Monday, January 31, 2011

NBA: LeBron, Heat hand Cavs 21st straight loss

MIAMI — LeBron James added to his former team's misery by helping the Miami Heat to a 117-90 blowout win over Cleveland on Monday, handing the reeling Cavaliers a franchise single-season record 21st straight loss.

James, who angered Cleveland fans when he announced his decision to sign with the Heat on a nationally televised show last July, had 24 points and eight assists while Dwyane Wade had a game-high 34 points in a rout of the NBA's worst team.

Antawn Jamison led Cleveland with 21 points and 10 rebounds but the Cavaliers (8-40) could not halt their skid and are now two losses shy of of tying the single-season NBA losing streak record shared by the Vancouver Grizzlies (1995-96) and Denver Nuggets (1997-98).

James, the two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, has earned victories in each of the Heat's (34-14) three games against his former team this season.

The two teams will have their final meeting of the regular season on March 29 when Miami travels to Cleveland. — Reuters

3 youths killed in Cagayan motorcycle accident

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya – Three minors were killed Sunday after the motorcycle they were riding rammed on an oncoming passenger bus along a highway in adjacent Cagayan province.

Investigators identified the fatalities as Renante Chua, Gerald Sana, and Armando Saribay, all 17 years old and residents of Gonzaga town in Cagayan.

Investigation showed that the victims were on board a single motorcycle traversing the National Highway in Gonzaga’s Ipil village when it encroached at the road’s opposite lane.

According to Chief Inspector Domingo Caday, Gonzaga police chief, an approaching Florida bus driven by Mario Cabuslay, 30, of Novaliches, Quezon City, was unable to avoid the speeding motorcycle.

The victims were immediately brought to a nearby hospital but were pronounced dead-on-arrival.

Cabuslay, now under custody of the police, will be charged with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, Caday said. - Floro Taguinod/KBK, GMANews.TV

Nearly 6,000 people evacuated due to Caraga flash floods, landslides

BUTUAN CITY - Disaster management officials in the Caraga region in Mindanao have implemented a forced evacuation of nearly 6,000 people because of flash floods and landslides, the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) in Caraga Region reported.

The Surigao City and Surigao del Norte Disaster Risk Reduction Management Councils (DRRMC), brought some 4,762 individuals (or about 856 families) to safer grounds in Surigao City and the towns of Mainit, Tubod, Claver and Gigaquit.

In the Dinagat Islands also in Caraga Region, some 1,000 individuals from give barangays were also evacuated to safer grounds due to flash floods and landslides.

In Surigao City,some 354 families from Sitio Pagasa and Sitio Bonotan were evacuated. 

In Agusan del Norte, two persons died of drowning while in Surigao del Norte, one person was reported missing, the OCD said.

In Esperanza town, Agusan del Sur, landslides have been reported, the Esperanza Municipal DRRMC said. 

In lakeside Mainit, Surigao del Norte, some 2,892 individuals (or about 482 families) were evacuated due to flash floods and the rising water level of Mainit Lake, the fourth largest lake in the country.

In the entire Surigao del Norte province, some 103,121 individuals (or about 20,137 families) in 235 barangays were affected by flooding.

In Surigao del Sur, a landslide incident reportedly occurred at the national highway in Barangay Union, Lingig town after the Tago River overflowed, causing floods in the highway.

In Dinagat Islands, alert Level 3 was raised and classes in all levels weresuspended. Evacuations were conducted in barangays Jacquez, Wilson, Don Ruben, Luna, and Matingbe. 

Sea travels to and from Surigao City and the Dinagat Islands were also suspended. – VVP, GMANews.TV

No evacuation of Filipinos yet from Egypt

There is no evacuation yet of Filipinos in violence-stricken Egypt, although the government is increasing its emergency funds just in case the need comes, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.

DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. said while they have yet to raise the situation to alert level 3, which involves the evacuation of Filipinos to neighboring countries, Philippine embassies in the nearby Arab states have been instructed to make the necessary preparations.

"Contingency plans for one country are always coordinated with another country (because) we might have to move our nationals to neighboring countries, where we will pick them up and bring them home," Conejos said at a press conference.

Neighboring countries where Filipinos in Egypt may be evacuated include Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia, Conejos said.

Several other countries, such as the United States, Japan, Turkey, India and Iraq, have reportedly started providing chartered flights to move their citizens out of Egypt. 

According to Conejos, ensuring the safety of some 6,000 Filipinos in Egypt comes first before moving them out of the troubled African nation. 

The government, however, is not keen on issuing an official position on whether Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak should step down, as demanded by protesters pouring into Cairo's streets by the thousands. 

"We are not focusing on the political aspect of this," said DFA Undersecretary for Special Concerns Rafael Seguis at the same press conference, stressing that they are more concerned about the safety of the Filipinos there. 

He said at present, there are no reports of violence directed against foreign nationals, as demonstrations are aimed primarily at toppling the Mubarak regime.

In an earlier statement, the DFA said the government is only calling on all parties in Egypt to maintain calm and exercise restraint, and that it is hoping that the level of violence there will not escalate. 

Emergency fund

As this developed, Conejos announced at least P100 million have been allotted as emergency funds should the need for evacuation arises. 

The DFA earlier allotted a standby emergency fund of P25 million. 

Conejos said the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration are likewise setting aside a total of P25 million for the country's contingency plans. 

This is apart from the P100-million Emergency Repatriation Fund set aside for such purposes as mandated by the law, according to Conejos. 

DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Special Assistant Enrico Fos is leaving for Egypt Monday to assist the Philippine Embassy there in implementing contingency measures. 

Consul General Ezzedin Tago will also proceed to Cairo from his current post in Riyadh, while Special Envoy Roy Cimatu, currently in Afghanistan to assess the situation of Filipino workers there, will also be sent to Egypt, according to the DFA.

Of the over 6,000 Filipinos currently in Egypt, about 3,000 are working as domestic helpers; 1,800 are Muslim scholars, while about 1,000 are permanent residents married to Egyptian nationals. 

Meanwhile, Philippine Charge d'Affaires in Egypt Eduardo Pablo Maglaya reported that the current situation there has not changed, and there is no imminent danger to the lives of Filipinos there. 

The Embassy earlier set up a hotline which Filipinos there can call should they want to be moved out, while the DFA said Filipinos who have relatives in Egypt may call its 24-hour hotline number 834-4580 for inquiries about their relatives. 

The Embassy likewise reiterated its advice to the Filipino community to stay indoors, steer clear of public places especially where mass protests are happening, and avoid involvement in political actions. 

The DFA also issued a travel advisory earlier urging Filipinos to defer non-essential and non-urgent trips to Egypt, particularly for tourism purposes, until the security situation there has stabilized. - KBK, GMANews.TV

500 pass pharmacist licensure exams

A total of 500 out of the 999 examinees passed the Pharmacist Licensure Examination given in Manila, Baguio and Cebu in January 2011, the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) announced Monday. [Click here for complete list of passers.]
Topping the list of successful examinees was Kristina Marie Co from the University of the Philippines-Manila (UPM) with 89.80 percent, followed by fellow UPM graduates Marifel Franchesca Casimiro and Camille Olaco, with 89.28 percent and 89.10 percent respectively.

Completing the top ten are:

4. Dawn Emerald delos Santos (San Pedro College – Davao) – 88.45

5. Grendale Manio (UPM) – 87.88

6. Joyce Anne Ceria (UPM) – 87.78

7. Dianna Aronzado (University of Perpetual Help System Dalta – Las PiƱas) – 87.55

8. Ma. Cristine Ruffa Olalia (UPM) – 87.52

9. Hynalyn Haezelle Jonos (UPM) – 87.42

10. Alexis Melvin Galera (UPM) – 87.25

Both the UPM and Saint Louis University posted a 100-percent passing rate, the PRC said.

The PRC said the registration for the issuance of Professional Identification Card (ID) and Certificate of Registration will start on Monday, February 7, 2011 and end on February 22, 2011.

The oath-taking ceremony for those who passed this year’s examination as well as other passers who have not taken their oath will be held on Tuesday, March 1, 2011, at 1 p.m. at the Fiesta Pavilion of the Manila Hotel in Manila.

Selling of tickets for the oath-taking will be from February 7, 2011 until February 28, 2011 only, and tickets will not be sold at the venue. - Jerrie M. Abella/KBK, GMANews.TV

Generals' wives also benefited from AFP corruption — senator

The wives of former Defense secretary Angelo Reyes and former military comptroller Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot also benefited from corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Sen. Jinggoy Estrada alleged on Monday.

Estrada said former military budget officer Lt. Col. Rabusa, who bared the alleged corruption in the AFP before a Senate investigation last week, will expound on this at the next hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee.

“I think Col. Rabusa will expose this in the next hearing," Estrada told reporters in an interview.

He said based on the evidence showed to him by Rabusa, Reyes’ wife Teresita received money from him whenever she went on trips with Ligot’s wife Erlinda or with the wives of other generals.

Estrada explained that Mrs. Reyes received P50,000 as allowance for her local trips. He could not specify, however, how much she received for her overseas trips. He said Mrs. Reyes and Mrs. Ligot went on over 40 trips while their husbands were with the AFP. 



Malversation of public funds

Reyes’ lawyer, Bonifacio Alentajan, denied the accusation as one of Rabusa’s many claims. The former budget officer had earlier said Reyes received P50 million in “pabaon" (send-off money) when he retired as AFP chief of staff in 2001.

Sabi lang ni Rabusa yan (That’s just Rabusa’s claim)," Alentajan told GMANews.TV in a phone interview.

He, however, said that if it is true that Rabusa was releasing allowances to the wives of AFP officials, then he should be punished for doing so.

Pera ng gobyerno yan, bakit niya nilustay yan? Dapat ikulong siya, malversation of public funds yan (That’s government money. Why did he spend that. He should be jailed; that is malversation of public funds)," he said.

Reyes earlier in the day filed complaints against Rabusa and Estrada with the Office of the Ombudsman for linking him to the alleged corruption in the military. 

But Estrada said Rabusa has a boxful of documentary evidence that can prove his claims.

Retaliation

Estrada said Reyes and his lawyer have the right to file charges against him but that he also has the right to make such allegations. 

“They are trying to retaliate because of what happened during the hearing [but] I also have the right as your senator to expose the anomalies and the corruption which is happening within the military; that is my duty as your duly elected senator," he said.

The senator also noted that he is covered by parliamentary immunity, so he cannot be sanctioned for revealing anything about Reyes. “Whatever I say in the plenary or committee hearings, I think I am covered by parliamentary immunity."

He also denied having personal interest in pinning Reyes to corruption. “I do not have anything against Sec. Reyes or any other general for that matter. The issue here is not personal vendetta. The issue here is corruption," he said.

Reyes, as AFP chief, was instrumental in the ouster of Estrada’s father, Joseph Estrada, from the presidency in 2001. The elder Estrada was then accused of corruption.

He said it was Rabusa’s lawyer, who was also his counsel when he was charged with plunder before the Sandiganbayan, who approached him about the revelations of the former AFP budget officer. 

Fearless

Rabusa, for his part, was unfazed by Reyes' complaint as well as some death threats he said he started receiving a day after exposing the alleged corruption in the military.

"No, I don't care about it," he said of Reyes' complaint in an interview aired Monday night over GMA News' "24 Oras." 

When asked if he is receiving death threats, he said: "Meron. Kinabukasan pa lang(There are and they came the day after I appeared in the Senate)." - KBK, GMANews.TV

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Celtics beat Lakers 109-96 in NBA finals rematch


LOS ANGELES (AP) Paul Pierce says the Boston Celtics had no reason to discuss their heartbreaking loss in Game 7 of the NBA finals last summer before they returned to Staples Center on Sunday.
With a spectacularly fluid performance on offense against the outclassed Lakers, Pierce and the Celtics showed some things just don't need to be said out loud.
Pierce scored 32 points, Kevin Garnett had 18 points and 13 rebounds with a large bandage over a five-stitch cut on his head, and the Celtics overcame Kobe Bryant's 41 points in a 109-96 victory over Los Angeles.
Ray Allen scored 21 points for the Celtics in the longtime rivals' first meeting since Los Angeles rallied from a late 13-point deficit for an 83-79 win in the deciding game last June, ending an exhausting series in dramatic fashion.
"It's another game, but it was definitely an emotional game, especially because we lost Game 7 here," said Pierce, who dueled down the second-half stretch with Bryant. "It feels good to come back in this building and get a win."
The Celtics overwhelmed the Lakers in the rematch, with Rajon Rondo catalyzing the offense by racking up 15 of his 16 assists after halftime. Boston showed off its enviably complete game, outrebounding the Lakers 43-30 - a big problem for Boston in last season's finale - while hitting nine 3-pointers and getting 34 assists to Los Angeles' 10.
With his every assist against the defense of Bryant and Derek Fisher, Rondo also made a matter-of-fact statement about the Celtics' prowess in areas the Lakers can't match right now.
"We knew we could run on L.A.," Rondo said. "L.A., given the personnel that we have, we thought we could outrun them."
This victory also put the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics (36-11) well ahead of the Lakers (33-15) in the overall NBA standings.
You know, just in case.
"If we had home court last year, who knows maybe what happens in Game 7?" Pierce asked. "We're not looking ahead, but maybe if it comes down to another Game 7, maybe we'll have it at home."
Bryant scored his 27,000th career point but couldn't spark his Lakers teammates, who followed up their Christmas home loss to Miami with another flop against the best of the East, disappointing a home crowd pulsing with energy for the annual rivalry game.
"I think guys are upset, and they should be," Bryant said. "We're not playing very well against these top teams, so we need to elevate our level and need to get better if we're to defend our throne. There's no other option but that."
Pau Gasol had 12 points in a quiet game for Los Angeles, which has lost four of seven. The two-time champions are doing nothing to counter the perception they don't get excited about anything until the playoffs.
Bryant became the youngest player to reach 27,000 points on a 3-pointer late in the third quarter, but he frequently was a one-man show on offense. Ron Artest went 1 for 10, Andrew Bynum had 11 points while struggling with soreness in his left knee, and Lamar Odom had 15 points and five rebounds.
"Is it the playoffs yet?" Lakers coach Phil Jackson asked. "No. We're still playing regular-season games. We'll get there in time."
Boston led throughout the final 21 minutes, but a flurry of points from Bryant pulled the Lakers to 91-87 with 5:20 to play. The Celtics responded with seven consecutive points to start a game-ending 18-9 run, highlighted by Rondo's smooth alley-oop lob to Garnett for a layup in traffic.
"I told Rondo, in front of the team, that I thought it was one of his best games of the year," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I think he called an absolutely perfect game. He's our pitcher. ... (We) lost our senses in the second quarter for a stretch. We got into complaining about everything except for playing basketball, and I told them at halftime just keep playing through anything."
Two nights after an embarrassing 71-point performance in a loss at Phoenix, Boston earned its eighth win in 10 games - and the Celtics' star big man even showed his grit through a little blood.
Garnett had a gaping cut near his left temple midway through the second quarter after Gasol hurt him while fighting for the ball. No foul was called, infuriating Rivers and Garnett, who went to the locker room and returned with a large tan bandage on his head.
"I got elbowed in the head, and it didn't change anything," Garnett said. "If anything, it woke me up to be a lot more aggressive to the basket."
Los Angeles' fans didn't love Garnett's campaigning for a foul on the play, chanting "Wheelchair!" - a reference to Pierce curiously leaving the court in a wheelchair after hurting his knee during Game 1 in the 2008 finals.
Shaquille O'Neal didn't score and received mostly boos when introduced as the Celtics' starting center. Shaq won three titles and three NBA finals MVP awards during eight seasons with Los Angeles, but he has returned to Staples Center since with four teams - although this choice stung a bit to the isolated fans who shouted "Traitor!"
NOTES: The Lakers visit Boston on Feb. 10. ... The Lakers wore throwback uniforms from their 1971-72 team, albeit with shorts adjusted for modesty. ... Fans near courtside included Matt Damon, Jimmy Kimmel, Adam Sandler, Brooklyn Decker, Nick Swardson, Red Sox pitcher John Lackey, Zac Efron, former Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest and director Robert Rodriguez.

Officials mapping out evacuation routes for Pinoys in Egypt

As tension continued to mount in Egypt, Philippine authorities there have mapped out at least two land-based evacuation routes for some 6,500 Filipinos there.

In a radio interview on Monday, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Eduardo Malaya said they are also mapping out at least one sea-based evacuation route if the need arises.

"Meron tayong na-map out na route na pwede by land transportation papuntang Tripoli sa Libya. Puwede rin land transportation to Amman, Jordan, at pinagaaralan din natin through sea transportation from the Port of Alexandria," Malaya told radio dzBB. 

(We have mapped out land routes to Tripoli in Libya and Amman in Jordan. We are now studying a route via sea transport from the Port of Alexandria.)

He said the Philippines has also mapped out contingency plans along with transportation and other logistical arrangements.

Malaya pointed out the DFA has set up a P25-million standby emergency fund in case the need for evacuation and repatriation should arise.

The Philippine Embassy in Cairo has also set up a 24-hour hotline to accommodate calls from Filipinos there.

"Pwede tumawag anytime, ang instruction ng Pangulong Benigno S. Aquino III, talagang alagaan ang seguridad ng ating kababayan doon (Filipinos can call the hotline at any time. The instruction of President Benigno Aquino III is to ensure the safety of Filipinos in Egypt)," he said.

Travel advisory

On Sunday, the Philippine government issued a travel advisory on Egypt, urging Filipinos to avoid going to the foreign country due to continuing violent political protests there.

An Associated Press report said the official death toll from the crisis stood at 97, with thousands injured. Reports from witnesses across the country, however, indicated that the actual toll was far higher. 

But Malaya said that as of Monday morning, there was still no need to evacuate Filipinos, although Filipinos who want to go home can contact the embassy in Cairo.

"Ang nililikas sa kasalukuyan karamihan turista at businessmen di tulad ng kababayan nating may trabaho at bahay doon (So far, most of those being evacuated are tourists and businessmen, unlike our fellow Filipinos there who already have stable jobs and homes there)," he said.

Citing updates from Philippine charge d’affaires in Egypt Eduardo Pablo Maglaya, Malaya said Filipinos remain safe amid heightened tension in Egypt.

He said that of the 6,569 Filipinos in Egypt, 3,083 are household workers while the others are scholars and skilled workers or executives.

"Sinabi ng embahada [na] ang ating mga community members ay ligtas naman, they are not in harm’s way, at wala namang nasugatan o nasaktan sa kanila sa kilos protesta (Our embassy reports the Filipino community there is safe. They are not in harm’s way and are not among the casualties so far)," he said.

But he reiterated the Filipinos in Egypt had been reminded to stay in their homes and to refrain from taking part in protests.

Delayed flights

Malaya also cited reports indicating delays are to be expected in flights to and from Egypt. However, he said there has so far been no ban on flights to and from Egypt.

“Nakakapasok pa. May delays that can be expected pero nakakapasok pa (Planes can still get to Egypt. There are delays to be expected but planes can still get in)," he said.

He also downplayed concerns that the situation in Egypt will affect the deployment of Filipino workers there.

"Minimal ang deployment of Filipino labor sa Egypt, so di masyadong malaking concern itong tinatawag na may kontrata at dapat paalis papunta doon (The deployment of Filipino labor to Egypt is minimal so it is not that big a concern)," he said. — RSJ, GMANews.TV

China to send plane to evacuate citizens from Egypt

BEIJING — China said it will send a passenger plane to pick up its citizens stranded in Cairo as anti-government protests in Egypt show no sign of easing.

State broadcaster CCTV said Air China will send an Airbus A330 to Cairo on Monday to evacuate Chinese citizens. The report said the plane can carry 265 passengers and that there are more than 500 Chinese at the airport.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that China hopes normalcy and stability will be restored in Egypt soon.

A notice on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Cairo said that China has issued a travel warning and requested that its citizens not travel to Egypt. It said embassy staff have been providing food and water to stranded Chinese at the airport. — AP

Report: Bomb threat prompts class suspension in Makati school

An alleged bomb scare prompted the suspension of classes at a private school in Makati City on Monday morning.

Radio dzBB's Denver Trinidad reported that students at the elementary, high school and college levels of the school were instructed to go home.

The report quoted Makati police chief Senior Superintendent Froilan Bonifacio as saying they received the bomb threat as early as Sunday night.

On the other hand, the dzBB report said the school's Office of Student Affairs said the students were sent home "for security reasons."

As of Monday morning, rescue patrols by San Lorenzo village, K-9 units, and a fire truck were deployed to the areas around the school.

No one among the students was seen panicking, the report added. – VVP, GMANews.TV

3 suspected robbers killed in Bulacan shootout

Three suspected robbers who belong to a notorious group operating in Bulacan province were killed in an encounter with police Sunday, a police spokesman said.

In a text message, Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr., spokesman for the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the encounter between Bulacan police and suspected members of the "Alan Blas Group" occurred 3:55 a.m.

Cruz described the Alan Blas Group as a "criminal group operating in the cities of Meycauayan, San Jose del Monte, Bocaue, Balagtas, Marilao and Sta. Maria towns." He did not elaborate. - KBK, GMANews.TV

Fighter jets swoop over Cairo in show of force

CAIRO – Fighter jets swooped low over Cairo Sunday in what appeared to be an attempt by the military to show its control of a city beset by looting, armed robbery and anti-government protests.

Minutes before the start of a 4 p.m. curfew, at least two jets appeared and made multiple passes over downtown, including a central square where thousands of protesters were calling for the departure of President Hosni Mubarak.

Police could be seen returning to some streets nearly two days after virtually disappearing, creating a security vacuum only partially filled by the presence of army troops backed by tanks at key sites around this city of 18 million people.

After days of escalating chaos, gangs of armed men attacked at least four jails across Egypt before dawn, helping to free hundreds of Muslim militants and thousands of other inmates. Gangs of young men with guns and large sticks smashed cars and robbed people in Cairo.

Banks were closed on orders from Egypt's Central Bank, and the stock market was shut on what is normally the first day of the trading week. Markets across the Middle East dropped on fears about the instability's damage to Egypt's economy, and the region's.

An unprecedented Internet cutoff remained in place after the country's four primary Internet providers stopped moving data in and out of the country in an apparent move by authorities to disrupt the organization of demonstrations blaming Mubarak's regime for poverty, unemployment, widespread corruption and police brutality.

The official death toll from five days of growing crisis stood at 74, with thousands injured.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo told its citizens in Egypt to consider leaving the country as soon as possible, and said it had authorized the voluntary departure of dependents and non-emergency employees, a display of Washington's escalating concern about the stability of its closest Arab ally.

Private tour groups and corporations began trying to evacuate their clients and expatriate employees. But dozens of flights were canceled and delayed and crowds filled Cairo International Airport, desperate and unable to leave.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. expects that the protests in Egypt will lead to free and fair elections as part of an "orderly" transition to "real democracy."

"I want the Egyptian people to have a chance to chart a new future," she said. "It's not a question of who retains power ... It's how are we going to respond to the legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people."

Israel's prime minister told his Cabinet that he was "anxiously following" the crisis, saying in his first public comments on the situation that Israel's three-decade-old peace agreement with Egypt must be preserved.

After a night of violence in many cities across Egypt, the army sent hundreds more troops and armored vehicles onto the streets starting Sunday morning. Truckloads of hundreds of police poured back into Cairo neighborhoods Sunday afternoon and took up positions on the streets.

In some spots, they were jeered by residents who chanted anti-police slogans and demanded that they only be allowed to deploy jointly with the military.

State television showed Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi in green fatigues on a central Cairo street, speaking with soldiers and civilian onlookers.

Then, as the curfew loomed, the jets roared over the Nile and toward Tahrir Square in the heart of Cairo, where thousands of protesters have gathered each day to demand the end of the administration.

The jets made several passes over the square, dropping lower every time and setting off alarms in parked cars.

Some protesters clapped and waved to them while others jeered.

"This is terrorism, they are trying to scare the people with the planes and the tanks. They are trying to make people afraid and leave the square," said Gamal Ahmed, a 40-year-old air-conditioning technician.

Lines of army tanks jammed a road leading into Tahrir, and a military helicopter hovered overhead. Soldiers working with civilian protester volunteers checked IDs and bags of people arriving to join the marches.

Mubarak, 82, perpetuated the overriding role of military men in Egyptian politics by naming his intelligence chief, former army general Omar Suleiman, to the new role of vice president on Saturday. Ahmed Shafiq, the outgoing civil aviation minister and Mubarak fellow former air force officer, was named prime minister.

State TV Sunday showed images of Mubarak during what it said was a visit to the country's military command center. The president looked somber and fatigued in his first public appearance since he addressed the nation late Friday to promise reform and annouce the dismissal of his Cabinet.

The brief footage appeared designed to project an image of normalcy.

Egyptian security officials said that overnight armed men fired at guards in gun battles that lasted hours at the four prisons including one northwest of Cairo that held hundreds of militants. The prisoners escaped after starting fires and clashing with guards.

Those who fled included 34 members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest and best organized opposition group. The Muslim Brotherhood's lawyer, Abdel-Monaem Abdel-Maqsoud, told The Associated Press the 34 were among scores rounded up by authorities ahead of the large anti-government demonstrations on Friday. The escapees included at least seven senior members of the group.

The security officials said several inmates were killed and wounded, but gave no specific figures. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share the information with the media.

The officials told The Associated Press that army troops were hunting for the escaped prisoners, in some cases with the help of the police. State television also showed footage of what it said was dozens of prisoners recaptured by the army troops, squatting on dirt while soldiers kept watch over them.

In the southern city of Assiut, officials said riot police stormed the city's main prison to quell a prison riot, using tear gas and batons against inmates. An Associated Press reporter saw army tanks were deployed outside the prison, on bridges straddling the Nile and at the police headquarters.

Thousands of Alexandrians met to pray in downtown Alexandria, a Mediterranean port city that is a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood. After prayers, the crowd marched towards the city's old mosque to pray for the souls of those who died in the protests.

Egyptian mobile networks were back up after days of cutoffs but with text-messaging widely disrupted. Blackberry Messenger and mobile Internet services were operating sporadically.

The pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera said that Egyptian authorities ordered the closure of its Cairo news hub overseeing coverage of the country's massive street protests, denouncing the move as an attempt to "stifle and repress" open reporting.

The Qatar-based network has given nearly round-the-clock coverage to the unprecedented uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and had faced criticism by some government supporters and other Arab leaders as a forum to inspire more unrest. - AP

AFP ‘pabaon’ system had presidents’ nod - Biazon

MANILA, Philippines - Former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief and now Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon said Sunday that the corruption in the military could not have happened without the go-signal of presidents in power.
He told ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) that it is important to determine when the so-called "pabaon" system started and who among the chiefs of staff benefitted from it.
 
“There were 4 AFP chiefs of staff under Cory, 3 I think in Ramos’ time, then Erap had 2, then Arroyo had 11, so there are 21 people,” he said.
 
On Thursday, former military budget officer Lieutenant Colonel George Rabusa appeared during a Senate hearing on the plea bargain deal that former military comptroller Carlos Garcia entered into with the Office of the Ombudsman.
 
Rabusa said his former boss, Angelo Reyes, received P50 million in “pabaon” (send-off money) when he retired from military service in 2002.
 
Biazon, meanwhile, said he did not receive send-off money when he retired from the AFP.
 
“Had I that kind of money in the magnitude as revealed by Rabusa, I would not need to borrow P500,000 to construct a house,” he said.
 
Rabusa had said that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was aware of the fund scheme and that he would reveal the details at the Senate.
 
Arroyo, now Pampanga second district representative in Congress, has yet to issue a reaction to this allegation.
 
The AFP has vowed full cooperation in the ongoing Senate investigation on the alleged corruption within the military.
 
The AFP, however, claimed that such illicit practices, including giving hefty cash gifts to retiring military chiefs, are “a thing of the past.”
 
AFP spokesman Brigadier General Jose Mabanta said  the controversy will not shake the AFP’s foundations.  
 
Mabanta and Rabusa belong to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class of 1981.  He said he is "quite close" with Rabusa, who even served as the class' president one time. 
 
He said PMA class '81 is "behind George Rabusa in terms of commitment in saying what we want but others may not be all out for what he stands for…We can say that we admire for standing for what he believes in."
 
"George Rabusa has passed through all command positions but his longest stint is with the comptroller office. With that, he may know what he is saying," he added. – with a report from ANC

175 erring cops axed under PNoy gov't

MANILA, Philippines – A total of 175 erring police officers have been fired under the Aquino administration for various cases, according to Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo.
He added that most of the axed police officers were involved in illegal drugs.
Robredo warned rogue police officers that the DILG will not coddle them.
He, however, assured that those who are sued because of fulfilling their duties will receive full support from the government.
He said President Benigno Aquino III has earmarked P5 million for legal assistance to police officers.
Robredo, meanwhile, said DILG had urged local government units (LGUs) nationwide to come up with ordinances that will increase the number of tanods in the country’s 42,000 barangays.
He said there is a need to have additional tanod in every barangay to curb criminality.
“City and municipal councils should come up with ordinances that would be a concrete basis for it,” he said.
Under the Local Government Code of 1991, the number of tanod in every barangay should not exceed 20.
Robredo, however, said that Section 391 (16) of the Local Government Code of 1991 provides for the “organization of community brigades, barangay tanod, or community service units as may be necessary.”
He said that under the proposal, the number of barangay tanods should be based on villages’ population and their capacity to provide for the insurance and benefits of watchmen.– with a report from radio dzMM

Consulate confirms OFW killed in Jeddah floods

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – The Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah has confirmed reports to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) was among the casualties in the floods that hit Jeddah following a heavy downpour earlier this week. 
 
Ronilo Malit, a 53-year-old Pampanga native who worked as a cargo loader in Jeddah, died when he was accidentally electrocuted while passing near a submerged transformer during the floods. 
 
Consulate staff members met with Malit’s employer who reported the incident, the DFA said in a press statement Sunday. 
 
His family has been informed about the incident.
 
The consulate is now assisting the OFW's family for the repatriation of his remains.
 
Heavy downpour lasting for 6 hours last January 26 flooded Jeddah’s main thoroughfares, causing monstrous traffic snarls, power outages, and damage to personal property. 
 
People and motor vehicles were stranded in low-lying areas of the city until midnight last Wednesday. 
 
The downpour, measured by Saudi weather authorities to have reached a record of 111 millimeters, exceeded by 21 millimeters the accumulated rainfall that caused flooding in Jeddah and killed 123 persons on November 25, 2009. 
 
Major roads have been were reopened. However, many residents in flooded districts remained without mobile phone connection due to damaged towers.