The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday affirmed its ruling last month dismissing Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory Ong from judicial service over links with alleged pork barrel fund operator Janet Lim-Napoles. In their regular session, a majority of the justices of the high court voted to deny the motion for reconsideration filed by Ong last week for lack of merit. They stood by their finding that Ong was guilty of gross misconduct, dishonesty and impropriety and rejected the plea of the dismissed magistrate for them to consider his long service in government in taking a second look at his case.
Some P500 million is being allocated to upgrade the laboratory of the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) to contain Ebola if ever the virus reaches the country. Secretary Enrique Ona said the fund will be taken from the Department of Health (DOH)’s budget of P500 million for disaster response. RITM is upgrading laboratory hospitals from biosafety level 2 to 3 or 4 to make them more capable to treat and contain potentially high risk infection agents, he added.
Earthquakes hit parts of Mindanao yesterday morning but no damage or injury was immediately reported, state seismologists said. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the quakes, with magnitudes 4.8 and 4.2, occurred at 2:53 a.m. and 8:23 a.m., respectively. The epicenter of the magnitude-4.8 tremor was located some 26 kilometers southwest of Kidapawan City, North Cotabato.
Malacañang cautioned yesterday against speculation that Germans Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen were ransomed from the Abu Sayyaf. Speaking to reporters, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the administration is focused on the pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers to bring them to justice. President Aquino had announced that the focus was to relentlessly pursue the kidnappers when asked if the government would conduct an investigation into the alleged ransom payment, Coloma said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had planned to “bury in bureaucracy” the review of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in 2009 to take the “issue off the front pages” months before the 2010 elections, according to a confidential US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks. The STAR recently reviewed the cables released by WikiLeaks in 2011 in the light of the death of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in Subic earlier this month, allegedly at the hands of a US marine. The incident sparked calls for a review or abrogation of the VFA.
Protesters calling for the release of two alleged Communist Party of the Philippines leaders picketed the Quezon City justice hall yesterday morning, prompting officials to suspend work and court proceedings. More than 1,000 protesters held the rally in support of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, arrested in Cebu last March. The two are facing charges of kidnapping and illegal detention and were scheduled to have their pre-trial hearing yesterday.
A tree pathologist tapped to check trees along the Manila North Road (MNR) here said yesterday that he would try to save the trees that are supposed to be cut. Ernesto Militante, a retired professor of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños, told journalists that he conducted a sampling of different tree species to see if they could still recover from girdling, which involves removing the outer layer of a tree’s trunk in order to interrupt the flow of nutrients and cause the tree to die. Militante said mahogany trees are sensitive to girdling.
Palawan has been judged No.1 and Boracay No.12 among the Top 30 Islands in the World, based on a survey by international travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler. In an article posted on the magazine’s website yesterday, Palawan obtained 88.750 points while Boracay garnered 82.683 points. Palawan gained international fame when its Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, said to be the longest navigable underground river in the world, was recognized as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature in 2012.
A majority of senators want a review of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, with the objective of amending certain provisions of the treaty, particularly on criminal jurisdiction and custody. At least two senators have openly stated their position to abrogate the VFA, saying some of the provisions were inequitable. Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Teofisto Guingona III are for the abrogation of the VFA unless the US agrees to a renegotiation of the treaty.
US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, the suspect in the killing of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, skipped yesterday’s preliminary investigation of the murder case. Pemberton was instead represented by his lawyer Rowena Flores, who argued the earlier subpoena issued by the investigating prosecutor did not compel the appearance of the American serviceman. Later during the hearing, however, Olongapo City chief prosecutor Emilie Fe delos Santos told Flores to bring Pemberton to the scheduled hearing on Oct. 27.
The United States is not seeking any special privilege in its defense arrangement with the Philippines, and is letting the rule of law decide the fate of military personnel and citizens involved in infractions, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday. Kerry made the assurance before meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario in Jakarta. “The people of the Philippines who are gracious enough to permit an arrangement whereby we meet mutual interests with this kind of a force’s presence need to know that we’re not seeking a special privilege, that everybody’s rights will be appropriately protected,” Kerry said.
President Aquino will not get the kind of emergency powers he wants Congress to grant him to deal with a supposed electricity shortage in Luzon in the summer of 2015, the chairman of the House energy committee said yesterday. Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali told a news conference that the special authority the President is seeking to rent or buy generators from foreign suppliers, which could cost taxpayers up to P12 billion, would no longer be granted. The program seeks to encourage business establishments to run their own generators during peak demand periods from March to June 2015, instead of getting their supply from the Luzon grid.