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Aquilino Pimentel calls for Zubiris resignation

9:01 pm | Thursday, July 14th, 2011

MANILA, PhilippinesFormer senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. on Thursday asked Seator. Miguel Migz Zubiri to resign in view of the admission of suspended Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan that the 2007 senatorial elections in Maguindanao was rigged to favor the latter. Pimentel, whose son, Aquilino Koko III, filed an election protest against Zubiri for alleged electoral fraud, said the testimony of Ampatuan and Lintang Bedol, a former Maguindanao elections supervisor of the Commission on Elections, on elections boosted his claim that Koko had been cheated. Pimentel reminded Zubiri of his earlier promise not to cling to power if allegations of election cheating on his part could be proven. Migz Zubiri should resign because it looks like he is the personification of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in this country, Pimentel said, referring to a major character in a popular short novel who suffered dissociative identity disorder, commonly known as split personality. Migs Zubiri is Dr. Jekyll as a non-politician but when he becomes a politician, he is poisoned by political power, the lust for power and he becomes Mr. Hyde and therefore he should save the Filipino people from that anguish, from determining which character is being played by Mr. Zubiri now or tomorrow, Pimentel stressed. Ampatuan, who is offering to be a state witness in the Maguindanao massacre case in which he is a co-accused, said in his still unsigned affidavit that it was former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who orchestrated cheating in the 2007 senatorial elections. On the other hand, Bedol, who surfaced after disappearing four years ago, claimed that former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. had ordered him to give zero votes to then opposition senatorial candidates Benigno Aquino III, Panfilo Lacson and Alan Peter Cayetano.

On Tuesday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. announced the formal creation of a joint committee that would look into the purported fraud in the 2004 and 2007 elections. Inquirer Research

Enrile: Senate yet to decide on Zubiri resignation

4:55 pm | Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

MANILA, PhilippinesSenate President Juan Ponce-Enrile lauded Senator Juan Miguel Zubiris resignation as the highest form of moral courage but said the Senate would not rush its decision on Zubiris move. As head of this chamber, I will tell you, I will study your resignation and make a decision in due time, said Enrile, who was presiding over the session when Zubiri announced his resignation as senator on Wednesday. I will consult the members of this chamber about this. We are not going to do this rushly for today, we are witnessing the happening of the historical event for this is the first time within the reach of my memory of my 87 years in this planet. This is the first time that a man, a member of this chamber chose honor ahead of himself, he said. Enrile described Zubiris move as the highest form of moral courage. Many people in this life possess physical courage but very rarely bone would see a man standing up for what he really believes in, he said. Its the highest form of moral courage to uphold ones honor and die for it if necessary to show that theres something more valuable than power, wealth and life itselfhe said Im sad that we are going to lose you but what you showed us, to the Filipino people, will be remembered and your detractors would be chastised and you would be here again with the members of the Senate. We cannot stop you for what you did because its a matter of honor, Enrile added.

Resignation----MANILA, Philippines Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri announced his resignation from his post on Wednesday, saying he and his family were deeply hurt by fraud allegation and trial by publicity being waged by his rival, lawyer Aquilino Koko P imentel III, who lost against him for the 12th slot in the 2007 senatorial elections. Without admitting any fault and with my vehement denial of the alleged electoral fraud hurled against me, I am submitting my resignation as a duly elected Senator of the Republic of the Philippines in the election for which I am falsely accused without mercy and compassion, Zubiri said in a privilege speech, a copy of which was obtained in advance by I am resigning, not because I am exhausted from the demands of my calling as a legislator. Hindi po ako napagod sa paglilingkod sa inyo [I never got tired of being of service to you], he said. I am resigning, not because I wish to evade the decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal. Handa ko pong tanggapin ang anumang hatol mula sa nasabing hukuman [I am ready to accept any verdict from the said tribubal]. Rather, I am resigning because of these unfounded accusations against me and these issues has systematically divided our nation and has casted doubts in our electoral system which has affected not only myself, this Institution but the public as well, the senator added. Zubiri said he would be doing an injustice to his fellowmen and the institution if he would continue working half-heartedly and without full concentration and devotion. He said he directed his lawyers to make proper and immediate representation before the Senate Electoral Tribunal about his resignation to expedite the process and allow the tribunal to come up with a decision at the soonest possible time. Zubiri was elected in the May 2007 elections after getting over 11 million votes. His term should have ended in 2013. But Pimentel, son of former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., filed an election protest before the SET alleging fraud in some areas in Mindanao. The case has been pending in the tribunal until recently, various personalities came out and claimed irregularities and cheating during the 2007 elections.

WHAT WENT BEFORE: Zubiris resignation

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Sufficient cause On June 17, 2008, the SET found sufficient cause to continue the recount of votes in Pimentels electoral protest. In its Resolution No. 001-07, it required the contending parties to designate their pilot precincts, which should not be more than 25 percent of the total protested precincts. The 25 percent would refer to 664 precincts in Pimentels case, and 18,316 in Zubiris. In a resolution issued in June 2010, the SET gave way to Zubiris motion to open an additional 52,000 ballot boxes to prove that he, too, had been cheated. Pimentel asked the SET to reconsider its decision, saying Zubiris expanded counterprotest had no basis at all. But the SET junked Pimentels petition, prompting him to ask the Supreme Court in January to void the SET resolutions on Zubiris expanded counterprotest. In a letter to the Inquirer in May, Pimentel said he was leading Zubiri by 257,401 votes in his election protest. Last month, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan claimed that then President Gloria MacapagalArroyo and her husband had ordered the rigging of the 2007 senatorial elections. In an unsigned statement, Ampatuan claimed that the Arroyos directed his father, then Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., to ensure that three opposition senators Benigno Aquino III, Panfilo Lacson and Alan Peter Cayetanowould get zero votes in the province. He said the votes of the three were credited to Zubiri. Bedols claim A week later, former Maguindanao Election Supervisor Lintang Bedol, who is accused of orchestrating cheating for the Arroyo administration, surrendered to authorities after four years in hiding. In an affidavit submitted to the Comelec, Bedol said he was indeed told by Ampatuan Sr. of Arroyos instruction to rig the vote in favor of administration candidates.

My rival took advantage of this political situation. He and his supporters are now asking for my resignation as a duly elected Senator, despite the pendency of his election protest at the Senate Electoral Tribunal, Zubiri said. My political detractors began calling me ugly names and dragging the name of my family in entirety. In other words, Mr. President, the trial by publicity has begun. The trial at the Senate Electoral Tribunal where this issue could have been properly ventilated and resolved has been practically set aside, he lamented. Zubiri reiterated that he did not cheat and that he did not talk to anyone to cheat for him. I am not the only one who feels the hurt because of the personal attacks against me and my family, he said. I could feel how my wife has had sleepless nights, my father, my mother, who has undergone two (2) major brain operations and is now constantly suffering physically and emotionally, together with my siblings who have been hurt and affected by such unfounded and baseless accusations. Kung ako lamang ang nakadarama ng masasakit na batikos at akusasyon, ay maaring makayanan ko pang dalhin [If I were the only one who could feel the attacks and accusations, I could have endured them], he further said.

Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos asked Gloria Arroyo for a car as bday gift
2:30 am | Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

BIRTHDAY GIFT. In a letter in February 2009 to then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Bishop Pueblos requested for a brandnew car. In it, he said, possibly a 4 x 4, which I can use to reach the far-flung areas of Caraga. I hope you will never fail to give a brand new car which would serve as your birthday gift to me. On March 8 of the same year was his 66th birthday. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO A Catholic bishop who had asked President Benigno Aquino III to resign, supposedly received illegal donations from the previous management of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and also requested a vehicle as a birthday gift from then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Lawyer Aleta Tolentino, a PCSO director, provided the Inquirer with a copy of the February 2009 letter of Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos to Arroyo, which was coursed through then PCSO director Maria Fatima Valdez. Attached to the letter was a March 9, 2009, memorandum transmittal from The President to The Chairman of the PCSO, with the note for appropriate action, please. This document (Pueblos letter) really shocked us. It pains us to divulge it but this will be included in the investigation, she said. Bishops letter Pueblos letter to Arroyo reads: I will be celebrating my 66th birthday on March 8, 2009. I know this will be a precious day and timely occasion to thank the Lord for giving me another year After a prayerful discernment and due considerations to the existing crisis phenomenon today, I have decided not to hold a birthday party. Instead, I prefer to make use of my birthday as a day with and for myself, and with God. Having (been) declared, awarded and honored from your good office as Peace Champion of Caraga, I am grateful to God that He has made me an instrument of His peace, especially here in Mindanao. I know I can do more to promote and work for peace. It is in this view that I am asking a favor from your Excellency. At present, I really need a brand-new car, possibly a 4 x 4, which I can use to reach the far-flung areas of Caraga. I hope you will never fail to give a brand new car which would serve as your birthday gift to me. For your information, I have with me a 7-yearold car which is not anymore in good running condition. Therefore, this needs to be replaced very soon. Pueblos call for Aquino to quit I am anticipating your favorable response on this regard. Thank you very much. Be assured of my constant support and sincerest prayers to your Excellency.

Last month, Pueblos called on President Aquino to resign over alleged irregularities committed by his party mates, classmates and shooting buddies. Pueblos diocese was one of the six Catholic dioceses and one organization that received sport utilityvehicles (SUVs) and cash donations amounting to P8.3 million from the PCSO during the Arroyo administration. Besides the Diocese of Butuan, the recipients of the illegal donations for the purchase of 4 x 4 vehicles were the Zamboanga Archdiocesan Social Action Apostolate, Archdiocese of Cotabato, Diocese of Bangued (Abra), Prelature of Isabela (Basilan) and Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc and Caritas Nueva Segovia, which covers Ilocos Sur, received financial assistance. Using name of poor Tolentino wondered whether the vehicle Pueblos had requested was for the poor. This (letter) is a camouflage of using the name of the poor for self-interest, she said. The Senate blue ribbon committee is scheduled to start today (Wednesday) its inquiry into reports that the PCSO during the Arroyo administration gave several bishops SUVs and lavished certain lawmakers with endowments for their constituents hospital and medical expenses. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Sunday said the Constitution barred the donation of public money for the benefit of any religious group. Tolentino said the exposs by the new PCSO management was not meant to attack the Church. We are not against the Church. We are just denouncing wh at happened in the pastcorruption of government funds, which is prohibited by the Constitution itself, she said. Would the bishops rather that we keep mum or we lie about it? Would they want us to just keep quiet about this? Tolentino asked. She earlier confirmed that the former PCSO management, in a series of board resolutions in 2009, approved the grant of SUVs to various dioceses. 2 vehicles for Butuan Based on the resolutions, the former board approved the grant of two vehicles to the Diocese of Butuan, Tolentino said. Although there were two board resolutions for the grant of two vehicles to the Diocese of Butuan, Tolentino said the PCSO only found one checka Landbank check dated July 2, 2009 amounting to P1,704,147.90that was issued to the diocese, care of Pueblos. That was for 2009. We dont know yet if there was another (check issued) in 2010. Were now trying to initiate a verification of the 2010 disbursements, Tolentino said. She said Pueblos letter to Arroyo was submitted to the Office of the President by the charity agencys special projects department, which handles and processes special requests. COA instruction As instructed by the Commission on Audit (COA) report, we have to check if there was indeed a violation in the disbursement of the charity fund for the purchase of SUVs of some prelates. Were checking on supporting documents since the bishops were claiming that its for the poor, Tolentino said. She said the COA commented that the grant of the vehicles violated the constitutional provision that no public money or property shall be appropriated, applied or employed directly or indirectly, for the use of, benefit or support to any sect, church, denomination, except when such priest, preacher or dignitary is assigned to the Armed Forces or to any penal institution, or government orphanage or leprosarium. Tolentino said that based on the principle of separation of Church and State, the former should not be getting funds from the government, in the same way that the government should not also be getting money from the Church. Different story She noted that if someone said he was requesting a vehicle so he could go to the poor, the poor in this case were just incidental. If someone said, provide us with medicine, thats a different story. Thats OK because the Church in this case is just incidental. The main purpose here is to give the medicine to the poor, Tolentino said.

Bishops to answer as group: Our conscience is clear

4:38 am | Thursday, July 7th, 2011

The bishops appear to be circling their wagons in time for the Senate inquiry starting Wednesday into luxury vehicles allegedly given to some Catholic bishops. We will answer as a group, Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos told the Inquirer by phone, referring to the other bishops who were named by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). Pueblos had personally requested a Mitsubishi Montero Sport 4 x 4 from then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as a birthday gift in 2009. Pueblos, one of the staunchest supporters of Arroyo, last month called for the resignation of President Aquino. But as the Inquirer was asking him if he indeed wrote then President Arroyo asking for an SUV as a birthday gift, Pueblos said bye and ended the phone interview. Efforts to reach him by phone again failed. Our conscience is clear, CBCP president Bishop Nereo Odchimar wrote the blue ribbon committee on Wednesday. In a five-page letter, Odchimar categorically denied that the PCSO donations some bishops had received during the Arroyo administration were used to purchase Pajeros and for the personal use of bishops. The bishop does not own the donation but holds it in trust for public use of his diocese, he said. Hence, the donation is not given to the bishop as such. Whatever benefit the Catholic Church may draw from the gift is purely incidental. PCSO Director Francisco Joaquin told senators that the Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe was the recipient of a donation used to purchase a 17-seat Isuzu passenger van. The admission prompted Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to ask: Is that a luxury car, vehicle? The terrain there is very rugged, right? So its not a luxury vehicle. No Pajeros Bontoc-Lagawe, which allegedly got P600,000 in cash for the purchase of a Pajero, purchased a second -hand, 10-year-old Nissan Pathfinder pick-up for P280,000, according to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). Asked why she initially alleged that bishops got Pajeros, which led to the Pajero 7 label, PCSO Chair Margarita Juico told reporters: Maybe because people call a big jeep they see a Pajero. Juico said an audit showed that at least P6.9 million in charity funds were used to buy five vehicles upon the request of several bishops. Some lawmakers said such donations would violate a law prohibiting the use of state funds for religious purposes. Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, committee chair, said bishops named in the PCSO expos would be summoned, probably for the hearing on Tuesday next week. The Senate investigation will resume at 9 a.m. today (Thursday) with former PCSO officials led by Manuel Morato expected to attend. Odchimar said he and his fellow bishops were willing to face the consequences of having accepted financial aid from the government so as to channel it to those who need them most. If the collective wisdom of the Senate will indicate to us that such financial assistance to the poor, as coursed through religious groups, is in fact improper if not illegal, then by all means let us put an end to this long-standing practice, the CBCP president said. List of vehicles Attached to Odchimars letter was a list of vehicles purchased by certain dioceses or vicariates using the PCSO donation. The Diocese of Abra bought a Mitsubishi Strada pick-up worth P1.107 million on Jan. 23, 2009. It was used to transport personnel and carry needed materials for service missions to the poor and needy constituents of Abra province. The Archdiocese of Cotabato got a Toyota Grandia Hi-Ace van worth P1.4 million on April 30, 2009, for its Social Action Center. The van was used to distribute medicines and other rel ief goods to disaster-hit areas in the diocese, community health programs. The Prelature of Isabela in Basilan also got an Strada pick-up worth P1.225 million on Dec. 29, 2009 for medical and health missions [and] community visitations to the indigent communities of Basilan province.

The Archdiocese of Zamboanga bought a Grandia van worth P1.518 million on Sept. 14, 2009, partly for medical -related services. Caritas Nueva Segovia got an Isuzu Crosswind utility van for P720,000 for health, dental and medical outreach programs. Pueblos personal request for a Montero included an explanation that it would be used for his spiritual and social services to the people. Enrile said he would presume good faith until otherwise proven amid allegations that the bishops who got PCSO donations violated the law. Prohibited The State and the Church deal with the same person, the Senate President said. If the donation is received by the bishop, whether in cash or in kind, for the sole benefit of the Church, then indeed that is obviously prohibited. But if it is used primarily for a social function, that is actually a responsibility of the State more than the responsibility of the Church because the Church deals only with the spiritual needs of the people, then we come to a very difficult situation here. The Inquirer also tried to reach Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad, but calls and text messages sent to him since 11 a.m., while the Senate inquiry was ongoing, remained unanswered as of 4 p.m. In an interview on July 1, Jumoad admitted that he received money from the PCSO to buy a vehicle which we used for medical and relief operations. The amount was P1.1 million and we used this (vehicle) to bring foodstuff to communities attacked by lawless elements, he said. Calls made to Archbishop Romulo Valles of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga City were unanswered. But in a text message later Wednesday afternoon, Valles apologized to the Inquirer, saying: Sorry, we are having our retreat right now. The CBCP is having its annual retreat in Tagaytay City. Valles confirmed on July 1 that the archdiocese received P1.5 million worth of donations from the PCSO for social action and apostolic services. He said the money was used by Fr. Allain Ruiz, social action director, to acquire a Toyota Grandia to be used for social action activities. Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla, also in an earlier interview, admitted he had endorsed to the PCSO Iligan City Fr. Roger Loods antidrug abuse project. Capalla said he did not know if that request was granted. Up to bishops Reached by the Inquirer during a break in the CBCP retreat in Tagaytay on Wednesday night, Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo said he had alerted his office to submit the liquidation of expenses of the P1.4 million-donation from the PCSO. He said the amount was used to buy a pick-up which the archdiocesan social action and community barangay health programs had been using in relief operations for flood victims and for families displaced by armed conflict in Maguindanao and other areas. He said he did not request funds from the PCSO for his personal use. Asked whether he would attend Senate inquiry, Quevedo said, I think it is no longer necessary.

Fulltime: Philippine Azkals 4-0 Sri Lanka

5:04 pm | Sunday, July 3rd, 2011
The Philippine Azkals celebrate on the pitch following their shutout victory against Sri Lanka in round one of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on July 3, 2011.

MANILA, Philippines The World Cup dream is on for the Philippine Azkals after they shut out Sri Lanka, 4-0, in the second leg of the 2014 Fifa World Cup Qualifiers round one at the Rizal Memorial Stadium Sunday. The Philippine team moved to the second round of the World Cup qualifiers for the first time in this countrys football history and will meet Kuwait in another home-and-away match on July 23 and 28. The Philippine Azkals peppered Sri Lanka with goals courtesy of star strikers Phil Younghusband, Chieffy Caligdong and Angel Guirado.

Younghusband, who hurt his hamstring in the away leg in Sri Lanka, scored in he 43rd minute and on a penalty kick in the 57th. Caligdong, hailing from Barotac Nuevo in Ilolilo and one of the remaining homegrowns in the squad, struck a brilliant set piece goal to open up the scoring in the 19th minute while Guirado tripled it in the 51st. Heavy rain met the kickoff, but that did not stop the Azkals from totally dominating the match with a superb display of their attacking prowess. It was a far cry from the erratic performance of Philippine side in the 1-1 draw in Sri Lanka last June 29. Fil-British Younghusband was on the attack since the get-go, despite a muddy and slippery pitch, but his early shots either sailed wide or gathered by the Sri Lankan keeper Fernando Manjula. The Philippines second goal was nearly nullified because of a foul on Younghusband before the goal, but it was officially counted after a huddle by the referees. Meanwhile, midfielder Fil-German Stephan Schrock, who lost his cool in a scuffle, and skipper Aly Borromeo were booked for their second yellow card of the entire leg. Schrock and Borromeo may be suspended in the next game of the Azkals as per FIFA regulations. MANILAAs the Philippine Azkals made one final lap at the end of their World Cup dream at the RizalMemorial Stadium oval Thursday night, manager Dan Palami couldnt help but shed tears just like some of his players. No, those tears were not borne out of the pain of losing to Kuwait (1-2 and 1-5 on aggregate) or the end of what could have been the unthinkable odyssey to reach Brazil three years from now to play in the biggest spectacle in sport, the World Cup. Palami, the man who took on the unenviable task of managing the squad and spent his own money for the team close to two years ago when they had little support, didnt need to see the scoreboard to turn emotional. All he and the Azkals needed to see were the Philippine flags waved on the bleachers and fans who braved the earlier downpour just to get to the stadium and even took the risk of getting wet just to watch the Azkals play and stayed after the final whistle was blown. We might have lost this game, but it was a proud moment to be a Filipino, said Palami. We were proud enough to play against a team like Kuwai t which is not just an Asian powerhouse but one of the top teams in the World. Its an even prouder moment to be representing the Philippines in front of Filipinos who even after the game was supporting the team. Palami added: Its a testament of how we are as a people. Despite the loss, we continue to support a team that we know played with their hearts against an apparently superior team. At the team hotel, in between posing for pictures and signing autographs for fans, defender Anton del Rosario shook his head as he thought about what might have been. We were so close, Del Rosario said. They were just very experienced, but this loss will only make us stronger. Neil Etheridge accommodated requests for photos, but was often caught staring blankly in space, his mind drifting away from the frenzy. Impressive with a string of difficult first-half saves Etheridge, however, said he should have done better in stopping the first goal by Kuwait. The first goal was on me, said the 21-year-old Filipino-British keeper who plays for Fulham in the English Premiere League. But we are still growing as a team. We will only get better. Skipper Aly Borromeo, in a table with friends and loved ones, managed to squeeze out a smile. Reminded about the game though, Borromeo reacted like he had let something precious had slipped away from his grasp. Borromeo missed the first leg because of suspension and described his feeling of watching from the stands as excruciating. He returned to shore up the defensive line in the home leg. The Azkals, buoyed by Stephan Schrocks smashing first half injury time goal, were in the lead after 62 minutes, before Kuwait, despite playing with 10 men in the final 30 minutes of the game,

recovered to secure the win and enter the third round, where established Asian teams like Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Australia and Bahrain are already seeded. Palami said it was too much of a miracle that we were hoping for as the Azkals faced a 0-3 hole after the first leg in Kuwait. Were proud of the team and to what they we have done. It showed that we can compete against the best of Asia. For 45 or 50 minutes, we were on top and that gave us hope, Philippine Football Federation presidentMariano Nonong Araneta said. Kuwait struggled against us. We can take confidence from that fact the next time we play, said defender Ray Jonsson, the Filipino-Icelandic defender, who grew up in Liloan, Cebu. Azkals striker Phil Younghusband who had a golden opportunity to put the home side 2-0 up in the 52nd minute only to have his shot saved by the Kuwaiti keeper, also took the positives from the loss. I think it was always going to be difficult to qualify after the first leg but I think we showed we can compete against good teams like Kuwait, he said. The level of Philippine football has been raised and given the right planning and execution within the next few years we can really climb up in the football ladder and succeed in the sport. This is just the start. As far as Palami is concerned, the team has gone far from a year ago when the Azkals even struggled against lightweight teams. Less than a year ago, we were playing the Hong Kong U23 squad and lost 4-2, he said. I think from that time up to now we improved as we faced a lot of strong teams. The team has been strengthened by a new system.

Philippine Azkals bow to Kuwait4:03 am | Sunday, July 24th, 2011

HAWALLIUnable to build on a stellar yet unlucky first half performance, the Philippine Azkals fell in a 0-3 defeat to Middle East powerhouse Kuwait in the opening leg of their second round World Cup Qualifying duel here. The Al-Azraq backed up their pedigree with a solid attacking display to thump the hard-fighting Filipinos, who had two shots that hit the crossbar in the first 30 minutes. The second leg is slated Thursday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila with the Azkals needing to win by four goals or more to make the third round for the first time. Anything is still possible in the second leg, said Azkals coach Hans Michael Weiss. This time its not over. We still have 90 minutes in Manila, said Kuwait coach Goran Tufegdzic. There was no doubting the Kuwaitis dominance on this night, though. Yousef Naser opened the scoring, before goals from Mesad Nasa and Fahed El-Ibrahim sealed the victory for the Kuwaitis, who are now well-positioned to reach the third round following the comprehensive win. The Azkals, who missed skipper Aly Borromeo and Stephan Schrock due to suspension, put up a solid, resolute stand in the first half to stifle a Kuwaiti attack, but were unlucky to concede and also not get on the scoresheet, with Phil Younghusband and Angel Guirado both getting golden chances to score in the opening 30 minutes. Looking to finish off a quick counter-attacking move, Younghusband drew a diving save from Nawaf Al Khaldi on a oneon-one, setting up the corner that nearly gave Guirado the first goal. But the Fil-Spanish striker headed Chieffy Caligdongs corner to the crossbar and Jason Sabios header was cleared off the line by Hussain Fadhel. The chances only woke up the Kuwaitis, who within seconds, finally grabbed the lead thanks to young striker Yousef Naser. Fahad Al-Enezi, the right winger, who had proven to be a menace on attack, beat Manny Ott and Chieffy Caligdong to cross for Yousef, who banged the header into the bottom corner past the flailing arms of Neil Etheridge. The Al-Azraqs possession play was still negated by some resolute defending by the Azkals and on the counter, the visitors came close again in the 30th minute.

Anton del Rosario launched a long throw from the backline to Guirado, whose lofted ball found a rushing Younghusband on the run. Finding space to shoot, Younghusband rifled a thunderous shot from just outside the area, forcing another reflex save from AlKhaldi and the slightest of touches allowed the ball to ricochet off the crossbar again. The tide began to change in the second half when the Al-Azraq put more pressure on the defensive line from the left flank, leading to several corner kicks and half-chances. The pressure paid off in the 66th minute when defender Mesad Nada poked the ball home during a scramble in the box after his header off a corner was blocked. The Al-Azraqs pattern of dominance continued and with five minutes remaining with the Azkals growing weary, Fahed ElIbrahim fired a shot from 20 yards to beat Etheridge. The score would have been a little more lopsided if not for a couple of close range stops from Etheridge, who flew in from England on the eve of the match.

He added that DBP would be ready to extend all the necessary assistance to the Pinpin family. Pinpin was found dead Tuesday inside bathroom of a Las Pias budget hotel with a nylon cord tied around his neck. Authorities have ruled out foul play. Police said the victims family confirmed that the letters were in the lawyers own handwriting. Pinpin was survived by wife Amalia and two children, 14-year-old daughter Audrey and 12-year-old son Colin. He obtained his law degree from Arellano Law Foundation and finished BS Economics from the University of the Philippines.

Philippines wants Southeast Asian unity on sea row

MANILA, PhilippinesThe Department of Foreign Affairs said Friday it would seek regional backing for a plan on pursuing joint development of disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) amid Chinas increasingly robust assertions of its claims. Legal experts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will meet in Manila in September to discuss the proposal, foreign affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters. He said the aim was to eventually get the 10 Asean nations, and later on China, to endorse the proposal to delineate the disputed sections of the strategically located and reputedly resources-rich area. If we can define those disputed features then we can have the joint development of those areas, Hernandez said. Areas not in dispute should be the exclusive preserve of the country that owns them, Hernandez said. Competing claims to the potentially oil-rich Paracel and Spratly island groups in the West Philippine Sea have caused rising tensions in recent months, with regional neighbors accusing China of behaving aggressively. These areas, which straddle vital commercial shipping lanes, are subject to a tangle of maritime claims by China, Taiwan, and Asean members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. However China maintains it owns all of the West Philippine Sea, even waters approaching the coasts of Southeast Asian countries. Asean, which also includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, agreed with China at a ministerial meeting last week to a set of guidelines setting a framework for an eventual code of conduct for the sea. But China has consistently rejected efforts for the disputes to be resolved in a multilateral setting. It prefers bilateral negotiations, which other countries fear is a divide-and-conquer approach that would weaken their bargaining capabilities with the Asian superpower. Hernandez said that if the Philippine proposal got traction it would be tabled for discussion by Asean senior officials and eventually its foreign ministers. After that, getting China on board would be the next challenge, he added. We are hopeful that China would listen to the voice of th e Asean, and even the voice of the international community, he said.

DBP lawyers suicide a big puzzle for President Aquino

6:03 am | Thursday, August 4th, 2011

President Benigno Aquino III said on Wednesday he was curious like everybody else on why a lawyer for the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) took his life just as its officials were in the midst of looking into alleged questionable transactions during the Arroyo administration. Benjamin Pinpin, 43, DBPs assistant chief legal counsel, was found dead inside a hotel room in Las Pias Tuesday. Police ruled the death as suicide. I understand that the guy who committed suicide was one of the lead witnesses who actually unearthed this or who was kind of vital (to the investigation), President Aquino told reporters, adding: I am curious, like everybody else, why he had taken his life. The President condoled with the family of Pinpin and promised to find out what happened. Black ribbons Many employees of DBP reported for work on Wednesday wearing black shirts or sporting black ribbons to mourn Pinpins death. Some of Pinpins colleagues from the legal department also wore black armbands. President Aquino said he was already briefed by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima on the incident and also got a backgrounder on allegations of behest loans or questionable transactions (that) were done previously. Mr. Aquino said he was waiting for Purisima to submit a report to him on the investigation being done at the DBP so as to further clarify what the process is, etc., in unearthing what has happened in DBP in the previous boards. On allegations that the current DBP board had launched a witchhunt in the bank and had issued show cause orders to all officials there, including Pinpin, the President said he would ask Purisima to review whether or not (the board) were overzealous. Still, the President stressed the need to uncover questionable transactions in the bank. You need also to know everything as soon as possible to prevent any damage or further damage from happening. President Aquino made it clear that the government was not after the persecution of any one in the rank and file but to find out what really happened there, what was the damage done in the institution. He appealed to the rank and file to cooperate with the current board to ensure the bank was in a good position, saying that the employees themselves would be the ones affected and might even lose their jobs. But many DBP employees have not been happy with the way the investigation was being handled and were concerned that this was disrupting the bank, sources said. As paranoia gripped employees, DBP president and chief executive officer Francisco del Rosario gave the assurance that their rights would be protected. I want you to know that as your CEO, I assure you that I believe in due process and protection of peoples rights, Del Rosario said in a note to be circulated to all DBP employees. No foul play

Blasphemous Philippine art riles Catholics

7:52 pm | Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

MANILA, PhilippinesAn art exhibit featuring a Jesus Christ poster with a wooden penis glued to His face has sparked protests in the mainly Catholic Philippines. Bishops and lay groups have demanded the state-run Cultural Center of the Philippines close the exhibit on grounds it is blasphemous, immoral, illegal and offends the countrys Catholic majority. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said on its website that Christian lay groups were also preparing a lawsuit. Those responsible for the public exhibit have a liability because they offended the religious beliefs of a country that is 85 percent Christian, the website quoted well-known Catholic activist Jo Imbong as saying.

She said the cultural center could be charged with violating a law on immoral exhibitions that normally applies to pornography. The artwork, a collage by local artist Mideo Cruz, is part of an exhibit showcasing works by alumni from a church-run university aiming to challenge peoples perceptions of figures they idolize. It also includes a cross made of discarded wood with a woodcarving of a penis attached, and an icon of Jesus that has a red clown nose and Mickey Mouse ears. Cultural Center of the Philippines chairwoman Emily Abrera defended the work on Wednesday, saying it was part of the artists duty to challenge prevailing beliefs. We see nothing wrong with it. It is part of our culture to question, to seek answers, to look behind the surface and try to dig out what our real values are, she said on ABSCBN television.

Sara guilty of misconduct DILG

8:58 pm | Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

MANILA, Philippines THE DEPARTMENT of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) found Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte liable for misconduct for punching a court sheriff during a demolition of illegal settlers shanties last July 1, but will not sanction her. Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said the DILG leaves Dutertes case up to the Office of the Ombudsman which is investigating the mayor for assaulting Sheriff Abe Andres who was serving a court order to demolish a slum community in Davao City. The DILG said Duterte was understandably trying to prevent further violence between the demolition crew and illegal settlers. But punching the court sheriff was neither an acceptable nor the only option then obtaining, said the DILG report. It said Duterte could have achieved the same purpose through other means like giving direct orders to policemen to stop the demolition or negotiating with the land claimant for a stay in the demolition. When Mayor Duterte did not venture in any of these options, probable cause has existed for her to be indicted for misconduct, the DILG said. It said local officials should be primary role models. Robredo said the report has been submitted to Malacaang yesterday. He said there was no need for the DILG to file a case against Duterte because the mayor was already facing a case filed by the Sheriffs Confederation of the Philippines for grave misconduct and direct assault. The DILG, Robredo said, would submit a copy of its report to the Ombudsman. The DILG also laid blame on the Davao City court that issued the demolition order for failing to give settlers a 30-day notice. Had the 30-day notice rule been applied, the tension that erupted between the urban poor dwellers and the demolition team would not have taken place, DILG said. Robredo said DILG also wont file an administrative case against Duterte lest it be accused of forum shopping. The DILG, however, recommended further investigation of PO2 Dennis Roderick Cabudti, one of Dutertes security aides, although he merely followed the order of Mayor Duterte to bring Sheriff Andres to where she was standing.

Former President Arroyo to undergo neck surgery

6:01 pm | Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

MANILA, PhilippinesFormer President Gloria MacapagalArroyo needs surgery to realign a portion of her spine at the neck and free up nerves that transmit signals to her upper limbs, her main attending physician said Tuesday morning. Dr. Juliet Gopez-Cervantes said a team of doctors had diagnosed Arroyo, now a representative of the second district of Pampanga, as afflicted with a damaged cervical spine with multilevel cervical spondylosis. If not addressed immediately, the condition may lead to paralysis that is likely irreversible, according to Cervantes.

We suspect that this attack was probably induced by her continuing to work countless hours despite her stresses, said the doctor, reading a four-paragraph medical bulletin. We also suspect that this was probably the same cause of the similar acute pain attack which also hospitalized her at St. Lukes last month, she added. When she was admitted we advised her to rest completely and not receive visitors. Since Monday afternoon when she was admitted to St. Lukes Medical Center in Taguig City, Arroyo went through a series of diagnostic tests to determine her condition. On Tuesday, she was undergoing preliminary work-up to prepare her for surgery which may be done in the coming days, Cervantes said. Arroyo, 64, was rushed to the hospital on Monday afternoon from Porac, Pampanga, where she spent a couple of hours with her constituents, skipping President Aquinos second State of the Nation Address. Earlier in the day, she attended to the opening session of the 15th Congress. The Mayo Clinic website defined cervical spondylosis as a general term for age-related wear and tear affecting the discs in your neck. These changes later contribute to the development of cervical osteoarthritis in the joints that link your neck bones (facet joints) The condition is common among people aged 55 and above, the Mayo clinic said. Generally, nonsurgical treatments were often effective, according to the clinic, but surgery remain an option if conservative treatment fails or if your neurological signs and symptoms, such as weakness in your arms or legs, are getting worse. In Arroyos case, Cervantes said the medical team took note of progressive weakness in the patients upper extremities, particularly her arms. The weakness could be easily overlooked, since Arroyo could still move her arms without any problem, the doctor said. Physical examination and evaluation on the patient proved otherwise, Cervantes continued. Until her admission on Monday, doctors managed Arroyos neck pain through medicines and rehabilitation, which the former president responded to very well, according to Cervantes. [Arroyo] has a high threshold to pain thats why she can still afford to work despite our advice that she really has to limit physical activities. This time, I think we really have to consider the definitive management, which was surgery, the attending doctor pointed out. Last month, Arroyo was also diagnosed with a neck ailment called cervical radiculopathy after being admitted to the hospitals Quezon City facility. A day later, she left the hospital wearing a neck brace, and was advised to do physical therapy and take medicines. On a scale of 1 to 10 with the latter being the highest, Arroyo told her doctors the pain in her nape was between 9 and 10 when the attacks occurred, Cervantes recalled. Asked about the nature of the surgery, Cervantes said it was risky because it involves a very sensitive area in the spinal cord. The nerves that are involved, which are being compressed right now, are nerves that supply [signals] in the upper extremities or the arms, hands, she said, as well as some nerves responsible for the movement of respiratory muscles as well. Other risks the Mayo Clinic listed involving the surgical option include infection, a tear in the membrane that covers the spinal cord at the site of the surgery, bleeding, a blood clot in a leg vein and neurological deterioration. In addition, the surgery may not eliminate all the problems associated with your condition, the website said. The former presidents husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, was at her side, according to Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo, among the representatives staunchest allies. Earlier in the day, Camarines Sur Rep. Dato Arroyo was also seen entering the hospital. Pelayo called for prayers for Arroyo, and virtually appealed for a ceasefire from her detractors. Its our right to sue her. But for the time being, I hope she could have a break from this, Pelayo told reporters in Filipino. After she gets better, again, it is our right. I myself want to know the truth. Pelayo did not specify who he was pertaining to, although he mentioned plunder charges, among others, filed against the former president.

The administration has been on the offensive against Arroyo, tagging the representative and her allies in a series of anomalous transactions in different government agencies. In general, based on our assessment, all the stresses that are happening can contribute to the problem, Cervantes replied to a question whether the onslaught against Arroyo had anything to do with her present condition.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo loses voice, starts therapy

3:27 am | Friday, August 5th, 2011

See no evil, hear no evil, say no . The blood pressure of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has stabilized, but she still has to undergo therapy for losing her voice, according to an ally who visited her at the hospital on Thursday. Except for the loss of voice, shes OK. Shes recovering well, Mayor Jerry Pelayo of Candaba, Pampanga province, told reporters at St. Lukes Medical Center in Taguig City. Earlier this week, Arroyos chief attending physician said the VIP patient had been advised against watching television, reading the papers and even using her phone to call or send text messages, so she wouldnt be stressed by the news around her. But Pelayo said apparently she still has her cell phone with her. Maybe there were times that she still makes or takes calls. Luli Arroyo at bedside The mayor said the former President was still wearing a neck brace when he visited her and that her daughter Luli had stayed by her mothers side since her confinement on July 25. Doctors operated on the 64-year-old Arroyo on Friday to correct a portion of her spine in the neck that had become misaligned, a condition they said could lead to paralysis if left untreated. A titanium plate was attached to four levels of her spine to treat a condition called cervical spondylosis, an otherwise common agerelated deterioration of the bones. Pelayo said the only thing that worried him at this point was that Arroyo might insist on going back to work as soon as she is discharged from St. Lukes. Three-week rest I was able to talk to her surgeon, Dr. (Mario) Ver, and he said she needs a complete rest at least for three weeks. But the problem is, she might return to work sooner, knowing how much of a workaholic she is, he said. The hospital has not issued any medical bulletin on Arroyos condition for the last three days. Arroyo faces a total of five plunder cases, the latest filed on July 26, over alleged multimillion-peso scams during her nine-year presidency, as well as revived allegations of massive fraud to ensure her and her allies victory in the 2004 and 2007 elections. Her husband, lawyer Jose Miguel Mike Arroyo, also faces a Senate investigation after witnesses linked him to the anomalous sale of two secondhand helicopters passed off as brand new to the Philippine National Police in 2009. On Wednesday, Mike Arroyos lawyer Inocencio Ferrer said his client had flown to Hong Kong on Sunday, purportedly to undergo a medical checkup.

I suggested to FG that the best thing for him was to buy his own helicopters. I offered to him the Robinson R44 Raven 1 helicopters, five units of which would be the price for just one European helicopter. FG then told me to go ahead, buy him [5] Robinson helicopters, he said. While Robinson was manufacturing the importation of the helicopters, Po said Arroyo asked him if he could facilitate their importation. He [Arroyo] suggested that the importation, if possible, be coursed through my other company Asian Spirit because being a locator at the Clark Export Processing Zone, the importation by the Asian Spirit would be tax free and the only expense would be for the requisite bond, said the witness. I agreed to FGs proposal, and the helicopters were delivered to Asian Spirit at the Clark Export Processing Zone, he added. And as requested by Arroyo, Po said he signed for the 5 helicopters in the name of Asian Spirit. But sometime in 2006, Po said Arroyo told him that he was selling the helicopters at $350,000 each. I commented that the price was on the high side for pre -owned helicopters. But FG said that was the price he was willing to sell the helicopters, he said. To facilitate the sale, I advised FG that we needed Asian Spirit to sell the helicopters to Lionair so that custom duties and taxes could properly be paid befor ethe helicopters were sold to third parties. On FGs assent, we effected Asian Spirits sale initially of two of his helicopters to Lionair, he added. The two helicopters were then sold as brand new to the PNP through the Manila Aerospace Products Trading in 2009.

Ampatuan offer to turn state witness triggers doubts

3:17 am | Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

First Gentleman Arroyo owned choppers sold to PNP witness

10:52 am | Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

MANILA, Philippines A witness testified Tuesday before the Senate committee investigating the alleged questionable sale of second-hand helicopters to the Philippine national Police that former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo owned five helicopters, of which two were sold as brand new to the PNP. Testifying at the blue ribbon committee, Archibald Legaspi Po, president of Lionair Incorporated, said he facilitated the purchase of five Robinson R44 Raven 1 helicopters for Arroyo. ln 2003, I was asked to meet with then First Gen tleman [Jose] Miguel Arroyo and I did at his LTA office . FG inquired about chartering helicopters from me and I told him there were no longer any helicopters available as they had all been loaned to Fernando Poe Jr., who was running for President against his wife, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Po said, reading from his affidavit.

Zaldy Ampatuans offer to turn states evidence to government prosecutors on Tuesday drew warnings against a ploy by a wolf in sheeps clothing out to save not only his own skin but that of his family accused of carrying out the grisly massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao in 2009. In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) expressed strong support for Justice Secretary Leila De Limas decision to reject the offer of the former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. A wolf in sheepskin could devour the effort for justice, the NUJP said, calling the former governors proposal a ploy and warning of hidden attempts to eventually save the clan from prosecution. This we should make clear: we dont need to get one big fish off the net in order to catch another two. The smaller fishes already hooked all of them in, the group said. But more than this, the Ampatuan massacre is symbolic of everything that is wrong with our system of governance, it added. It is not just the killers who are on trial. It is also a trial of whether this administration is able or willing to deliver on its pledge of justice and good governance. Plea to President Aquino Nena Santos, the counsel of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu, whose wife and sisters were among those killed, and of several other families of the victims, reacted strongly to reports that the Ampatuan family was seeking the intercession of Malacaang. Santos said that she was seeking a meeting between President Aquino and the victims families. The heirs of the victims as well as the state witnesses whose families were subjected to death threats are very much afraid of what the government is allegedly doing to grant Zaldy Ampatuans request as state witness, Santos told the President in a message. Santos said the governor will destroy the massacre case as we have already started the trial of 89 accused, including Andal Jr. and Andal Sr. She said that the prosecution witnesses had pointed to the former governor as among those who had taken part in the planning of the massacre. Santos, the other private lawyers and the public prosecutors at the forefront of the massacre trial on Tuesday had their weekly case conference and discussed Zaldys bombshell. It was a story none of them were buying, Santos said. Enough witnesses

In Kidapawan City, relatives of lawyer Connie Brizuela, who was among those killed in Maguindanao, opposed Zaldys move, stressing the number of prosecution witnesses was more than enough to pin down the Ampatuans. What for? For him to clear his name and eventually to liberate himself from being incarcerated? No thanks but we dont need his statement anymore for he will be saying the same thing, said Manuel Jaime, Brizuelas younger brother. In Koronadal City, South Cotabato, Freddie Solinap, who lost five of his newspaper staff in the massacre, said Zaldy Ampatuan knew about the massacre from the start and did nothing to stop it. I think its only part of the tactics of Ampatuans legal team to save their clients properties, Solinap said, adding that getting Zaldy out of jail would only bring more trouble to Maguindanao. We know what they are capable of. Their men are still out there. Glaring insincerity In Davao City, lawyer Carlos Isagani Zarate, a convenor of the Alliance Against Impunity, said the insincerity of Zaldys turnaround is glaring. It comes nearly two years since the gruesome murder and through all this time, he has been evading to face the courts on his complicity in the crime through various legal maneuverings and harassment of witnesses. In fact, he has not been arraigned to date, Zarate said. This tactic reeks of ulterior motives, as we doubt this offer is possibly a tactic concocted by the Ampatuan warlords to let Zaldy off the hook so he can have a free hand to consolidate their familys remaining wealth and power, and furthe r threaten the witnesses to turn the case in favor of the accused, he added. Why Zaldy silent for 2 years But for Zaldys sister, Rebecca Ampatuan, fear of their father, Andal Sr., could have been the reason it took almost two years for the former governor to speak up. We love our parents and as children we remain obedient. But at times there were decisions and acts where we differed and strongly opposed which we kept to ourselves, said Rebecca, the oldest of the Ampatuan siblings. Rebecca said Zaldy could have finally broken his silence to save himself and the other accused that had nothing to do with the mass murder.

Philippine Dragon Boat team breathes fire, strikes gold

9:19 pm | Friday, August 5th, 2011

TAMPA, FloridaInspired by the clean waters and the support of the Filipino community, the Cobra Philippine Dragon Boat Team snared its first of five gold medal prospects Friday in the World Championships at the Seddon Channel here. The small contingent, sent to the competitions in the last minute after managing to scrounge support from the private sector, claimed the mens small-boat 1,000 meters in world record fashion, beating Australia and Hungary for the title. The Filipinos clocked a world record of 4:57.13 to claim the gold. Australia won the silver medal (5:00.09), while Hungary captured the bronze (5:03.71) in the biennial meet. It was first time small boat events were included in the biennial event, and the Philippines is making do in the category after the lack of support from the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission blew out the countrys hopes of defending its 2007 and 2009 world titles in the standard boat division. The 12-man squad was bannered by drummer Annabelle Pario and steer Ruperto Sabijon. Hungary claimed the standard mens, besting the United States and Germany with a time of three minutes and 48.32 seconds. PH paddler Michelle Evio said the Cobra squad is trying to win as many as five gold medals in the biennial meet and the first gold in the 1,000m gave them momentum for that goal.

We trained under the same weather and on the same placid water conditions, Evio said, referring to the teams regular practices at Manila Bay back home. But I guess we got inspired because there are no garbage here. Evio said they feel at home with the humid conditions in Tampa Bay which mimics their regular training feel in the Philippines. The PH paddlers will still compete in the mixed and open 200m and 500m in the coming days. The Cobra squad, also supported by Philippine Airlines, nearly failed to make it to the event because of lack of finances and werent able to practice for the small boats category before competing here. Making the gold even more impressive was the fact that the rowers only managed to test the small boats when they reached the competition site. Still, the squad managed to make the necessary adjustments in their rowing stroke to shave off precious seconds from their time on the way to the victory. A Manila television station sent here to report on the teams participation here was told by officials of the International Dragon Boat Federation, who also passed the hat to pay for the Filipino paddlers housing, that the event couldnt afford not to have the two-time world champions in the competition because it would be like not having Brazil in the World Cup of football. Virtually abandoned by sports officials back home, the rowers competed here in front of a loud crowd of FilipinoAmericans who also contributed their time and effort to feed the athletes. The Filipino audience cheered wildly as the squad flew off the starting blocks, cutting seamlessly through the water to complete a wire-to-wire performance. Marcia Cristobal, Cobra PDBF president, immediately sent an SMS to Asia Brewery assistant vice president for marketing Mike Ngo, who pooled the funds that allowed to send the ddragon boat squad to send a skeleton crew to the Worlds, about the victory and Ngo immediately sent his message of congratulations aside from wishing the team luck in the coming days. PAL vice president for corporate communications Joey de Guzman, meanwhile, also lauded the squad, saying congratulations to the Philippine Dragon Boat Team for raising the Philippine flag in Florida, USA. Also praising the team was PAL assistant vice president for advertising and promotions Jess Garcia. Congratulations to our Philippine team who have once again surpassed expectations and who make us proud, said Garcia.