State of Calamity, Declared by P-Noy

President Benigno “Noy-noy” Aquino III declared National State of Calamity yesterday in areas severely affected by the typhoon “Pablo”.

Based on Proclamation 522 signed by the president, Southern Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao are covered by National state of calamity due to the severe flooding and landslides storm resulted with the death of many victims.

With the declaration, hasten the relief and rehabilitation efforts of the government as well as helping the private sector.

P-Noy ordered the major agencies and departments of government to implement rehabilitation medical assistance and relief works and also instructed the local government units to use their calamity funds to help their constituents.

Phl Seeks Win-Win Situation In Shoal Row With China

President Benigno Aquino III said that the country will pursue a win-win situation with China within the claims with both countries regarding Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

Aquino told the business forum of the Joint Alumni Clubs of US Universities last Wednesday that, “We have not stopped having communication with them in trying to look for a win-win situation.”

However, while the country intends to look for a win-win scenario for both parties, Aquino mentioned that he would still keep track of upholding and enforcing the laws.

“If it’s clear that we have a 200-mile exclusive economic zone designated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and both of us are parties to it, is it too much to ask that our rights are respected by our neighbors, in the same token that we respect their rights?” he asked.

With determination, Aquino also claimed that he is not going to give up any areas that belong to the country.

“I am not empowered to give up any of our territory,” he said.

Aquino added that the authority intends to handle the matter diplomatically.

“We do not want to present a threat to them in any shape, manner, or form in terms of military action,” he added.

On the other hand, Albert del Rosario the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, revealed that the Philippines has more investments in China than China has in the Philippines.

He stated that the Philippine investments in China amounts to nearly $3 billion as against to China’s investments in the Philippines which is approximately less than a billion and a half ($1.5).

Last Wednesday, Del Rosario told the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines that, “We benefit from our relations with China just as China benefits from its relationships with us.”

Del Rosario also mentioned that China, in which is considered the Philippines’ 3rd largest trading partner, signed a memorandum of agreement during President Aquino’s state visit last year that both countries would work towards accomplishing $60 billion in 2-way trade within a 5-year period and 2 million inward visitors within 5 years.

“It was also agreed upon that the bilateral agenda would be moved forward in the most positive way, while the areas of contention such as the West Philippine Sea would be abstracted and dealt with separately,” he added.

Having the fact that Chinese investments in the country is only half of Philippine investments in China, Del Rosario then said that Filipino businessmen will not be discouraged from investing in their country despite the recent activities and happenings taken by the Chinese travel agencies suspending tour packages to the Philippines as tensions over the borderline of the islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) increased.

Also, China possessed Philippine fruit exports suspected of carrying pests amid a tense argument between the two countries over Panatag Shoal.

“I don’t think that we should be discouraging our businessmen from investing in China. It’s a good thing if they see how we do it here but what we’re trying to do is at least equalize the amount of investments that go out and we’re hoping that more Chinese investors will take an interest in the Philippines,” Del Rosario said.

“We’d like to believe it’s not,” Del Rosario replied when he was asked if the suspension of tour packages to the Philippines, the reduction in flights, and the possession of Philippine bananas are forms of pressure by China among the maritime argument between Philippines.

“We’d like to believe it’s a technical issue,” he added.

Economic pressure

If China continues to exert economic pressure to the Philippines such as blocking bananas and canceling tour packages, then, the lawmakers said and warned that the economy of the Philippines would be in danger.

Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Teodorico Haresco and Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas said the suspension of tour packages and the controls on fruit importations is “China’s subtle warning versus Philippine on its vast economic arsenal.”

Also, they urged that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should step up efforts in paving the way for the creation of a joint Philippine-China study commission, which would focus on finding mutually acceptable solutions to end the dispute in the Spratlys.

“The decision of Chinese travel agencies to suspend travel to the Philippines could be China’s subtle warning that it does not even need its military to bring widespread economic destruction in the country,” Haresco said.

He warned the suspension of tour packages to the country by Chinese travel agencies “could be the beginning of a larger and more sustained campaign to remind the Philippines and even the US that its economic arsenal is as devastating as its three-million strong People’s Liberation Army.”

Also, he added that the effect of the travel suspension would already deny the economy millions of dollars in potential tourism revenues and warned that Beijing might even go further by obliging a ban on Filipino overseas workers, including those working in Hong Kong and Macau.

Haresco said that the only way to fix the problem in the Spratlys is through direct mutual dialogue with China without discounting the possibility of entering into a joint exploration arrangement in the areas claimed by the Philippines.

While the United States will always remain a valuable supporter to the Philippines, bragging Washington into the Spratlys argument “will do more harm than good” as this is being viewed as an indirect needling by Beijing.

Tactical support

On the other hand, Malacañang, restated that the presence of a US submarine in Subic had nothing to do with the Philippines’ disagreement with China over the disputed Panatag shoal.

Edwin Lacierda, Presidential spokesman, illiterates that the US government made a request last April 3, 2012, days before the April 10 standoff saying that they be allowed to dock their submarine in the area.

“And so it (US request) was addressed to the Department of National Defense and the DND gave its approval on April 24. So, I don’t need to answer or respond to the statements made by the Left,” Lacierda explicated.

Earlier, security officials revealed the visit of submarine USS North Carolina (SSN-777) in Subic was a routine port call scheduled last April 3, before the standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels in Panatag shoal started. The US attack submarine rose last Sunday in Subic Bay.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said the visit of a US submarine in Subic violated the country’s sovereignty.

In a statement, the CPP said the US is using the entire Philippines as a vast military base where it could dock its ships, land its fighter jets, fly its drones, conduct repairs and replenish supplies.

Filipino protesters led by former military rebel Nicanor Faeldon said they are planning to sail to Panatag as a show of support.

“They want to protest against the aggression being committed by China against our country, Faeldon’s spokesman kit guerrero said.

He said at least two fishing vessels carrying faeldon’s group were expected to arrive at the shoal later on Friday.

“They are intending to stay there at least three days and fish, if they are not prevented from doing so, Guerrero said, adding that planting a Philippine flag on the rock was also an option.

Fishermen from Batanes, Faeldon’s home province, along with fishermen from Masinloc, Zambales would be joining Faeldon to fish in Panatag that China has included in its declared fishing holiday.

The Philippines has reminded China that the West Philippine Sea is not the sum total of their bilateral relations.

The Philippines remains a safe and a welcoming country even as tensions over the disputed islands escalated.

Stay on the line

China has demanded manila not take measures in the political and legal aspects, saying it will worsen and complicate the situation.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said last Monday in a press conference in Beijing that the Philippines should adhere to “diplomatic negotiations” to resolve the standoff.

“In particular, diplomatic negotiations should be adhered to in resolving the current situation, rather than continuing to incite public opinion and send contradictory messages,” Hong said.

P-Noy Richer By P10 Million In 2011

It was stated and showed in the latest statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of President Benigno Aquino III that he grew richer by P10.130 million last year which was then submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Aquino declared that as of December 31, 2011, he is to be worth P65.130 million, with P32.162 million in real properties and P32.967 million in personal and other assets, as opposed to P54.999 million in the previous year.

The increase of Aquino’s wealth last year is mostly revealed in the value of his real properties, which amounted to P22.073 million as of December 31, 2010.

His house in Quezon City was identified under inheritance was previously declared to be worth only P13.796 million but today was now valued at P23.6 million.

Aquino’s personal and other properties which cover motor vehicles, cash on hand and cash in bank, receivables, and other assets went down a little from P33.155 million in 2010 to PP32.967 million last year.

In total, Aquino’s net worth grew from P50.194 million as of June 30, 2010 to P65.130 million as of Dec. 31, 2011, after 18 months in office with an annual income of P1.212 million.

Aquino had earlier explained that the increase in his net worth last year can be attributed to inheritance, the transfer or documentation of which were completed only in 2011.

Aquino has so far submitted three SALNs before the Office of the Ombudsman, which is the official depository of the same along with that of the vice president and the heads of other constitutional bodies.

Aquino’s predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s SALNS show that she grew richer by as much as P76 million during her nine years in office, from 2001 to 2010.

SWS: Poor Families Rise To 11.1M

A recent survey conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS) discovered an estimated 11.1 million Filipino households consider themselves poor last March, while up from 9.1 million households in December.

The results of the survey was first published in BusinessWorld and found out that 55 percent of the respondents rated their households poor, 10 percent higher than the 45 percent three months earlier.

A rise of 9 points from the 36 percent or 7.2 million families are recorded in the previous quarter saying that they were poor in terms of food, an amount that translates to approximately 9.1 million families which accounted for the 45 percent.

It was with the Aquino administration that the figures went up this high.

SWS used face-to-face interviews as a mean to use for the noncommissioned survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for national percentages and plus or minus 6 percentage points for area percentages.

The record for self-rated food poverty was posted at 59 percent under the Ramos administration in April 1994 and in September 2002 under the Arroyo administration, while the record for self-rated poverty was posted in July 1985 at 74 percent under the Marcos regime.

Malacañang reacted last Thursday to the survey results saying that it was “natural” to see variations in the levels of self-rated poverty because the government’s antipoverty programs were taking time to be significantly felt.

Programs take time

President Benigno Aquino III’s spokesperson, Secretary Edwin Lacierda, acknowledged that discernments of poverty were among the indicators that the administration was looking at.

“As we have said in the beginning, antipoverty programs take some time before the effects are felt on a sustained basis,” Lacierda said in a news briefing.

“In the meantime, it is natural to see fluctuations in self-rated poverty,” he added.

Lacierda, nevertheless has provided subjective evidences of the government’s conditional cash transfer program benefiting target beneficiaries.

“We have heard for instance, when we were in Roxas City… one mother showed how her child was able to buy a new school bag, new shoes. She was also able to buy vitamins for her child,” Lacierda said.

For the survey, SWS showed a card to 1,200 adults nationwide and asked them, “Where would you place your family on this card?” The choices included “not poor,” “on the line” and “poor.”

Self-rated poverty scaled sharply in Mindanao having 72 percent in March from 38 percent in December. Also, it mounted in the Visayas island from 52 percent previously to 61 percent.

But on the other hand the percentages for Metro Manila from 47 percent to 46 percent while the rest of Luzon managed to maintain its 45 percent, remained basically unaffected.

Self-rated poverty also levitated among those living in the rural areas having 49 percent last December and 66 percent in March, but rarely changed among those in the urban areas amounting to 41 percent to 40 percent respectively.

Food poverty

For self-rated food poverty, SWS asked respondents “Based on the type of food eaten by your family, where would you place your family on this card?” Respondents were made to choose from “not poor,” “on the line” and “poor.”

Self-rated food poverty poured in Mindanao with respect to 30 percent last December while 64 percent in March. It also escalated in the Visayas from 43 percent to 47 percent but hardly changed in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon with just a difference of 1 percent last December.

SWS also determined the self-rated poverty threshold of respondents who considered their households poor or food-poor by asking how much they  needed monthly so as not to consider themselves poor.

The median poverty threshold rose in Metro Manila to P12,000 from P10,000, in Luzon outside Metro Manila to P10,000 from P6,000, in the Visayas to P8,000 from P6,000 and in Mindanao to P7,000 from P6,000.

The median food-poverty threshold in Metro Manila rose to P6,500 from P5,000. In Luzon outside Metro Manila, it rose to P5,000 from P4,000.

It went up to P4,500 from P3,750 in the Visayas and to P4,000 from P3,500 in Mindanao.

Aquino Inspects Metro Land, Air, Sea Terminals

Last Monday, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said that transportation services at Metro Manila’s major land, air and sea terminals have considerably enhanced from conditions last year, but further improvements can still be done.

Manuel Roxas II, Transportation and Communicatons secretary, accompanied President Benigno Aquino III last Monday on an inspection tour at Cubao bus terminal, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and Manila North Harbor.

According to Roxas, Mr. Aquino who made the same rounds last year has noted improvements at Cubao terminal, NAIA and North Harbor.

“Last year, there was really chaos. Now, people are queuing properly and we have more security measures,” Roxas uttered.

Before President Aquino leaves for Cambodia to attend the two-day 20th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders’ summit, he supervised the inspection first.

President Aquino told the reporters that he was there not only to assure that the security procedures is well executed at the terminals but also to ensure that terminals provides convenience and safety for departing passengers.

North Harbor

Even with the improvements, Secretary Roxas said that President Aquino still found numerous problems that he wants to be resolved as soon as possible.

“One problem that the President saw was that some of the urinals were not that clean. I will make sure that this is dealt with,” Roxas said.

The President’s inspection began at Manila’s North Harbor, the country’s busiest domestic terminal at around 10 o’clock in the morning.

A commercial vessel with a capacity of 1,929 passengers that was docked at Pier 2 and scheduled to depart at 3 o’clock in the afternoon namely MV St. Michael Archangel, was boarded by President Aquino together with Secretary Roxas and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).

The ship’s route is at Misamis Oriental province, with stops at Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo.

President Aquino and Secretary Roxas were satisfied with what they saw. They’ve found out that the vessel had enough life jackets, life rings, fire extinguishers, and other emergency equipment.

Data from the Coast Guard presented that more than 147,000 passengers lodged over 1,000 vessels that navigated to several destinations nationwide over the past 24 hours (from 6 a.m., April 1 to 6 a.m. April 2).

Terminal 3

Around 11 a.m., Mr. Aquino was at NAIA Terminal 3. The president accompanied one passenger to check how long the travelers had to fall in line outside the terminal before they could get inside the building.

“Our benchmark is that it should take a passenger 10 minutes at most to get into the terminal,” Roxas told the reporters.

“The Presidential Security Group (PSG) was already telling the President to get inside because he was exposed outside the terminal. But he wanted to see for himself. Fortunately, it only took them 5 minutes,” he added.

“It looked like they met their objectives,” President Aquino told the reporters.

“We are gradually improving facilities in the airport to better serve our people, especially during occasions like the observance of Holy Week,” Roxas said.

Cubao bus terminal

“We want to advise our people to allot more time when they travel this Lenten season. They shouldn’t make their travel plans at the last minute to avoid crowds and reach their destinations as planned.”

President Aquino had lunch with top airport administrators before leaving for the Cubao bus terminal inspection.

He arrived approximately 1 p.m. at the Cubao bus terminal for a 30-minute inspection. The land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) established a random drug-testing center.

Also at the bus terminal, LTFRB organized a pre-departure briefing for around 30 drivers, 11 of them were also subjected to breath analyzer tests to check if they had been engaged to drinking. All the drivers offered themselves for drug testing.

The random drug testing prepared last year by LTFRB for bus drivers has become a regular part of the “Oplan Ligtas Biyahe (Safe Journey)”, a program to ensure safe travel during Lenten season.

“We are making random drug testing a regular part of our ‘Ligtas Biyahe’ program to make sure our bus drivers are fit to bring passengers to their destinations safely,” Roxas said.  “We are doing this to ensure the safety of our bosses: the travelers.”

President Aquino said that the procedures at the bus terminal were “more systematized, and all the passengers I spoke to were smiling.”

Also the President noted that even the traffic on EDSA was easier. “So far I am much happier and I am confident that the preparations were all good,” he said.

Commemorating 25th Year of EDSA




Going back to where Philippines came from last 25 years.

The People Power Revolution or simply EDSA Revolution/Philippine Revolution of 1986 were a series of popular nonviolent revolutions and prayerful mass street demonstrations in the Philippines which totally marked the restoration of the country’s democracy. It became a subsequent inspiration for the Revolutions for communist dictatorships countries all around the globe.

EDSA that is also referred to as the Yellow Revolution due to the presence of yellow ribbons during the arrival of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. and the takeover governance of the first woman to hold the office of the presidency, over Marcos which is Corazon “Cory” Aquino, also the first popularly and democratically-elected female president and head of state in Asia and 1986 Time Magazine Woman of the Year.

EDSA revolution protests were the culmination of a long campaign of civil resistance by the people against the 20-year running authoritarian, repressive regime of then president Ferdinand Marcos and made news headlines as “the revolution that surprised the world” took place at Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, known by its acronym EDSA, in Quezon City, that involved over 2,000,000 Filipino civilians as well as several political, military, and religious figures, such as Cardinal Jaime Sin. The protests, fueled by a resistance and opposition of years of corrupt governance by Marcos, occurred from February 22–25, 1986, when Marcos fled Malacañang Palace to the Hawaii and conceded to Corazon Aquino as the legitimate President of the Philippines.

Paint Araneta Yellow (PAY)

Today, the celebration of the 25th year of EDSA is headed by our 15th and present President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, the only son of the One of Time Magazine’s 20 Most Influential Asians of the 20th Century of 1999 Cory Aquino and one the Man, the Legend, Philippine Senator Ninoy Aquino. The celebration is held today at the Araneta Coliseum, the President’s supporters will be on their Yellow shirts (Pay Araneta Yellow) from 2 PM to 7 PM. Noynoy and Mar Roxas, together with their troops, will lead the people in reliving EDSA and rededicating themselves to fulfilling the unfinished promise of EDSA, this celebration is simulcast live in different T.V. networks such as ABS-CBN, GMA and TV5. Different artist from different generations will be performing in this remarkable event this year in line are Ogie Alcasid, Regine Velasquez, Dingdong Dantes, Spongecola, Parokya ni Edgar, Brownman Revival, Juana Change, Ryan Cayabyab Singers, Jim Paredes, Noel Cabangon, Christian Bautista, Eric Santos and many more.

Erap A Key to Noynoy WIN

He turned out to be his closest rival for the presidency, but the campaign team of President-apparent Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III said former President Joseph Estrada might have contributed to the successful presidential bid of the only son of the late President Corazon Aquino and Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.

Looking back, Chito Gascon, director general of the Liberal Party (LP), admitted that Estrada’s decision to run might have hurt other candidates, particularly Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar who appeared to be the survey-favorite and Aquino’s toughest rival for the presidency during the early part of the campaign.

Gascon said they had difficulty handling Estrada’s case since Aquino’s advocacy concerns the battle against corruption – an issue sensitive to the deposed president who was ousted from power on corruption charges.

“Mayroon kaming ilang issues na gustong patingkarin kaugnay kay GMA (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) pero sabit din siya (Estrada). Pero ayaw naman rin naming sabihin nating ma-antagonize dahil sa totoo lang nakatulong yung kaniyang  pagkakandidatura para pambawas ng boto ng ibang kandidato,” said Gascon, who was a guest in the “Tonight with Arnold Clavio” show in QTV Channel 11 Monday night.

“Tingin namin kapag hindi siya tumakbo at hindi pinayagan ng palasyo, mas malakas ang pag-asa ni Manny Villar. May ganoong dynamics noon. They (Estrada and Villar) were going for the same market – the Filipino masses,” Aquino’s spokesperson Edwin Lacierda added.

Gascon said they were not surprised by the surge in Estrada’s ratings at the late stage of the campaign owing to the former president’s reputation as a “favorite of the masses.”

Aquino’s New Media Bureau head Vicente Romano III described Villar as the “wealthiest” among the candidates.

Romano said to counter Villar’s strategy of investing on television advertisements, they had to boost Aquino’s media exposure by having him interviewed by provincial radio and television stations.

“Para malaman ng taong-bayan, andito ako sa probinsiya. I’m concerned about you. Malakas ang epekto nun, ay andito pala si Senador Aquino. Ang laking bagay noon pagpunta niya sa lahat probinsiya eh. Malaking tulong iyong kampanya sa radio, sa TV, sa mga provincial stations,” Romano said.

Lacierda said another issue that hurt Villar was his camp’s exposes on Aquino’s psychiatric condition which proved to be fabricated.

“Nakita ng tao how can a campaign of another candidate could get so low. It was below the belt, but it backfired,” he said, noting that Aquino’s survey rating even surged after the fake psychiatric reports were made public.

Among Estrada, Villar and administration candidate former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, “Team Noynoy” considered Villar as the toughest to deal with particularly during the part when Aquino’s lead over the NP bet went down just to 2 percent.

“Doon kami nangamba pero nga nag-shift kami ng strategy. Tapos at the same time that we are fixing our organization ay pagpasok ng fake report nagkaroon sila ng meltdown. Nawala yung discipline,” Lacierda said.

On the other hand, “Team Noynoy” believed that Teodoro was greatly affected by his association with President Arroyo who has negative approval rating.

“It’s a kiss of death. Seventy percent will not vote for GMA’s candidate,” Lacierda said.

Meanwhile, “Team Noynoy” said the decision of actress-host Kris Aquino-Yap to devote herself full-time to the campaign of her brother was a big help to Aquino’s bid.

“Ang laki ng naitulong ni Kris sa mga sorties noong sumama siya. Ang laki ng ginawang tulong ni Kris noong nagdesisyon siyang mag-fulltime,” Lacierda said, referring to the crowd-drawing power of Aquino’s sister owing to her celebrity status.

A lot of factors might have helped Aquino’s campaign, but the three agreed that his being the son of the late President Aquino and the late Senator Aquino helped him a lot in his bid for the presidency.

“Malaking contribution talaga yun. The legacy is very, very important. Pero through the campaign naipakita naman ni Senador Aquino na seryoso siya sa kampanya .Seryoso siya sa pangako niya na kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap. May malaking issue sa atin ang corruption eh,” Lacierda said in defense of Aquino who was criticized for allegedly capitalizing on the legacy of his parents and not on his own reputation alone.

Noynoy and Binay: to be proclaimed tomorrow!

MANILA, Philippines – Nearly a month after the elections, president-apparent Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and vice president-apparent Jejomar Binay will finally be proclaimed tomorrow.

The proclamation is a day behind the original schedule.

The delay resulted from the decision last night of the joint Senate-House canvassing committee to defer the tallying of votes from Lanao del Sur for today.

The committee, co-chaired by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Prospero Nograles, made the decision during a closed-door caucus in which it also turned down the request of Aquino’s lawyers that he be proclaimed ahead of the winning vice presidential candidate.

“We wait for Lanao del Sur tomorrow, so proclamation is on Wednesday,” Nograles said in a text message after the caucus.

“We will canvass Davao City tonight and Lanao del Sur tomorrow, and make the proclamation of the winning presidential and vice presidential candidates on Wednesday,” House Majority Leader Arthur Defensor told reporters.

Enrile said the canvassing committee could not disregard the votes from Lanao del Sur as this would disenfranchise the more than 350,000 who cast their ballots in the province.

“After we canvass Lanao del Sur tomorrow, we would have accounted for all provinces and cities and absentee votes…,” he said.

Before it held its caucus at 6 p.m., more than four hours into its session, the panel had canvassed three of the five certificates of canvass (COCs) that remained to be tallied.

These were the COCs from Bacolod City, Mt. Province and Eastern Samar.

After the Davao votes were tallied, Aquino padded his lead over former President Joseph Estrada to 5.6 million votes from 5.5 million last Thursday. He had 15,072,053 votes against Estrada’s 9,471,029.

The other presidential candidates and their votes are Sen. Manuel Villar Jr., 5,484,747; Gilberto Teodoro Jr., 4,065,524; Eddie Villanueva, 1,122,896; Sen. Richard Gordon, 498,414; Vetellano Acosta, 180,839; Nicanor Perlas, 54,256; Sen. Jamby Madrigal, 46,041; and JC de los Reyes, 44,031.

In the vice presidential race, Binay kept his lead with 14,501,371 votes against Sen. Manuel Roxas’ 13,889,416.

Sen. Loren Legarda remained in third place with 4,212,152; followed by Bayani Fernando, 1,014,846; Edu Manzano, 803,738; Perfecto Yasay Jr., 363,912; Jay Sonza, 63,914; and Dominador Chipeco, 52,275.

The canvassing panel took some time discussing what to do with the votes from Davao City and Lanao del Sur.

The Davao City canvassing board had transmitted both the electronic copy of its COC to the Congress server and the hard copy to the Senate but failed to send the required statement of votes by precinct.

Nograles demanded to see the statement of votes, but Commission on Elections (Comelec) executive director Jose Tolentino told him that the document was stored in a server kept at the Cabuyao, Laguna warehouse of Smartmatic, Comelec’s automation contractor.

He said the document consists of 10,000 pages and it would take some time to print it.

To cut the discussions short, Enrile asked Smartmatic chief Cesar Flores to look for the server in Cabuyao and start printing the statement of votes that Nograles wanted to see.

In the case of Lanao del Sur, the problem was that there were 28 precincts in eight towns where a special election would still be held.

Because of this, Comelec officials told the canvassing committee that their provincial board of canvassers could not yet send both the electronic and hard copies of its COC.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo said the votes in 32 towns had already been tallied and that the 28 precincts where a special election would still be held would affect only 12,000 registered voters.

In fact, he said the Comelec submitted a “canvass report” indicating the votes for president and vice president for purposes of the joint committee’s tally.

However, Enrile asked the Comelec to instruct its canvassing board in Lanao del Sur to submit both the electronic and hard copies of the provincial COC today.

“We cannot be held hostage by the special election (in 28 precincts). We have to finish this canvass this week. We have to use the coercive powers of this board if we have to,” he said.

Melo said the Comelec would comply with the request.

Before canvassing the three additional COCs, the committee delved again into the existence of a “national support center” run by Comelec and Smartmatic until May 18.

Flores told the committee that under Smartmatic’s contract with the Comelec, his company was required to set up a call center, which processed inquiries sent through text by their 48,000 technicians as well as the center’s responses to such messages.

He said the inquiries had been mostly about problems in the operation of the precinct optical count scan (PCOS) machines.

“Our call center did not receive any electoral data like election results,” he said.

“Your Honors, many people do not understand this, but it’s just a simple call center that processed calls. It was open to the public. In fact, we invited the media to the center,” Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. resented Larrazabal’s statement, telling him, “Yes, we don’t understand it, that’s why we are asking questions.”

It was Enrile’s turn again to cut the debates short. He asked Flores to open the call center’s records for examination “to erase suspicions that it was used for something else.”

“We have no problem with that. But we think there is no need for it. However, we will comply with the request,” Flores said.  

(By Jess Diaz  of Philstar News Service,; read more at Yahoo! Philippines News)

Noynoy is Not Yet Ready to Quit Smoking for Good Example

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine president-elect Benigno Aquino, seen here in April 2010, has rejected calls to quit smoking, saying his habit would help him deal with the severe pressures of his new position.

Noynoy, smoking

Noynoy, smoking

Aquino brushed aside calls from health groups that quitting smoking would set a good example for the country.

“I will be coming under a lot of pressure. Should I add another unnecessary pressure? Maybe that might even affect my decisions on what I should do,” Aquino told reporters.

The 50-year-old bachelor, said by former colleagues to smoke about one or two packets a day, conceded that quitting smoking would be good for his health and that he intended to kick the habit eventually.

But he said quitting now would add stress to his life and pointed out that, as long as he followed smoking regulations and did not bother anyone, he should be free to smoke.

“This is one of my few remaining freedoms,” he said.

The son of recently deceased democracy heroine Corazon Aquino won the May 10 national elections by a landslide after campaigning on pledges to wipe out corruption in the impoverished nation.

However, although the election commission released vote tallies showing him to have an insurmountable lead, the nation’s parliament has still to proclaim Aquino the winner officially.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, this will occur over the next couple of weeks, and Aquino will succeed President Gloria Arroyo on June 30. (read more on AFP and Yahoo! Philippines News)

Noynoy far from complacent despite survey lead

Sen. Noynoy Aquino

Sen. Noynoy Aquino

Presidential aspirant Senator Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III on Tuesday said he is still not confident of victory in the 2010 elections despite his impressive performance in presidential surveys.

Interviewed by reporters, Aquino said he is maintaining his vigilance to ensure that the next year’s automated polls – the first in Philippine history on a nationwide scale – would not be rigged.

Siyempre nakakatuwa yun pero dapat lalo tayong magpursigi at lalong magtiyaga na mapalaki natin kung pwede ang lamang na yan at marami na nga tayong istorya ng pandaraya sa eleksyon,” said Aquino.

(Of course I am pleased about the survey results, but we have to work harder to widen the lead because we’ve been hearing about stories of electoral fraud.)

Aquino placed first among other presidential aspirants in a survey conducted by Pulse Asia from October 22-30.