Bets gang up on Villar over big ad spend

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Sen. Jamby Madrigal and several other presidential candidates on Monday ganged up on Sen. Manny Villar for spending too much on political advertisements, which analysts have pinpointed as the main reason why Villar has been able to catch up with erstwhile frontrunner Sen. Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III.

In the “Inquirer First Edition: Presidential Debates” held at UP Diliman, Madrigal delivered harsh criticisms against Villar. The lady senator had filed a complaint for unethical conduct against the real estate tycoon in connection with the C-5 road extension project.

The ball started rolling when Madrigal was asked the question: “Political ads nowadays seem to cater to the lowest common denominator in society. From catchphrases to jingles, they seem to contain mainly rhetoric but no real substance. Do you think this type of campaigning, including political endorsements from movie celebrities, does this not contribute to the dumbing down of the Filipino voter?”

The sole female presidential candidate responded with a resounding, “I agree—completely.”

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Gringo biggest spender in Senate in 2008

MANILA, Philippines – The 23 members of the Philippine Senate incurred over P300-million in expenses in 2008, according to records from the Commission on Audit (COA).

Sen. Gregorio ‘Gringo’ Honasan, a military rebel-turned-politician, emerged as the biggest spender among the 23 lawmakers.

In 2008, Honasan’s expenses reached P17.9 million. In 2007, when he returned to the Senate, his expenses from July-December 2007 amounted to P8.109 million.

The bulk of Honasan’s expenses from January-December 31, 2008 covered the salaries of his staff, which reached P9.6 million. The rest of the money were spent on travel, meetings, supplies and materials.

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Kin of victims, media groups remember Maguindanao massacre

MANILA, Philippines – Last Sunday the relatives of victims of the Maguindanao massacre were joined by media groups, activists and religious leaders in launching activities for commemorating the second month anniversary of the gruesome killings.

In Maguindanao province, it was almost noon when an almost 40-vehicle convoy reached Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town – the site of the heinous murder which killed at least 57 people, including at least 30 journalists.

The convoy was composed of groups from Davao City, General Santos City, Kidapawan City and Cotabato City.

The group, which included relatives and friends of the massacre victims as well as members of the National Interfaith Mission for Peace and Justice in Mindanao and journalists, marched the 2-kilometer road to the site where the bodies of the victims were found.

Prayers, led by religious leaders, were immediately offered for the massacre victims.

Relatives of the victims were also given an opportunity to talk about their departed loved ones.

They also offered flowers and lit candles for the souls of their slain relatives.

The families of the victims also released white balloons, symbolizing their hope to be free from the pain of the loss of their departed relatives.

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Remains of Filipino UN staffer in Haiti found

MANILA, Philippines—The remains of a Filipino United Nations staff member have been recovered, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.

The DFA identified the fatality as Jerome Yap, who was from Pampanga, served as executive Assistant to Luis Carlos da Costa, the deputy special representative of the UN Secretary General, who was also killed in the collapsed building. They both served with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah).

The department expressed “regrets to inform the public that the Philippines lost one of its own in last week’s earthquake that struck Haiti with the recovery of the remains of Mr. Jerome Yap at 5:15 a.m. (Haiti time).”

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Two another reinforcements for Smart Gilas Pilipinas

MANILA, Philippines – Two another reinforcements for Smart Gilas Pilipinas to boost in it’s Olympic Mission,  Jamal Sampson (Center) and Fil-Am Marcio Lassiter (Guard) are expecting to be a part of their team.

Jamal Sampson, who replaced fellow American CJ Giles late last year, emerged as a dominating force inside, averaging 16 rebounds, seven points and three shot blocks as Smart Gilas split its first two games with Qatar.

Marcio Lassiter, a versatile guard out of University of California Fullerton, displayed his offensive prowess and aggressive wing defense to complement Sampson’s power game. “Jamal (Sampson) and Marcio (Lassiter) have increased the level of our game especially on defense,” said Noli Eala, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director. “They gave us intensity, aggressiveness and toughness, they’re great additions to Smart Gilas Pilipinas,” he added.

More importantly, Eala said both Sampson, who played for four different NBA teams before coming over here, and Lassiter have been getting along with their Smart Gilas teammates.

Sampson plucked 19 rebounds and made three blocked shots in a 46-38 victory over Qatar in their first meeting.

Sampson was equally imposing in the second match as he powered his way to 12 points, came away with 13 rebounds and three blocks although RP dropped a 69-77 setback in overtime.

While Sampson gets the job done inside, Lassiter does the rest from the wings, even coming up with steals that led to easy fast break plays for Team RP, formed to vie for a berth in the 2012 Olympics.