Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mar Roxas: We’re doing everything to save Robredo

MANILA, Philippines –  Helicopters and divers were searching Sunday for one of the most powerful Philippine ministers, who was missing and feared dead after a light aircraft he was travelling in crashed into the sea.

President Benigno Aquino took the lead in the search for Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, a day after his plane went down near the central island of Masbate.

Aquino flew to Masbate where military divers and helicopters were scouring the area for the minister, who is missing along with two pilots.

Transportation Secretary Manuel “Mar”  Roxas, who accompanied Aquino, said special sonar equipment had also been flown to Masbate to help in the search operation after some debris, including one wing of the missing plane, was recovered.

“We just want to do everything we can to save him (Robredo),” Roxas said in a message on Twitter.

Four people were on the private plane. Robredo’s aide, June Paolo Abrazado survived with only a few injuries while the Secretary and  two pilots identified as Capt. Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese Kshitiz Chand remained missing.

The Aquino administration has intensified its efforts to find Robredo and the pilots by sending at least 25 sea vessels from the Philippine Coast Guard, the Navy, Air Force, Philippine National Police, and from the local governments.

The Philippine Navy has deployed its naval ships BRP Simeon Castro and BRP Hilario Ruiz and a diving team from the Naval Special Operations Group (Nagsog) to help in surface and underwater search and rescue operations.

The divers of Navsog have Trimix capabilities, which allow deep diving operations.

A navy islander plane and another diving team were also dispatched from Sangley Point in Cavite to assist in search operations, said Navy spokesman Colonel Omar Tonsay.

Philippine Air Force spokesman Colonel Miguel Ernesto Okol told INQUIRER.net that five helicopters, including its most modern assets, three Sokol and 2UH1H, were also enroute to Masbate.

From an area of about two kilometers from the shore, the search now covers a four kilometer-by-three kilometer site, in a depth of from 40 meters to 67 meters, according to notice posted in a bulletin board of La Villa Resort, which is now being used as a command center in the search and rescue efforts being overseen by no less than President Aquino.

Roxas, who was designated spokesman for the Robredo search, said two US aircrafts did a fly-by in the area last night but found no trace of the aircraft or of its missing passengers – Robredo and pilots Capt. Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese Kshitiz Chand.

He said they hoped to get better results with sonar equipment expected to arrive this morning from Cebu.

The government also called a prayer vigil at a Roman Catholic chapel in Manila for the 54-year-old cabinet member, a father of three daughters and a former city mayor.

He is considered to be one of the most influential Philippine politicians and a close presidential aide.

As interior secretary, Robredo was in control of the country’s 143,000-strong national police force which has long been dogged by accusations of corruption and abuse.

In recent months, he had ordered investigations into alleged financial irregularities over the construction of police stations and purchase of helicopters and rescue boats.

Robredo was also playing a key role in the dismantling of private armies allegedly deployed by some powerful provincial governors and city mayors ahead of congressional and local elections in 2013.

A former official at an ice cream company, Robredo was elected mayor of Naga City in the strife-torn Bicol region, south of Manila in 1988 at the age of 29, making him the youngest mayor in the country at the time.

His success in turning the once-sleepy city into a trading, housing and education centre won him many honours including a 2000 Ramon Magsaysay award, considered Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize.

After serving nine years as a city mayor, he joined Aquino’s successful campaign for the presidency in 2010, endorsing his reformist platform. Robredo was subsequently appointed to the cabinet.

Chad Kinis on Comedy Bar GMA 7 - 4th guesting, SO FUNNY!

Sen. Tito Sotto denies inventing story on son's death

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Vicente "Tito" Sotto III on Wednesday fired back at his critics, calling them "callous" and "insensitive" for questioning his claim that his son died due to side effects of contraceptives.
Sotto singled out former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral and Iloilo Rep. Janet Garin for questioning his earlier statement that his wife's contraceptive use caused their son's heart condition, which later killed him.
"I would like to take exception to statements made by Esperanza Cabral, former secretary of health during the time of Gloria Arroyo, and to a certain extent Congresswoman Janet Garin," he said.
"I find their statements callous and insensitive and it is unfortunate that the reproductive health debate has come to this level. They should have given the sorrow of my family more respect," he added.
Cabral earlier dared Sotto to produce his son's death certificate and hospital records to show the actual cause of death of the 5-month-old baby.
She noted that Dr. Carmen Enverga-Santos, obstetrician of Sotto's wife Helen Gamboa, is already dead and cannot confirm or belie Sotto's claim.
Garin, meanwhile, said Sotto should consider suing the doctor for the mental anguish she caused by linking contraceptives to Vincent Paul's death. She said Sotto's wife might not have been taking birth control pills  under doctor's supervision.
On Thursday, Sotto produced his son's death certificate, saying he will give copies to advocates of the Reproductive Health Bill.
"Bibigyan ko sila ng kopya. Baka akala nila di ko papatulan," he said.
He also said his wife used Diane Birth control pills under the supervision of Dr. Santos.
"She was supervised by her doctor while using it. Intelihente naman po yung asawa ko. Alam niya kung paano gumamit nito," he said.
Sotto said even his own mother, Dr. Herminia Castelo-Sotto, agreed that Vincent Paul's heart condition was linked to Gamboa's contraceptive use. He noted his mother was a staunch women's rights activist and the first Medical Commissioner of Workmen's Compensation Commission of the Department of Labor and Employment.
"Ayon sa kanila (Sotto and Santos), ang pagbubuntis ng aking maybahay na si Helen kahit may contraceptives at gagamit ng contraceptives ay maaaring naging sanhi ng complication, prematurity at eventually pagkamatay ng anak namin. Bakit ko iimbentuhin ang katotohanang ito?" he said.
Contraceptives are abortifacients
Sotto reiterated that contraceptives are abortifacients and pose serious health risks to women and children born to mothers who use contraceptives but still get pregnant.
He challenged his critics to answer him point by point instead of attacking his character via posts on Facebook and Twitter.
"May mga nananakot pa. Kung sa mga drug lords hindi ako natakot, sa kanila pa," he said.
The senator said he does not intend to call for a complete ban on contraceptives nor does he intend to stop people from using contraceptives. However, he said it is his duty as a lawmaker to study the implications of the Reproductive Health bill on all Filipinos.
He said the book "The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth,"
 by Barbara Seaman, shows the serious side effects of estrogen use. He said the book showed that in a  cohort of 50,282 preganancies, 19 children with cardiovascular defects were born to 1,042 women who received female hormones during their pregnancy.
"I don't need to be a doctor to know the possible complications on children from women who take birth control pills but still get pregnant," he said.

Bloggers react to Sen. Sotto on belittling bloggers

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Vicente Sotto III’s anti-Reproductive Health Bill speech at Senate prompted negative reactions from the bill’s advocates, and  allegations that parts of it were plagiarized from a US-based blogger have only fanned the flames.
In an interview on ANC’s Headstart, Sotto denied basing his speech on a blog post by Sarah Pope, and said his speech was based on a book by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a neurologist known for her work with the Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
This syndrome establishes a connection between digestive and mental health. Oral hormonal contraceptives, or the Pill, McBride said, cause a bacterial imbalance in the digestive system, which is bad for the health.
“Yung blogger na sinasabi nila, pareho kami ng pinagkunan eh, si Natasha Campbell-McBride. Bakit ko naman iku-quote ‘yung blogger, ang kinu-quote ko si Natasha McBride,” Sotto said.
Bloggers and other netizens went up in arms at what they believe was a wrong move for Sotto, and also attacked his supposed belittling of one of them, as in his interview with Karen Davila, he also said, “Bakit ko naman iqu-quote ang blogger? Blogger lang iyon.”
However, other online Filipinos have also defended Sotto, saying his quote was merely taken out of context. They also said they respect the Senator, as he has a firm belief in what he is fighting for.
The alleged plagiarism has even spawned all sorts of jokes on social media, with some saying Sotto's speechwriter is his daughter Ciara, who staunchly defended her father on her Twitter account.

The Pilot in DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo crash aimed for the sea

MANILA, Philippines – The pilot of the ill-fated Piper aircraft boarded by Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo reportedly aimed for the sea, according to a witness’ account.
Jojo Sancho, a resident of Masbate City, told DZMM on Saturday that he saw the Piper Ceneca PA 34-200 carrying Robredo flying low before it plunged to the sea.
Sancho said the plane’s pilot may have decided to land on water where they have a greater chance of survival.
“Lumipad sa tapat ng dagat, parang inilagpas ng airport. Talagang itinantya niya na kung babagsak siya sa airport, talagang sasabog [sila],” said Sancho.
Robredo was onboard the plane together with his aide, Capt. Jun Abrazado, pilot Capt. Jessup Bahinting, and Nepalese co-pilot Kshitiz Chand, when it crashed at 4:30 p.m.
Abrazado has been rescued from the crash site.
Search and rescue operations for Robredo and the two pilots are ongoing.
Masbate Vice Governor Vince Revil earlier said Bahinting made a call to the Masbate City Airport where they planned to make an emergency landing.
“Nag-emergency call that they are going to have an emergency landing sa Masbate City Airport pero nag-crash ang plane about 150 meters away from the airport , nag-crash sa dagat,” Revil told “TV Patrol: Weekend.”
Robredo’s plane came from Mactan, Cebu and was headed to Naga City.
Sancho said the plane’s engine died down even before the crash.
“Wala namang usok, talagang eroplano lang na k’wan pero walang naririnig na andar ng makina,” he said.
He also narrated that he ran toward the beach after hearing the loud splash created by the crash.
What he saw at that point was the plane rapidly sinking into the sea.
“Nakita ko na lang 'yung dulo ng pakpak, pero pawala na… tapos may nakita akong mga bangkang maliliit na palapit po doon.”

DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo was rushing home for daughter's ceremony

MANILA (1st UPDATE) - Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo took a small private plane instead of a commercial plane from Cebu to his home in Naga City since he wanted to attend the awarding ceremony for his youngest daughter who won in a swimming contest, according to Naga City Mayor John Bongat. 
Robredo wanted to watch the closing ceremonies of the Palarong Panglungsod, where his youngest daughter, Jillian, won a swimming event.
Bongat told dzMM Robredo was advised by his wife, Atty. Leni, not to rush anymore for the ceremony since he might not make it on time.
Robredo, however, decided to still take the private plane, which crashed into the sea near barangay Ibingay in Masbate around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.
A search and rescue operation for Robredo and 2 pilots was still ongoing as of posting time.
Robredo was in Cebu for a Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) summit.
Robredo's family lives in Naga City, where he served as mayor for many years.  He won a Ramon Magsaysay award in 2000, Asia's equivalent of the Nobel Prize, for his governance of the city.

DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo still missing

MANILA, Philippines –   Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo is still missing even as parts of the ill-fated  plane that was supposed to bring him to Naga City  have been found,  the head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said on Sunday.

“There has  been no report that he (Robredo) has been found,” NDRRMC executive director  Benito Ramos  told Radyo Inquirer 990 AM in  Filipino.

This was contrary to reports that  he had  been  rescued   by a fisherman.

Ramos also said that the fuel tank of the plane was recovered  Saturday night.

When asked whether this meant that the  plane broke into pieces on impact,   Ramos said, “It’s possible. Only the fuel tank was found so this means that the plane could have broken into pieces.

Robredo and three others were onboard a six-seater Piper Seneca plane when it crashed Saturday  afternoon in the  waters off  Masbate.  His aide, P/Senior Insp. Jun Abrazado, survived while the rest remained missing.

US will help in search for DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo

MANILA - Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Mar Roxas said the United States Geological Survey (USGS) team will help in the search for missing Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo and two others.
"(As of 9 p.m., we) received and accepted an offer of help via US Naval Attache Capt. Jack Sutherland; the USG [USGS] has a Fleet Survey team," he said on his Twitter account.
Roxas said the USGS team is now heading towards the crash site of the small plane carrying Robredo and pilot Capt. Jessup Bahinting and student pilot Kshitiz Chand, a Nepalese.
Actually, Robredo’s aide Jun Abrazado was also on board of the plane but he reportedly jumped off the light plane before it crash in the sea off the Masbate City or 500 meters away from the Masbate airport.
The DOTC chief said the search and rescue operations are still ongoing at the crash site.
"Diving search resumed using compressors. They have obtained compressors from the area," Roxas said.

US blooger accuses Senator Tito Sotto as a "Lying thief"

An American woman has called Sen. Vicente Sotto III a “lying thief” and accused the Senate majority leader of plagiarizing her blog during an acrimonious debate on the reproductive health (RH) bill that pitted supporters of the bill against the Catholic Church and other sectors that consider artificial contraception as abortion.

Sotto initially denied using part of Sarah Pope’s blog when he argued against the bill to distribute contraceptives in government-run health clinics, but after the salty label came out in her blog on Thursday, the senator’s chief of staff, Hector Villacorta, acknowledged that they had used Pope’s blog without any attribution.

The senator continued to deny the plagiarism allegation, saying that both he and Pope had cited the same source, Russian-born physician Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride who claims that contraceptives cause an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in the intestines that breaks down the defense against infection.

He also took exception to the blogger’s charge that he is “a lying thief.”

‘Umbrella attribution’

“They must be mistaken. What I delivered in the plenary is different from the one that was written,” Sotto said in a telephone interview.

“I have an umbrella attribution [in my speech],” he added, referring to his disclaimer that what he said on the floor was based on research and not his own.

Sotto also referred to Article 6 Section 11 of the Philippine Constitution which says in part: “No member [of Congress] shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in the Congress or in any committee thereof.”

“Why would I quote from a blogger? She is just a blogger,” Sotto said.

Villacorta said he saw nothing wrong with using Pope’s blog without any attribution because it is “public domain” and “blogs are not covered by copyright.”   He added, “It is a new media and there is no jurisprudence yet.”

‘Dilatory filibustering’

In the House of Representatives, supporters of the RH bill are bracing themselves for the possibility that the measure would not survive what the RH bill’s principal author,  Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, has described as “the malevolent and dilatory filibustering” of lawmakers opposed to House Bill No.  4244.

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, a coauthor of the bill, said there was an “understanding” among proponents that the measure would no longer be filed in the next Congress should it fail in the current one.

“If it loses, (the bill) will not be tackled in the next Congresses anymore,” Garin said in a phone interview, recalling discussions among her colleagues prior to the Aug. 6 vote that terminated plenary debate on HB 4244. “If (the bill) is tackled at all, perhaps it would only come after a few years, perhaps after 10 years,” she said, adding that she and other proponents remained “committed” to passing the RH bill into law.

Not yet mature

Garin said that if the RH bill were defeated in the 15th Congress, it would be “a proof that our country is not yet mature for that law.”

But whatever the House vote is on HB 4244, the Iloilo representative said legislative work on the measure should be completed.

“Our point is, if you don’t want to pass it, then vote against it,” Garin said. “To be fair to everybody, including the real Filipino people who really want this bill, let’s decide on this. If we have the numbers, then okay.  To be honest, we’re also not sure (if we have the numbers),” she said.

“If we don’t have the numbers, at least, the people would know that (the bill can’t be passed) so we can probably proceed with existing programs, depending on the political will of local chief executives,”  Garin said.

In June this year, Health Secretary Enrique Ona announced that his department would distribute around P500 million in condoms and other contraceptives to help address the problem of rising maternal mortality in the country.

In Davao province, the Tagum city government has been implementing its own reproductive health program, spending at least P1.5 million annually, according to a previous Inquirer report. Since 2006, at least 4,390 women have reportedly availed themselves of the city’s free tubal ligation program.

Stalemate

House members are in a stalemate on HB 4244 after they an adjourned the plenary session on Wednesday without settling Rep. Roilo Golez’s motion to suspend further deliberations on the measure.

Golez wanted the chamber to focus on the devastation caused by the heavy monsoon rains in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces last week, a move dismissed as a dilatory tactic by proponents of the RH bill.

“The scheme of the oppositors to take undue advantage of House Rules on questions of personal or collective privilege to delay and derail the start of the period of amendments, violates the mandate of the plenary to move forward the RH bill,” Lagman said in a statement.

“Why terminate the long-winding and repetitive interpellations only to temporize and hold hostage the legislation?” he added.

No middle ground

But Golez accused the RH bill proponents of delaying the bill themselves when they moved for adjournment on the two session days when the House opened the period of amendments on HB 4244. The decision, according to Golez’s camp, meant that the other side did not have enough numbers on the floor.

Rep. Florencio Noel, who is openly against the bill, said he was not optimistic that both sides could reach a “middle ground” on the measure.

“While there are compromises that can be made, I see that there are more disagreements,” he told the Inquirer on the sidelines of the plenary deliberations. With a report from Norman Bordadora

Pres. Aquino at crash site of DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo in Masbate

MANILA, Philippines –   President  Benigno  Aquino  III  arrived  in  Masbate as the  search  and rescue operations (SaR)  for   Interior   Secretary Jesse Robredo   and two  others  resumed  early Sunday.

Transportation Secretary Manuel Mar Roxas  posted  on his Twitter account that he and Aquino, along with  other  government  officials, on  board PAF C-130   were at the  crash site “to lead the  SaR  efforts.”

“At the location, crash site within sight of beach, 500m & also within sight of end of runway,” Roxas said.

“Water’s calm, sky (is) clear, which will help in (the) ongoing  SaR,” he added.

Robredo, and three others were onboard a six-seater Piper Seneca plane when it crashed  in the waters off the shoreline of Masbate City at about 5 p.m. Saturday.

Robredo’s aide, P/Senior Insp. Jun Abrazado, survived but the Interior Secretary and the pilot and  co-pilot of the plane –Capt. Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese copilot Kshitiz Chand, remained  missing.

DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo and 2 others missing after plane crash

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo called his wife Maria Leonor “Leni” Gerona Robredo at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday to say that the plane flying him from Cebu to Camarines Sur was having engine problems.

Leni, a lawyer, made this confirmation, adding that the call was immediately cut off and there was no contact with Robredo after that.

Malacañang has confirmed that the six-seater Piper Seneca plane that Robredo was on board with three others had gone missing after it crashed in the waters off the shoreline of Masbate City at about 5 p.m. Saturday.

The private aircraft was heading for Naga City, Robredo’s hometown, from Cebu when one of the pilots sent a distress call to the Masbate Airport, requesting permission for an emergency landing. That was the last contact with Robredo’s plane.

The plane crashed some 3 kilometers from the airport on Masbate Bay, Robredo’s head executive assistant Dominina Rances said in a phone interview.

Also reported missing were the pilot, identified as Capt. Jessup Bahinting, owner of Aviatour Flight School, and Nepalese copilot Kshitiz Chand.

Philippine National Police Chief Nicanor Bartolome said P/Senior Insp. Jun Abrazado, Robredo’s aide, survived after he unbuckled his seat belt and was thrown off the plane during the crash. He was later rescued by fishermen.

“But after he was given initial medical treatment, he returned to the site to join the search,” Bartolome added.

Abrazado suffered a fracture in the arm and was brought for emergency treatment at a hospital in Masbate City, according to Lt. Col. Julian Pacatan, commander of the Army 9th Infantry Battalion in Masbate now involved in the search-and-rescue operation.

Bartolome has directed the police in the area to join the search, even as he has deployed divers and volunteers to help the Coast Guard and Masbate local officials, led by Gov. Rizalina Lanete, who have mounted a search-and-rescue operation. But as of 7:30 Saturday night, inadequate equipment necessary for nighttime search underwater prompted frogmen to temporarily withdraw from the crash site, according to Ernie Delgado of the Philippine Information Agency in Masbate.

Robredo arrived in Cebu about 11 a.m. and attended the ground breaking of the Philippine Police Safety College in Consolacion town, northern Cebu.

Consolacion Mayor Nene Alegado said that during her lunch with Robredo, the Secretary commented about the humid weather in Cebu.

“Mainit dito sa Cebu. Sa Manila palagi umuulan. (It is very hot here in Cebu unlike in Manila where it is always raining),” Alegado quoted Robredo as saying.

From Consolacion, Robredo proceeded to the Cebu International Convention Center in Mandaue City to deliver his keynote speech before the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Community Investigative Support national summit.

Robredo was supposed to leave Cebu on a Cebu Pacific flight but made last minute changes because he was rushing to go home to Naga.

Senior Supt. Erson Digal, who was part of the security escort of the secretary during his visit in Cebu, said Robredo was supposed to take a 2:40 p.m. flight back to Manila but changed his mind and decided to go home to Naga City instead.

Robredo took a chartered flight to Naga from Aviatour Flight School based in Lapu-Lapu City, Mactan Island. Capt. Bahinting agreed to pilot the Piper Seneca to Naga along with flight student Chand.

Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno said Robredo’s plane left Cebu at around 2:30 p.m.

Based on information gathered from Abrazado, the aide did not see Robredo get out of the plane when it crashed, according to Lt. Col. Julian Pacatan.

Digal said in an interview over dySS that he received a text message from Abrazado that their plane was having problems with the propeller while making a turn.

A few minutes later, Robredo’s aide sent another text message to Digal, saying they were about to make an emergency landing.

Amparo Perez, president of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) in Masbate, said in a phone interview that rescue operations have stopped between 7:30 and 8 p.m. “It is already dark but rescue will resume at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow, Sunday,” she said.

She said as of 6:30 p.m., rescuers were still scouring the sea and found the currents along Ticao Pass very strong even as the crash site was just two kilometers away from the shoreline.

At the Robredo residence at Bulusan Street, Dayangdan, Naga City, over a hundred people, including family, friends and political allies, have gathered and kept vigil.

The prayer for his safe return started at 8 p.m. at the living room while his wife Leni stayed inside her bedroom with some close relatives.

At around 7:30 p.m., the crowd cheered when they heard a radio report saying Robredo was found alive by fishermen.

The elation turned to gloom when they learned that the news was not true.

Robredo, 54, has been the Local Government Secretary since his appointment in July 2010. He served as mayor of Naga City in Camarines Sur for nearly two decades.

He won his first mayoral bid in 1988 at the age of 29, making him one of the youngest Philippine city mayors. He served as mayor of Naga City for six three-year terms—from 1988 to 1998 and from 2001 to 2010.

He became the president of the League of Cities of the Philippines, the national association of city mayors, in 1995. He was also elected chairman of the Regional Development Council, the regional planning and coordinative body of Bicol, from 1992 to 1998.

In recognition of his work, Robredo was cited in 1999 by Asiaweek magazine “for transforming Naga City from a lethargic Philippine city into one of Asia’s most improved.”

He also received individual awards for local governance including the 1996 Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP) Award, the Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM), 1998 Konrad Adenauer Medal of Excellence as Most Outstanding City Mayor of the Philippines and the first ever “Dangal ng Bayan ” Award of the Civil Service Commission.

In 2000, he received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service for “giving credence to the promise of democracy by demonstrating that effective city management is compatible with yielding power to the people.”

An Edward Mason Fellow and a graduate of Masters in Public Administration at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, he completed his Masters in Business Administration at the University of the Philippines.

He obtained his undergraduate degrees in Industrial Management Engineering and Mechanical Engineering from the De La Salle University.

After his graduation from De La Salle University in 1980, Robredo joined San Miguel Corporation’s Magnolia division. He returned to Naga City in 1986 where he was named  director of the Bicol River Basin Development Program, an agency tasked to undertake integrated area development planning in the region’s three provinces.

He finished high school at the Ateneo de Naga.

Aquino’s emergency landing

Born in Naga City on May 27, 1958, he is the third of five children of Jose Chan Robredo Sr. and Marcelina Manalastas. He and wife Leni, who is also from Naga, have three daughters.

On August 10, heavy rains and poor visibility also forced the President’s convoy of helicopters to make an emergency landing at the Luisita exit of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.

At the time, Mr. Aquino was on his way to an evacuation center in Paniqui.

Brig. Gen. Ramon Dizon, commander of the Presidential Security Group, said they decided to land before it started to rain “to be on the safe side.”

With the President on the helicopter were Joel Villanueva of the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority and Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Susan Roces accepts award for Fernando Poe Jr.; worth the wait

In rites witnessed by four national artists, Fernando Poe Jr.’s widow Susan Roces and daughter Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares finally received the posthumous National Artist medallion and citation on behalf of the “Action King” of Filipino movies from President Benigno Aquino in Malacañang after a six-year-long wait.

“It’s worth waiting for… to be conferred by a duly elected President,’’ said Roces, who had accused then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of stealing the vote from her husband in the May 2004 presidential elections. “This is not tainted by politics.’’

Roces said the award is a rare honor that everyone in the industry prays for and dreams about getting some day.

Arroyo set the conferment of the award on Poe in May 2006, but his family skipped the event in protest of Poe’s loss to Arroyo in 2004. Poe, then opposition standard-bearer, lost to Arroyo by about a million votes following alleged rigging of the results.

Poe died of a massive stroke months later—in December 2004.

Posthumous conferment

On July 20 this year, Mr. Aquino issued Proclamation No. 435 confirming the May 23, 2006, Proclamation No. 1069 that declared Poe as National Artist, opening the door for the posthumous conferment.

Llamanzares, chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, said they had patiently waited for this day.

“This victory is sweeter because we’ve waited for the right time,’’ she said, “What better way to honor a man than to have the award conferred by a person that the Filipino people hold in such high esteem.”


Llamanzares said if there was any lesson that could be learned from her father, it’s that “we have the power to write the screenplays of our lives. We can be good parents, great Filipinos, and above all, citizens that are true to ourselves and responsible to our futures.’’

In formal rites witnessed by National Artists Eddie Romero, Virgilio Almario, Napoleon Abueva and Abdul Mari Imao, officials of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts paid tribute to the actor, born Ronald Allan Kelly Poe.

‘Da King’s’ favorite

CCP president Raul Sunico played a piano rendition of Poe’s favorite songs “Doon Lang’’ (from the film “Batang Quiapo’’) and “Iduyan Mo’’ (from the film “Agila’’), both composed by Romero.

Poe’s closest pal, former President Joseph Estrada, was conspicuously absent.

Poe is the sixth filmmaker to be conferred the National Artist award. Like Avellana, De Leon, Brocka, Bernal and Romero, he was also a director, CCP chairperson Emily Abrera noted in her speech.

“But he’s better known as an actor. And we can say he’s probably the most famous Filipino action star. Until now, his films are still shown. Who hasn’t seen his movies ‘Panday,’ ‘Alupihang Dagat,’ ‘Ang Agila at ang Araw’ and numerous other films that now form part of the Filipino culture?’’ she said.

“Each one of us is looking for a hero who will remind us that there is hope, and no matter how difficult our life is, a new tomorrow comes. That is what FPJ has shown,’’ she said.

The President said Poe lived by national hero Jose Rizal’s principle that there’s no meaning in one’s life unless it’s lived for a noble purpose.

“He was loved and adored by many because of his good acting skills, his respect for fellow artists and his films that mirrored the life of ordinary people. While he has reaped many accolades, he remained grounded,’’ he said.

Hero of the masses

Mr. Aquino said the award was set to be conferred in 2006, but said Roces should not be faulted for deciding to defer the family’s acceptance of the award.

“Like all the characters he portrayed, from being ‘Ang Probinsyano’ to his becoming ‘Eseng ng Tondo’; from his struggles in ‘Alamat ng Lawin’ to being a defender in ‘Ang Panday,’ he is a hero to the Filipino masses,” he said.

“With this award,’’ Mr. Aquino said, “we hope that thousands more like him will rise and use their talents to lift up the lives of their fellow Filipinos.’’

“Whoever in the coming generations will ask who is FPJ, we will answer them with one voice: He’s the king of Philippine cinema, a national artist who will continue to be part of the lights, camera, action in the life of the whole country,’’ he said.

Senator Loren Legarda, Poe’s running mate in 2004, congratulated Roces and Poe-Llamanzares on the conferment of the award.

Ginebra Coach Tanquincen wants Chris Tiu

The most popular team is hoping the most popular player in this Sunday’s rookie draft would fall on its lap.

“I hope Chris Tiu will still be available,” Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen told InterAKTV in a telephone interview.

Ginebra is picking sixth and eighth in the first round, and Tanquingcen said the team is hoping to get a guard and a frontliner to boost the squad, making Tiu a perfect fit.

The former SMART-Gilas Pilipinas team captain seems to like the idea too.

“I would love to play for Ginebra. It’s a historical team where some of the greatest players played,” Tiu wrote in a text message. “I appreciate the trust of the coaches and management. We don’t know what will happen on Sunday. I’m excited and nervous.”

Availability issue

But Tiu might not be available for Ginebra on Sunday, with four teams picking ahead of Ginebra. Apart from his on-court ability, he brings a sizeable following among fans that should help boost any squad in the league.

Barako Bull, which picks one spot ahead of Ginebra, has also expressed interest on Tiu.

“Nabanggit din namin sa discussion ng coaches si Chris Tiu and in my opinion, if ever he will be available at No. 5, we might consider him as well,” said Barako Bull assistant coach Bong Ramos.

InterAKTV’s latest mock draft pegs Tiu to be drafted third by Petron.

Another player who has caught Tanquingcen’s eye is Keith Jensen, a rugged Filipino-American forward who has spent the past season with the PBA D-League’s Big Chill squad.

But Tanquingcen said that the team could still engage in trades that might end up including one of Ginebra’s picks.

“It’s a possibility considering we need to unload players,” said Tanquingcen. “There are redundancies in position, so we really have to move players. Don’t be surprised if trades will be worked out during draft day.”

Chris Tiu wants to play in a team with a "big fan base"


PRO-BOUND Chris Tiu has expressed his desire to suit up for a PBA team with a “big fan base” -- a wish that could very well be granted if Barangay Ginebra selects him in Sunday's PBA rookie draft.

The longtime amateur star, one of the last to declare for the draft, said playing for a pro ballclub with popular backing would serve an added motivation as he enters a new chapter in his basketball career.

“I’m thankful to be given an opportunity to soon play in the PBA. A lot of San Miguel teams have expressed interest to get me. But then, I don’t really know saan ako pupunta," Tiu told Spin.ph shortly after the PBA rookie biometrics session at the Club Six Fifty in Libis, Quezon City.

“But it helps if I could play for a team with a big fan base because that could give me an added motivation. Nobody wants to play in an empty gym.”

The former Ateneo star may get his wish if he lands at Ginebra, undoubtedly the league's most popular team which will be picking at No. 6 in the draft proceedings at Robinsons Midtown Mall in Manila.

Tiu’s arrival could further boost the fan following of the Gin Kings, who already have top league attractions like reigning league MVP Mark Caguioa, Jay-jay Helterbrand, Kerby Raymundo, Enrico Villanueva and Mike Cortez.

Even Meralco team consultant Jong Uichico believes Tiu can be a big, big asset to any team marketing- and basketball-wise.

“Chris can be a crowd-drawer, especially to teams who need following. He’s smart, very competitive and a good shooter,” noted Uichico, a decorated PBA coach who currently is part of the Smart-Gilas II coaching staff.

The question, however, is on whether Tiu would still be available for Ginebra at No 6.

Petron, which owns the first and third pick overall, is expected to make 6’10” Cebuano June Mar Fajardo this year’s top draft pick. Tiu is tipped to land anywhere from Nos. 2 to 6 along with NCAA star Calvin Abueva and Fil-American Cliff Hodge.

But at this point, Tiu said he isn’t too consumed with where he’ll be headed. Instead, he has been focusing on improving certain facets of his game to ensure a smooth transition into the pro ranks.

“I do plyometrics then lift weights. I also participate in some alumni games of Xavier and do a lot of shooting as well. But I need to bulk up,” added Tiu.

Tiu, an original member of the Smart-Gilas national squad, is no stranger to PBA play. He was the starting guard for the Smart-Gilas squad that played as guest team in the 2009-2010 Philippine Cup as well as in last year's Commissioner’s Cup.

“I want to play competitively in the PBA. I need to get stronger and bigger. I also need to improve further my one-on-one skill because I noticed that in the PBA, there are a lot more teams relying on one-on-one plays. It’s a far different system (that Smart-Gilas) coach Rajko (Toroman) used,” he added.

Chris Tiu excited to play in the PBA


Although he hasn’t been drafted yet by any of the 10 PBA teams, Chris Tiu has sent a message to fans of the league: It will be an exciting season.
The former SMART-Gilas Pilipinas team captain finally made himself available for the PBA draft on Friday, the last day for filing an application.
“I’m excited. I hope I will be given the opportunity to play to whichever team needs me,” said Tiu.
He skipped the draft last year, hoping to continue playing for the national program while focusing on his other interests in business and entertainment, but changes in SMART-Gilas prompted him to join the PBA.
Tiu, however, said he still hopes to have the chance to suit up for the national team in the future.
“It has always been on top of my priority when it comes to playing,” said Tiu. “I just hope I will be given the opportunity again. Nothing gives me more pride than representing the country.”
The delay in his decision, he said, was because of his consultations with his family, who were concerned about the physical nature of the games in the PBA.
“They were having apprehensions of me joining the PBA because of the highly-physical games,” said Tiu. “They want me to concentrate on business, instead.”
But in the end, passion won out. “I love playing and to play, help the team, and entertain the fans will be my ultimate objective in the PBA.”
Tiu hopes he ends up playing for a team which will utilize his services.
“Gusto kong makatulong sa team. Ang career ng player hindi naman matagal, so I want to play and be given exposure,” he said.

Sen. Tito Sotto cries during RH Bill Speech


MANILA, Philippines – Comedian-turned-senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto broke down on the senate floor on Monday when he delivered his speech against the Reproductive Health Bill admitting that his stance was not without personal bias.
Sotto revealed that he had an offspring who died due to complications which he believes arose from his wife, the actress Helen Gamboa-Sotto, having used birth control pills.
Doctor's advice
His voice cracking, Sotto recalled that it was a doctor friend who suggested that his wife take contraceptives so she could continue with her showbiz career.
"Helen got pregnant again even while taking pills,” Sotto recounted. 
Born with a weak heart, the child, a boy, he said, never left the hospital subsequently dying only five months later.
He went on to relate that Monday was supposed to be his son’s 37th death anniversary.
Sotto said he had initially questioned why his son was taken so soon. “But now I realize it happened because I have a job to do—to warn people about the dangers of contraceptives.  That is my mission now,” he said.
On Sharon
Sotto said he never made public the incident prior and that he simply let people believe that he and his wife Helen had only four children, namely Romina, Diorela, Gian and Ciara.
“Actually we have six. Helen and I consider Sharon (Cuneta) our firstborn since we eloped in 1969.  That’s why I call (Senator Francis) Kiko (Pangilinan) my son-in-law,” he said.
Cuneta is the daughter of his wife’s sister, Elaine with former Pasay City mayor Pablo Cuneta.
A Similar Fate
During his speech, Sotto cited that each of his fellow senators, actor Lito Lapid and RH bill principal sponsor Pia Cayetano, knows how it feels to lose a child. Lapid’s son, Sotto said, was a blue baby who died when he was nine. Cayetano’s son, he said, also suffered congenital problems and lived for only nine months.
“My fellow senators have their sad stories, but I still think they are blessed because they were able to hold and embrace their children. I could only watch my son through the glass. I never got to hold him,” Sotto said sobbing.
In the end, RH Bill principal sponsor, Cayetano opted to defer her response to the speech.
ANC Alerts reported, however, that Cayetano disagreed with most of the points Sotto raised in his speech allegedly saying that "many of the data he mentioned are either inaccurate or outdated."
Twitter-bashed
Actress and prolific pole dancer Ciara Sotto, who was on the senate floor to show support for his father, admitted to getting emotional hearing his speech.
"Of all places!!!! I never thought I'd shed tears in the senate," she posted via Twitter.
She also revealed that to this day, her mother is wont to visit a nursery owing to the tragedy.
Sotto became defensive after several netizens took to criticizing his father's stance over the controversial bill.
“My parents experienced losing a child. Bashers/haters can't change that fact. Sana it won't happen to any of you,” she said.
The actress expressed her dismay towards several users of the site.
“[D]aming bastos sa Twitter grabe! Ang lilinis eh... Hiyang hiya naman ako sa kalinisan nila! Kawawa naman daddy ko,” she said.
After another user asked her to not involve herself in the issue, Sotto bravely said, "No, I will not shut up when it comes to my family. I hope one day, if u have ur own child, he/she will b proud enough to stand up for u."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ram Revilla’s sister survives a car accident

MANILA, Philippines—The 21-year-old sister of the slain actor Ramgen Bautista (also known as Ram Revilla in show business) figured in a road accident in Las Piñas on Sunday, injuring five people.

Ma. Ragelyn Gail Bautista-Furuyama was reportedly unhurt after the Nissan Patrol 4×4 truck she was driving collided with a passenger jeepney along the Alabang-Zapote Road in Talon 3 in Las Piñas City around 5 a.m.

Senior Superintendent Romulo Sapitula, the city police chief, said Bautista-Furuyama was traveling in counterflow along the Zapote-Road when it hit a public utility jeepney head-on.

“Five people including the driver suffered minor injuries but they chose not to press charges against her,” Sapitula said.

Since the case was amicably settled, the city’s traffic enforcement unit just served Furuyama a traffic violation ticket, the police chief said.

Congressman Escudero dies in sleep at age 69

MANILA, Philippines – Sorsogon Representative Salvador Escudero III,  who had been suffering  from cancer  for the  past two years, died  in his sleep  early Monday , his  son  Senator   Francis    Escudero said  in a text message.

He was 69.

“He passed in his sleep at around 3:30 am. He had been fighting cancer for a little over two years,” the senator said.

“Please  pray for the eternal repose of his soul,” he added.

His remains will be brought to the Mt. Carmel Church in New Manila, Quezon City.

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