it is very difficult …”

Lacaba passed the cell phone to Vagni, 62, who did not even bother to greet the senator. Apparently in tears, he shouted: “Why does the government want us to die? I don’t understand! I don’t understand!”

‘What is gov’t doing?’

“I am not the government, Eugenio,” said Gordon, chair of the Philippine National Red Cross. “I just can’t turn my back on you. I need you to be strong. You need to be strong; can you do that for me?”

Still in high-pitched voice, Vagni yelled: “I am strong. We are strong. But what is the government doing? We came to the Philippines to do something good. Why do we have to die?”

Sobbing, he said: “We have to be strong. We will be stronger. But if the military will not pull out, we are going to die.”

“I am trying my best,” Gordon said. “I’ve had my pains in life, but it’s nothing compared to yours.”

Vagni, who is reported to be ailing, said the last few days had been very painful.

Sensing that the Italian was losing hope, Gordon said: “Remember who you are, Eugenio. I am going to fight for you, you remember that, but you must show your dignity… Do not give up. We are doing our best.”

“OK, senator. OK, OK,” Vagni said.


Notter was on the phone next. He sounded in a rage.

“The situation is very bad. It is catastrophic! I really cannot understand what your government is doing. Rescue? The government sent the military to rescue us? No! These guys came to kill us, have us killed, not rescue us!” he screamed.

Notter, 38, said the ICRC was invited by the Philippine government in 1982 to undertake humanitarian mission. “Now they are going to kill us?”

Gordon tried to cut him, but Notter railed on: “One more attack, they are going to kill us! And let me tell you this, senator, if I’m going to survive this, I’m going to make sure that the whole world knows what happened here. This is going too far!”

Notter said the military action was a “completely wrong move.” He asked what Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander Yano was doing.

“I cannot understand the military. There is a chain of command but what is General Yano doing?”

Notter also mentioned the number of days since the three were seized by the Abu Sayyaf bandits on Jan. 15.

Word of honor

The conversations with Gordon lasted over an hour. The last time the hostages were allowed the use of a cell phone was on March 11, when they talked with their ICRC colleagues.

Parad had called Gordon on Tuesday to deny that he had been killed in the fire fight.

The kidnapper sounded apologetic Thursday. Gordon pleaded with him to release the hostages, saying they would not be in that condition if he had not seized them.

“You will not be embarrassed,” Parad said.

He said that if the military pulled out, Gordon would get one hostage.

Parad did not repeat his threat to behead the ICRC workers if the military pressed their operation against the kidnappers.

He did not say whom he would release, but he said he would keep his word.

“Usapang lalaki.” A gentleman’s word.(Arlyn dela Cruz)