Today's Headlines in the Philippines

Jejomar Binay (l), Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr.Binays still shun Senate, ready for consequences
Vice President Jejomar Binay on Saturday said he and his son, Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr., were ready to “face the consequences” of their decision not to appear in the Senate to answer allegations of corruption against them. “I will never go there if that’s the way they conduct the investigation. They behaved like that up to Jan. 22,” Binay said in a radio interview in Isabela province, referring to the prosecution style of questioning by the senators on a Senate blue ribbon subcommittee investigating charges that he pocketed millions of pesos in kickbacks from infrastructure projects in Makati when he was the mayor of the city. Binay said the senators would just demean him once he appeared at the inquiry. “What else will they ask me? Everything they need has already been answered,” Binay said, referring to his public denials of the charges leveled against him at the inquiry by former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado.

PNoy to keep hands off Binay’s troubles
It looks like President Aquino will not interfere or lift a finger to save Vice President Jejomar Binay from the latest corruption controversy hounding him. Malacañang has kept a hands-off policy on the Senate inquiry into the alleged anomalies implicating Binay, mostly recently the P200-million kickbacks he allegedly received from a land deal between the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP) and a private real estate firm. “We recognize the Senate’s right to conduct hearings in aid of legislation and in line with its oversight functions,” Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said. “The President has previously expressed his thoughts on the ongoing inquiry pertaining the Vice President. He has made no new statements on the most recent hearing,” he added.

Leila de LimaLeila De Lima tops Namfrel’s online survey for Brillantes’ replacement
MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima topped the list of possible replacements for outgoing Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. in an online survey conducted by the National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel). As of Jan. 23, De Lima got 62 percent of the votes, followed by Comelec Commissioner Luie Tito Guia with 25 percent and former Associate Justice Antonio Nachura with 12.5 percent. De Lima, who used to practice election law before joining the government, has always been the choice of Brillantes, who retires on Feb. 2. According to Namfrel executive director Eric Alvia, the survey has been going on since October 2014. “It’s open to the public and it’s not a scientific survey. It’s just where the public can put their opinion on who they think are the best persons to replace the retiring officials of the Comelec,” he said.

30 cops, 5 MILF men killed in Maguindanao clash
COTABATO CITY, Philippines — At least 30 members of the Philippine National Police elite Special Action Forces who were out to arrest suspected terrorists, and five fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, were killed in a clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, Sunday, after the cops entered an MILF base allegedly in violation of the ceasefire agreement, two rebel officials said on Sunday. Von Al Haq, vice chair for military affairs of the MILF, said the PNP SAF did not properly coordinate with the MILF when they set out to serve warrants of arrest for Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, known by the military and police as “Marwan,” in Barangay Tukanalipao. (The coordination is required under the ceasefire agreement between the MILF and the Philippine government, which recently signed a peace agreement.)

Juan Ponce Enrile (L), Jinggoy EstradaJPE, Jinggoy top spenders in 2013
MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile was the biggest spender in the chamber in 2013, with audited expenses of P73.891 million out of his office’s annual budget. Records culled from the Commission on Audit (COA) on the itemized list of expenses for each senator from Jan. 1 to December 2013 showed that the former Senate president accounted for P1.145 million in salaries as senator, P567,393 in combined emoluments for two committees, and P215,830 as officer of the Senate. Enrile incurred a total of P2.685 million for his foreign travel expenses alone, which is apart from his staff’s foreign travel expenses pegged at P16.2 million. There were no expenses for local travel that year. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, then president pro-tempore, was the second highest spender, incurring P72.712 million. Estrada was compensated for his job as senator and as officer and member of a committee, for a total of P1.61 million.

P52.1-M fine on CebuPac to go to national treasury
MANILA, Philippines - The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) yesterday said the P52.1-million fine imposed on Cebu Air Inc. (Cebu Pacific) would not be used to compensate passengers affected by flight delays and cancellations during the Christmas holidays. CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said the fine against the Gokongwei-led budget airline would go to the national treasury, as mandated by Republic Act 776 or the Civil Aeronautics Act of the Philippines. “Under the law, such a penalty upon collection will go to the national treasury,” Arcilla said. He pointed out that the fine imposed by the CAB on Cebu Pacific is in the nature of a penalty for non-compliance with conditions of its permit. The imposition of such penalty, he explained, is an exercise of the coercive power of the CAB to compel Cebu Pacific to comply with its obligations under its permit.

Winston CasteloHouse probes DSWD ‘isolation’ of street kids during Pope’s visit
MANILA, Philippines – Despite explanations from government officials, the House of Representatives will investigate the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s hauling off hundreds of street children and homeless people to detention centers and beach resorts during the recent visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines. Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, chair of the committee on Metro Manila development, said on Sunday he was just waiting for the go-signal from the committee on rules to open the inquiry, to which Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman would be summoned as principal resource person. “We will not hesitate to conduct an investigation and get to the bottom of it. We will determine the legality and morality of this alleged attempt to cover up the true state of our socioeconomic status,” he said in a text message.

PNP following leads on suspects in deadly Zambo City blast
The Philippine National Police is following leads on the suspects in the Zamboanga City blast last Friday that left two people dead and hurt 52 others. "Kasalukuyan nang tinutunton ng PNP ang ilang posibleng leads na makapagtuturo sa kinalulugaran ng mga salarin," Presidential Communications Secretary Hermino Coloma Jr. said in a briefing aired over state-run dzRB. "Hindi tatantanan ng pamahalaan ang pagtugis sa mga sangkot sa insidente upang panagutin sila sa batas," he added. President Benigno Aquino III, accompanied by Cabinet officials, arrived in Zamboanga City on Sunday morning. "Nasa Zamboanga City ngayon si Pangulong Aquino upang tumanggap ng briefing at assessment mula sa Pambansang Pulisya at Sandatahang Lakas," Coloma said.

The Salamander amphibious tricyclePinoy-developed amphibious trike offers transportation solution for flood-prone areas
The Salamander, an amphibian tricycle developed by a Filipino company, may offer a transportation solution for flood-prone areas. In a report on GMA's “24 Oras” aired Saturday evening, H20 Technologies Inc.'s Salamander chief designer Atoy Llave said their product is a first in the world. “Gumagawa kami ng solution para sa baha. If you see the design — if you cut the half, ang makikita mo diyan is a boat,” Llave said. The gasoline-powered prototype of the Salamander can carry up to six people. Oars are provided in case it runs out of fuel while in the water. An electric Salamander prototype equipped with solar panels is also available. That protoype has USB ports for charging gadgets during emergencies. Llave said the Salamander is not yet on the market since the company is focused on local governments that might be interested in purchasing the amphibious tricycle.

Penniless, passport-less Pinay flies to Seoul
It was virtually a scene plucked out of a movie: A middle-aged, penniless woman leaves her hometown and successfully flies off to distant foreign land without a passport and without paying her airfare. In the case of Leah Castro Reginio, fact is indeed stranger than fiction. Reginio, reportedly in her late 30’s and a native of Antique province, flew to Incheon International Airport, one of the largest and busiest airports in the world, from Kalibo International Airport, for free and without any travel documents via Philippine Airlines flight 490 that departed last Thursday afternoon. All thanks to a sloppy security at one of the airports serving Boracay. According to unimpeachable sources at the said airport, Reginio breezed through the labyrinth of what was supposed to be a tight airport security cordon from the entrance gate, the immigration and even at the boarding gate manned by airline ground personnel.

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