(STAR) By Rica D. Delfinado - The stock market gave up more than half of its gain at the close of trading yesterday as investors, clearly spooked by the events triggered by the walkout of Sen. Antonio Trillanes from a Makati regional trial court, quickly locked in early gains.

After rallying by as much as three percent, the key composite index gave up more than half of its gain at the close following renewed calls from a group led by Trillanes for the ouster of President Arroyo. The key composite index finished up 41.55 points or 1.2 percent at 3,578.55, off a high of 3,643.43. The broader all-share index gained 15.20 points or 0.7 percent at 2,172.57. Market breadth was negative with decliners outnumbering gainers, 84 to 39, while 39 stocks ended flat. A total of 6.7 billion shares worth P7.6 billion changed hands.

The group, on trial for an alleged 2003 coup plot against Mrs Arroyo, stormed out of court Thursday and took over the Manila Peninsula hotel in Makati.

“Investors were clearly spooked. That stunt took the steam out of the market. It completely destroyed the momentum of the market,” said Francisco Liboro, president of PCCI Securities.

“The market was trying to stabilize and focus on the positive third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data, but the distraction was just too much,” added Liboro.

Investors pushed up shares earlier following Wall Street’s rally overnight on growing hopes for another US rate cut as well as the release of strong GDP data for the third quarter.

During trading hours, the government announced that the economy expanded by 6.6 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, led by the services sector.

The government said the economy is on track to grow by seven percent for the full year, surpassing its target.

“With growth generally spilling into the next quarter as domestic demand strengthens, the economy should be able to surpass the full-year target of 6.1 to 6.7 percent growth,” said Economic Planning Secretary Augusto Santos.

“The numbers were pretty decent but the Trillanes factor eroded the day’s gains. The uncertainty defused the newfound bullishness of the market,” said Jose Vistan Jr, research director at AB Capital Securities.

Antonio Trillanes, one of the alleged leaders of the 2003 mutiny and who is also a senator, is among the group of soldiers who took over a Manila hotel today and called for Mrs. Arroyo’s ouster.

Analysts said that if the political tension continues, the market will not only have to contend with the nervousness about the US economy, but will also have to deal with problems at home.

“Hopefully, this was just a knee-jerk reaction. If the situation stabilizes in the next 24 hours, then we should move back in tandem with the global markets when we resume trading next week,” said PCCI’s Liboro.

The country’s financial markets will be closed today for a public holiday and trading will resume Monday.

Index leader Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLD) extended gains of its New York-listed shares, adding P85 or 2.8 percent at P3,100. Ayala Corp, the country’s largest conglomerate, gained P10 or 1.8 percent at P560.

Shares of San Miguel Corp, Southeast Asia’s biggest food and beverage group, surged on news that the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court has dismissed the government’s claim over a 17.3 percent stake in the company and awarded 600 M dollars worth of stocks to the company’s chairman, Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. In its ruling on the two-decade dispute, the court said the government failed to prove allegations that Cojuangco used coconut levy funds to buy his shares in San Miguel and that he misused funds of United Coconut Planters Bank, of which Cojuangco was president at that time.

“The court ruling is one less worry for the company,” said Lawrence de Leon, an analyst with Accord Capital Equities. “With that long concern finally over, San Miguel can now focus on its plans to venture into other businesses,” said de Leon. Cojuangco announced earlier this year the company’s plans to spend P35 billion on non-allied businesses like power generation and distribution, mining, infrastructure and property development.

San Miguel’s A-shares, limited to Filipinos, climbed P3 or 6.4 percent to P50. Its B-shares, open to foreigners, edged up P3 or 6.3 percent to P50.50.

The biggest decliners include SM Investments Corp which lost 20 pesos or 5.7 percent at P327.50.

Property developer Ayala Land Inc dipped 25 centavos or 1.6 percent to P15.25. First Philippine Holdings Corp declined P1.50 or 2.3 percent to P64. —Technistock

Judges disgusted over budget cut in 2008 outlay By Mike Frialde Friday, November 30, 2007

A group representing 900 regional trial court judges nationwide yesterday expressed disgust over the cut in the budget of the judiciary in the proposed 2008 national budget.

“The unexpected slash in the proposed budget was never explained. We deplore in the strongest possible terms the drastic reduction in the proposed budget that the judiciary received. While not yet entirely losing hope, the judges must necessarily turn to the Senate to rectify this anomalous situation,” said Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 24 Judge Antonio Eugenio, president of the Philippine Judges Association.

The House of Representatives recently passed the P1.227-trillion national budget for 2008. The proposed allocation for the judiciary of P14.6 billion for next year was reduced to P10.34 billion.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno said the reduction of the judiciary’s allocation means that Congress wants a “first class judiciary on a third world budget.”

Puno said that the budget slash will hamper the judiciary’s efforts to speed up resolution of pending cases.

“The lack of sufficient funding will inevitably lead to undue delay in the dispensation of justice and, ultimately, result to injustice. More importantly, the said reduction has demoralized a great majority of those in the judiciary who solely depend on their meager salaries and benefits to support their families,” Eugenio said.

“As a co-equal of the government, Congress should not be stingy (with us),” he said.

Eugenio said courts nationwide have incurred unpaid utility bills. Some courts even still use typewriters instead of computers, he said.

“There is no place for apathy when what is at stake is a more responsive, efficient and pro-active judiciary,” Eugenio said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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