Palace confirms Zamboanga crisis is over

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MANILA -- Malacañang on Saturday confirmed that the deadly three-week standoff between government troops and Muslim rebels who held nearly 200 people hostage in Zamboanga City has ended with all of the captives safe.

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Undocumented parents worried over Obamacare

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NEW YORK -- R. Ng and his wife, both from the Philippines, have overstayed their visas since 2003. They have a nine-year-old son who is a US-born citizen.

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Aquino passes blame on ‘pork’ scam to Arroyo

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MANILA -- Bristling at the tag “pork barrel king,’’ President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday accused his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, of accumulating close to P1 trillion in discretionary fund to stay in power.

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‘Megan Young embodies the best of Philippines, US,’ says envoy

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MANILA -- She hails both from the Philippines and the United States and embodies the best of both sides.

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Post-impeachment pork: Drilon, Enrile top list

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Twenty senators received a total of P1.107 billion in additional pork barrel a few months after they voted to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona last year.

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Blast plunges 3 Mindanao Provinces into darkness

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Kidapawan City -- The provinces of North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Maguindanao in Central Mindanao were plunged into darkness shortly before 8 o’clock last night after an improvised explosive device blew up Tower 141 of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) in Barangay Kayaga, Kabacan, North Cotabato.

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Arroyo, 3 Cabinet men charged with plunder

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Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, three of her Cabinet secretaries and 20 others were charged with plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday for allegedly stealing P900 million from the Malampaya Fund meant for impoverished victims of back-to-back storms in 2009.

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Napoles couple charged

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Manila -- The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) yesterday filed tax evasion charges against suspected P10-billion pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and her husband for alleged non-filing and payment of income tax totaling to more than P61 million.

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Misuari et al. charged with rebellion, crimes against humanity

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ZAMBOANGA CITY -- The police announced Thursday they have filed charges of rebellion and crimes against humanity versus Moro National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari and 82 of his followers in connection with the three-week-long siege of Zamboanga City in which more than 200 persons were killed and tens of thousands forced out of their homes.

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Railway expert says every MRT trip ‘risky’

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A railway expert is calling on the government to urgently upgrade the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) line 3, particularly the train’s obsolete signaling system which poses serious threat to its passengers.

Rene Santiago, a former chief of the defunct Northrail Corp., said the MRT 3 needs a new signaling system that controls the gap between trips to prevent collision between trains. He said the government should look into the matter now that it is in the process of acquiring new coaches to augments the current fleet.

“Government is bidding out the procurement of new coaches, but it is not looking at acquiring a new signaling system,” said Santiago who is the infrastructure planner of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) study team on the 2013 Roadmap for Transport Infrastructre Development for Metro Manila study and was a member of the master plan team for the Metro Manila Urban Transport Integration study in 1998.

The fact that MRT 3 has been operating since 2002 makes its signaling system already obsolete and considered “risky”, not to mention the worn-out rails that also need replacement.

“In effect, every MRT trip is a risky trip. Every time you ride the MRT, pray that there will be no accident because a glitch in the signaling system would mean life and death to the passengers. Replacing it is a safety issue,” he said.

Santiago said a new signaling system will roughly cost about P1 billion so he suggested that the government implement an overall upgrading of MRT 3 instead.

“Government would probably need P10 billion to double the capacity of MRT 3. This already covers cost for the additional coaches, station renovation, facility repairs and rail replacement,” he said.

Santiago, a civil engineering cum laude from the University of the Philippines, is not optimistic that the MRT 3 will be upgraded before 2016 given the slow bidding process at the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC). Santiago is convinced that money is not the problem why DoTC has failed to implement a single transportation infrastructure project halfway through Aquino’s term of office.

“The problem is neither technical nor financial. It is the official’s ability to execute. The people who are supposed to execute the projects cannot do it because they placed lawyers to handle technical projects,” he said.

He then suggested that Malacanang should consider a new team at the DoTC, starting from the Assistant Secretary level, to replace ineffective staff. He said he is not volunteering for any job, but he would offer his expertise if asked.

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