Latest News Headlines from in and around the Philippines

News Headlines in and around the Philippines

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  • Fire hits branch of Davao City mall destroyed last December
    Published @ 12:20 p.m., Sept. 16, 2018 | Updated @ 11:45 p.m., Sept. 16, 2018 DAVAO CITY --- A branch of the New City Commercial Center (NCCC) Mall in Buhangin District here was damaged by fire early on Sunday, only a day after its formal opening with much fanfare and nearly nine months after its mall in the village of Ma-a was razed by what could be the city's deadliest fire, killing 38 people. The mall has been operating since July but its formal opening was held just last Saturday. Authorities were investigating what caused the fire that gutted a portion of the cinema section on the fourth level of the mall past midnight, according to Fire Chief Insp. Virnalita Silagan, Davao...

    Keep on reading: Fire hits branch of Davao City mall destroyed last December
  • Global Markets: World stocks fall after China, US services data; gold rebounds
    NEW YORK - A global stock index dipped on Monday after data showed weak service sector growth in China and the United States, while gold edged up to its highest in nearly three weeks.
  • BlackBerry hires new head for loss-making devices business
    TORONTO - Struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd has hired a former Sony Ericsson executive to head its loss-making devices business, a job needing a heavy dose of salesmanship to win back companies and consumers lured away by larger rivals.
  • All about diet myths

    Happy Healthy New Year! Give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve managed to maintain your weight during the holidays. Now don’t fret if you’ve gained a few pounds from the endless parties you’ve attended. It’s not the end of the world. Besides, you have an entire year to adapt a healthier lifestyle and achieve a healthy weight range this 2014.

    There are many ways to lose weight. However, there are also a number of diets and practices that could be detrimental to your health. Not all diets are beneficial even if they are effective in making you lose weight.

    Here are some myths that need to be busted once and for all:

    The after six diet has been popular since I was a child. This could work if you sleep early. It is best not to eat 3 to 4 hours before bedtime to give enough time for your body to effectively digest food while you are still awake. However, if you sleep late at night and have all your meals and snacks before 6 pm, you might get hungry late at night and mindlessly snack on high caloric food which could make you gain weight.  Distribute your calories evenly throughout the day. If you don’t sleep before 10 p.m. then you should eat dinner a little later than 6 p.m.  to avoid hunger pangs and late night snacking on unhealthy food choices.

    Avoiding carbohydrates particularly rice is a common practice. Why put the blame on rice? Who ate too much rice anyway? Restricting or totally eliminating carbohydrates from your diet will make you initially lose weight rapidly because your body will start to break down glycogen stores (carbohydrates stored in muscles and liver) to be utilized as energy. This promotes water weight loss which is easily regained. Glucose from carbohydrates is the primary source of energy for the brain and body. Depletion will naturally cause you to crave for sweets which will end in a cycle of deprivation and indulgence. This will surely make you regain all the weight you’ve initially lost and even more.

    Consuming chili peppers will boost your metabolism and make you lose weight. Studies have shown that hot chilies can temporarily increase metabolic rate but not enough to make one lose weight. If you consume more calories than your body requires coupled with physical inactivity despite consuming large amounts of chili peppers, weight gain is inevitable.

    The blood type diet has been recently gaining popularity. This diet could lead to weight loss due to the restriction of some food groups and decreased caloric intake. However, this could lead to nutrient deficiencies and this eating lifestyle is not sustainable. Any diet that is not well-balanced is not healthy. There are no scientific studies that show a correlation between a person’s blood type and weight loss.

    Juicing or juice fast is the in thing nowadays. I’ve encountered countless queries about this in my practice as a Dietitian Consultant. Juicing can make you lose weight but it is not for everyone. People with chronic illnesses such as diabetes should avoid this. Thorough assessment by a registered nutritionist-dietitian will help you avoid health risks. It is also important to plan a healthful and sustainable way of eating to help you achieve your health goals after undergoing the juice fast. Eating fruits, vegetables and drinking smoothies made from fresh produce everyday will provide your body vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients or antioxidants and dietary fiber which will increase your immune system and help you lose weight.

    Choose a weight loss program that is realistic, sustainable and promotes well-balanced food intake, increased physical activity and behavior modification. Make the right choice now and start your healthy lifestyle now.

    For comments email cheshireque@gmail.com or visit www.cheshireque.com. Twitter: CheshireQue

  • Tok & Mol

     

  • The price of beauty

    Q: I am a 32 year old woman who works as a secretary in a law firm. I have low self-confidence and I think this is because I have a very flat nose. I’ve been thinking of having a nose lift, something that is fashionable these days, but I am a little hesitant because I have never had any surgery before. Does cosmetic surgery have any adverse effects and risks?  –myra_gin@gmail.com

    A: My advice to people like you who are contemplating on undergoing cosmetic surgery or other similar procedures to look prettier and feel better is to think about the matter very carefully before taking the plunge because studies show that in many cases, cosmetic surgery does not really enhance physical appearance nor bolster self-confidence and body image. In fact, many patients experience periods of depression or anxiety following cosmetic surgery. Worse, dissatisfied patients sometimes return for more surgery and become self-destructive. Worst, some patients get too preoccupied with imagined or slight defects in their appearance that repeated cosmetic surgery becomes a pathological obsession.

    There is no doubt that reconstructive and cosmetic surgery can benefit certain individuals. Surgical procedures to correct cleft lips and palates, for example, should be a must while cosmetic surgical procedures that correct facial and other body features that set a person apart and attract ridicule from other people such as skin tags, extra digits, etc. are also justifiable. But a nose lift for a flat nose, which is a normal Filipino physical trait, may subject you to mockery rather than admiration.

    Another thing you have to keep in mind before having cosmetic surgery is that its benefits are often temporary.  Most successful cosmetic procedures have to be repeated every few years to maintain their aesthetic value because as a person ages, the body’s form and shape changes. Thus, a few years after a face lift or eye bag removal, the skin sags again and the patient has to undergo repeat surgery. This is also true for a nose lift. Weight gain, for example, will make your nose disproportional to your face, which might necessitate another surgery. Even non-surgical cosmetic procedures such as botox injections have to be repeated every several months.

    Cosmetic procedures can also give rise to unique health problems. For example, a nose implant can give rise to decreased sensation to the nose and sense of smell, altered breathing, and change in one’s singing and speaking voice. In addition, the nose implant could get misaligned and give rise to facial asymmetry. Breast implants, on the other hand, can leak, interfere with mammography and contribute to insufficient lactation when a woman tries to breastfeed while liposuction can perpetuate or aggravate an eating disorder.

    Cosmetic surgery, like any surgery has numerous risks, some of which can be serious. Complications are rare with procedures that are performed by qualified and experienced plastic and cosmetic surgeons with the use of modern equipment, but they do occur. These complications include infection, which can become life-threatening or lead to disfiguring scars; damage to skin, nerves and vital organs; fat and air embolism—inherent risks in liposuction that has caused many documented deaths; and of course, anesthetic accidents, which occasionally lead to disability or even death.

    Incidentally, some cosmetic procedures are invasive and painful, and recovery time can range from one day to six months or even longer.  Also, some complications are long term like the continual pain and sensitivity that some patients who undergo breast augmentation surgery experience.

    All told, people who wish to have cosmetic surgery for vanity’s sake should be very circumspect. The financial cost and the health risks may not be worth it.

    (Note: Email inquiries on health matters to: medical_notes@yahoo.com)

  • Norman’s Island

  • Pupung

  • Singson offers to quit

    ANSWERING MEDIA QUERIES – Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson answers questions from the media during a press briefing at the New Executive Building in Malacañang on Jan. 6, 2014. Looking on is Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda. (Richard V. Viñas)

    Manila, Philippines – Following in the footsteps of Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, another Cabinet member has offered to quit his post amid a controversy hounding his agency.

    Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson yesterday declared that he is ready to resign if allegations of overpricing in the construction of bunkhouses for “Yolanda” victims are proven true.

    Singson insisted that the P14-million construction of the temporary shelter was not overpriced, saying the government has not even paid the contractors yet.

    “It is not overpriced. If it is overpriced, the following day I will submit my resignation to President Aquino,” Singson said in a press conference at the Palace.

    “Overpriced means that there are specifications detailed given by DPWH, and the unit prices of these bunkhouses are above what normally would be in the marketplace—that’s overpriced. I can tell you, there is no overpricing here,” he added.

    A problem, on the other hand, still exists concerning the government’s shelter project for the displaced typhoon victims.

    Below Specifications

    Singson admitted that the construction materials used in the bunkhouses were probably below the specifications set by the DPWH.

    Promising to tighten compliance to material standards, the public works chief said he intends to go to Tacloban, Leyte, today to check the construction of the bunkhouses.

    “There might be a possibility that some of the contractors may have not followed the specifications, and therefore we call them—we refer to them as underspecs,” he said.

    Singson warned that the government won’t pay the contractors until they comply with the standards set for the temporary shelter.

    “If the contractors did not follow the specifications that we gave them, they will not be paid. They will not be paid unless they correct or rectify (it) to meet our standards,” he said.

    Singson acknowledged that some contractors might probably just donate some of the units to avoid incurring additional costs in retrofitting.

    Erring Contractors

    Asked if the government will run after the erring contractors, Singson said: “Pwede silang habulin lalo na kung maghahabol sila ng bayad. Pero kung ibibigay naman nila nang libre iyon, ano pang hahabulin mo [We can run after them especially if they demand payment, but if they will give the units for free, what else will we run after]?”

    So far, Singson said 126 of the planned 222 bunkhouses have been constructed by contractors most of whom volunteered to help in the rebuilding efforts.

    The bunkhouse construction, however, has been suspended after the DPWH introduced some changes in the design, according to Singson. They originally planned to distribute the bunkhouse units to 6,000 families at the end of the month.

    A temporary bunkhouse is made of coco lumber wooden frames, GI sheet roofing, plywood walls and flooring, and cement footing.

    12-Unit Bunkhouse

    Singson said a bunkhouse will now be composed of 12 units, instead of the original 24, to accommodate a family of five members. It has a common toilet/wash area and kitchen.

    “One family can now occupy, not just 8.64 square meters, but 17.28 square meters per family. And that is already acceptable to international standards because, I understand, the international standard for temporary shelter is about three square meters per person,” Singson said.

    He said the DPWH has specified the galvanized iron sheets at 0.40 millimeter thick to ensure sturdy roofing of the bunkhouse.

    “Because we have expanded the unit to, in effect, two rooms, the cost per family now is going up to P65,715 per temporary shelter,” he said

    “We feel that they are much safer staying in bunkhouses than staying in tents or in evacuation centers like classrooms. So the cost per unit of the bunkhouses is about P3,800 per square meter,” he added.

    2-Year Shelter

    Singson said the bunkhouses are designed to last for two years until the permanent shelter of the families are completed.

    He said the DPWH will also work with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the shelter cluster of the United Nations agencies on the acceptable standard in bunkhouse construction.

    He conceded that the government cannot complete the shelter program within two years due to the scale of the devastation.

    “We can say that we are doing our best to complete whatever we can do in the remaining two and half years. But we cannot—I cannot claim that we will finish the shelter program in two years,” he said.

    Meantime, Singson said President Aquino has ordered the DPWH to accelerate the construction of permanent houses. “The issue now we are identifying the location of where we can start the permanent shelter,” he said.

  • SSS, PhilHealth asked to justify hiked rates

    Manila, Philippines – Officials of the Social Security System (SSS) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will be asked to justify their respective bids to increase premium rates before state auditors of the Commission on Audit (COA) who have noted adverse findings in examining the two state-owned firms’ finances.

    Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said COA officials will be invited by the Lower House when it opens its inquiry into the plans of SSS and PhilHealth to increase the contribution of its members this year.

    Colmenares said lowly-paid SSS and PhilHealth workers, together with leaders of organized labor, should also be given a chance to confront officials of the two state-run firms.

    Two administration lawmakers yesterday backed calls for Congress to investigate the decision of the SSS and PhilHealth to raise the contributions of their members.

    Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said while he supports the position of Malacañang that the increase in SSS and PhilHealth premium is necessary to improve the services they provide, it is still equally important for both institutions to answer in detail all questions being raised by those opposed to their decision.

    “Malacañang’s position on this issue is very understandable. However, this should not stop Congress from going through the details of the SSS and PhilHealth’s decision to increase their fees. This is democracy at work,” said Nograles, chairman of the House Committee on Labor and Employment.

    The Mindanao lawmaker noted that a House probe would also be consistent with the Congress’ oversight powers on issues that concern public interest and national welfare.

    Senate Inquiry

    At the same time, when the Senate resumes regular session on January 20 after a four-week Christmas break, it will look into the financial health of government financial institutions and agencies such as the SSS, PhilHealth, Government Service Insurance System and Pag-Ibig Fund.

    Through his Senate resolution, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto said he hopes the public inquiry into the financial status of these agencies to be conducted by the Senate banks, financial institutions and currencies chaired by Sen. Sergio R. Osmena III might provide answers to criticisms against increases in the premiums at SSS and PhilHealth.

    Through its power as a Legislative branch of government, the Senate wants an omnibus assessment and review, in aid of legislation, of the actuarial status of state and private sector pension and insurance funds as managed by the GSIS, SSS, PhilHealth as well as the housing funds as administered by Pag-IBIG with the view of improving the delivery of their services and ensuring the financial viability of these government corporations.

    Colmenares is a member of the Makabayan bloc which has called for a congressional investigation into the allegedly ill-timed move of SSS and Philhealth to adjust premiums.

    The House Committees on Government Enterprises and on Good Government were asked to conduct the congressional investigation.

    Public Outrage

    Colmenares chided officials of the government corporations for pursuing bids to adjust premiums, saying the decision came at a time as public outrage has been registered in connection with the unjustified bonuses, financial perks and privileges being collected by SSS and Philhealth officials.

    COA has noted adverse audit findings in the respective annual audit reports submitted by the agency for 2012.

    The allegedly snail-paced processing of payments for death, disability and retirement claims of members remained slow since 2012. (With reports from Ellson A. Quismorio, Charissa M. Luci and Mario B. Casayuran)

    COA said the SSS must also swiftly take legal action in seeking the payment of P367 million in premiums and penalties from 139 delinquent corporations and employers which have been remiss in their responsibility under the SSS law.

    “Slow processing and payment of death, disability and retirement claims did not meet the commitment of SSS of providing prompt, convenient and meaningful social protection service to the members and their beneficiaries,” COA said.

    Tax Rates

    Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe likened the SSS to revenue agencies of the government that propose increases in tax rates rather than take a hard-line stance in collecting correct taxes and in weeding their respective agencies of corrupt officials and employees.

    In the 2011 annual audit report, SSS was also assailed by COA for imposing interest payments on loans that are in excess of some P788.8 million.

    Batocabe said SSS and PhilHealth must justify their request for additional funding by first improving their services.

    For his part, Nograles noted that with the “triple whammy of calamities” that struck the country during the last quarter of 2013 — referring to the loss of lives and properties during the Zambonga siege, the Central Visayas earthquake, and super-typhoon Yolanda — “this might not be the right time to increase SSS and PhilHealth premiums.”

    He said while a 0.6 percent increase on the monthly contribution of their members might be “affordable” to some, this amount could already buy several cans of sardines and packs of noodles for some families, particularly those who are only getting the minimum wage and other members who can barely afford their monthly premiums.

    “I’m sure the SSS and PhilHealth officials have noble intentions in their decision to increase their monthly premium. But as representatives of the people, we would also like to hear from them

    more detailed answers on the many questions that are being asked by our constituents. They may be right, but they should explain to us why,” Nograles said.

    Meanwhile, Iloilo Rep. Jerry Trenas also voiced his support on calls to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the decision of SSS and PhilHealth to increase their premium to enlighten the public on the wisdom of their action.

    “The investigation would be a perfect venue for the SSS and PhilHealth officials to be able to answer all the questions that our people have on this issue and at the same time, enlighten us on some of the intrigues thrown to them, including their allegedly scandalous paychecks and other perks,” Trenas said.

    “Personally, I support all moves to improve the benefits of our SSS and PhilHealth members and I appreciate the fact that they are doing everything necessary to make it happen. But there might just be other means to do that. There might be other solutions and schemes that would not require any additional financial burden from their members and I’m sure these things will come out during the course of our inquiry,” said Trenas, Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries.

    Trenas noted that Congress can exercise its oversight powers not necessarily to oppose or question certain actions and decisions that has a direct effect on public interest, but also to provide the necessary legislative support if needed.

    “With the things that we may learn from this investigation, we would be able to help them educate our constituents on why there is a need to increase their SSS and PhilHealth contributions,” Trenas said.

    In the Senate, Recto pointed out that the laws that created GSIS, SSS, PhilHealth and Pag-Ibig allow these government corporations to use members’ contributions and premiums to finance their loan services and other investments in order to ensure their respective financial viability in providing the benefits and services they, in turn, owe to their members.

    He cited reports that some of these corporations, if not all of them, have either invested members’ funds in the international stock market or employed foreign investment firms to manage their accounts.

    Recto pointed out that global economy has been volatile during the past few years as an off-shoot of the global economic crisis of 2008 that adversely affected international stock markets.

    Thus, there is a need for a review of the investments made by these government corporations to ensure that their funds are safeguarded from the potential effects of the instability of international stock markets, he explained.

    ‘’Due to the continuous outpouring of clamor on the part of the members for a more prompt and efficient delivery of services, there is a need for Congress to assess and review the actuarial status of these pension and insurance funds,’’ Recto said.

    Recto said that the assessment and review would also allow Congress to determine if legislation is needed in order to address the problems that may have affected the administration of these funds , if there are any, and to prevent a scenario in which the national government may be called upon to bail out these corporations.

    ‘’An assessment and review would also enable these government corporations to improve the delivery of services to their respective members and contributors. It is also important that the millions of people who are members and beneficiaries of these funds be informed on the status of their contributions in line with their constitutional right to information,’’ he added.

    (With reports from Ellson A. Quismorio, Charissa M. Luci and Mario B. Casayuran)

     

  • ‘Life-Threatening’ deep freeze grips US

    WINTER WOE (AP) – A man gets a chance to use his cross country skis on a snow-covered street in University City, Philadelphia, USA, on Jan. 5, 2014, as sub-zero temperatures blanket a large part of America stretching from Montana to Alabama.

    New York – Millions of people across the United States on Monday made last-minute preparations for an unusually bitter Arctic blast that could send temperatures plummeting to their coldest in 20 years.

    The northeastern United States and parts of Canada have endured heavy snow and deadly sub-zero conditions since the start of the year, but the deep freeze is now moving through the midwestern United States and threatening usually balmy areas further south like Tennessee and Alabama.

    The wind chill from the rare “polar vortex” could make it feel as cold as -60 Fahrenheit (-51 Celsius) in places, weather forecasters say, prompting authorities in several towns and cities to issue warnings that people should stay indoors and stock up on food.

    Exposed skin could suffer frostbite in as little as five minutes in such conditions, experts warn.

    The National Weather Service described the weather as “life-threatening.”

    “The coldest temperatures in almost two decades will spread into the northern and central US today behind an Arctic cold front,” it said.

    “Combined with gusty winds, these temperatures will result in life-threatening wind-chill values as low as 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) below zero. Also, heavy snow will develop from the eastern Plains to the Great Lakes today, with up to a foot of accumulation possible.”

    Authorities warning people that they could face issues like cars that won’t start and flooded roads that quickly ice over caused by water pipes that freeze and burst.

    Thousands of flights out of major airports like Chicago O’Hare International and New York’s John F. Kennedy were delayed or canceled Sunday due to weather-related problems. At O’Hare, one of the country’s busiest airports, officials said that more than 1,300 flights were canceled.

    The states of Minnesota and North Dakota were expected to experience the worst weather.

    Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton announced that schools will be closed Monday “to protect all our children from the dangerously cold temperatures.”

    In Wisconsin, Sunday’s National Football League playoff showdown between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers at the open-air Lambeau Field in Wisconsin was one of the coldest NFL games in history.

    The Packers helped fans battle the big freeze by handing out free coffee, hot chocolate and hand warmers. Fans were allowed to bring blankets and sleeping bags.

    Freezing rain is forecast to hit the south and east, affecting the New England region, New York and Washington, with the extreme weather expected to continue into the early part of the week in many places.

    “The heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures have combined to create hazardous conditions in many areas of the state,” said Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. “Residents should heed advisories and stay off the roads if at all possible.”

    Illinois Governor Pat Quinn described the storm as “one for the record books, and we want to make sure everyone stays safe and warm until it passes.”

    The Weather Channel said the country should be prepared for an imminent “blast of brutally cold air” that would buffet some states until Tuesday.

    Deaths blamed on the frigid weather include a worker crushed by a 100-foot (30-meter) pile of salt being prepared to treat roads in the Philadelphia area on Friday, and a 71-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who froze to death after getting lost in New York state, officials said.

    In Colorado, a small passenger plane burst into flames upon landing in a snow-blanketed airport near Aspen on Sunday, though it was unclear if the accident was weather related.

     

  • Nazarene Procession route changed on safety grounds

    WHERE BLACK NAZARENE WILL PASS – Department of Public Works and Highways workers patch cracks on Jones Bridge in Manila on Jan. 6, 2014. Quiapo church officials have decided to use this bridge instead of the traditional MacArthur Bridge during the grand Black Nazarene procession this Thursday to better ensure public safety. (Linus Guardian Escandor II)

    Manila, Philippines – Instead of passing through MacArthur Bridge, this year’s grand Traslacion procession of the Black Nazarene will pass through Jones Bridge amid safety concerns.

    Msgr. Clemente Ignacio, rector of Quiapo Church, made the announcement yesterday as thousands of devotees from around the country of the revered Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno are expected to join the procession of replicas of the Black Nazarene at 3 p.m. today through the streets of Quiapo, Manila, as a prelude to the 407th grand Traslacion procession on Thursday, Jan. 9.

    Ignacio said the change in the procession’s traditional route was for the safety of the devotees. “This is for the safety of our devotees because we know that the structure of the MacArthur Bridge is problematic,” he said in a press briefing yesterday.

    Department of Public Works and Highways Undersecretary Romeo Momo earlier warned on the structural integrity of MacArthur Bridge, noting that the structure has minor cracks and is subject for retrofitting.

    In the same press conference, Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno said Jones Bridge will be safer for devotees since it was recently retrofitted.

    From Jones Bridge, the procession will turn left to Escolta then right to Palanca St.

    Ignacio, however, admitted that the slight change in the traditional route will result in longer procession time.

    “Last year, the procession lasted for nine hours, so maybe with this change we will add another two to three hours,” he said.

    Bigger Crowd Expected

    Organizers are expecting a bigger crowd this year due to the series of calamities that struck the country in 2013. Since the first day of the year, busloads of devotees have begun to arrive at the Quiapo Church (Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene) to attend the parish thanksgiving mass and procession last Jan. 1, as well as the First Friday masses last Jan. 3.

    This afternoon’s procession of the replicas of the Nazareno “will showcase not only centuries-old personal collections of sacred images that have been passed on from generations of devotees but also the Filipinos’ unwavering faith, trust, and devotion to the Black Nazarene,” organizers said.

    Tomorrow, Jan. 8, devotees will converge at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta, where the Black Nazarene will be brought for an overnight vigil and a series of activities before the early morning grand procession that will bring the image back to the Quiapo Church on Thursday.

    The Traslacion procession recalls the transfer of the Black Nazarene image from the Recollect Church in Intramuros, Manila to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (St. John the Baptist Church or Quiapo Church) in 1787.

    This year marks the seventh time that the Black Nazarene procession will start outside the Quiapo Church. The first time was in 2007 during the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the feast.

    Activities to be held at the Quirino Grandstand include the “Pahalik sa Poong Nazareno” at 1 p.m., followed by a band parade at 3:30 p.m. A Eucharistic celebration and healing service will be held at 5 p.m., while the overnight vigil will start at 7 p.m.

    Meanwhile, the eighth of the nine-day novena masses in honor of the Black Nazarene that began last Dec. 31 will be held at 6 p.m. at the Quiapo Church today.

    Longer Procession

    Ignacio said he believes the longer procession will be beneficial to devotees as this will give them more opportunity to wipe their handkerchiefs to the image of the Nazareno.

    “When the procession stops they usually throw their towels or handkerchiefs to the mamamasans, who wipe it to the image and then throw it back to them,” said Ignacio.

    Fr. Ric Valencia, parochial vicar of Quiapo Church, for his part, expects the number of devotees that will attend this year’s Feast of the Black Nazarene to increase given the recent calamities that hit the country.

    “Every year it has been increasing 15 to 20 percent. Last year’s estimate of the police was around 9.6 million, so you could add 15 to 20 percent to that,” he said.

    “Since our country just experienced big tragedies, I think that also awakened our devotees on the need to rely on God,” added Valencia.

    The priest also cited the big number of churchgoers who went to Quiapo during Christmas, New Year and the first Friday Mass of the month as an indicator of the possible volume of devotees.

    Quiapo church officials earlier said that they expect around 12 million devotees to participate in this year’s Nazarene feast this Thursday.

    MMDA Rerouting Plan

    The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) yesterday released its rerouting plan for public utility vehicles routes that will be affected by the annual Traslacion of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila on Thursday.

    In its advisory, the MMDA advised motorists to use the alternative routes to avoid the heavy traffic that the procession of the Black Nazarene would cause. (With reports from Christina I. Hermoso, Anna Liza Villas-Alavaren, and Jean Fernando)

    MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said 2,000 agency personnel – traffic enforcers, rescue teams, sidewalk clearing groups – will be deployed to the Quiapo area in Manila to man traffic and provide assistance in case of emergencies.

    Moreover, agency ambulances, tow trucks, and will also be on standby to provide assistance in case of emergencies.

    After the event, street sweepers will also be deployed in the area to clean and clear the roads of all types of clutter.

    For its traffic rerouting scheme: All vehicles coming from northern part of Manila intending to utilize the stretch of Bonifacio Drive southbound (Manila Hotel and other offices at Port Area) shall turn right Roberto S. Oca St., left Delgado, left Bonifacio Drive, right A. Soriano to Magallanes Drive, right to P. Burgos, go straight to Lagusnilad to Taft Avenue.

    Likewise, other vehicles for southbound shall turn left A. Soriano to point of destination.

    All vehicles using Taft Avenue northbound shall turn right A. Villegas (Arroceros) right Quezon Bridge to point of destination. (Note: northbound of Quezon Blvd. is open to traffic)

    All vehicles coming from southern part of Manila intending to utilize the northbound of Roxas Blvd. from TM Kalaw to P. Burgos shall turn right TM Kalaw to point of destination.

    All vehicles coming from Quezon City using the stretch of Espana shall turn right to P. Campa, left to Andalucia, right to Fuguso, left T. Mapua to point of destination.

    All PUJs/light vehicles coming from Espana intending to proceed to South Pier Zone turn left Nicanor Reyes, right Rector straight to JAS, left Reina Regente take Jones Bridge to point of destination.

    All vehicles coming from Divisoria intending to utilize stretch of Recto shall turn left T. Alonzo, right Furguso, left Andalucia to point of destination.

    All vehicles coming from Legarda shall turn right to Recto or left Mendiola to point of destination.

    All heavy vehicles/cargo trucks coming from the south shall take President Osmena, right Pres. Quirino to Nagtahan via AH Lacson to Capulong (vice-versa).

    Moreover, all motorists intending to proceed to North of Manila or South of Manila are advised to utilize the stretch of Lacson to Nagtahan (vice-versa) or to utilize stretch of Road-10 to Roxas Blvd.

    (Vice-versa) to point of destination.

    All buses coming southern part of Manila utilizing Taft Avenue are not allowed to enter from 7 a.m. to 12:00 noon and allowed only up to President Quirino as their turning point.

    No Cell Phone Jamming

    The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), meanwhile, said they are not recommending the jamming of cell phone signals in Quiapo, Manila, on Thursday for the Feast of Black Nazarene as they have not received any reported threat to the celebration.

    NCRPO chief Carmelo Valmoria said although they are not recommending the jamming of cell phones during the celebration, they will provide sufficient security for the event. (With reports from Christina I. Hermoso, Anna Liza Villas-Alavaren, and Jean Fernando)

     

  • Batangas Vice Gov, Councilor face drug cartel probe

    Manila, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has summoned Batangas Vice Governor Mark Leviste and his father Conrad to appear before the first preliminary investigation on the reported operation of a powerful Mexican drug cartel inside the Leviste family-owned ranch in Lipa City.

    The vice governor and his father Conrad were required to show up at the DOJ preliminary investigation on Jan. 9 to give a background on the members of the Sinaloa drug cartel, one of the most powerful drug cartels in the world, who were arrested by authorities in a drug bust inside their 10,000-hectare LPL ranch.

    Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera and fellow state prosecutor Irwin Maraya, who were tasked to investigate the complaint filed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police – Anti-Illegal-Drugs Special Operations Task Force (PNP-AIDSOTF), also asked Conrad to submit several documents proving his ownership of the ranch.

    Batangas governor Antonio Leviste earlier revealed that the LPL ranch was owned by his brother Conrad when he denied his links to the Sinaloa drug cartel.

    “Under and by virtue of authority vested in us by law, you are hereby summoned to appear… in connection with the preliminary investigation of the above-entitled case to be conducted by the undersigned,” said the DOJ special task force in a subpoena signed by Navera and Maraya.

    Navera, however, clarified that the Levistes are not considered respondents in the drug charges and would only stand as plain witnesses in the preliminary investigation to help investigators “determine ownership of the property and lease thereof.”

    Last Dec. 25, joint operatives of PDEA and PNP-AIDSOTF swooped down on the LPL Ranch in Barangay Inosloban, Lipa, and seized P420 million worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.

    Anti-narcotics agents also arrested at least three suspects, who were identified as Gary Tan and couple Argay and Rochelle Argenos. The three were brought to the DOJ for preliminary investigation on charges of violating Section 11 of Republic Act No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) or possession of illegal drugs and several other charges.

    A certain Jorge Torres, who is believed to have links with the Sinaloa drug cartel, is now being hunted down by authorities.

  • Supreme Court halts gay marriage in Utah
    The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday halted gay marriage in Utah by granting a request from state officials appealing a lower-court ruling that allowed same-sex weddings to go ahead in the heavily-Mormon state.