Wake Up, Philippines!

Brain attack: Some hearty reminders

Posted in Diseases/Disabilities, Health by Erineus on May 20, 2009

By Julie Cabatit-Alegre Updated May 19, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – When the late Fernando Poe Jr. suffered a stroke from which he would not recover, many called it a heart attack, thinking that the terms “heart attack” and “stroke” mean the same thing. “They do not,” says Dr. Artemio Roxas, Jr., director of the stroke unit and chief of the neurology section at the Medical City in Pasig City. Put quite simply, while both may be the result of blocked arteries, one occurs in the heart, while the other occurs in the brain, so that a stroke is also called a “brain attack.”

“There are two main types of stroke,” Dr. Roxas explains. Ischemic stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is stopped by a blockage (bara) in a vessel, while hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened vessel bursts or ruptures. In a third type, referred to as transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke, the symptoms are temporary, but they are usually warning signs of an acute stroke that’s forthcoming. Heeding the warning signs and addressing the risk factors can prevent a major occurrence.

Stroke symptoms usually don’t involve much pain or discomfort, and are more likely associated with numbness or losing the ability to move. Often, strokes affect only one side of the body. The faster a stroke patient gets help and receives medical intervention, the greater is the chance for recovery. Up to three hours after the attack represent the window of opportunity.

How do you know if someone is having a stroke and, what can you do? Observe and remember “KAMBIO,” Dr. Roxas says, “for kamay, when one arm appears weaker than the other when raised; mukha, when the face appears distorted (tabingi); bigkas, when there’s difficulty in speaking or speech is slurred; and oras, or need to rush to the ER.”  In English, the acronym is “FAST” for face, arm, speech, and time.

“Recognition of a stroke is important,” Dr. Roxas stresses, “as well as urgent admission to a tertiary hospital as acute treatment is available that can minimize disability.”

Medical City has a special team at its stroke unit that is equipped to respond within minutes a patient is brought in. “Time lost is considered brain lost.”

Stroke kills about five million people each year and is considered as the second leading cause of death worldwide. At least 15 million patients have non-fatal strokes annually, and about a third is significantly disabled as a consequence. In the Philippines, it is one of the leading causes of death, together with other cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) including coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, hypertension, peripheral artery disease, and heart failure.

“Even before a stroke happens, it is important to also understand its risk factors so that medical intervention is administered early and aggressively,” Dr. Roxas remarks. Non-modifiable risk factors or factors that we cannot control include family history, race and ethnicity, sex and age. “CVDs are still largely diseases of the elderly,” says Dr. Roxas. “However, there are modifiable risk factors for stroke which when eliminated or controlled reduce the risk of stroke significantly.” These include cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, physical inactivity, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol.

“There is a growing concern that because of the lifestyle and diet of Asians, particularly Filipinos, cholesterol levels are rising, resulting in an increasing risk of stroke,” Dr. Roxas notes.

The Asia Pacific Cohort Studies Collaboration, in the Journal of Epidermiology, reported a 25-percent increased risk of fatal or non-fatal ischemic stroke in the region associated with increasing total cholesterol. The same report confirms that cholesterol is rising substantially in Asia . Lipid-lowering agents, such as statins, indicate reduced cholesterol. Atorvastatin is widely prescribed for the treatment of high cholesterol, for increasing “good cholesterol’ (HDL) and decreasing “bad cholesterol” (LDL) and total cholesterol. Studies involving patients who have had a prior stroke also demonstrate that atorvastatin significantly reduces the risk of the recurrence of another stroke, a result not demonstrated before by statin in this population.

Atorvastatin is produced by Pfizer, a worldwide top-ranking investor in research and development, and leader in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

“A dreaded aftermath of a stroke is the increased possibility of the recurrence of another stroke,” Dr. Roxas observes.

Up to 40 percent of those who have experienced a first stroke suffer a second stroke within five years. There is also a high risk that they may later die of a heart attack.

“Awareness is the cornerstone to prevention,” says Dr. Roxas. “We at the Medical City stroke unit recognize that knowledge of stroke, including its recognition and risk factors, is an important strategy to prevent another stroke.”

Stroke education is given by senior stroke nurses to patients at bedside for them to be better informed about what a stroke is, how to recognize warning signs, and what to do when it occurs. The Stroke Society of the Philippines (SSP), where Dr. Roxas is 2nd vice president, has also developed a video program aimed to increase information dissemination. The 12-minute slide show is entitled “Stroke: It Could Be You.”

“Patients should ask their doctors questions,” Dr. Roxas says. “Don’t leave the hospital without knowing and understanding what you have. Be aware of the risk factors and make appropriate lifestyle changes. The best way to prevent a stroke is not to have one.”

Reduce your risk of having a stroke by following these hearty, friendly reminders:

• Check your blood pressure regularly.

• Stop smoking (if you eat nutritious food that is low in cholesterol and fats).

• Reduce your consumption of sweet and salty food.

• Control your weight.

• Control your diabetes, if present.

• Exercise regularly.

• Avoid excessive stress.

• Avoid excessive alcohol use (if you drink).

• Take medications regularly and faithfully using the proper dose prescribed as well as the duration recommended.


The scary truth about cervical cancer

Posted in Diseases/Disabilities, Health by Erineus on May 20, 2009

By Lai S. Reyes Updated May 19, 2009 12:00 AM

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Dr. Rey delos Reyes, SGOP president: “Cervical cancer continues to be a big problem worldwide because there is still lack of awareness and access to screening or treatment of pre-cancerous lesions of the cervix.”

MANILA, Philippines – It’s a silent killer that takes the lives of 274,000 women worldwide every year. What’s strange is that the carriers of the disease don’t even know they have it until it’s too late.

Touted as the second most common cancer in women, cervical cancer is a deadly disease that affects women 35 to 55 years old.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 500,000 new cases of cervical cancer have been diagnosed this year and about 274,000 will succumb to the disease annually. Sadly, most of these deaths occur in less developed countries such as the Philippines.

“Cervical cancer continues to be a big problem worldwide because there is still lack of access to screening or treatment of pre-cancerous lesions of the cervix,” explains Dr. Rey delos Reyes, president, Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of the Philippines (SGOP).

In observance of the Cervical Cancer Awareness Month this May, Dr. Delos Reyes recently conducted an informative lecture on cervical cancer at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas. With the theme “Babae, Mahalaga Ka! Iwasan ang Cervical Cancer, Magpa-screening Na!,” the event was aimed at educating women about their health, cervical cancer, cervical cancer screening and prevention, and to encourage positive action among those who are at risk of the disease.

According to Dr. Delos Reyes, cervical cancer is caused by certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), some of which are also responsible for causing genital warts, vulvar (area outside the vagina) cancer, and vaginal cancer.

“HPV infection is a common infection and spreads mainly through direct genital contact. While most HPV infections clear on their own, there are types that can cause HPV, cervical cancer, vaginal and vulvar cancer, and genital warts,” he explains.

Genital HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). In fact, there are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital areas of men and women, including the skin of the penis, vulva, anus, and the linings of the vagina, cervix, and rectum.

“You can’t see HPV. Those who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it,” notes Dr. Delos Reyes.

Warts The Matter?

Most people with HPV don’t develop symptoms or health problems. But sometimes, certain types of HPV can cause genital warts in men and women. The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types that can cause cancer.

“HPV types are often referred to as ‘low-risk’ (wart-causing) or ‘high-risk’ (cancer-causing) based on whether they put a person at risk for cancer. In 90 percent of cases, the body’s immune system clears the HPV infection naturally within two years. This is true for both high-risk and low-risk types,” explains Dr. Delos Reyes.

Genital warts usually appear as small bumps or groups of bumps in the genital area. Warts may appear within weeks or months after sexual contact with an infected person. Or they may not appear at all.

A CDC fact sheet released by the Department of Health and Human Services USA states that genital warts, if left untreated, may go away, remain unchanged, or increase in size or number. They will not turn into cancer. However, HPV can cause normal cells on infected skin or mucous membranes to turn abnormal.

If the high-risk HPV infection is not cleared by the immune system, it can linger for many years and turn abnormal cells into cancer over time.

“About 10 percent of women with high-risk HPV on their cervix will develop long-lasting HPV infections that put them at risk for cervical cancer,” further explains Dr. Delos Reyes.

Cancer Warriors Unite

In 2005, the Philippine Cancer Facts and Estimates showed that cervical cancer ranks fifth in the list of 10 leading causes of cancer deaths for both sexes and second in the 10 leading cancer sites among females. Every year, an estimated 6,000 women in the country are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,349 die of the disease. Approximately, 12 women die each day of cervical cancer and about five out of 10 women afflicted with this cancer will die within five years.

Alarmed by the statistics, the Department of Health and institutions like Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (POGS), the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of the Philippines (SGOP), and Cancer Resource and Wellness (Carewell) Community will conduct a day of free cervical cancer screening on Friday, May 22 for females aged 15 to 45 years old in selected DOH-retained hospitals in Metro Manila, La Union, Pangasinan, Cebu, and Davao

“Women aged 15 to 45 years old should avail themselves of the free screening because with early detection, the chances of treatment success are higher. The best way to detect cervical cancer is through a regular Pap smear to determine pre-cancer lesions,” says Dr. Honorata Catibog, director, National Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

The free screening slated on May 22 will be provided in the following selected DOH hospitals in Metro Manila: Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, East Avenue Medical Center, Tondo Medical Center, Quirino Memorial Medical Center, Amang Rodriguez Medical Center, Rizal Medical Center, Las Piñas Medical Center, Valenzuela General Hospital, and Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital.

It is also available in DOH regional hospitals and medical centers such as Region 1 Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, and Davao Medical Center.

Patients found positive in the screening will be referred for treatment. Information materials and support activities will likewise be available to cancer patients to assist them in their recovery.

Prevention Is Key

Cervical cancer develops due to the following risk factors: HPV, many sexual partners, smoking, multiple pregnancies, and having a family history of cervical cancer, among others.

“Even women with only one lifetime sex partner can get HPV if her partner has had prior sexual partners,” stresses Dr. Delos Reyes. “Cervical cancer in its early stage doesn’t have a particular clinical manifestation. There’s just the foul-smelling vaginal discharge, which most women attribute only to infection.”

Other symptoms are bleeding and spotting between menstrual periods that are longer and heavier than usual, unusual discharge from the vagina which may contain blood and occur between menstrual periods or after menopause, and pain during sex.

“Due to lack of awareness and knowledge about cervical cancer, most of the patients are diagnosed at the late stage of the disease. Most of them are already in their third and fourth stage,” relates Dr. Delos Reyes.

There are important steps females can take to prevent cervical cancer. A vaccine can now protect them from the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers and genital warts. The vaccine is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls. It is also recommended for girls and women aged 13 to 26 who have not yet been vaccinated or completed the vaccine series.

Even women who got the vaccine when they were younger need regular cervical cancer screening because the vaccine does not protect against all cervical cancers.

“Cervical cancer can also be prevented with routine cervical cancer screening and follow-up of abnormal results. A Pap smear test can identify abnormal or pre-cancerous cells. Listen to your body. Huwag ipagwalang bahala ang mga sintomas. Cervical cancer, if detected early and treated properly, is preventable and curable,” stresses Dr. Delos Reyes.

* * *

For inquiries about cervical cancer and HPV, visit www.mahalagaka.com and hpv.com.ph.
View previous articles from this author.

Soy and osteoporosis: The bone hard facts

Posted in Diseases/Disabilities, Health, Nutrition by Erineus on May 20, 2009

By Angel S. Respicio, Jr. MD Updated May 19, 2009 12:00 AM

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Illustration by Rey Rivera

MANILA, Philippines – There’s so much emphasis on the positive role of soy in preventing osteoporosis. Soy was hailed as the wonder food ever since soy lobbyists successfully persuaded the USFDA to approve it in 1999. Taking their cue, the American Heart Association fell to the soy industry’s ploy in 2000 despite concerns from Dr. Francis Crinella, Dr. Joseph Mercola, and Kaayla T. Daniel PhD.

According Dr. Francis Crinella at the University of California, the soybean plant lifts up manganese in the soil and concentrates it, creating levels of manganese in soy formulas that are 200 times the level found in breast milk. A newborn cannot excrete this extreme manganese load, creating high manganese levels in the blood, liver, kidneys, and other soft tissues of the body, including the brain. Manganese overload has been implicated in cases of brain damage and movement disorders.

Dr. Joseph Mercola, on the other hand, notes in his newsletter that soy formulas contain high levels of aluminum (1,000 percent higher than cow’s milk formulas) and the phytoestrogen substance isoflavones. He says that a soy-fed baby receives the equivalent of five birth control pills’ worth of estrogen every day. These babies’ isoflavone levels were found to be from 13,000 to 22,000 times higher than in non-soy-fed infants. Early onset of puberty in girls and abnormal development of testes in boys have been linked to this unnatural surge of hormones in early life.

Some health practitioners advise us to avoid meat and eat tofu for better bone health, but Kaayla Daniel, PhD thinks otherwise. In her absorbing article “Soy and Osteoporosis: Not a Leg to Stand On,” she busts the myths head on.

Soy as the all-natural solution for osteoporosis? The latest ploy of the soy industry is to fan women’s fears about bone loss and distract them from recent news that soy does not prevent heart disease, and that it worsens cardiomyopathy, impairs fertility, and may increase breast cancer risk.

Myth Exploded

Consumers who bone up on the issue, however, will find that the research is inconsistent and contradictory at best, and that soy truly does not have a leg to stand on. A recent study that the industry has chosen not to promote came out of Yale New Haven Hospital in July and compared calcium bioavailability in women eating soy versus those eating meat. The researchers concluded in the Journal of Nutrition, “These data indicate that when soy protein is substituted for meat protein, there is an acute decline in dietary calcium bioavailability.”

This finding explodes a myth widely propagated by vegetarians, namely that meat and eggs cause a loss of calcium, leading the body to strip calcium from storage in the bones, ultimately resulting in osteopenia or osteoporosis.

Sulfur Study

The study most often cited to justify this claim came out in 1988 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Those who got their protein from animal products lost 50 percent more calcium from their bodies than did those who had only soy protein. The researchers concluded, “The inability to compensate for the animal protein-induced calciuric response (meaning calcium in the urine) may be a risk factor for the development of osteoporosis.”

What is never mentioned in this study is that the 15 subjects spent a grand total of 12 days testing each type of food. This was just enough time for their bodies to react to unexpectedly high levels of sulfur proteins, but not enough time for the body to normalize and handle the sulfur load. Calcium homeostasis is normally well regulated so that increased calcium loss through the urine results in increased calcium absorption from the gut. This adaptive process may fail to occur during short-term studies but the human body is more than capable of adjusting to the sulfur load of real foods, given a proper time frame.

The evidence that soy isoflavone supplements stem bone loss was based on the results of bone density tests. These tests measure bone quantity but not quality, and fail to acknowledge that thin bones can be strong, flexible, and healthy while thick bones can be brittle and friable. If soy isoflavones, in fact, stop bone resorption, the result could be chalky big bones that crumble. This is exactly what’s happening with some women whose bone mass has been “preserved” with drugs like Fosamax.

Notably, people and animals fed real food have not experienced the same problems, so cutting back on sulfur-rich foods is not the solution to osteoporosis.

Malnutrition in Children

Evidence that soy milk does not promote healthy bone growth in children has even begun to appear in the mainstream press. A May 8, 2006 Newsweek article entitled “Does Milk Hurt Kids?” warned readers that children given rice and soy-based milk substitutes were showing rickets and other signs of malnutrition once found almost exclusively among the famished in third world countries. Soy milk, of course, contains phytates, which block the proper absorption of calcium, zinc, and other minerals needed for proper bone growth.

Although calcium supplements are added to soy milk to compensate for theft by phytates, the cheap powders are hard to absorb or not swallowed at all because of the powder’s tendency to either clump at the bottom or stick to the walls of the container.

More Hazards

Commercial soy milk also contains vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), the ineffective vegetarian form of vitamin D that offers few of the benefits of true vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and has been linked to hyperactivity, coronary heart disease, and allergic reactions. Even the cheapest dairy milk sold in supermarkets uses vitamin D3, but soy milk manufacturers use D2, the only form accepted by soymilk-swigging vegans.

Dr. Daniel reminds us that soy milk is high in sugar, a well-known bone hazard. Most brands add between one teaspoon and one tablespoon per glass.

On January 17, 2006, the American Heart Association has had enough and withdrew their support for soy and soy-based products. The health claims from the soybean-funded studies were actually exaggerated and false.

D Bare Facts

Now, to make that calcium prevent osteoporosis, you need vitamin D. Let me clear a misinformation. The sun is not a source of vitamin D, it will never be! It only activates the “inactive” form of vitamin D which is found under the skin. The best time to maximize the activating power of the sunlight is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Avoid taking a bath in your house or soaking in chlorinated pools for at least an hour for the sun-activated vitamin D to be absorbed properly. Vitamin D occurs naturally in fatty fish, cod liver oil, liver, animal fat, and egg yolk. It is also synthesized (manufactured) by the body from cholesterol. Egg yolk, therefore, should be consumed regularly and if you have concerns with stroke, fear no more. Dr. Anthony L. Komaroff of the Harvard Health Letter assured us when he said, “People who eat an egg a day are no more likely to have heart disease than those who eat eggs less than once a week.”

By the way, vitamin D can only be absorbed in the gut in the presence of fat. If you are taking vitamin D supplements without the required fat, you are just putting that essential vitamin down the drain. Did you ever wonder why skim milk, low-fat milk, and fat-free milk, even if fortified with calcium and vitamin D, do not benefit your bones if at all?
View previous articles from this author.


GSK launches new allergic rhinitis treatment

Posted in Diseases/Disabilities by Erineus on May 20, 2009

Updated May 19, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) recently announced the availability in the Philippines of its new intranasal steroid (INS) fluticasone furoate for the treatment of allergic rhinitis (AR). As approved by the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD), the nasal spray is indicated for the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR) and perennial allergic rhinitis (PAR) in adults and children two years and older.

AR is a highly prevalent global disease which has a significant impact on patients’ quality of life. A recent survey highlighted that over 70 percent of patients suffering from AR experience both eye and nasal-related symptoms, which are among their most bothersome symptoms, although currently available AR treatments do not fully address both.

Clinical studies in more than 2,900 adults and children show the efficacy of fluticasone furoate in relieving overall nasal allergy symptoms, which included nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy nose, and runny nose in AR patients two years of age and older. In addition, it is the first prescription nasal steroid spray to demonstrate consistent and significant improvement in relieving overall allergic eye symptoms, which included red, itchy and watery eyes in patients with seasonal allergies 12 years of age and older in three prospectively designed studies. In all studies, fluticasone furoate sustained its effectiveness for a full 24 hours.

A 2008 Medical Design Excellence Gold Award winner, the once-daily treatment is delivered in a unique, ergonomically designed device that was developed with the allergy patient in mind. Its side-actuated mist release button releases a gentle scent and taste-free mist with a low volume of spray, which means patients are less likely to experience a bitter taste or the effects of drip down the back of the throat or out of the nose.

“GSK is proud to continue its long tradition of discovering innovative respiratory medicines with the launch of this new and patient-friendly allergic rhinitis treatment,” says Daisy Cembrano, GSK Philippines public affairs. “We hope to help more Filipino patients get the relief they need from this disease, which poses a significant burden on their quality of life.”

Fluticasone furoate is a prescription medicine available in leading drugstores nationwide. Priced at around 30-percent lower than leading INS brands, it is the latest addition to the portfolio of GSK’s globally-trusted treatments that are now affordable for more Filipinos after the company announced a pioneering 30-50-percent price reduction on most of its major brands.


COA: AFP failed to remit P244-million Balikatan fund

Posted in AFP by Erineus on May 20, 2009

By Reinir Padua Updated May 20, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – More than P240 million in unused funds for the 2006 and 2007 RP-US Balikatan exercises that should have been returned to the National Treasury have turned up in a government bank, a Commission on Audit (COA) report showed.

The COA report on the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the funds in question include “the amount of unutilized remittance from the US embassy for the Balikatan exercises which was deposited and held in trust with the Land Bank of the Philippines; and the Special Financial Assistance for CAFGU (Citizens Armed Force Geographical Units) in Wesmincom.”

Wesmincom stands for Western Mindanao Command.

The COA said the unremitted funds amounted to P62.77 million in 2007 and P181.98 million in 2006 or a total of P244.7 million.

The STAR checked with the COA and was told by an emloyee, quoting auditors, that this could not be immediately classified as an irregularity. In fact, this was not included in the “Observations and Recommendations” part of the 2007 audit report on the AFP.

The audit agency has yet to come up with its report on the 2008 operations of the AFP.

The Balikatan expenses came into focus following allegations by Navy Lt. Senior Grade Nancy Gadian that more than P46 million of the funds had been misused.

Gadian had accused her superiors, particularly Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, of pocketing portions of the fund. Cedo has since denied the allegation.

AFP checking COA report

The AFP said it is in close coordination with COA regarding the unremitted Balikatan funds.

Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, AFP spokesman, said that concerned military units are examining and checking financial records in light of the COA report.

Gadian, who has been declared AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave), is being urged by her superiors to come out in the open and file formal charges against Cedo.

“She must support her allegations, otherwise, it will be nothing and therefore baseless,” Brawner said, adding that Gadian’s continued refusal to surface to submit herself to military regulations would make her liable for violations of the Articles of War.

SC protection

Meanwhile, Gadian’s elder sister has asked the Supreme Court to help protect the Navy officer by issuing a writ of amparo.

Nedina Diamante also asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order on Cedo and four active Armed Forces officials to make them “refrain from issuing or carrying out any threat to the life, liberty and security” of her sister.

The respondents in Diamante’s petition aside from Cedo were AFP chief of staff Lt. Gen. Victor Ibrado, Navy flag officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ferdinand Golez, Western Mindanao Command chief of staff Col. Joel Ibañez, and management and financial officer Lt. Col. Antonio Dacanay.

“There is a very serious threat to the life, liberty, and security of petitioner’s sister. The right to life, liberty and security of petitioner’s sister is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of public officials or private individuals that are under the control or supervision of respondents,” the eight-page petition stated.

“Ostensibly the threats to petitioner’s sister are meant to cow, intimidate, silence and prevent her from informing the public about the alleged corruption in the Balikatan exercises,” it added.

Diamante said her sister has gone into hiding precisely due to threats to her life from individuals who allegedly want to prevent her from disclosing what she knows about the alleged fund misuse.

She told the Court that her sister had told her in a text message about a “shoot-to-kill” order.

Diamante also revealed that unidentified suspicious-looking men had been casing their house in La Paz, Iloilo City since last week. Someone had also knocked on their door to warn them of a surveillance operation by the military.

A regional director of Iloilo-based Federation of Bantay Bayan

Foundation Inc. and former barangay council member, Diamante said they have already sought the help of Jaro, Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Party-list groups Gabriela and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan have offered to help Gadian.

“Instead of encouragement, Gadian is now being attacked to prevent her from speaking the truth. We are asking the judiciary to protect her since the same aid could not be expected from the government, which has a long -standing record of silencing whistleblowers like Gadian whose exposé implicates its military generals,” Gabriela said in a statement.

Gadian was deputy chief of Civil Military Operations (CMO) during the Balikatan joint military exercises in Western Mindanao from 2002 to 2007.

Although she did not directly handle the CMO funds, she was responsible for their allocation.

Gadian earlier volunteered to provide the Senate with documents supporting her claim that Cedo used the month-long Balikatan in Jolo, Sulu as a “milking cow.”

Of the P46-million fund, only P2.3 million was released to Filipino soldiers, she said.

When Gadian made the exposé, the AFP announced that Gadian has been AWOL and has since been dropped from the rolls following her failure to report back to duty after her 30-day leave lapsed last April 21.

But according to her sister, Gadian was on official leave from March 9 to April 21 and that she filed her resignation from the Armed Forces last May 1.

Reports said she had repeatedly failed to attend the Efficiency and Separation Board (ESB) hearing on her case of insubordination.

Her ESB case stemmed from her refusal to face Navy investigators. – With Jaime Laude and Edu Punay
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Keeping out tourist predators

Posted in Crime, Sexual Abuse, Tourism by Erineus on May 20, 2009

Cebu Daily News
First Posted 10:05:00 05/19/2009

Out-of-bounds tourism” would be an apt term for the incident involving an American tourist who was arrested by police last week for staying with a minor in a beach resort in Sta. Fe town, Bantayan island.

Vigilant beach resort staff reported his presence to social workers. Not surprisingly, the parents of the 12-year-old girl, a sampaguita vendor, said they consented to letting her stay with the American “friend”. He had helped send the children to school. Was there more he did?

In last Monday’s story the tourist denied abusing the girl and said he planned to take a vacation with her and her family. He expressed admiration for Filipinos and said he even planned to stay in Cebu for good were it not for his predicament.

There’s much for him to explain, aside from his relationship with a family whose young daughters met him while sending sampaguita flowers on the street in Cebu City.

A medical examination by the Sta. Fe health worker found a laceration in the little girl’s private parts.

That alone is basis to act with real skepticism toward the conduct of an adult Caucasian male, who checks in a resort with a school-age girl who is not his daughter, sister, niece or anyone related by blood or morally proper ties.

While some could sense the desperation of the girl’s family in defending the “friend” who has helped their daughter and siblings go to school, there are many also shocked by the decision to offer their daughter’s company to a virtual stranger.

During the Easter break, Sta. Fe town figured in a controversial bikini show staged during the Holy Week that resulted in charges filed by the Capitol against the promoter and several starlets.

These two incidents are significant in light of the Department of Tourism’s promotion of Cebu as the prime tourism destination in the country.

The business community and the public at large are certainly not crowing about stories of foreign or domestic pedophiles enjoying the benefits of arms-open-wide tourism.

Remember Pagsanjan town in Laguna? That place knows a thing or two about sexual predators masquerading as tourists .

If Cebu is being overprotective today about the dignity of its women and young girls, congratulations. We’re much smarter now after going through the rough learning curve of sex tours during the unmonitored Japanese invasion of the 1970s.

It is noteworthy that the Sta. Fe beach resort where the American stayed was the one who reported the unusual guests to the authorities.

It shows the resort management had a conscience to go with its entrepreneurial spirit. Police were able to “rescue” the child the day after the report.

We have to know clearly what kind of tourism Cebu wants. Hospitality has its limits and it’s not to be given at the cost of innocent children.


Bid for Con-ass plenary vote fails

Posted in Charter Change, Congress, House Representatives by Erineus on May 20, 2009

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:37:00 05/20/2009

MANILA, Philippines—Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte was left red in the face Tuesday after his peers in the majority ignored his plea to junk his proposal to amend the Constitution and instead made a spirited drive to bring it to a plenary debate.

But the advance of House Resolution No. 1109 penned by Villafuerte was delayed for another week after the majority failed to muster enough votes at the committee on constitutional amendments to carry to the floor the measure seeking to convene a constituent assembly (Con-ass).

“Isn’t it pathetic that after I have withdrawn, most everybody can now say you’re the only one who has withdrawn, we will continue with the resolution that you have drafted anyway? Isn’t that pathetic?” he said.

Villafuerte urged the majority to follow his lead in abandoning HR 1109 and all efforts to change the Constitution, including House Resolution No. 737 that Speaker Prospero Nograles is pushing to amend the Charter purportedly to get rid of restrictions on foreign investments.

Villafuerte declared that Charter change (Cha-cha) was dead after he announced his withdrawal of HR 1109 on Friday, charging angrily that Nograles had delayed action on it and ignored his request that it be acted on ahead of HR 737.

But Villafuerte’s colleagues at the committee on constitutional amendments proceeded to vote 12-4 (with one abstention) in rejecting a motion by Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros Baraquel to archive HR 1109 after the principal drafter had abandoned it.

Camiguin Rep. Pedro Romualdo and Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino both disputed Villafuerte’s claim that he was a mere author of HR 1109, pointing out that he actively solicited their signatures endorsing HR 1109 during a party hosted by Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez.

Enough time

Contrary to Villafuerte’s claim, Romualdo and Antonino insisted that there was enough time to lay the groundwork for Charter change.

“Let us not be misled,” Antonino said. “He personally came to me to get my signature and he even claimed this will be easy.”

Even Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez did not look too kindly at Villafuerte’s presumption that Charter change would be dead with his withdrawal from the initiative.

Golez said Villafuerte was just one of the 173 signatories to HR 1109.

“It is not up to the committee to fathom the genesis of HR 1109. This is not relevant,” Golez said.

After frustrating Villafuerte’s bid to shoot down HR 1109, Antonino immediately made a motion for the committee to endorse the resolution for plenary debate. This would allow the congressmen to decide the Charter change mode.

HR 1109, based on a vague provision in the Constitution, seeks to turn Congress into an assembly to introduce changes in the Charter by a joint vote of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

With its dominant numbers, allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo can easily override the Senate, which is opposing the measure and is threatening to challenge its constitutionality in the Supreme Court.

‘Fourth mode’

Nograles’ HR 737—described as the “fourth mode” of revising the Constitution—calls for amendments by a three-fourths vote in each of the two chambers, instead of a simple majority as required in passing bills.

Villafuerte claims HR 737 is patently illegal, pointing out that the modes of introducing changes in the Constitution only calls for either a constitutional convention, turning Congress into a constituent assembly, or through a “people’s initiative.”

Bayan Muna party-list Rep Teodoro Casiño accused the majority of trying to railroad HR 1109 even though it had yet to get a sponsor in the committee or be tackled in a public hearing.

But the committee’s chair, La Union Rep. Victor Ortega, explained that his panel’s role was just to recommend the Cha-cha modes. “I want to reach Charter change by whatever road it takes,” he said.

When Ortega insisted in acting on Antonino’s motion to vote on whether to endorse HR 1109 without further debates, many of the minority members decided to walk out, along with Villafuerte.

Cat’s out of the bag

However, most of the majority lawmakers were absent during the voting and could only muster five votes and failed to get the measure to the plenary.

Quezon Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III said it was a small victory that delayed the endorsement of HR 1109.

“I believe they will make a more determined effort next week to vote for the approval of HR 1109,” he said.

He said the mixed voting showed that some of majority members still listen to reason in rejecting Con-ass.

But Tañada warned that the majority was clearly pushing for Con-ass as the preferred mode for Charter change after Antonino declared that he would move to defer action on HR 737 on the floor once HR 1109 was taken up in the plenary.

“The cat’s out of the bag, they want HR 1109 over HR 737, and that is more dangerous because anything can happen in a Con-ass, including extension of the President’s term,” he said. Ms Arroyo’s term expires next year.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri Tuesday urged Nograles, the Lakas president, and Villafuerte, the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) head, to stop squabbling, saying the two political parties were heading for a historic merger on May 28.

“It’s counterproductive,” he said, urging the two to join their members “in uniting for the good of the country.” He said the Lakas-Kampi merger was “beyond these two personalities.” With a report from Christine O. Avendaño