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Thelma Cruz

Thelma Cruz

(Photo from Instagram | @alfredvargasofficial)


After some years of hiatus, Congressman Alfred Vargas of Quezon City has returned to showbiz with a role in the GMA network's television series "Encantadia."

Alfred, 37, who was reelected in the fifth district of Quezon City without any opponent last year, now wants to renew his vows with Yasmine Espiritu, his Italian-Filipina wife for almost nine years.

The solon and Yasmine had first their civil wedding nine years ago and have since two beautiful daughters (Alexandra, six; and Aryanna, five).

A councilor of Quezon City before becoming congressman, Alfred and Yasmine, 29, are renewing their vows at a Catholic wedding on July 23, a date which they consider meaningful and lucky to them. The ceremony will be held at the Manila Cathedral, with the reception following immediately after at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City.


“Seven is our lucky number,” Alfred was quoted as saying by entertainment editor and showbiz columnist Ricky Lo.

The columnist reported that Alfred proposed to Jasmine for the second time while on his knees at the garden of Lemuria restaurant in Quezon City last year, a setting made romantic by multi-colored lights and rose petals along a red carpet leading to their table.


Ricky Lo wrote in his latest column that it was a surprise to Yasmine who thought that they were just going out for a dinner for two the night of July 23, 2016. She was wondering why the whole place was dark, until she and Alfred started walking on the red carpet and the lights were turned on.


“Look at your watch,” Alfred told Yasmine as he fell to his knees and proposed to Yasmine, with Ngayon at Kailanman, The First Time I Loved Forever, I Will Be Here and Moon River as soundtrack. “I checked my watch and the time was exactly 7:23 p.m.”


Ricky Lo wrote that Jojo Gabinete and he met the couple over lunch at Romulo’s Cafe with Diana Zubiri, the godmother of Alexandra.

Alfred and Diana are back in the top-rating GMA action-adventure series Encantadia, he after 11 years and she after 12 years, playing Amaro and Lila Sari, respectively.


“We are surprised that there’s a kilig factor between us,” Ricky Lo noted Alfred as saying with a smile, “kahit may edad na kami.” 

In fact, their scenes together have been trending. “Nakakatuwa naman,” added Alfred.


So many things have happened in their 12 post-Encantadia years. Alfred got married, raised a family and became a public official. Diana went back to school (she graduated with a Theater Arts degree from Miriam College), survived a failed relationship that left her with a bright boy and married Andy Smith at a sunset wedding at the sprawling Sampaguita Events Place in May 2015. She gave birth to her and Andy’s first child last year. No “cultural differences” in the two marriages (Andy is Australian).


According to Ricky Lo, Yasmine came to this interview fully made-up.


“I just had a test make-up (with Indonesian make-up artist Albert Kurniawan),” explained Yasmine who will wear an off-white Cary Santiago gown “full of butterflies and flowers” to the July 23 wedding. “It’s Stephanie, daughter of Robbie Tan (Seiko Films boss), who will design the gowns for the female entourage. Stephanie and I became friends after she designed the gown I wore to the State Of The Nation (SONA) address of Pres. Noynoy Aquino in 2013.” Alfred said he would wear a suit by Joey Samson.


Yasmine is “warning” Alfred not to get her pregnant before the wedding date.


“Pag binuntis niya ako before the wedding,” threatened Yasmine, “magagalit ako. Baka hindi ako magkasya sa gown ko! Hahahaha!!! But after the wedding, okay lang.”


They will presumably start on their “joint venture” of this time having a son during their honeymoon — “We might go on a Caribbean cruise,” revealed Alfred whose left hand was locked with Yasmine’s right hand throughout the lunch, using their spare hands in sometimes feeding each other. Not many couples are so romantic and so loving after almost 10 years together.


It’s a pity that Diana didn’t bring Andy along so we could have seen how they, too, could be so romantic.


“Andy is not seloso,” shared Diana. “He understands the demands of showbiz.”


And neither is Yasmine, although their daughters sometimes become “slightly jealous” when watching their dad and Diana’s scenes together.


During a recent Encantadia shoot, Yasmine and their daughters visited Alfred. When Alfred’s scene with Diana came, Alexandra covered her mom’s eyes. “Parang nag-selos siya,” laughed Yasmine.


Besides Alfred and Diana, three other original cast members are back in Encantadia, including Neil Ryan Sese, Sunshine Dizon and Dingdong Dantes (whose GMA action-adventure starrer Alyas Robin Hood ended Friday night, with Dingdong now busy with the new show Case Solved).


The courtship of Alfred and Yasmine is one for the books. She started as his fan — “Not exactly a fan,” corrected Yasmine, “it’s more of may crush ako sa kanya. When my brother went back to Italy after a vacation in the Philippines, he gave me a poster of Alfred that he bought at a mall. ‘Uy,’ I told him, ‘crush ko ‘yan!’ Then, I had it framed and hung it on one wall of my room.”


As destiny would have it, Yasmine was vacationing with her aunt (twin sister of Yasmine’s mom) and relatives in Laguna when Alfred was there for a show. Naturally, Yasmine made sure that she watched it. To make an oft-told love story short, Alfred courted and won the heart of Yasmine.


“It’s a good thing that he had broken up with his girlfriend at that time when he was doing Impostora,” recalled Yasmine. “When I first met him, I knew that we were meant for each other, na kami ang magkakatuluyan.”


The night before Alfred did his first akyat-ligaw, Yasmine related that he dreamed about him.


“In my dream,” said Yasmine, “he was wearing a white T-shirt and he was driving a black car. He did wear a white T-shirt and come in a black car the next day.”


They have been living happily ever after, looking forward to their own “forever,” reported Ricky Lo.



Published in Headline

Lacson says she could be detained besides ex-senators Revilla, Estrada

(Photo from Leila De Lima's official Facebook page)


PASAY CITY (PhilAmPress) — Senator Leila de Lima is bracing herself for the imminent possibility of being arrested in case the Department of Justice (DOJ) releases a resolution finding probable cause to her drug-related cases.


The lady senator maintained what she earlier disclosed that the DOJ is railroading the filing of cases to get the court to issue a warrant of arrest against her.


Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II, however, refuted Sen.  De Lima's remarks stating that the DOJ is speeding up the issuance of a warrant of arrest against her in relation to her alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.


”The claim of Senator De Lima is totally erroneous. As a lawyer and as a former Secretary of Justice, she should know that the DOJ does not issue warrants of arrest. Consequently, it is totally irresponsible of her to announce that the DOJ is expediting the issuance of such warrants. That is a blatant lie and a total misinformation. Senator De Lima’s motivation for saying such is beyond us,” Aguirre said in response on the accusations of De Lima.


De Lima made the statement after Aguirre said that the neophyte senator could be arrested “anytime soon.”


“Well, I really don’t know when an arrest warrant will be issued. But Sec. Aguirre has confirmed that the resolution (for the warrant of arrest) would be released very, very soon. And then he had statements like ‘she should better brace herself for an arrest,’” De Lima said.


De Lima, an outspoken critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, said the President himself admitted that he was determined to let her suffer the same fate as former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who was jailed for plunder charges.


Aguirre said that De Lima’s statement implies that the DOJ has control or influence in courts.


“I’ve been preparing for the worst case scenario kasi katuparan lang iyan ng matagal nang utos ng Pangulo. Hindi ho ba ilang beses na po niya iyan na sinasabi that he wants me locked up in jail to suffer the fate of the former president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo?” said Sen. De Lima


(I’ve been preparing for the worst case scenario because it’s the realization of the President’s longtime order. Has he not said so many times before that he wants me locked up in jail to suffer the fate of the former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo?)


Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon explained that under the law De Lima can only be arrested if the cases are punishable by more than six years.


But based on tradition, she cannot be arrested inside the Senate grounds, Drilon said. This means, De Lima can be arrested outside the Senate.


“By tradition we will oppose the service of warrant of arrest inside the session hall. The sanctity of the session hall must be respected,” said Drilon.


Majority Floor Leader Sen. Vicente Sotto, chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, said Sen De Lima’s drug cases will not affect the resolution of the four complaints filed before his committee.


In fact, Sotto hopes to resolve them before this month ends.


“Ito’ng (this) ethics committee we will review it already, we will look into the propriety, or whether there is propriety in the conduct of being a senator, then we will decide soon enough,” said Sotto.


Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre slams De Lima for allegedly making irresponsible statements alleging that DOJ is fast racking her case.


Aguirre says the DOJ is not issuing any arrest warrant against the senator.


He adds De Lima is trying to make it appear that the DOJ is controlling or influencing the courts, which he says, is not true.


De Lima, on the other hand, is now preparing charges of subornation of perjury and tampering of witness to be filed against Aguirre before the ombudsman.


This is in relation to Aguirre’s alleged orders to restore the disallowed privileges of Bilibid inmates in exchange for their testimony against De Lima.

As this developed, Sen. Panfilo Lacson  raised the possibility that Sen. de Lima, who is facing possible arrest, could be placed in the same facility in Camp Crame as detained senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada.


Lacson made this remark in response to De Lima’s request that she be detained in a “safe and secure area” if her warrant of arrest would be served.


“Ang irony, baka magkakatabi sila ni Sen. Bong at Jinggoy. Remember meron pang bakanteng bungalow roon. I’m just thinking aloud na baka doon siya ilagay dahil secure ang lugar. Yun naman ang hinihingi niya di ba? (The irony is, she might be placed in a facility beside Sen. Bong and Jinggoy. Remember there is still a vacant bungalow there. I’m just thinking aloud that she could be placed there because it’s a secure place. That’s what she’s asking, right?),” Lacson told reporters in an interview.


Lacson said that he was merely “assuming” and not “anticipating” anything since the resolution from the Department of Justice (DOJ) versus De Lima has yet to be issued.


He said that it is a paradox how De Lima was the primary reason why senators Revilla and Estrada were detained for plunder over the pork barrel scam because she, as then Justice Secretary, was crucial in the probe into the scam.


Asked if he had plans of visiting his colleague if she should be detained, Lacson quipped saying that he would visit her if it is not traffic.


He said that there is no certainty that De Lima would go to jail yet since she has also filed petitions in the Court of Appeals (CA) questioning the jurisdiction of her case.


De Lima insisted that only the Ombudsman has jurisdiction to investigate her case, however, the Department of Justice (DOJ) believed that regular courts also has jurisdiction on some cases.


Lacson said that De Lima could also be detained in the Senate if the court and the consensus of senators would allow it, however, it has never been done in the past. (Alfred Gabot/Claire Morales True/PhilAmPress)




(Photo from


PASAY CITY — The Commission on Appointments (CA) confirmed on Wednesday the ad interim appointment of Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitallano Aguirre II despite another move by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV to suspend his confirmation.


Upon the motion of CA committee on justice and judicial and bar council chairperson Loren Legarda, the CA body unanimously confirmed Aguirre's appointment at the plenary hall.


"I can sleep well now," said Aguirre whose confirmation was deferred two weeks ago upon the request of Trillanes.


Aguirre promised to redouble his efforts to be of service to the Filipino people.


"I come to you not asking for your charity nor dole out. I offered my heart and my integrity in the service of the people. I will redouble my efforts to fully implement the President's (Rodrigo Duterte) marching orders to wage war against illegal drugs, corruption and all forms criminality," he said.


Early Wednesday, the CA panel conducted executive session to tackle Trillanes' opposition, particularly the so-called confidential memorandum submitted by Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief legal officer Alvin Herrera Lim to BuCor Director General Benjamin delos Santos.


In the memorandum dated December 9, 2016, Lim claimed Aguirre had allowed certain high profile inmates who testified against Sen. Leila de Lima, to enjoy lavish lifestyles while under confinement at Camp Aguinaldo.


Lim said the inmates were allowed to use electronic gadgets, smart television sets, air conditioning units, internet and cellular.


"It appears now that Mr. Aguirre is the one guilty of the acts he is accusing Sen. De Lima of committing," Trillanes told the CA panel.


During last year’s House inquiries on the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the national penitentiary, high profile inmates claimed that then Justice secretary De Lima allowed the high profile prisoners to enjoy lavish and luxurious lifestyles inside New Bilibid Prison.


Trillanes said Aguirre should be properly investigated for "these very serious allegations".


The senator also questioned Aguirre's qualification based on Philippine Daily Inquirer’s report where the newspaper quoted Aguirre to have said that “criminals are not human” amid the government's strong war against illegal drugs.


Trillanes also criticized Aguirre for calling him coward, "gagong senator" (stupid senator) and "sundalong kanin" (useless soldier) in connection with senator’s accusation that Aguirre took part in the alleged bribery scandal involving Chinese casino mogul Jack Lam.


In his response, Aguirre denied Lim's claims that he allowed high profile inmates to have lavish lifestyles, saying "it’s very clear here that the violations were not personally seen by Atty. Lim."


"There's no proof that there were electronic gadgets, smart television sets, air-conditioning units, internets, cellular phones. These are all hearsay because Atty. Lim did not see these," Aguirre said.


The newly-confirmed DOJ chief also clarified that he never said criminals are not human although he admitted saying the criminals are not humanity.


"I distinctly remember saying that criminals, drug lords and drug pushers are not humanity. I did not say that they are not human but you could equate these drug pushers as humanity," he clarified.


Aguirre also apologized to Trillanes for calling him stupid senator while vehemently denying accusation that he took part in the PHP50-million Jack Lam bribery scandal.


"I’m really wrong in name calling your person. That was the only time I lost my cool because you are accusing me of complexity in the Jack Lam case. I value my honor and integrity more than my life," Aguirre said, adding he was the one who exposed to the media the bribery scandal.


"Due to the pressure and volume of my work, I might have hurt people in my choice of words and for that I profusely apologize specifically to Senator Trillanes," he added.


Trillanes accepted Aguirre’s ‘sincerest apology’, saying he believes that the DOJ top official “learned his lessons.”


The senator, however, insisted that Aguirre should be investigated over the supposed BuCor’s ‘confidential memorandum’.


Aguirre explained that four major personalities, including Bureau of Immigration (BI) deputy commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles have cleared his name.


The DOJ official also clarified that he never allowed Wally Sombero, another personality linked to Jack Lam bribery case, to leave the country.


Despite Trillanes’ strong opposition, 12 members of the CA panel voted to recommend the confirmation of Aguirre at the plenary session.

MANILA ―The Philippine economy is expected to accelerate above 7 percent in 2017, mainly thanks to strong consumer spending and investments.


The First Metro Investments Corp. (FMIC) and the University of Asia & the Pacific (UA&P) said the 2.1 million new jobs and higher peso value for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) remittances will also boost a 7-percent and above growth in consumer spending, which accounts for over 70 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).


FMIC and UA&P were optimistic that the investment-led growth of the economy was still on track to a 7-percent full-year GDP in 2016, on the back of higher manufacturing output, positive peso OFW remittances and exports recovery.


”This pace should accelerate slightly in 2017 as the domestic demand growth drivers are intact, while an added boost may come from exports,” they said in a joint report “The Market Call.”


The statistics agency is set to release the 2016 full-year GDP data on Thursday.


“We think that exports recovery will continue amidst the solidifying recovery of the US (United States) economy and the improved global outlook. We, however, maintain our view that exports growth would likely end 2016 negative, or flat at best,” the report said.


“Exports should register more positive gains in 2017 and thus contribute a little to economic growth,” it added.


But FMIC and UA&P noted that investment spending should remain as the main growth driver, as they expect continued double-digit growth in capital goods imports on aggressive infrastructure spending.


“FDIs (foreign direct investments) will resume to take a faster pace in 2017 as Philippine economic numbers continue to impress foreign investors, especially the Japanese, Chinese, Koreans and Taiwanese,” they said.


The report expects these Asian investors offsetting any slowdown of US and Eurozone investments, excluding United Kingdom, “should they continue to focus on non-economic issues.”


The FMIC and UA&P further said the peso's expected depreciation should help OFW remittances to provide additional stimulus to the economy.


“While there may be periods of peso appreciation, the overall trend of depreciation will likely continue in 2017, albeit at a slower pace than 2016,” they added.

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