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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE 3) Forty people, including 11 children, were killed when a ferry capsized in a “freak accident” off Masbate province early Tuesday afternoon, the local police chief said.

The ferry, with 119 people listed on board, keeled over after being struck by a freak wind off the island of Masbate, according to Senior Superintendent Reuben Sindac, Masbate provincial police director.

"The Don Dexter Kathleen capsized due to a freak accident, it was hit by a high wind despite fair weather and calm waters," Sindac told local radio.

He said rescue services recovered 40 bodies -- 11 children and 29 adults -- while 76 survivors had been pulled from the water. Twenty-five of the adult casualties were women.

Sindac did not rule out the possibility that there may have been more people onboard the ferry.

It is a common practice for inter-island ferries to be overloaded with last-minute passengers boarding without being listed in the manifest.

Sindac said the boat’s skippers, Dexter Cathlyn, Dante Bombales, were taken in custody to determine their liability in the accident. The Philippine Coast Guard also placed boat owner Eduardo Yap under its custody.

Bombales was rescued, together with 75 others, by joint teams from the Coast Guard and police, plus other volunteers who rushed to the site.

M/B Don Dexter capsized five kilometres from shore in Dimasalang town after a squall hit it 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Police have yet to identify the victims.

Sindac said the ferry, which was bound for Bulan town in Sorsogon, was barely 20 minutes into its voyage when the incident occurred.

Coast Guard and police rescue teams were able to recover the manifest of the ferry, which showed it had 119 passengers.

There was no mention of how large a crew the ferry had.

The coastguard described the vessel as a large wooden-hulled outrigger, the main mode of transport between the 7,000 islands that make up the Southeast Asian archipelago.

Meanwhile, rescue teams have suspended rescue operations past 7 p.m. Tuesday and is expected to resume 7 a.m. Wednesday, Sindac said.

Sindac said they could not say the exact number of missing passengers because some could have boarded even if they were not included in the passenger manifest.

Sindac also said that the incident was an “accident” and such squalls were normal.

“The wind is very unusual but that’s normal here,” he said.

But police are not discounting that the ship could have been overloaded when it left shore, Sindac added.

Second Lieutenant Jeffrey Collado, the local coast guard chief, said four people were still missing despite fears that there may be more still unaccounted for.

Collado said the ferry was hit by a "freak whirlwind" that rose suddenly when the ferry left port.

Coast guard chief of staff Captain Efren Evangelista said the weather and waters were calm and that there was no reason for them to stop the vessel from setting sail.

"Of course, we will be conducting an investigation of this, but for now we will be concentrating on the search and rescue operations," he added.

The accident comes four months after the 23,000 ton inter-island ferry, Princess of the Stars, capsized during a typhoon off the central island of Sibuyan carrying 850 passengers and crew.

Only 57 passengers and crew survived the accident which was the worst maritime disaster in the Philippines for 20 years.

Mishaps involving ferries are common in this archipelago where many poor people rely on small, poorly-maintained vessels to travel between islands. With reports from Kristine Alave and Ephraim Aguilar, Philippine Daily Inquirer

At least 18 people died after a motor boat sank off the coast of Dimasalang town in Masbate province, Tuesday afternoon.

Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, Masbate police director, said M/B Cathlyn was traveling from Bulan, Sorsogon when it was hit by big waves off the coastal village of Magcaragit in Dimalasang town around 2 p.m.

Sindac said 14 people, including two children, have been confirmed dead in the mishap.

A separate report gathered by ABS-CBN Legaspi said at least 21 people were killed in the tragedy.

The report added that 18 bodies have been recovered by police and coast guard rescuers.

Sindac said a total of 74 passenger of the speed boat have been rescued.

He said the boat had 119 passengers when it left Bulan town.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Taiwanese drug maker hunted

THE Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency stepped up their hunt for a Taiwanese tagged as the operator of a shabu storage facility in Masbate City Wednesday.

“Mr. Chong” uses the alias Jeffrey Villegas in conducting business. PDEA chair Dionisio R. Santiago said. To cover up his illegal activity, the suspect buys manganese in Milagros, Masbate.

The Masbate City Police Station and the PDEA raided the suspected shabu storage facility where they seized assorted shabu paraphernalia and chemicals used in manufacturing the drugs.

Masbate police director Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore C. Sindac said unit number 1 of the Kimberly Apartment in Barangay Nursery, Masbate City is being rented by “Mr. Chong.”

He said the suspect was not around during the raid led by Supt. Jeffrey Fernandez.

Sindac said they are questioning the owner of the apartment, Pablo Almoradie, a government employee.

A hostage situation that lasted more than 10 hours in Masbate City ended on a bloody note with police snipers killing the hostage-taker Friday afternoon.

Radio dzXL reported that snipers from the police regional mobile group (RMG) fired at hostage-taker Roderick "Spike" Flores at 4:30 p.m., after negotiations proved futile.

The sniper fire was so intense that Flores' right hand was separated from his arm, the radio report said.

Nora Verano, the live-in partner whom Flores took hostage, was rushed to a hospital for trauma treatment.

Initial reports indicated Flores was seen carrying a grenade and a knife during the hostage drama, and appeared to be under the influence of illegal drugs.

The dzXL report said the intervention of local officials failed to convince Flores to release his hostage. - GMANews.TV

MANILA, Philippines - Anti-drug operatives on Wednesday are following the trail of a Taiwanese national believed to be behind an abandoned apartment housing suspected illegal substances in Masbate province.

Initial reports from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said that an undetermined quantity of “suspected assorted precursors" (main ingredients) of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) was discovered at Kimberly Apartment in Provincial Subdivision, Purok 4, Nursery village in Masbate City.

In a telephone interview with GMANews.TV, PDEA information officer Derrick Carreon said that apartment owner Pablo Alcantara reported to PDEA’s field units in Masbate province that he saw chemicals believed to be ingredients of shabu.

According to Carreon, Alcantara told authorities that a certain Jimmy Villegas rents the apartment.

But PDEA Region 5 director Major Joven Parcon suspected that Villegas only serves as a front or an associate of Taiwanese national identified only as Mr. Chiong.

Follow-up investigations are being conducted, PDEA said. - Sophia Dedace, GMANews.TV

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Erwin Tulfo - Guilty of Libel

Posted: 17 Sep 2008 08:50 AM CDT

Tabloid columnist, editors found guilty of libel

Ordered to pay over P1M in fines, damages

By Tetch Torres
First Posted 19:44:00 09/17/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has found columnist and former television anchor Erwin Tulfo guilty of libel for throwing “wild accusations” against a Customs official nine years ago.

In a 31-page decision, the high court second division also affirmed the libel conviction of Remate managing editor Susan Cambri, national editor Rey Salao, city editor Jocelyn Barlizo, and Philip Pichay.

They were ordered to pay jointly and severally lawyer Carlos “Ding” So of the Bureau of Customs-Intelligence Unit P1 million in moral damages for a series of articles that appeared in the tabloid Remate in 1999.

The high tribunal took note of Tulfo’s admission he wrote the damning stories against So without verifying the veracity of the information given him by his source.

“Journalists have a responsibility to report the truth, and in doing so must at least investigate their stories before publication, and be able to back up their stories with proof,” it said. “The rumors and gossips spread by unnamed sources are not truth.”

“Journalists are not storytellers or novelists who may spin tales out of fevered imaginings and pass them off as reality. There must be some foundation to their repots; these reports must be warranted by facts,” the high court added.

In his column “Direct Hit,” Tulfo accused So of massive corruption and extortion activities at the South Harbor where the Customs official allegedly amassed wealth.

In the articles that came out May 11, 12, 19 and June 25, 1999, Tulfo also theorized that So could be the richest government official and went on to say the lawyer was a disgrace to Iglesia ni Cristo.

So, in his libel complaint filed before the Pasay City Regional Trial Court, said his reputation has been tarnished because of Tulfo’s accusations.

On November 17, 2000, the lower court found Tulfo and his editors guilty of libel and sentenced them to a “prison correctional in its minimum and medium periods” or two years, four months and one day to four years and two months.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling.

But while it upheld the appellate court’s decision, the Supreme Court reduced the penalty to a fine of P6,000 for each count of libel from Tulfo and the five Remate officials, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. The award of actual damages and exemplary damages was deleted.

The high tribunal rejected Tulfo’s argument of privileged communication and his defense that the stories he wrote spoke of “fair commentaries on matters of public interest.”

The high court said Tulfo did not exercise good faith in exercising press freedom.

“This is no case of mere error or honest mistake, but a case of a journalist abdicating his responsibility to verify his story and instead misinforming the public,” it said.

SONA 2008 Webcast

PGMA’s SONA 2008 to center on subsidy, electricity, food production & infrastructure – Ermita President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) this year will center on government’s subsidies for the poor, electricity, food production and infrastructure. This was revealed this afternoon by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita who also said that the President will “gauge whether enough has been achieved” in the above-mentioned areas. Ermita -- who is also the Presidential Spokesman in concurrent capacity following the transfer of former Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio R. Bunye to the Monetary Board – said the President is now in possession of “accompanying documents” from agencies to help her craft her SONA 2008. “She will go over it, grade it (the set of documents)…” said Ermita. The hands-on President has been “going through this (SONA preparation) many times,” said Ermita, adding that yesterday, President Arroyo discussed the content for the latest SONA for over two hours. Ermita said the President will center on subsidies, electricity, food production and infrastructure, specifically “to what extent these have been achieved.” President Arroyo will also touch on the roll-on, roll-off (RORO) of the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SR-NH), and balancing the budget. There will be both “mid-range and long-range” items, said Ermita, adding that the President will also touch on highways, airports, seaports, plus the electrification of all barangays. The President’s Ten-Point Agenda are as follows: 1. The creation of six million jobs in six years via more opportunities given to entrepreneurs, tripling of the amount of loans for lending to small and medium enterprises, and the development of one to two million hectares of land for agricultural business; 2. The construction of new buildings, classrooms, provision of desks and chairs and books for students and scholarships to poor families; 3. The balancing of the budget; 4. The "decentralization" of progress around the nation through the use of transportation networks like the roll-on, roll-off and the digital infrastructure; 5. The provision of electricity and water supply to barangays nationwide; 6. The decongestion of Metro Manila by forming new cores of government and housing centers in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao; 7. The development of Clark and Subic as the best international service and logistic centers in the region; 8. The automation of the electoral process; 9. A just end to the peace process; and 10. A fair closure to the divisiveness among the Edsa 1, 2 and 3 forces.

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