Thursday, February 26, 2009

'Corrupt' officials in Negros town threatened with grenade | 02/27/2009 4:50 PM

A bomb threat made against the vice-mayor's office in Sibulan town, Negros Oriental sent employees and municipal officials into panic Thursday.

Police found a live explosive inside a bathroom near the office of Sibulan Vive mayor Manuel Diputado, reports said.

Members of the Explosive Ordnance Division (EOD) from the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Negros Oriental reportedly searched the area and found a rifle grenade with ground rice hull concealed in a sack in one of the building's bathrooms.

The grenade was brought to the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office to be discharged.

Police were alerted about the bomb threat after an employee from the city treasurer's office allegedly received a text message from an unknown sender reportedly saying "Public warning: To all Sibulanon, keep away to these premises; municipal court, police station. Bomb explodes anytime. We will punish corrupt and one-sided officials."

Employees were then immediately evacuated from the Municipal hall by members of the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT).

Municipal employees reportedly said that Diputado has never had any prior threats against him.

Sibulan Mayor Antonio Renacia, meanwhile, reportedly said that security will be tightened in local government offices. He also hoped that the incident would not affect the town's image.

Police have yet to identify the culprits. -- report from John DX Lapid, ABS-CBN Central Visayas

as of 02/27/2009 5:33 PM

Charges of attempted murder filed vs two foreign tourists

By CARINE M. ASUTILLA, ABS-CBN Central Visayas | 02/26/2009 10:43 PM

Charges of causing serious physical injuries and attempted murder were filed against two foreigners in Cebu City Thursday for allegedly attacking two Filipinos.

Lawyer Inocencio Dela Cerna, counsel for Hilario Escudero IV and Don Marck Delleva, filed the cases against Hola Iketau, a Tongan, and Jody Hunt from New Zealand at the Cebu City Prosecutors’ Office. Prosecutor II Raul Cristobal received the cases.

Escudero had bruises all over his body, a front tooth was broken, and his neck was fractured but Delleva suffered more. Aside from bruises, his jaw was busted. Delleva could no longer talk and chew food. He is scheduled to have surgery Friday at a private hospital. Delleva is a liaison officer of Cebu Medical Supplies and Equipment while Escudero is an aircraft officer.

Escudero, in his affidavit-complaint, said that he and Delleva together with one Eleanor Ubal were onboard a car going to uptown Cebu past midnight last Sunday. He said they happened to pass by F. Manalo St. in front of Eddie’s Hotel.

Escudero said that he noticed that cars in front of them were slowing down and there were about 20 foreigners who were pointing and cursing every passing vehicle. The foreigners were allegedly drinking beer in the middle of the street.

When Escudero came nearer, Hunt allegedly stood up and blocked them. Escudero said he blew the car’s horn so that Hunt would move aside but Hunt banged the hood of his car with his fist and the rest of the foreigners encircled the car.

Escudero said that he, Delleva and Ubal then went out of the car. Escudero said he then confronted Hunt. Hunt was allegedly about to smash a bottle of beer into Escudero but another foreigner allegedly stopped the New Zealander.

They reportedly exchanged heated words for a time, but later the foreigners allegedly started pushing the two victims. Hunt then reportedly slipped away from the crowd and went inside Lonestar KTV located just around the corner of Queens Road and called another group of foreigners, one of them reportedly was Iketau, who came running towards them.

Out of fear, Escudero said he told his companions to get in the car. Hunt allegedly was about to punch him but he managed to close the door of the car before it happened. He said he was able to get in the car. Delleva however reportedly did not have time to do so. Escudero said he heard Delleva cry out in pain. Iketau allegedly punched him purportedly dislocating Delleva’s jaw. Hunt then reportedly ran towards Delleva and rammed him.

Escudero said he went out of the car to help Delleva but Ikatau grabbed him and punched him several times in the head and face.

Escudero fell down and he tried to get up but Ikatau allegedly hit and kicked him again several times together with another foreigner he never knew. Iketau allegedly pulled him up again and hit him several times until he felt numbed. A whistle from a security guard of Eddie’s Hotel reportedly stopped the rumble. Reportedly, the foreigners then stopped hitting him and went directly to the KTV bar.

Ubal, the security guard and bystanders reportedly came to their rescue.

The victims said they then reported the incident to Fuente Police Office and went for a medical examination at Cebu City Medical Center.

Escudero said that he was traumatized by the incident. He said that it would cost him much to repair his front tooth and it would take time before he could recover from the pain he sustained from the incident.

Last Tuesday, Iketau and Hunt went to Fuente Police Station to have their statements taken on the incident.

Dela Cerna said that the two foreigners told police that they have been mauled by two Filipinos and sustained several bruises. He said that the two foreigners were trying to turn the story around. Dela Cerna said that police then contacted the alleged victims when they discovered that the two foreigners fit the description Escudero and Delleva told police.

When they were all in the police station, the two foreigners however reportedly asked for forgiveness. Dela Cerna said that the two were willing to pay for damages. When it was settled, the foreigners were not detained.

The following day, Dela Cerna again met up with the suspects. He said that he brought with him receipts of medicines and hospital bills reaching up to P500,000. When the foreigners learned of the amount, they reportedly told Dela Cerna that all they could offer was P50,000. When Dela Cerna saw that there was no hope for their clients to get enough financial support from them, he decided to press charges.

Layer Noel Archival, counsel of the two foreigners, said that the incident was just a mere traffic problem. He said that Iketau and Hunt were not the ones who started the fight and that Escudero and Delleva did.

He said that his clients were also victims because they sustained bruises from the incident but they were willing to settle the case and pay for damages even if they too were hurt in the rumble.

The Filipino complainants however asked them to each pay for two million pesos for damages.

Archival said that the foreigners could not afford it because they are mere tourists who have been here for months. Archival said that they are willing to face the charges than pay for the damages.

Dela Cerna said that they did not ask for that huge amount but were asking for a larger amount than what the foreigners have offered them. He said that Delleva already has more than P500,000 hospital bills excluding the expenses of his jaw operation today.

as of 02/26/2009 10:43 PM

Monday, February 23, 2009

PVAO in Cebu says to start interview of WWII vets

By CARINE M. ASUTILLA, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas | 02/23/2009 11:26 PM

The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) in Central Visayas said it is set to start conducting interviews with Filipino World War II (WWII) veterans Tuesday until Thursday to determine if they will qualify as beneficiaries of United States’ newly stimulus law which provided benefits to veterans.

The families of the veterans rushed to PVAO office here in Central Visayas Monday for queries regarding the interview.

Emmanuel Pabilona of PVAO-7 said that veterans from provinces in Region 7 must come into their office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday until Thursday for an interview. Pabilona said that the interviews will be conducted nationwide from regions 1-14, and that three representatives from United States Veterans Affairs (USVA) will be the ones to interview them.

PCAO said the veteran should come personally and can be accompanied by any member of the family. He said that the veterans should bring an identification card and any supporting documents to prove that he is a qualified veteran. The benefits were announced that it may be released within this year.

Pabilona said that qualification would be that he is a living WW II veteran, recognized guerrilla, a member of United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), and Philippine Scout enlisted prior to July 1, 1946. He said that there are a thousand veterans in Central Visayas and about 12,000 veterans in the entire country who are still alive. He said that veterans of WW II are expected to be 83 years old and above.

He also said that veterans from other provinces in Central Visayas who will not be able to come into their regional office for circumstances beyond their control can go to Philippine Veterans Field Office.

Fred Cabalda was one who came to PVAO-7 to inquire on the said benefit. His father-in-law, Gregorio Isok is a veteran of WW II and is already 90 years old.

Cabalda said that the amount that will be given to his father-in-law will be enough for his medication. Isok is suffering from ailments brought by old age. Cabalda said that the family will be able to get back their things, which were pawned for Isok’s medicines.

Paulino Luniza, former president and now consultant of the Sons and Daughters of Veterans of World War II, also came to PVAO with his mother Pascuala. Luniza said that their group will try to come up with a request for the government of the United States to allow living spouses of veterans who already died to still avail of the benefits. Luniza said that the amount would be of great help to families of the veterans especially to their spouses who are living but suffering from ailments.

Pabilona said however that the spouses can only claim the benefit if the qualified veteran died after having been interviewed. Philippine-based veterans who will qualify will each receive $9,000 while US-based veterans will each receive $15,000.

Pabilona said that aside from the US benefits, the PVAO has been providing assistance to the veterans and their families such as educational insurance, hospitalization, old-age pension for the veteran and his spouse, disability assistance, death and burial assistance among others. He said that the only benefit that has not yet been given to them is the non-service-connected disability pension that has already been approved by the Philippine government in 1994 which no funding has been released yet however.

as of 02/23/2009 11:26 PM

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ABS-CBN Cebu starts own backyard gardening

By CARINE M. ASUTILLA, ABS-CBN Central Visayas | 02/18/2009 11:13 PM

Employees, news and entertainment personalities participated in the clean up of the vacant lot at the back of ABS-CBN Complex in Mandaue City and its conversion into garden plots.

About 50 plots were cultivated and were planted with eggplants, tomatoes, and pechay, while lemon grass were planted at the slope area.

ABS-CBN Cebu Area Manager Tata Cinco-Sy said that the gardening activity is just one of the station's projects lined-up this year.

Sy said that creating a garden at their own backyard is one way of surviving from the global economic crisis. She said that putting up a vegetable garden can provide families with food and can also become a means to generate income.

Sy said that as a broadcasting station, ABS-CBN Cebu is initiating empowering projects to encourage viewers to do the same.

"Part of our thrust this year is going beyond, beyond broadcasting, beyond traditional public service. This is next-level broadcasting, next-level public service," said Sy.

Leo Lastimosa , DyAB station manager, said they are encouraging viewers and listeners of their stations to use their idle lots and start the same gardening project. He said that local government units can even initiate it for its residents. LGUs can provide seedlings for their constituents to grow.

"If the entire community will work together, we can get through this crisis, victorious," said Lastimosa.

The Provincial Agriculture Office has valued the project of ABS-CBN Cebu. The Cebu Provincial Capitol immediately sent bags of organic fertilizers to the station, while 18 members of the Cebu Federation of Farmers organized a get-together with the employees of ABS-CBN Cebu for basic gardening lectures.

as of 02/18/2009 11:13 PM

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Soldiers, cops hit by closure of Legacy pre-need firms

By CARINE M. ASUTILLA, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas | 02/18/2009 1:44 AM

Members of Armed Forces and Police Savings and Loans Association Incorporated (AFPSLAI) are among the victims of the closure of Legacy Group of Companies.

About a thousand of them in Central Visayas were each able to purchase an educational plan from Scholarship Plans Philippines Incorporated, a pre-need company and member of Legacy group.

Rofel Vivar, AFPSLAI branch manager in Central Visayas, said that in 1980’s AFPSLAI offered its members help to have an educational program for their children to offset education which has become expensive.

She said that they allowed their members to avail of loans loan and purchase educational plans and the members will pay through salary deduction.

Nicanora Torreon, wife of a Coast Guard officer in Bohol, came to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to file her complaint against SPPI. Nicanora purchased two educational plans for their children. Nicanora’s husband Roberto, paid fully the two educational plans in 2004 through salary deduction from AFPSLAI.

She said that there was no definite time as to the maturity of the plans. She said that as soon as the child to whom the educational plan is intended enter college, you can readily use the said plan as long as it was fully paid.

Nicanora said that in 2006 she was supposed to use the plan for her daughter in nursing. She then went to Manila to ask for the certificate of full payment and to avail on the said educational plan but SPPI only told her that they will mail the certificate of full payment and they will call her on the application of the said plan.

But after three years, she said SPPI did not send any certificate of full payment and most of all did not call for a confirmation if they can use the said plan.

Nicanora’s son who also has an educational plan in SPPI is now on his second year of college in University of Cebu - Mambaling for the course of Marine Engineering. He too was not able to use the educational plan purchased for P50,000.

Merle Cunanan, SEC regional director, meanwhile checked on the documents of Nicanora. She said that the case of Nicanora is the same with other pre-need companies under Legacy. She also said that AFPSLAI was able to remit to SPPI all the salary deductions it made form Nicanora’s husband because of the accounting both the AFPSLAI and the SPPI gave her.
Vivar is now calling on all AFPSLAI members who were able to purchase an educational plan from SPPI to come into their office. Vivar said that AFPSLAI is preparing a list of their members they will submit to SEC to guide the regulatory agency on assistance that could be provided them.

as of 02/18/2009 1:44 AM

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pryce planholders mixed regarding ‘in kind’ return of plans

By CARINE M. ASUTILLA, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas | 02/12/2009 11:21 PM

A dentist was the first complainant against Pryce Plans Incorporated in Cebu. Dr. Gabriel Dionices Albina came to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Wednesday morning to follow-up on his complaint against Pryce Plans.

Before reports came out earlier this week, during a Senate hearing on the Legacy Group of Companies on the “in-kind” payments from pension and educational plans of pre-need company Pryce Plans Incorporated, Albina has already filed his complaint against the company.

Albina submitted his complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission last October 2006, a few days after his pension plan worth P50,000 reached its maturity date. Albina was supposed to claim his pension but the company refused to give out his pension and asked him to accept it “in kind”.

LPG, meds and memorial lot
The company offered him Pryce gas, Pryce medicines, and a memorial garden lot in Cagayan De Oro City.

Albina said that he did not accept the offer and instead filed a complaint against the company to SEC-7.

“The LPG tank is worth P1,800 including the gas tank, take it or leave it. What would I do with so many LPG tanks?” said Albina.

After filing a complaint against Pryce Plans, he said he decided to terminate the pension plans of his mother Constancia and brother Ian.

‘Chose to answer to planholders’
The three then later on received a letter from the head office of the pre-need company. The letter was signed by Ruperto Marasigan Jr., the company’s assistant vice president and audit supervisor.

The letter asked the Albina to be patient and understand their situation. The company admitted that they are suffering from a slow cash flow.

Marasigan said that they did not renew the license of Pryce Plans and they are just merely a servicing company now. He said that when it’s license was not renewed, the company experienced decline of cash flow and diminution of resources. He said that the pre-need company is suffering from a crisis because of the fall of two major players of the pre-need industry, CAP and Pacific Plans. He said that they are one of those affected by the crisis.

Marasigan further said that some of the pre-need companies were already filing legal actions such as petitions for corporate rehabilitation to escape from liabilities and obligations to plan holders. But Pryce Plans, Marasigan said, chose not to file suit but instead try to answer to their planholders.

Albina said that one way of answering to its planholders is the conversion of their plans to “in kind”.

Albina bought the plan last 1996 for P30,000. He said he paid it in full in 2001. He was supposed to claim his P50,000 pension plan last 2006. When his mother and brother decided to terminate their pension plans, they were supposed to receive P23,655 each.

Albina was advised by SEC to find a lawyer to assist him in filing a possible civil case against the company.

The office of Pryce Plans is located at room 301 in Cebu Holdings Center in Cebu Business Park.

ABS-CBN News tried to get the side of Pryce Plans but its personnel ordered the security guard at the lobby in their building not to let anyone come up to their office aside from its planholders.

ABS-CBN News was able to meet some planholders however who were there to check the status of their plans.

‘Cash only’
Former president of the National Food Authority employees’ union in Central Visayas, Jaime Ang, was among the plan holders. He had two educational plans he said he bought in 1994 and fully paid for P400,000 last 2000. He said the said plans were intended for his nephews and are supposed to reach maturity date on 2012.

But after hearing reports against Pryce Plans, Ang said he wants to terminate his educational plans. He said that he will only accept cash and not any “in kind”.

Ang said he is questioning the government, particularly SEC, for not being able to take a look at the situation of the pre-need company before.

“The government has the obligation to protect us - the planholders. They should have monitored the pre-need companies, which are all registered under the Security and Exchange Commission,” said Ang.

If Ang will refuse to receive LPG, medicine or a memorial lot, businessman Carlito Diaz however will settle for it.

Diaz has an investment of P1,000,000 in Pryce Plans. He said he wants it terminated and be converted to LPG. Diaz said he finds it as a business opportunity.
Merle Cunanan, SEC-7 director, meanwhile said that all their office can do is to receive complaints from the planholders and investors. She said that the head office has the department that will look into the matter. She said further that pre-need companies have a trust fund that will refund the planholders.

as of 02/12/2009 11:21 PM

Planholders up in arms on Lapu-Lapu resthouse of Legacy owner

By CARINE M. ASUTILLA, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas | 02/13/2009 12:58 AM

Legacy planholders and investors have reacted negatively on reports of a huge resthouse that Legacy owner Celso Delos Angeles owns.

The two-storey house is located at Barangay Punta EngaƱo in Lapu-Lapu City. The resthouse is located atop a cliff near the seashore.

The planholders and investors of Legacy think that their money was used to buy the property.

“Where else did our money go? It should be sold right away so that we can get our money back, or else we will all chop the house down and divide it among ourselves,” said Ben Tero, a planholder.

“I was shocked, he has a house that big and yet he can’t pay us back?” said Belen Allego, an investor who lives a few houses away from Delos Angeles’ rest house, he only knew that they were neighbors when she saw it on TV.

The house and lot was owned previously by a Cebuano businessman. Delos Angeles reportedly bought it from them sometime in 2002. Delos Angeles founded Legacy in 1997.

Elena Talinting said she was the original owner of the lot. She said that the businessman bought it from them in 1980’s. The lot is estimated to be 1,900 square meters.

Aside from the two-storey house which was made of wood with furniture also made out of wood, Delos Angeles also has a speed boat on standby and a swimming pool.

He has three caretakers to maintain the rest house. One caretaker who identified himself only as Jaime said that Delos Angeles seldom visits the house. He said that the Legacy Group owner comes with his family only twice a year at most. But some of Delos Angeles friends, he said, would come by on weekends.

Residents said that they have seen actresses like Maui Taylor and Katya Santos spend overnight stays at the rest house. They also said that Manny Pacquiao also came by at the rest house.

Complaints continue
Planholders of pre-need companies under the Legacy Group of Companies meanwhile continue to file complaints at the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Central Visayas.

SEC has earlier reminded complainants that planholders and investors have different approaches in filing charges against the company.

Contained in SEC Office Order No. 36 issued in January 30 to all SEC extension offices are guidelines approved by the Commission en banc that should be followed in filing complaints against the eleven pre-need companies under the Legacy Group of Companies.

For pre-need planholders, they have to fill up the Pro-Forma Complaint to be provided by the SEC office. There is a separate Pro-Forma Complaint for planholders and for investors.

The planholder should submit a photocopy of Certificate of Full Payment and other supporting documents. SEC said there is no filing fee.

For investors however, aside from filling in the Pro-Forma Complaint intended for the investors, they also have to pay a P510 filing fee.

SEC said that the investors’ complaints will only serve as additional evidence for the charges of violation of Securities Regulation Code to be filed against Legacy. It said that an investor can file a separate civil case for recovery of sum of money and or syndicated estafa, if they want to.

SEC had also said earlier that the filing of complaints will only be until March 31. The complainants are advised to monitor SEC through their website, It said complainants with questions can call the head office in Manila at (02) 584-6058 or (02) 584-6337.

as of 02/13/2009 12:58 AM

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

SEC to receive complaints in Cebu vs Legacy only till March 31

By CARINE M. ASUTILLA, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas | 02/11/2009 1:45 AM

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Central Visayas said it will be accepting complaints from investors and planholders of pre-need companies under the Legacy Group of Companies only until March 31.

Merle Cunanan, Director of SEC-7 said that since January 7, their office has received 120 complaints against Legacy group. Most of the complaints were addressed to their pre-need companies.

Cunanan said that there is still no assurance that these complainants will get their claims. She said that the planholders and investors still have to file their complaints so that an investigation will be conducted.

“Pre-need companies have a contract and plan holders are protected by a trust fund, which should answer the plan holders,” said Cunanan.

According to SEC Information desk, to file a complaint against any pre-need companies under Legacy, a complaint form should be signed by the complainant, indicating information about his or her deposits or investments to any plans offered by the pre-need companies.

The complainant is also asked to provide documents that will support ones claim like bouncing checks issued by the pre-need companies. He or she should also submit certificate of full payment or official receipts as proof that the complainant has paid his or her plans.

Amorlina Fabroa was among the planholders of Legacy. Fabroa, who hails from Campo Guadalupe in Carcar City, came early to the SEC office to file her complaint against Legacy.

Fabroa has a scholarship plan and a pension plan with Legacy Consolidated Plans Incorporated. He applied for the pension plan last 2007 and had fully paid the plan with P88,176.

The plan is supposed to mature on 2016. Fabroa said she expected to receive P100,000 by that time. She had also put more than P16,000 for a scholarship plan.

Benjamine Tero from Barangay Camputhaw in Cebu City had also applied for the pension plan.

He said he paid P565 every month for five years. The plan was supposed to reach its maturity date this year.

Tero said that the plan he opened last 1999 was intended for his wife Antonia.

Tero said that after he had fully paid the amount for five years, he waited for another five years for it to mature. He was expecting that his wife could receive her pension this year.

“I will file a case. I have been paying for it for five years and waited for another five years only for nothing,” said Tero.

Tero’s neighbor, Thelma Ruiz, meanwhile also applied for a pension plan at Legacy Consolidated Plans Incorporated along with Tero. Ruiz said that it was her children who shouldered the monthly payments for the pension plan.

as of 02/11/2009 1:46 AM

Cebu groups say recent case highlights need for Anti-Torture bill

By CARINE M. ASUTILLA, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas | 02/11/2009 2:18 AM

The Central Visayas chapter of human rights group Karapatan said its is challenging the House of Representatives to pass the House Bill 3259 or the Anti-Torture Bill after an alleged communist rebel was tortured while in the hands of the military and police.

Ramon Patriarca, who security forces allege is the taxation and finance officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in Central Visayas, was reported to have suffered bruises and was traumatized in the hands of the military and police.

Last Monday, Patriarca during the hearing of a petition for writ of amparo showed the court all his bruises.

Patriarca said that he got them during the tactical interrogation that the police and military conducted four days since his arrest at Barangay Casili in Consolacion town in Cebu province last February 5.

Presiding Judge Geraldine Faith Econg of Cebu City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 9 granted the petition for writ of amparo filed by the camp of Patriarca against Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) and Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Central Command.

Patriarca was then placed under the custody of the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the Witness Protection Program.

State prosecutor Graeme June Elmido said that Patriarca will be watched over by DOJ Marshals. The police and military will only be there to augment, he said.

Elmido said that Patriarca can be visited by his lawyer and family at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Danao City.

Like in Martial Law
Dennis Abarrientos, Karapatan secretary general, said that the hearing on the petition of writ of amparo only showed that the act of torturing an arrestee is still being practiced by the police and military as if the Martial Law era is not yet over.

Abarrientos said that the case should serve as an eye-opener for lawmakers to act immediately on the Anti-Torture Bill.

Arman Perez, Bayan Muna secretary general, said that several Cebu representatives to Congress’s lower chamber are co-authors of the said bill. Perez mentioned 6th district Rep. Nerrisa Soon-Ruiz, 2nd district Pablo Garcia and 3rd district Rep Pablo John Garcia.

Perez said they are appealing to their representatives to urgently push for the passage of the bill.

Perez said that the bill ahs already passed the House Human Rights Committee and has been submitted to the plenary for discussion.

Perez said that those who practice torture would be punished if the bill will be enacted.

Threat of similar treatment?
Meanwhile, colleagues of lawyer Poch Sinco in Community Empowerment Resource Network Inc. (CERNET) expressed their fear for the life of Sinco.

Tiray Alcaseba said that Patriarca mentioned in the court hearing last Monday that some military and police personnel mentioned that they would also want Sinco to undergo the same torture that Patriarca underwent.

Patriarca told the court that he was punched several times, was made to wear a diaper, and was soaked in water.

Alcaseba said that as much as they are condemning what happened to Patriarca, they are also condemning the act and the attitude of the police and military who are supposed to be defenders of human rights and protectors of the people.

as of 02/11/2009 2:18 AM

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Govt agencies say prices of basic commodities in Cebu are stable

By CARINE M. ASUTILLA, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas | 02/06/2009 2:01 AM

The latest price monitoring on basic commodities by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Cebu Province Office (CPO) last February 2 showed that both wet markets and supermarkets have maintained their prices for the past weeks.

Zaide Bati-on, DTI-CPO's trade and industry regulatory division chief, said that stores did not even exceed the suggested retail prices (SRP) of the commodities.

“Crisis here in Cebu (in terms of prices of basic commodities) is not yet felt,” said Bati-on.

Bati-on said that based on their record, if prices of canned goods, milk products, and other primary goods from last week will be compared to this week, there was no movement of prices.

Canned sardines with an SRP of P12.87 could be bought in wet markets for P12.40 and P12.30 in supermarket groceries.

Instant noodles with SRP of P6.65 is priced P6.25 in wet markets and P6.50 in supermarket groceries. Detergent soaps with retail price of P20.50 can be bought in supermarkets at P20.45 and P20.50 at wet markets.

Among the basic necessities and prime commodities listed, only the price of coffee refill in wet markets and supermarkets are higher than its SRP. Coffee’s SRP is P14.60 but is sold at P15.00 and P14.65.

No price increases in medicines
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Food and Drugs of Department of Health (DOH) in Region 7 said that there is also no alarming increase in prices of 39 essential medicines.

Dr. Angelita Salarda, chief of the DOH- 7 health and regulation division, said that they are waiting for the cheaper medicines bill to take effect so that the manufacturer’s selling price of medicines will be implemented.

Salarda said that they have conducted their monitoring of drug prices last week and have submitted reports to their head office in Manila.

No LPG scarcity - DOE
The Department of Energy Visayas office also clarified that there is no scarcity of supply of LPG in regions 6, 7, and 8.

Saul Gonzales, DOE Visayas Energy Industry Management chief, said that unlike reports coming from Manila on shortage of liquefied petroleum gas or LPG, their office has not received reports from dealers in the Visayas regarding shortage of supply.

Gonzales said that they have asked DTI also to check the supply of LPG among outlets. The reports have reportedly been submitted to Manila.

Supply of LPG is not a problem at all, Gonzales said, but there is an increasing trend in LPG prices. They have monitored five LPG suppliers in the three regions; Gasul, Shellane, Petronas, Prycegas, and Caltex.

Their record showed that the prices of 11-kilogram LPG tank from January up to early this February had gone up by P25-P79.

Gasul, which used to be at P469 is now priced at P544. Shellane was at P550, now it’s at P575. Petronas from P470 is now at P545. Prycegas is now at P554 from P485 while Caltex is also priced at P544 from P468.

Gonzales assured that if the prices of LPG in certain outlets will increase toan unreasonable price, DOE will investigate it. He said that the prices and supply will be closely monitored with their weekly inspection on suppliers.

as of 02/06/2009 2:18 AM

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Workers of besieged company seek aid from Mandaue mayor

By CARINE M. ASUTILLA, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas | 02/04/2009 11:00 PM

More than two hundred workers who are still currently employed at Giardini Del Sole stormed Mandaue City Hall Tuesday morning to seek the intervention of Mayor Jonas Cortes in solving the labor issue in the furniture factory

Workers who have been laid off have been staging a strike for the past few days outside the factory.

The workers who sought the Mayor’s action were led by the owner of the furniture export company himself, Giovanni Boschi.

Boschi asked Cortes to stop the laid-off workers from picketing. Workers of the said company told Boschi that the strikers threatened to hurt them if they come to work.

“They threatened us that they will hurt us if we insist to go to work,” said Jilbert Camor. Camor has been working in lamination for three years in Giardini.

Cortes visited the picket line outside the factory of the furniture export company and urged the laid-off workers to calm down. He then invited the laid-off workers for a meeting with management of the furniture company Tuesday afternoon.

Cortes said that the laid-off workers could benefit from the emergency employment program of the Department of Labor and Employment and the local government unit.

“I want them to avail on the emergency employment but I will still have to check the guidelines from the Department of Labor,” said Cortes.

Cortes then went back to Mandaue City session hall where the workers of Giardini and Boschi were waiting for him. Cortes then told Boschi that the leaders of the union who also led the picket agreed to sit down with them.

“I really hope that everything will be okay. He (Cortes) promised to solve the problem, I just hope they (laid-off workers) will listen to him,” said Boschi.

Cortes then advised the workers still employed to go back to work. Cortes then ordered that the workers be transported with the city’s three buses back to the factory in Barangay Alang-Alang.

But the striking laid off workers did not allow the bus to come 10 meters near the factory’s gate. They also did not allow the workers to get off the bus and enter the factory premises.

An employee of the Mayor’s office asked the strikers to let the employed workers get in. The strikers then allowed only the supervisors of the company to get inside but told the city hall employee that the employed workers can only go back to work if there will be a negotiation that will yield a win-win solution.

Primitivo Guinoo, Nagkahiusang Pundok sa mga Mamumuo sa Giardini president, said that they are also hoping that with the intervention of Cortes, their request for work rotation and other benefits will be granted.

“We are hoping that this intervention will not fail. NCMB’s [National Conciliation Mediation Board] intervention did result a favorable solution for us,” said Guinoo.

Giardini already released a list of laid-off workers to receive a separation pay. Out of the 240 laid-off workers, 29 of them were listed last January 3. But these workers said they would not claim their separation pay until the company management adds an additional amount worth one-month salary.

Margie Cabelin, one of those listed for the separation pay, said that the management told them that the separation pay will be worth 13-days-pay times the number of years of service. She said that the amount is barely enough.

Last Tuesday, Boschi fearlessly told TV Patrol Central Visayas that the laid off workers were paid by Mandaue Foam to protest against him. He said that the company wants his business to go down because they are in close competition.

Mandaue Foam however released an official statement that they have nothing to do with the crisis Giardini is going through. The management said that they have no connection with Giardini.

Boschi later on in an interview said that he did not mention anything about Mandaue Foam.

as of 02/04/2009 11:00 PM

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Worker trains in Japan but returns with Japanese encephalitis

By CARINE M. ASUTILLA, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas | 02/03/2009 10:33 PM

The Region 7 office of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it would form a team to investigate the case of a Filipino worker who went to Japan for training and returned to Lapu-Lapu City with Japanese encephalitis.

Marina Dungog, 48 years old from Barangay Looc in Lapu-Lapu City, is a factory worker in Sun-Pleats which is a garments factory based in Japan and is operating its branch here in the country inside Mactan Economic Zone (MEZ).

Marina was reportedly sent to Japan for training supposedly together with five other factory workers. The training was supposed to last for three months but Marina was sent home by the company last January 29 after she reportedly collapsed from work five days before she arrived in Cebu.

DOLE in Central Visayas said that they have to check if the company sent Marina for work or for training. The family said that Marina was sent there for work as she received the same salary from her work in Cebu.

Even Sun-Pleats, according to Margie Saya-ang who is a sister of Marina, confirmed that the workers are sent there for work.

In their meeting with DOLE-7 Regional Director Elias Cayanong, he advised the family to gather all the documents related to Marina’s work and deployment abroad.

Saya-ang said however that all of Marina’s documents were in the hands of the company. She said that she tried to ask for the necessary documents like Marina’s passport but the company only told her that it belonged to them since the company paid for it. The company also reportedly said that the passport will only be given to them if it expires.

Cayanong said that all he knows about the incident is based on media reports. He said that he needs evidence and has to hear the side of the company as well. DOLE said that they are willing to help the Marina and her family to get the benefits due to them.

Marina’s insurance of P45,000 was reportedly already depleted within a day of her medication at Chong Hua Hospital. The company reportedly handed over P50,000 to the family of Marina last Monday. The next financial assistance is expected to be given after the result of the company’s investigation of the incident in Japan.

The family said it worries for the hospitalization of Marina. They said her medicines would amount to more than P10,000 a day.

Doctors of Marina explained that Japanese encephalitis attacks a person’s nervous system. The disease can cause mental retardation that leads to coma. Marina is currently at the Intensive Critical Care Unit of the private hospital.

as of 02/03/2009 10:33 PM

Laid off furniture workers launch ‘strike’ in Mandaue City

By CARINE M. ASUTILLA, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas | 02/03/2009 11:25 PM

Around 120 laid-off workers of Giardini Del Sole staged a 'strike’ in front of their factory in Alang-Alang in Mandaue City Monday morning.

The laid-off workers called Giovanni Boschi, the owner of Giardini, as a liar after the company reportedly refused to grant an agreement for work rotation. The workers also accused the company of union busting since most of the laid-off workers were members of their union.

Eulito Fin Jr., Vice-President of Nagkahiusang Pundok sa mga Mamumuo sa Giardini (NPMG), said that there were 250 workers who were retrenched last January 5. He said the company’s management let the workers take a vacation last December 5 and told them to come back a month after. When they did, he said they were told that they have just lost their jobs.

The management reportedly explained to the workers that the company has not received any orders of furniture abroad for two months as an effect of the global financial crisis.

Boschi also clarified that the company laid-off only 240 workers instead of the previous reports of 250 workers. Boschi said they have 480 workers and he retained 240 of them.

Boschi came out from the factory and tried to stop the strike. He said that the company had to stop work since the workers who were not laid-off could no longer come inside because of fear that they might be attacked by the striking employees.

When tension grew, Boschi climbed up to the guard house by the gate of the factory. Using a megaphone, Boschi threatened the group that they will be sent to jail for having no permit in launching the rally.

In an interview with TV Patrol Central Visayas, the company owner said that he will ask the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the striking workers. He said he believe that the workers were paid by a competing company to bring his company down.

“They paid these people, they want to kill my company. This is the biggest factory in Cebu that is still open. The others are closed,” said Boschi.

Boschi also expressed his surprise at the protest action. He said that he has given the workers their benefits, which he said include the P5,000 financial assistance for them.

“I said to them that I will give the P5,000 in 30 days but I gave it in 19 days,” said Boschi.

Earlier the company promised that they will give the workers their separation pay starting this month. The company is also working on their one sack of rice subsidy.

Police from Mandaue City arrived to check the protest action. The company said it asked for their presence to disperse the strikers.

The group of striking workers however showed the police their notice to strike. The police only advised them to hold their strike meters away from the entrance of the factory and to let the other workers come in and proceed with work inside.

When the strikers started to calm down, Joseph LLanto who is a conciliator of National Conciliation and Mediation Board came. He said that situation with the protest action is normal since the workers were not disturbing the public by shouting out loud. He said that the workers were just expressing their disappointment with the company.

Llanto said that they will see to it that the two parties will meet and come up with an agreement.

Llanto also said that Giardini has been able to comply with their first agreement, which was to give the laid-off workers their financial assistance. With reports from Junrey Nadela, ABS-CBN Cebu

as of 02/03/2009 11:25 PM

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Thousands flock to job fairs in Cebu

By CARINE M. ASUTILLA, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas | 02/01/2009 10:47 PM

Two overseas and local jobs fair were initiated in Cebu by local government units (LGUs) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and in cooperation with ABS-CBN Cebu.

The job fairs were launched mainly to assist those who have lost their jobs as an effect of the global crisis.

About five thousand applicants came to Lilo-an Gym and Lapu-Lapu City Hall for the job fairs while 95 local and overseas employers participated.

The applicants were graduates of training and vocational courses but most of them recently lost their jobs after several export companies decided to close down.

For local jobs, most of the applicants lined up for manpower agencies looking for production workers, and other job vacancies that would accept non-college level applicants.

For overseas, jobs as welders, drivers and technicians in Saudi Arabia and Abu-Dhabi were a hit.

During the jobs fair, DOLE launched their service caravan. Laid-off workers were given priority in their legal assistance and emergency employment services. DOLE handed over to LGU's P300,000 as financial assistance for the emergency employment of the displaced workers.

"The emergency employment is only for those who were retrenched from companies affected by the global financial crisis, the LGUs will list all these employees based on residence," said Director Elias Cayanong, DOLE-7.

Technical Education Skills Development Authority or TESDA meanwhile conducted a livelihood orientation to the retrenched workers.

Displaced workers from Mactan Export Processing Zone Authority or MEPZA like Pablo and Irene, took the orientation for a chance to work abroad.

“Maybe my family would be better off if I will work abroad,” said Pablo Teves, a former production worker in a textile factory.

“It’s very hard when you’re unemployed, so I grab at any opportunity,” said Irene Bacoli, a contractual factory worker in a company that manufactures electrical parts.

DOLE said 42 companies all over Central Visayas have closed down because of the crisis while almost two thousand workers have lost their jobs.

as of 02/02/2009 1:20 AM