Saturday, May 28, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Lt. Raymond C. Gamboa is the only Filipino to graduate this year from a United States military academy, a feat his mother attributes to destiny after he was declared clinically dead as a young child and the peculiar way he got to take the entrance exams at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
Gamboa was the only Filipino and one of only 12 foreign cadets in a class of 1,021 that graduated from the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado on Wednesday (May 25).
Lt. Raymond Gamboa (5th from left) is the only Filipino in the 2011 graduating class of the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. He is joined in this photo by (L-R): PAF attaché Col. Arnel Duco, Haidee Gamboa (his mother), Dr. Marlon Mangahas, Riva Rei Gamboa (his sister), C3C Ken Quijano (another Filipino foreign exchange cadet in USAFA) and TSgt William Soriano.
Unlike in past years, there were no Filipinos in the graduating classes of the US Military Academy at West Point or the US Naval Academy in Annapolis this year. Gamboa was immediately sworn in as 2nd Lieutenant of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) by Col. Arnel Duco, the Air Force attaché based in Washington, DC.
Only the top 20 academic achievers at PMA get a chance to take the competitive exams to enter American military academies, and they would have to turn in scores that can best those from other southeast Asian military academies. (There used to be slots reserved for PMAers when the US still had military bases in the country, but today, they have to compete for those slots with other US allies in the region.)
'Clinically dead'
Gamboa’s road to Colorado is a story in itself. He became severely ill during a family vacation in Batangas when he was just 4 years old, his mother Haidee, a consultant for Sofitel Hotel, told ABS-CBN News. He was foaming at the mouth and showed other signs of a seizure so they rushed him to St. Luke’s Medical Center where he was declared clinically dead.
But doctors didn’t give up and he was revived, pumping him with an assortment of medicines that his mother now jested, “seem to have made him brighter” – he was an honor student from pre-school all the way to high school at Ateneo.
“While he was recovering at the hospital, he seemed to take an interest in being a doctor one day. When he got older, he wanted to become a lawyer,” Haidee said. But in his senior year, he expressed an interest in entering PMA that his mother found odd since there were no soldiers in their family.
Gamboa surfed the Internet to learn more about PMA but for a time, couldn’t find a way to enlist for the exams and told his mother about it. Haidee said her son had about lost interest when one day she passed by Gateway Mall in Quezon City and stumbled upon PMA officers handing out application forms. “I think it was really God’s will,” she declared.
When Gamboa passed the week-long medical exams at the AFP Medical Center, Haidee lost any trepidation about her only son taking on the hazards of a soldier’s life.
Giving back
When he flies back next month, he will go back to teaching at PMA. “I will share what I’ve learned and I hope to improve academic and military training in the Academy,” he explained.
The Air Force is considered the most technical of the major branches of the military. “We had mostly academic work,” Gamboa revealed, “but we also had a chance to meet with people in US aircraft companies and do a solo flight in a T-52 (trainer plane).”
After his 6-month stint at the PMA, Gamboa, according to Duco, will need to earn his wings at the PAF Flying School in Lipa, Batangas. He will likely have to wait a year, though, because there is a long queue for aspiring PAF aviators. “We don’t have enough planes,” Duco stated matter-of-factly.
Years of budget constraints, accidents and obsolescence have depleted much of the PAF’s air assets. Lack of spare parts has forced them to cannibalize some aircraft to keep others aloft. The US is scheduled to deliver this summer a C-130 Hercules transport plane that’s now being refurbished at a facility in the Mojave Desert in California and complete the overhaul of engines to extend the operational life of MG-520 Defender helicopter gunships.
Gamboa is unfazed by conditions in the Air Force he’s investing the next years of his life in.
Right after the graduation ceremonies, we asked Haidee what motherly advice she gave him.
“I told him to pray and ask guidance from the Holy Spirit for any decision he has to make, and to pay back his country for the opportunity it gave him. Everything we have, we owe to our country,” she told her 23-year-old son.

Smoking ban in Manila public places starts May 30

MANILA, Philippines - Starting next week, smokers will be unwelcome in public places along major and secondary roads of the metropolis.  Officers from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), together with the 17 local government units (LGU) of Metro Manila, will prohibit lighting up in bus terminals, waiting sheds, schools, hospitals, recreational places and inside public utility vehicles starting May 30 as part of a joint campaign to protect Filipinos from secondhand smoke.  The smoking ban came just in time for the World No Tobacco Day celebration on June 1. New York-based Bloomberg Philanthropies has approved a P9.5-million grant for the program.  "We'll be launching an information campaign so people will know that smoking will be prohibited in certain areas of main roads of the metropolis," Dr. Loida Alzona, division chief of MMDA's public health safety and environment protection, said in an interview on ANC's "Top Story" on Friday.  MMDA's "environmental enforcers" will issue warnings to those who will be caught violating the provisions of Republic Act 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 for the month of June.  Alzona said penalties, which include fines and community service, will take effect in July.  While it supports the smoking ban in areas like schools, hospitals and public facilities, the Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI) said it is against the smoking ban in major and secondary roads in Metro Manila.  PTI argued that the roads are not included in RA 9211's list of prohibited places, and hoped that the MMDA will reconsider its decision to implement the anti-smoking campaign.  Data from the Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization showed that smoking kills 10 Filipinos every hour, or 80,000 every year. -- With a report from ANC

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Housekeeper says billionaire discriminates against Filipinos

JERSEY CITY, NJ – Jersey City resident Esther Winkley has been a housekeeper for New York’s rich and famous for 25 years.
But when the 55-year-old Filipina applied for a head of housekeeper position for New York billionaire Len Blavatnik early this year, Winkley claims she was not hired because of her ethnic background.
Blavatnik is the 31st richest man in the US. Blavatnik recently bought Warner Music, but most of his wealth comes from his company called Access Industries, that owns 50% of energy giant TNK-BP.
Winkley said she applied for a job at the Russian billionaire’s $50 million dollar residence on 64th Street in New York last February.
Winkley also worked with Blavatnik’s butler Wilfredo Balmaceda for a trial day in March.
She said, “Wilfredo called from his office and said everything went well today, actually the housekeeper likes you very much, she enjoyed working with you.”
But in a complaint Winkley filed at the New York Commission on Human Rights, the document states that on March 15, Blavatnik’s butler – Wilfredo Balmaceda – declined to offer Winkley the job stating in an email to Winkley’s agent that she was “not the right fit for the family.”
Winkley said her employment agent was about to send another Filipino domestic helper to the Blavatnik’s for interview…when the butler Balmaceda sent an e-mail back to the agent saying, “No Philippines, Thanks.” He further went on to say that, “Sorry new directions, no Philippine.”
Winkley said, “I was furious, I said what? No Philippines? I said, what do they think of Filipinos?”
In an e-mail to Balitang America, the billionaire’s representative Mike Sitrick said, the Balavatnik’s are not available for interview but sent this statement instead.
“Any charge of discrimination by the Blavatniks is ludicrous. The fact is, employees at the Blavatnik residence come from various background including individuals from the Philippines. Mr. Smith, Winkley’s agent – had been sending unqualified candidates for months.”
Winkley said she filed a complaint at the New York Commission on Human Rights to fight not only for her own right but for the rights of Filipino domestic workers in New York as well.
Winkley said, “It’s discrimination. They don’t have any Filipinos working for them, they not only do not want to hire Filipinos, they don’t even want to interview Filipinos.”
In a phone conversation with Balitang America, the Communications Director of the Human Rights Commission said Winkley’s complaint is now under investigation and there may be other Filipino domestic workers involved in this case.
The first hearing is scheduled on June 9 at the Commission on Human Rights office in New York.

Fil-Am accused of stalking women in Starbucks bathroom

GLENDORA – A Filipino-American in Glendora, California was accused of filming women in a Starbucks restroom with a hidden camera.
A worker at a Starbucks coffee shop found a camera hidden in purse hooks placed in the women's restroom in April.
Police said surveillance footage showed 25-year-old unemployed aviation student William Velasco sneaking into the bathroom.
Velasco would allegedly sneak back into the restroom to download the video into a laptop. They found Velasco in possession of video of over 40 women.
Police said the incidents happened on April 14 and 15.
Police said Velasco, who's had no prior criminal record, is now also a suspect in a stalking case.
Police said he may have followed a girl for several days before breaking into her apartment and stealing her underwear.
Velasco is out on a $50,000 bail but police warned the public that he may be a threat.
"From our investigation, what we see is a clear escalation of behavior, it went from simply videotaping and watching this himself to then following young college girls to the point of following the girl and breaking into their apartment to stealing personal items," said Glendora Chief of Police Rob Castro.
As of posting, the crime would be charged as a misdemeanor.
However, if some of the victims filmed in the bathroom are found to be under 18 years old, the crime would become a felony.
Glendora police are now asking possible victims to contact them at (626) 914-8250.

Pinoy missing after jumping off cruise ship

LONDON - A Filipino aboard the Celebrity Eclipse made headlines here in Europe after jumping off the cruise ship.
According to reports, an unnamed 31-year-old Filipino crew member of the cruise ship jumped from the ship into the English Channel on Friday night, May 20, at 10:15 in the evening.
A travel company confirmed the incident but did not give details of the missing person except for his nationality and age.
The Telegraph reported that vessel was 8 miles north of Cherbourg, France, when the incident happened.
A rescue operation was done by the French Coast Guard overnight, but no trace of the Pinoy cruise worker was found.
The company that owns the cruise ship, Celebrity Eclipse, has promised to provide support for their missing crew member’s family.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

100 OFWs with kids seek repatriation: Migrante

MANILA, Philippines - More than a 100 undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) with children have been seeking repatriation since January.
This is according to John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator of Migrante-Middle East, an alliance of Filipino migrants’ rights group providing assistance to distressed and stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.
Monterona obtained the information from an official of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), who asked not be named.  He added that this number includes only the OFWs who have sought assistance from Riyadh and nearby cities in the central region of Saudi Arabia.
“The undocumented OFW mothers and children are temporarily staying at their friends and fellow OFWs’ rented houses,” Monterona added. The undocumented OFWs cannot stay in the embassy-run Bahay Kalinga, a Philippine government facility where female OFWs can seek refuge while waiting for repatriation.
Monterona was told by the POLO official that as a matter of policy, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration cannot admit the undocumented OFW mothers and their children to Bahay Kalinga.
“This is an outright disservice to undocumented mothers and children. If they could not be admitted to Bahay Kalinga, then the Philippine embassy should work for their repatriation and plead to the host government to treat their case as special for humanitarian consideration,” Monterona suggested.
According to the POLO official, OFW mothers and their children can avail of a special deportation process pending the approval of Saudi authorities. Monterona said, however, that this process is not being maximized as a means of sending undocumented OFWs back to the Philippines.
Monterona called on the Aquino government, specially Vice President Jejomar Binay, to attend to the concerns of undocumented OFWs and their children.
“One mother told us that her children have not been to school and they are growing fast,” Monterona said

Pinoy seaman dead after pirate attack

MANILA, Philippines - A Filipino seafarer was found dead aboard a Marshall Island-flagged ship, 4 days after it was attacked by pirates on the coast of Benin, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Tuesday.
Christopher Cortez Ceprado was found dead on May 11 after his vessel, the chemical tanker MT Sea King, was boarded by heavily armed pirates on May 7 at the anchorage of the port of Cotonou in Benin, the DFA said, quoting the vessel’s local manning agency.
Seventeen Filipinos man the vessel.
The pirates ransacked the vessel, stole its equipment and the personal belongings of the crew. No other crew was reported injured. 
The DFA did not say if pirates killed Ceprado.
The victim's remains were brought to a mortuary in Cotonou for autopsy, the DFA said. 
The ship is currently anchored in Cotonou, while authorities investigate the attack.
The DFA's Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) said it is coordinating with the ship's local manning agency on the repatriation of Ceprado's remains and the provision of benefits. 
It has also instructed the Philippine embassy in Abuja to coordinate with authorities there on the investigation of the incident and help repatriate the Filipino seafarer's body.
The local manning agency said it has contacted the victim's family and is coordinating with the vessel's principal and agent in Cotonou, maritime authorities, and the Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Club representatives.

The risks of oral sex

MANILA, Philippines - The chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is now under fire for his alleged sexual assault of a chambermaid in the United States.
Several publications reported over the weekend that Strauss-Kahn forced her to give him oral sex.
"According to the official, the man chased her, grabbed her and shut the door, locking it. He then pulled her toward the bedroom, the official said, and tried to attack her there," The New York Times said, citing a police source.
"He dragged her to the bathroom, the official added, and forced her to perform oral sex. The police said the woman eventually escaped from the suite and reported the attack to other hotel personnel, who called 911."
With his arrest in relation to the so-called sex scandal, some are saying that the Strauss-Kahn's dreams of power have been "terminated." Before the incident, opinion polls had shown that the IMF chief was likely to win the French presidency next year.
Indeed, humiliation and a tainted reputation are the price one has to pay when a well-known figure gets involved in a sex scandal.
Such is also the case for former US President Bill Clinton, who was said to have received oral sex from then White House intern Monica Lewinsky despite his marriage to now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The 1998 incident turned into a full-blown scandal, one of the factors that eventually led to Clinton's impeachment.
Another example is actor Hugh Grant, who was caught receiving oral sex from a prostitute in a car in Los Angeles.
Health risks
Oral sex, a sexual act that involves the stimulation of the genitalia using the mouth, is frowned upon in many cultures yet is commonly practiced by straight and gay couples across the globe.
It comes in many forms, and is said to be done even by animals.
Aside from the risk of getting humiliated, oral sex can also pose a number of threats to human health. US scientists said early this year that there is strong evidence linking oral sex to head or neck cancer due to HPV or the human papilloma virus.
The same virus causes cervical cancer, which is the second largest cause of female cancer mortality in the Philippines for the past 60 years. Worldwide, a woman dies from the disease every 2 minutes.
Aside from HPV, oral sex (and other forms of sexual contact such as vaginal sex, genital touching and the use of sex toys such as vibrators) can lead to a variety of sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes and HIV.
Some of these STDs are curable and not life-threatening. But if left untreated, some of these may lead to pregnancy problems or even death.
Why men like oral sex
About 40% of 77,895 women and men surveyed by Elle and in 2006 said they "rarely or never give oral sex." This as 58% of males said their partner does not like receiving oral sex, while nearly half of females said they do not like doing such.
Almost all men, however, said that receiving oral sex "boosts their sexual satisfaction."
So what do men see that women don't?
Men associate oral sex with different things, from intimacy to the feeling of being in, a blogger at the Yahoo! Shine page, asked this question to different kinds of males -- straight, gay, single and married.
Here are some of their responses:
"What seems to separate the men who like to give oral sex from those who dread it depends on one mitigating factor: good hygiene."
"It's a chance to get to know you without distraction and, in a way, it's even more intimate than intercourse."
"It involves all our senses -- sight, sound, hearing, taste, touch and scent. It's sensual and pleasurable."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pinoy on China death row hopes for commutation of sentence

KIDAPAWAN CITY — An overseas Filipino worker jailed in China for drug trafficking has expressed the hope that his death sentence would be commuted to a 15-year jail term.

In a letter to Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco, Richard Bianan — who has been incarcerated since 2008 — said the Chinese court might commute his death sentence and lower his years in detention for “showing good behavior."

Bianan also said he was glad upon learning that the Cotabato government is making inquiries into his case. “Upon hearing the news, I and other Filipinos [here] rejoiced, for we see a glittering hope to our hopeless situation here."

Bianan’s letter reached the congresswoman’s office on May 12. 

Attached in Bianan’s letter were some documents from Pu Tian City Men’s Prison Administration Foreign Group Unit, including the criminal order from the Higher Peoples’ Court of Fujian Province of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

The Fujian Province court found Bianan guilty of drug smuggling. 

Heroin capsules

In July 2008, authorities extracted from Bianan’s body 91 oval capsules filled with heroin. The amount of the prohibited drug found on Bianan weighed 1,009.3 grams.

The court said the quantity of drug smuggled to China was “so large" that a death penalty had to be imposed. However, Bianan showed good behavior inside his prison cell, allowing the court to grant him a two-year reprieve.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr., in a letter to Catamco dated May 5, said the death sentence with two-year reprieve imposed on Bianan means that his sentence has been suspended for two years.

Bianan’s sentence could then be commuted to life imprisonment should he continue showing good behavior inside the prison cell.

Conejos said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has already made necessary representations with Chinese authorities regarding Bianan’s request to lower his sentence to fixed-term imprisonment, instead of life imprisonment.

“The DFA is still awaiting the feedback of the Chinese authorities on the matter. The Philippine Consulate opined that since the two-year suspension period of his sentence has yet to expire, the Chinese authorities might not be able to give concrete responses to the representations," Conejos said.

“Mr. Bianan is reminded to do his part in making the government’s representations feasible by showing good behavior, avoiding committing another offense in prison, and getting along well with jail guards and inmates while serving his sentence," he added. — AY/JE/VS, GMA News

It is impossible to predict doomsday — CBCP

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) spokesman Msgr. Pedro Quitorio III has refuted the May 21, 2011 end-of-the-world prediction a California-based Christian ministry has spread through the Internet and in the streets of Manila.

Quitorio said the end of the world cannot be predicted, recalling that, “In the Bible, it says nobody knows when the end of the world is, except God the Father."

“How can they predict the end of the world when no one can even predict an earthquake accurately?" the CBCP spokesman added.

From the Great Flood

Harold Camping, leader of Family Radio Worldwide, claims his reading of the Bible led him to one conclusion. "Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment," Camping said.

Some Family Radio volunteers have recently been walking the streets of Manila and giving their Judgment Day pamphlets to people they meet. Their ministry has head offices in Oakland, California. 

Camping caught the media’s eye many times before. One recent instance was via an article published in The Washington Post last March 24. 

In that report, it was explained that Camping got the May 21, 2011 date of Judgment Day using passages from the story of Noah’s Ark in Genesis and the Second Epistle of Peter, mixed with his interpretations of those passages. 

Camping had a previous doomsday prediction, which he made in his book entitled 1994?— With Earl Rosero/VS, GMA News

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Nepalese sentenced to 3 years for stabbing Pinay ex-GF in UAE

A 33-year-old Nepalese was sentenced to three years in jail in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for stabbing a 39-year-old Filipino woman who dumped him in March 2010.

According to a report of Khaleej Times Online, the Dubai Court of First Instance convicted the Nepalese of stabbing his Filipina ex-girlfriend before trying to kill himself while he was intoxicated.

On March 4 last year, the Nepalese, 33, entered the beauty salon where his Filipina ex-girlfriend was working and stabbed her on her head, chest and hand, the report said.

After attacking the Filipina, he attempted suicide by stabbing himself three times in the abdomen, the report added.

The victim, a 39-year-old woman, told the prosecutor that the incident happened as she and her colleague preparing to close the beauty salon late that night.

The victim said she heard her colleague, a 35-year-old Nepalese woman, screaming because the Filipina's ex-boyfriend stabbed her in the hand.

“After stabbing her he stabbed me," the Filipina said.

She recounted that after the attack, she fainted and woke up later at the hospital.

The victim said she had known the Nepalese for a year before the attack happened.

However, when the Nepalese did not keep his promise to marry her, the Filipina decided to break up with him.

According to Khaleej Time, an Emirati lieutenant said during the investigation that he was on duty at the Raffa Police Station when they were informed by the Operation Room of the Dubai Police about a stabbing incident.

“We went to the beauty salon and there was blood everywhere. The defendant was lying on his back with a medium-sized knife next to him," the policeman was quoted as saying. – VVP, GMA News

Paul leads Hornets past Lakers in stunning opener


LOS ANGELES (AP) Chris Paul and a few teammates sneaked across the street from their hotel to Staples Center the night before the New Orleans Hornets began the postseason, eagerly hoisting up a few shots in the shadows of the Lakers' imposing championship banners.
With their tumultuous regular season finally a memory, Paul said the Hornets were almost unbearably eager for the playoffs to start.
Maybe that's why New Orleans got the drop on the defending champs in a stunning series opener.
Paul had 33 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds, flawlessly leading the Hornets down the stretch of a 109-100 victory Sunday.
Carl Landry scored 17 points and Jarrett Jack added 15 for the seventh-seeded Hornets, who overcame Los Angeles' major size advantage with cagey defense and a disciplined offensive approach that led to just three turnovers, tying an NBA playoff record.
New Orleans also got a phenomenal game from Paul, who scored 17 points in the fourth quarter and led a decisive 8-0 run after the Lakers trimmed their lead to four points. Repeatedly shredding Los Angeles' defense on pick-and-roll plays, the four-time All-Star was at his playmaking apex.
"I've struggled all season long, trying to figure out where to pick my spots," said Paul, who inscribed his sneakers with the No. 30 of injured teammate David West, New Orleans' leading scorer. "It's the playoffs. It's a whole other energy."
Game 2 is Wednesday at Staples Center.
A few hours after eighth-seeded Memphis produced a series-opening surprise in San Antonio, Paul and his Hornets put another intriguing wrinkle in the NBA postseason.
Kobe Bryant scored 34 points for the Lakers, who opened the postseason with the same halfhearted effort that comprised much of their regular season after three straight exhausting trips to the NBA finals.
Los Angeles' 7-foot starters, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, were widely expected to be an awful matchup for smallish New Orleans, but New Orleans rookie coach Monty Williams concocted an impressive game plan to minimize the big men's impact.
"Our defense, I thought, was late," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I think we were late on everything. They were the aggressors, and they stayed aggressive. ... I think they respect the Hornets. I just don't think they were keyed in on what they have to do."
Ron Artest had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who swept the four-game regular-season series with New Orleans. They had won their last six playoff series openers since Houston beat them in the Western Conference semifinals in 2009 on Los Angeles' way to Bryant's fourth championship.
Los Angeles never grabbed a second-half lead despite another dynamite game from Bryant. The most glaring problem was Gasol, who struggled to eight points - just two more than his season low - on 2-for-9 shooting with just six rebounds.
A few people in the Staples Center crowd pointedly heckled Gasol in the final minutes, while other fans booed as they streamed out of the building.
"I'm disappointed, yeah. Stunned, surprised," Gasol said. "But we were the ones responsible for that to happen, so we have to own up to that and come back to work in the next couple of days and get the series where we want it to be."
The playoff pressure of Staples Center clearly didn't bother the Hornets, who lost West to a serious knee injury last month and lost three straight games to finish the regular season. Williams made his playoff debut along with Emeka Okafor, Marco Belinelli and Jack - but the Hornets had more poise down the stretch.
Artest's free throws pulled Los Angeles within four with 3 minutes left, but Paul led the Hornets to points on four consecutive possessions, setting off a celebration confined entirely to the Hornets' bench.
"A lot of people counted us out from the beginning," Landry said. "A lot of people probably still count us out. That's cool. A lot of people might think this game might have been lucky, but we play as a team. We play as a collective unit. We're without David West, but we've still got dudes on this team that can step up."
Lamar Odom had 10 points and one rebound in 31 minutes of play, while Bynum contributed 13 points and nine rebounds but wasn't his usual defensive force in his first game back from a hyperextended right knee.
"It's always good for us, when I think about the personality of our team, to be humbled a little bit," Odom said. "Sometimes that's the best thing for us, to be humbled. To lose on our home court in the playoffs, probably against a team that people think we should handle easy, I think it's good for us."
Aaron Gray had a season-high 12 points for New Orleans, but was helped off the court by teammates with 1:07 to play after Gasol accidentally stepped on his right foot while fighting for a rebound. Williams said Gray has a mildly sprained ankle.
Bryant bruised his neck when he tumbled into the front row after hitting a jumper in the final minute of the first half, spending the last 10 seconds facedown in pain while Artest hit a 43-foot jumper at the buzzer. Bryant got up slowly and missed halftime warmups, but returned without missing a beat.
NOTES: G Trey Johnson, recalled from the D-League by the Lakers just five days earlier, played six minutes in the second quarter. Johnson was with the Lakers in training camp, and he suited up for Toronto earlier this season. ... Bryant collided with the courtside chair next to Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of sports conglomerate AEG. ... Fans near courtside included Jack Black, Seal,, former Arizona forward Derrick Williams and Brewers owner Mark Attanasio.

Reward for Negros barangay hall massacre suspect raised to P500K

After failing for more than a month to locate the suspect, Negros Occidental authorities have raised to P500,000 the reward for information leading to the capture of the suspect in a barangay hall massacre in Silay City on March 6.

Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon doubled the reward for Barangay Kapitan Ramon bloodbath suspect Noel Ayalin from P250,000 to P500,000 as police said the search for him has gone nationwide.

This developed as additional charges for multiple frustrated homicide were filed against Ayalin before the Silay City Prosecutor’s Office Friday, the news site Visayan Daily Star reported on Saturday.

Those who survived the bloodbath were Kapitan Ramon Barangay Captain Ramon Celebre, and barangay councilors Salvacion Corugda, 42, and Lenny Leorca, 34.

The survivors were the ones who filed the charges against Ayalin.

On Wednesday, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, who was in Bacolod City at the time, ordered the police to use all available resources and manpower to arrest Ayalin.

Robredo cited information reaching him that Ayalin, a former barangay captain, may no longer be in Negros Occidental.

Ayalin faces four charges of murder for shooting dead Sangguniang Kabataan chairwoman Imee Occeña, 16; and barangay councilors Luzviminda Cotamen, 45, Freddie Juno, 58, and Pedrito Orocio, 52.

The victims were shot as they were about to start their barangay council session in Kapitan Ramon on March 6.

Negros Occidental police director Chief Superintendent Cipriano Querol Jr. said the search for Ayalin has gone nationwide because they believe he is no longer in Negros.

“We formed five dedicated teams to go after Ayalin but unfortunately he has escaped our dragnet," Querol said.

Querol assured that the search for Ayalin has not stopped even if the court has not issued a warrant for his arrest yet. – VVP, GMA News

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

DFA to conduct mobile passport services April to June

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will conduct Mobile Passport Services (MPS) in various provinces from April to June.

In an announcement on its website, the DFA said it will hold the missions in Rizal, Cavite, Bulacan, Mindoro and parts of Metro Manila.

For April, the DFA said consular teams will be in Tanay, Rizal and Gen. Mariano Alvarez, Cavite on April 16.

The team will also visit Angono, Rizal and Obando, Bulacan on April 30.

For May, MPS teams will be in Caloocan City and Makati City on May 7; in Rodriguez, Rizal and Pinagbuhatan, Pasig on May 14; in Pateros on May 21; and at the Department of Health main office on May 28.

MPS teams will also go to Paombong, Bulacan and Quezon City on June 4; Navotas City and Calapan, Mindoro on June 11; Pasig City and Iba, Zambales on June 18; and Tanza, Cavite on June 25. – VVP, GMA News

2 offices at NFA headquarters in QC ransacked

Police started Thursday an investigation into the ransacking of at least two offices at the headquarters of the National Food Authority in Quezon City.

A report by radio dzBB's Allan Gatus quoted NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez as saying that the affected offices included the public affairs and human resources departments.

Quezon City Police District Scene of the Crime Operations (QCPD-SOCO) operatives cited initial information that drawers in the two offices at the NFA building's third floor were flung open.

The report did not indicate the things that were lost in the incident, but said police may ask NFA officials for closed-circuit television footage, if these are available. — LBG, GMA News

NBA fines Bryant $100,000 for anti-gay slur

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The NBA fined Kobe Bryant $100,000 on Wednesday for using a derogatory gay term in frustration over a referee's call.
NBA Commissioner David Stern issued a swift disciplinary ruling after the Los Angeles Lakers' five-time NBA champion guard cursed and used the homophobic slur when referee Bennie Adams called a technical foul on him Tuesday night in the third quarter of a victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
"Kobe Bryant's comment during last night's game was offensive and inexcusable," Stern said. "While I'm fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated. ... Kobe and everyone associated with the NBA know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society."
Stern's action drew praise from gay-rights organizations that had demanded a fuller apology from Bryant and condemnation of his words by the Lakers. Bryant, the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying his words came strictly out of anger and shouldn't be taken literally.
"We applaud Commissioner Stern and the NBA for not only fining Bryant but for recognizing that slurs and derogatory comments have no place on the basketball court or in society at large," Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said. "We hope such swift and decisive action will send a strong and universal message that this kind of hateful outburst is simply inexcusable no matter what the context."
Bryant's words and actions were captured by TNT's cameras during the network's national broadcast of the Lakers' regular-season home finale.
Bryant punched his chair before taking a seat on the bench, throwing a towel on the court near his feet in frustration after picking up his fourth foul in the third quarter. He got his 15th technical of the season for arguing the call, one shy of the cumulative trigger for a one-game NBA suspension.
"What I said last night should not be taken literally. My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period," Bryant said in a statement issued through the Lakers. "The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone."
The 32-year-old Bryant is a former league MVP, a 13-time All-Star, the leading scorer in Lakers franchise history and sixth on the NBA's career list after passing Moses Malone last month. He was the MVP of the last two NBA finals while leading the Lakers to back-to-back titles.
Bryant has been among the NBA's most popular players worldwide for most of his 15-year career, spent entirely with the Lakers, even after he was arrested and accused of sexual assault in 2003 in a case that was later dropped. He has several lucrative endorsement deals with companies ranging from Sprite to Turkish Airlines.
His No. 24 jersey was the league's best-selling uniform among fans during each of the past two seasons, and Bryant's jersey finished second to LeBron James' new Miami uniform in the NBA's annual rankings released earlier Wednesday.
Gay-rights groups quickly denounced Bryant's actions against Adams. Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, saw an opportunity to put a spotlight on the unacceptable nature of anti-gay slurs.
"Professional sports players need to set a better example for young people who use words like this on the playground and in our schools, creating a climate of intolerance and hostility," Barrios said. "The LA Lakers have a responsibility to educate their fans about why this word is unacceptable."
Known as a fierce competitor with a nasty edge, Bryant has ranked among the NBA's top 10 accumulators of technical fouls during each of the past six seasons, and he has edged right up to the line of serious NBA discipline this spring. He ranks second only to Orlando's Dwight Howard in technical fouls this season, mostly for arguing with referees.
Bryant was called for an additional technical foul that was rescinded Monday. If Bryant gets another T in the Lakers' season finale at Sacramento on Wednesday night, he would be suspended for the first game of next season, not for a playoff game.
The Lakers will open the playoffs this weekend at Staples Center.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Labor chief: OFW displacement to slash remittances by $1.6B

Threatening to displace over two million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the escalating unrest in Middle Eastern and North African countries could bring down annual OFW remittances by $1.6 billion, government figures show.

Citing remittance figures from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz disclosed that about 2.4 million OFWs work in strife-torn countries in the Middle East.

In North Africa, some 64,736 OFWs in similarly conflict-ridden states such as Egypt and Libya face threats against their personal security and employment.

The projection, however, excludes possible losses from OFWs in countries with lingering conflict such as Iran, which employs 4,420 OFWs, Iraq with 6,215, and Israel with 39,000.

Employment in Qatar

Vice President Jejomar Binay meanwhile said that job openings await OFWs in Qatar -- at $88,233 per person, it has the world’s highest per capita I ncome, surpassing Norway and Luxembourg.

In his meeting with Binay, Qatar Labor Minister Nasser bin Abdulla Al Hamaidi expressed his eagerness to see more OFWs in Qatar as the country prepares to host the World Cup in 2022.

Welcoming Binay, Crown Prince Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani also said, “Filipinos are always welcome in Doha. Our doors are open to them. They are hardworking, disciplined, highly skilled and very professional, and they have become part of our culture." 
OFW remittances have buoyed the Philippine economy, reaching nearly $19 million in the last two years. — PE/VS, GMA News Online

PHL Embassy in UK warns vs forged signatures, fake verification stamps

Philippine officials in the United Kingdom (UK) warned Filipino workers on Sunday to be wary against the forged signatures of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office there (POLO-UK) and fake job verification stamps.

The Philippine Embassy in the UK issued the warning after learning that at least one recruitment agency presented forged Job Order Verification Stamps and signatures of authorized officials of the POLO-UK.

"The Embassy reiterates its advice to verify any job offers, particularly those secured online, with the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency or the POLO-UK at or," it said in a news release posted on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) website.

The embassy said the case involved one JP Recruitment Agency with address at 290 Queens Road, Bootle, Liverpool, United Kingdom and contact number 00-44701114753.

Citing information reaching it, the Embassy said the agency presented a Manpower Request/Job Order bearing a fake POLO-UK verification stamp and the forged signature of the Labor Attaché based in London to a Philippine recruitment agency.

However, the DFA did not say if the agency was sanctioned for the action.

"The public is advised not to entertain any transactions for recruitment and employment from the said entity which allegedly bear the stamp and signature of POLO without first verifying this with the POLO-UK Office at the Embassy," it said. – VVP, GMA News