Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Repost From ANN (Asian News Network)

Corrupt former Filipino generals bought, rented 10 houses in US

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The houses that two former generals of the Philippines allegedly bought or rented using taxpayer money allotted to the Armed Forces took up much of Friday's hearing at the Senate.

The blue-ribbon committee resumed its inquiry into the controversial plea bargain between state prosecutors and former military comptroller Carlos Garcia with the suicide of former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Angelo Reyes casting a cloud over the proceedings.

But nothing was said of Reyes' alleged receipt of money from a purported military slush fund. Instead, the senators zeroed in on the houses, including a mansion at the posh Acropolis subdivision in Quezon City that then AFP chief Diomedio Villanueva allegedly used as a second home.

Whistle-blower George Rabusa, the military budget officer at that time, testified that the mansion was rented at P120,000 (US$2,770) a month and that he paid the full P1.4-million rental for a year.

Also discussed were a total of 10 houses in the United States, all registered under the name of Erlinda Yambao Ligot, the wife of Villanueva's then comptroller, Jacinto Ligot.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada showed Jacinto Ligot a picture of one of the houses, a two-story care home in California, but he denied any knowledge of the property.

Apart from the houses, the Ligots amassed around P740 million in peso and dollar deposits from 2001 to 2004, according to Sen. Franklin Drilon, who cited bank records submitted to a Makati regional trial court.

Incredible sums

The committee chair, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, was incredulous over why Ligot was never charged with plunder despite the amount of his alleged loot.

"How did you accumulate all these sums?" Drilon asked Ligot.

In response, Ligot invoked his right against self-incrimination.

Drilon distributed copies of a summary of deposits, withdrawals and balances frozen by Ligot, his wife Erlinda and their children Paulo, Riza and Miguel.

The transactions also included brother-in-law Edgardo Yambao, one Gilda Velasquez and Antonio and Ma. Cristina Laurel.

Citing the document, Drilon said Ligot first deposited $351,841.60 at Citibank (account number 8-143020917) in 2001. The total deposit of the Ligots amounted to $554,558.41 by the end of the year.

In 2005, Ligot and company's deposit totaled $8.7 million. But following withdrawals, authorities were able to freeze only $1.3 million.

Erlinda Ligot had been invited to attend the hearing but did not show up. She sent the committee a letter saying the matter was "covered by the principle of sub judice, meaning it was under judicial consideration.

Estrada warned that Ligot's wife could be subpoenaed to shed light on the two houses she had allegedly bought. The senator showed pictures of these pieces of property--one in Anaheim and another one in Buena Park, both in California--at the hearing last week.

"It's recorded in the US that there are 10 properties under the name of Erlinda Yambao or Erlinda Ligot," Estrada said.

Confidential meetings

On the Acropolis mansion, Rabusa did not say that there was anything irregular about an incumbent chief of staff renting another house besides the White House, his official residence at Camp Aguinaldo.

According to Rabusa, the problem was that the money used to pay for the mansion's rent came from funds "converted" by his office through the Intelligence Service of the AFP.

Villanueva tried to parry questions about the property but eventually admitted that he had been to the mansion when Estrada showed him a picture of it.

"I had entered [the house]," Villanueva said, but clarified that he used the property to "meet with some people very confidentially."

Villanueva also said he used the mansion to accommodate political leaders from Mindanao whenever they were in town and had to stay for a day or two.

Asked if the accommodation was for official business, he said: "Sort of."

He added in Filipino: "There was courtesy involved. When they went somewhere, I entertained them ... Being a chief of staff, I was partly like a politician. They were with me in the fight in Mindanao. You had to be in good graces with them so they could help our troops there."

Rabusa said his then boss, comptroller Garcia, had instructed him to find an "alternate house" near Camp Aguinaldo. He said he had also checked out properties in Valle Verde and White Plains.

"The broker was very happy" when he paid the yearlong rental in a single tranche, he said.

Rabusa said that soon after he got the keys to the mansion located on Calypso Street, he turned these over to then Col. Hilario Atendido and another colonel who allegedly took charge of maintaining the house.

But Atendido denied joining Rabusa and other officials in checking out the house.

'Kind,' 'nice' Senate

From his usual combative stance, Senator Estrada was noticeably restrained in his questioning of Garcia and other retired senior military officers accused by Rabusa of benefiting from the purported military slush fund.

At one point, Villanueva sought Estrada's permission to correct some of his remarks about the AFP's $2.2-million purchase of an unmanned aerial vehicle.

"I'm sorry, your honor, but I have to rebut what you just said," Villanueva said.

In reply, the son of deposed President Joseph Estrada said: "It's okay, General. You are more knowledgeable about those details."

Speaking later with the Inquirer, Estrada said the Senate had "always been kind" to resource persons invited to its inquiries.

"We have been really nice [to the retired military generals] in the Senate," he said in Filipino.

Asked why the senators appeared to have shed their aggressive stance in Friday's hearing, Estrada said: "That's not true. Nagkataon lang yun (That's just by chance). As I said, the Senate has always been kind."

Shortly after Reyes' suicide on Feb. 8, senators said they would "moderate" their questioning of retired generals and other public officials suspected of abetting the corrupt practices in the AFP.

No vendetta

In his opening remarks, Estrada dismissed comments that he had used Rabusa to get back at Reyes, who withdrew support from then President Estrada at the height of the second Edsa people power uprising in 2001.

The senator said that Rabusa's coming out was in support of his privilege speech on anomalous financial transactions in the AFP, and that it was not meant to malign Reyes.

"This imputation is not true and I categorically state ... that it was farthest from my mind," Estrada said, adding:

"I now would like to put to rest and correct the misimpression created against me that I presented Rabusa to the hearing as a personal vendetta against the late General Reyes."

Estrada also said it was "unfortunate" that Reyes was the AFP chief of staff at the time when the "conversion" of military funds was rampant, as claimed by Rabusa.

Committee chair Guingona said the Senate would pursue the inquiry into the alleged corruption in the military despite the tragic suicide of Reyes, who, according to Rabusa, benefited from the military slush fund.

"We have to continue our search for truth to fulfill our mission, duties and responsibilities to the people," Guingona said.

Reposted From ANN (Asian News Network)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Repost From PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal)

Heart Evangelista's birthday gift from boyfriend Daniel Matsunaga: a round-trip ticket to Brazil

Heart Evangelista's birthday gift from boyfriend Daniel Matsunaga: a round-trip ticket to Brazil
Slideshow: Showbiz Photos

Isang surprise birthday lunch ang ibinigay ng production staff ng Dwarfina kay Heart Evangelista sa taping nila sa Concepcion, Marikina, kahapon, February 16.

Medyo late na ang birthday celebration dahil wala silang taping noong actual birthday ni Heart last February 14, Valentine's Day.

"Three days po kaming sunud-sunod na nag-taping last week para yung may gustong mag-celebrate ng Valentine's Day, libre sa araw na iyon.

"Kaya po noong birthday ko, relaxed lang ako. Naglinis ako ng bahay... Yun bang ang dami kong gustong linisin, hindi ko magawa dahil wala akong day-off sa trabaho. Kaya sinamantala ko 'yong two days na walang taping.

"After maglinis ng bahay, nag-grocery na rin ako. Yung mga kulang na gamit at pagkain sa bahay, binili ko," kuwento ni Heart sa PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) at iba pang media na dumalaw sa set ng Dwarfina.

Sinamahan ba siya ng boyfriend niyang si Daniel Matsunaga sa paglilinis ng bahay?

"Opo. Hanggang sa paggu-grocery, sinamahan niya ako," pag-amin ng 26-year-old actress.

TWO-IN-ONE CELEBRATION. Since sabay ang birthday niya at Valentine's Day, paano siya nag-celebrate?

"Simple celebration lang," sabi ni Heart.

"Isang surprise birthday dinner ang ibinigay sa akin ng sister ni Daniel, si Vanessa, sa bahay niya noong February 12. Nagluto siya ng mga Brazilian food.

"Noong birthday ko, simple dinner din lang with my family, Daniel, and some close friends. Hindi naman kami mahilig lumabas, saka ang traffic that day dahil Valentine's Day nga."

Kung isang poodle na pinangalanan nilang Max (Maxilino) ang Valentine gift sa kanya ni Daniel, ano naman ang birthday gift ng boyfriend sa kanya?

"Isa pong open-dated round trip ticket to Brazil," nakangiting sagot ni Heart.

"Anytime na gusto kong umalis, puwede. Pag-iisipan ko pa kung kailan ko gagamitin 'yon dahil busy nga po ako sa trabaho."

Naikuwento rin ni Heart sa press na nanganak ang German Shepherd niya ng walong puppies.

"At ka-birthday ko pa sila, noong February 14 din sila ipinanganak!" bulalas ni Heart.

"Na kay Daddy ang aso kaya siya ang nag-asikaso sa panganganak. Kaya lang, kanina, itinawag niya sa akin na dalawa na sa mga puppies ang namatay. Ang dami pa raw namang humihingi."

DANIEL'S PROPOSAL. Nang mag-guest si Heart sa Showbiz Central ay sinabi niyang si Daniel na talaga ang pakakasalan niya. Kung magpu-propose na ba ng kasal ngayon si Daniel, tatanggapin niya?

"Kung gusto namin, bakit hindi?" sagot ng young actress.

"Pero kailangan pa rin naming mag-isip. Hindi naman basta ka lang magpapakasal, kailangang pagplanuhan pa rin ito.

"Hindi naman ikaw lang ang dapat kumain. Lifetime decision ito, kailangang isipin mo rin ang magiging family mo.

"Biro ko nga kay Daniel, kung magkakaanak kami, ibu-beauty contest ko na lang kasi tiyak na magaganda sila at matataas dahil mataas ang daddy nila.

"Pero hindi po gano'n kasimple 'yon, kailangang paghandaan namin 'yon.

"Kaya gusto ko rin munang magkaroon ng solid business. Ang daddy ko, nag-iisip siya ng business na kakayanin ng intellect ko."

Bakit hindi restaurant business, na siyang family business ng mga Ongpauco?

"Mahirap po, kasi talagang lolokohin ka lang ng mga tao mo kung hindi mo personal na ima-manage ito. Biro nga ng daddy ko, kung may kaaway daw ako, sabihan kong magpatayo siya ng restaurant!" natatawang sabi ni Heart.

Muli namang nilinaw ni Heart ang balitang siya raw ang bumili ng bagong kotse ni Daniel.

"Ang weird nga po ang balitang 'yon. Pera ni Daniel ang ibinili niya ng Nissan car niya. Marami na rin naman siyang savings mula sa kanyang talent fees at kailangan na niya talagang bumili ng sarili niyang kotse. Ang ibinigay ko lang sa kanya 'yong sounds para sa car niya," saad niya.

HEART'S LEADING MAN. Isang bouquet of flowers ang iniregalo ng leading man ni Heart sa Dwarfina na si Dennis Trillo sa kanya during her surprise birthday lunch.

Kumusta naman sila ni Dennis?

"Okey na po kami ni Dennis," sagot ni Heart.

"Kinakausap na niya ako, hindi tulad noon na tahimik lang siya. Saka ngayon na lang kami madalas magkasama sa taping. Noong duwende ako, naka-chroma lang kasi ako lagi."

Nagpasalamat din si Heart sa lahat ng mga nanonood ng Dwarfina dahil sa mataas na rating nito.

Aniya pa, "Natutuwa ako kasi pinapanood ng daddy ko gabi-gabi at nagku-comment siya tungkol sa acting ko at sa mga eksenang ginawa ko.

"Ako, enjoy kong gawin ito. Mahilig kasi ako sa mga magical love story, tulad din ng una kong telefantasya, ang Luna Mystika, na si Mike Tuviera rin ang director namin."

Ang Dwarfina ay tatagal ng 17 weeks. Ito ang papalitan ng Amaya ni Marian Rivera sa May 2011.

TEMPTATION ISLAND. May nasulat na si Heart ang latest addition sa cast ng remake ng Temptation Island ng Regal Films, kung saan makakasama raw niya sina Marian Rivera at Lovi Poe. Pero baka hindi raw siya matuloy dahil sa isang eksenang hindi niya kayang gawin.

"Kung ako lang, gusto kong gawin ang movie dahil si Chris Martinez ang director at mga Kapuso rin ang mga artistang kasama ko. Pero baka po hindi matuloy kasi may isang eksena doon na hindi pumayag ang daddy ko.

"May pagka-naughty kasi ang character, siya yung sexy na may yaya pa. At minsang naligo siya, haharap siya sa mga kasama niya na mga kamay lang niya ang nakatakip sa breasts niya.

"Ayaw ni Daddy. Okey lang daw kung magsusuot ako ng two-piece swimsuit or short shorts, pero 'yong topless talaga na kamay lang ang nakatakip, ayaw niya.

"Ewan ko kung papayag silang baguhin ang eksena. Bahala na po ang parents ko na makipag-usap kay Mother Lily," saad ni Heart.

Reposted From PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Repost From BBC

Food prices at dangerous levels, says World Bank

A worker packs onions in India Food prices are close to record levels according to the World Bank's latest assessment

Related Stories

The World Bank says food prices are at "dangerous levels" and have pushed 44 million more people into poverty since last June.

According to the latest edition of its Food Price Watch, prices rose by 15% in the four months between October 2010 and January this year.

Food price inflation is felt disproportionately by the poor, who spend over half their income on food.

The Bank called on this week's G20 meeting to address the problem.

The World Bank's president, Robert Zoellick, said in a statement: "Global food prices are rising to dangerous levels and threaten tens of millions of poor people around the world."

He also said that rising food prices were an aggravating factor of the unrest in the Middle East, although not its primary cause.

Rapid food price inflation in 2008 sparked riots in a number of countries. At that time, the World Bank estimated 125 million people were in extreme poverty.

The World Bank says prices are not quite back at those levels - just 3% below - although they are 27% higher than a year ago.

A separate report earlier this month from the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said that world food prices had hit a record high in January.

Finance ministers and central bankers from the G20 group of developed and developing nations are meeting later this week in Paris.

Reposted From BBC

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Repost From Jim Gomez For Associated Press

Ex-Philippine military chief who shot self buried

MANILA, Philippines – A former Philippine military chief who committed suicide after being linked to a corruption scandal was buried at a heroes' cemetery Sunday as senators vowed to press on with an investigation into military graft.

Military pallbearers brought the flag-draped coffin of Ret. Gen. Angelo Reyes to his tomb at the National Heroes' Cemetery as his widow and sons _ all dressed in white _ wept and dropped petals on his casket. The mourners were led by ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, whom Reyes served loyally through four failed military uprisings.

Reyes, who also served as defense chief and was among the country's most prominent generals, shot himself in the chest at his mother's grave Tuesday after he and two other ex military chiefs of staff were accused of pocketing millions of dollars from funds intended for troop salaries, combat needs and a military hospital. Reyes had denied the accusation.

In eulogies late Saturday, fellow generals and former Arroyo Cabinet members expressed shock at his death, describing him as a patriotic general and doting father.

"I hope we'll remember the many good things that Angie did for his countrymen's sake," said Eduardo Ermita, a retired general and Arroyo executive secretary. He referred to Reyes by his nickname.

Reyes oversaw many counterinsurgency battles, including an offensive in 2000 that led to the fall of the main stronghold of the country's largest Muslim rebel group. He was in charge of the departments of defense, environment, energy, interior and local government affairs and held other key posts under Arroyo.

Corruption, long entrenched in Philippine society, is an especially explosive issue in the inadequately equipped and poorly paid 120,000-strong military and has sparked several insurrections in the last two decades by disgruntled troops.

Sen. Franklin Drilon said the investigation into military corruption would continue and Reyes's widow may be asked to testify after a period of mourning. Reyes's wife has been accused of taking money for a foreign trip.

Reposted From Jim Gomez For Associated Press


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