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Our issue for March 28, 2009

Manuel L. Quezon III

Philippines FREE PRESS

March 28, 2009

Main Features

On the Cover: Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim

         Cover story c/o Dann Fabros and Ricky S. Torre

         Manila City Supplement, six pages, full color

         C/o Dann Fabros

1.The Ghosts of Murders Past

The Justice Department has reopened the Dacer murders case with the expected return from the United States of one of the suspects, former senior superintendent Cesar Mancao later this month. Mancao, who has decided not to contest his extradition to the Philippines, claims to have witnessed the planning of the murder of public relations agent Salvador Dacer and is believed to know who ordered the hit, which also cost the life of Dacer’s driver, Emmanuel Corbito, in 2000. Expected to get in a grand tussle with the Arroyo administration when Mancao comes home is Sen. Panfilo Lacson, commander of the National Police and head of the police organized crime task force at the time. Lacson has been trying to remove President Arroyo from power and jail her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, for corruption since his election to the Senate in 2001. He says he has nothing to do with the murders and he believes Mancao has not implicated him. But the administration can do anything and make things happen, including the rehabilitation of Mancao, who has already asked to be made a state witness. Lacson is definitely in trouble here.

    By Guiller de Guzman

2. Ill Winds from the Sea

Calls from 20 of the senators for a review of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States come at a time when China is flexing its muscles in the South China Sea. Angered by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s signing a law that defines the Philippines’s base lines as embracing the Freedom Group of islands in the contested Spratly archipelago and the disputed Scarborough Shoal, China has sent patrols to show who is the mightier one in the seas off the Philippines. New US President Barack Obama has finally called Mrs. Arroyo after dodging her for weeks and only because of the increasing clamor for a review of the VFA, an additional agreement to the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries. Obama sees the VFA as vital to the US war against terrorism in Southeast Asia, but most members of the Philippine Senate want the agreement renegotiated because of its unfairness to the Philippines. The United States is unlikely to agree to revising the agreement to give equal protection to Philippine troops and can very well cut military aid to the Philippines and leave this country to be bullied by China if Manila abrogates the VFA.

         By Guiller de Guzman

3. The More, the Merrier?

A year before the Filipinos return to the polls, the House of Representatives is considering expanding its membership from 250 to 300. But it seems that 50 more seats seem to be too few considering that the country’s population is now 90 million because Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has introduced legislation that would add 100 more seats to the House. The reelectionists in the House are jumping for joy. The creation of new voting districts will eliminate strong rivals, as the division will make both defender and challenger win without cheating or shooting each other.

         By Guiller de Guzman

4. Shedding Their Jewels

Saddled with billions of pesos in refunds to overcharged customers, the Lopezes sell 20 percent of their holdings in Manila Electric Co. to Pilipino Telephone Corp., the second wireless phone unit of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. The sale relieves the Lopezes of the pressure of having to fend off alone an expected hostile takeover bid by San Miguel Corp., which is aiming for Meralco’s power lines to diversify into broadband Internet. They plan to team up with PLDT chief Manuel Pangilinan to fight off a raid by San Miguel boss Eduardo Cojuangco. Cojuangco, however, appears to have been reviewing his options, as fighting for control of Meralco could prove quite costly and might affect San Miguel’s venturing into other fields, such as energy. An indication that Cojuangco is waiting for better times is a statement issued during the weekend by San Miguel president Ramon Ang saying that San Miguel is willing to let Pangilinan run Meralco. For now, that is.

         By Guiller de Guzman

5. Features

6. Che and Milk, film reviews

         By Makati Rep. Teodoro L. Locsin Jr.

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