At least 51 killed as tornado hits Oklahoma suburb. 30 Chinese vessels, 1 warship sighted in Palawan. Chiz poorest Senator, Manny Villar still richest.
Today on Rappler.
Story 1: ABU SAYYAF AGREES TO RELEASE AUSTRALIAN
Two senior intelligence officials say the kidnappers of Australian Warren Rodwell agree to release him.
As of 7 pm Thursday, a military intelligence officer says “negotiations” for Rodwell’s release are over and he might be released to a local Basilan official in the town of Tipo Tipo.
Another intelligence official says police and local officials are -- quote -- "just working on the process to transfer custody" from the kidnappers.
The Abu Sayyaf kidnapped Rodwell from Zamboanga del Sur on Dec 5, 2011.
The group initially set a 1-million-peso ransom, but raised it to 2-million dollars by early 2012.
In December last year, accounts on Facebook and YouTube posted a video of Rodwell as proof of life.
Wearing a black t-shirt, his hair cropped short, cheeks sunken, Rodwell said he had lost hope of being released.
Sources earlier told Rappler negotiations have been difficult because it’s unclear who will lead it.
Story 2: US WILL STAY OUT OF SABAH ISSUE
The United States will stay out of the Sabah dispute, despite claims that Washington is bound to protect the Sulu Sultanate under a century-old treaty.
Days after his followers crossed over to Sabah, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III asked US President Barack Obama to help them reclaim Sabah.
Kiram's spokesman Abraham Idjirani says Washington had a "historical obligation" to the Sultanate, citing the 1915 Kiram-Carpenter Agreement.
Idjirani says the agreement assures the sultan American protection “should a problem arise in Sabah between the Sultan of Sulu and other foreign countries.”
On Wednesday, US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas says, "We're not looking to respond in any matter to the invocation of the treaty.”
“I can't stop them from invoking it, but we don't want to interfere in the issue and tell President Aquino and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak what to do."
Story 3: OVER 3,000 FILIPINOS FLEE SABAH
DILG-ARMM Assistant Secretary Sharifa Dans says there are now a total of 3,568 returnees from Sabah.
The total includes 230 who arrived in Taganak island on Tuesday.
Out of the new returnees, 61 are from Basilan, 50 from Sulu, 44 from Zamboanga, and 75 from Tawi-Tawi.
The Philippine Coast Guard assigns BRP EDSA Dos to fetch the returnees from Sabah.
Story 4: CHIZ, HEART: AGAINST ALL ODDS?
Re-electionist Senator Chiz Escudero talks to media after the parents of his girlfriend accuse him of being arrogant, disrespectful and an alcoholic.
Natashya Gutierrez reports.
Senator Chiz Escudero finally stops ignoring the talks.
He faces the media in Naga City, two days after the parents of his actress-girlfriend Heart Evangelista go public.
Heart's mom and dad tell media, they disapprove of the re-electionist.
Cecile and Rey Ongpauco accuse their daughter's boyfriend of being arrogant, disrespectful and an alcoholic.
Escudero says he wants to separate his private life from his personal life.
But he says he can't take it anymore.
He says Heart's parents want only one thing: He expresses his love for his 28 year old girlfriend, who is 16 years younger.
Escudero refuses to entertain other questions outside his statement.
On stage, his fellow candidates talk about his character as part of their speech, something they've never done before.
Other candidates also say it is a personal issue which shouldn't matter to the public.
Earlier, the opposition had called on Escudero to respond because raises questions about his character.
Do personal issues and relationships matter during elections?
In general, Filipino voters don't distinguish between personal and professional.
Former President Joseph Estrada's womanizing was never an issue with his fans.
But Filipino values -- like respect for elders -- and humility-- are things voters look for.
Natashya Gutierrez, Rappler. Naga City.
Story 5: UNA BETS DRAW SMALLER CROWDS WITHOUT ITS LEADERS
The United Nationalist Alliance draws smaller crowds in Mindanao without its 3 top leaders.
Ayee Macaraig reports.
It’s just not the same.
The opposition’s campaign in Davao City draws just 3000 people, with none of the United Nationalist Alliance’s top leaders in the sortie.
A far cry from UNA’s Northern Mindanao leg, the sortie crowd is smaller and the energy not as high…
save for the usual dance numbers.
UNA senatorial bets admit the absence of former President Joseph Estrada is a big loss…
in a region traditionally known as his bailiwick.
They also get just a few endorsements from local politicians…
with Davao’s Duterte family supporting the rival slate Team PNoy.
Still, UNA candidates try to manage on their own.
They campaign in Manay and Mati in Davao Oriental, and nearby provinces.
Besides support for Estrada, they say residents of Southern Mindanao have other reasons to go for the opposition.
RICHARD GORDON, UNA SENATORIAL BET: Walang power lagi di, ka ba magagalit sa administrasyon? Kung ikaw ay kamag-anak ni Jose, yung babaeng binaril sakay sa motorsiklo pagkatapos niyang magprotesta, di ka ba magagalit? Kaya galit ang tao ng Mindanao sa administrasyon. (There’s always power outage, won’t you be angry at the administration? If you’re a relative of Jose, the girl shot while riding a motorcycle after she protested, won’t you be angry? That’s why the people of Mindanao are angry at the administration.)
With the absence of the so-called 3 kings, UNA is shifting to a new strategy: divide the ticket, and make their children lead the smaller groups.
The slate plans to break into 3 teams come April, with Nancy Binay, Cagayan Rep Jack Enrile and San Juan Rep JV Ejercito leading the pack.
UNA says it wants to cover more ground and counter the administration’s barrage of ads.
Ejercito says the choice of team leaders goes beyond their fathers’ name recall.
JV EJERCITO, UNA SENATORIAL BET: Probably more than the strength it’s the organization. Tingin nila organized ang aking campaign team, na kaya naming magbuo ng sortie on our own. Mukhang ganun din ang kay Nancy Binay. Yun ang consideration. (They think my campaign team is organized, that we can form a sortie on our own. Same is true with Nancy Binay. That’s the consideration.)
The campaign period for local candidates starts on March 29.
By then, local bets are expected to focus on their own campaigns but UNA candidates say it will also allow them to just ride on their allies' events.
AYEE MACARAIG, REPORTING: The campaign is about to enter its next phase.
With UNA’s top leaders soon busy with their own candidacies and work, senatorial bets plan to run a more efficient campaign and maximize local connections.
The opposition admits the challenge is greater as it has fewer resources going up against the administration machinery.
Ayee Macaraig, Rappler, Davao City.
Story 6: PRO-LIFE CATHOLIC VOTERS IN BATANGAS
Batangas is a vote-rich province, many of whom belong to the Catholic Church. Are we seeing the rise of a Catholic vote?
Katherine Visconti reports.
This grandmother of 18 knows she is pro-life. But she doesn’t know which candidates share her position.
LEONILA LUZA, BATANGAS VOTER: They say so many things when they are campaigning, I don’t know who to trust.
A devout Catholic, she signs a petition promising to vote candidates endorsed by the church.
She is one of the first stops in a door-to-door campaign to mobilize Catholic voters in Batangas.
Batangas is home to 1.4 million voters, almost all of whom are Catholic.
Catholics here are trying to create a vote bloc for pro-life candidates.
RAMON ARGUELLES, LIPA ARCHBISHOP: Batangas is 96% Catholic, one of the highest ratios of Catholics among the provinces of the Philippines. I think our opponents are right when they say that there is no Catholic vote. There has been no Catholic vote and there is no Catholic vote now. What we are trying to do is make it.
Their rally signs are red ribbons – a stand against purple pro-Reproductive Health ribbons.
They say they feel betrayed when catholic lawmakers passed a bill to support reproductive health and safe sex practices.
RAMON ARGUELLES, LIPA ARCHBISHOP: Many of these candidates who pretend to be catholic are actually destroying the Catholic Church.
Iglesia Ni Cristo is the most widely known bloc-voting Christian sect.
The indigenous Christian denomination is a natural magnet for politicians.
The sect has an estimated 2 million members of voting age which can be the deciding factor in tight local and national races.
While INC leaders hand down decisions to followers, the campaign in Batangas operates from the bottom up.
Lay leaders pay for campaign materials and identify candidates themselves.
LORETO GUINHAWA, LAY CATHOLIC LEADER: The church is made up of 99% lay and 1% cleric so the biggest portion of the church is really the lay so it’s the lay that should do all these things, this is not a clerical work.
But as in any lay initiative, they will consult the bishop before issuing their final voting list one month before the vote.
Who will make the cut? The most Catholic candidates.
Laymen say they are looking for those who are pro-life, pro-environment, pro-marriage, anti drugs, anti gambling and anti corruption.
Survey front runners Loren Legarda and Chiz Escudero, both perennial favorites of the INC, won't likely make the Catholic list.
CONRADO TEJADA, COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER OF ARCHDIOCESE OF LIPA: And we know the lifestyle of Escudero, we know the lifestyle of Legarda, they were both separated from their wives and husbands respectively. So why should we vote for them based on our Catholic faith, based on morals?
They say it will be proof of the catholic vote if they can pull the top-notchers down a few ranks in national surveys.
LORETO GUINHAWA, LAY CATHOLIC LEADER: If we are able to make them move, slide down, then that is a win for us.
The 2013 election results will show if a sleeping giant has been awakened– pro-life Catholic voters.
If that happens, 2016 presidential candidates will want that force on their side.
That could mean further blurring the lines between church and state.
Katherine Visconti, Rappler Batangas.
Story 7: BABAO: SUICIDE NOT A RESULT OF A SINGLE FACTOR
Grief educator and counselor Cathy Babao says suicide is the confluence of many factors -- which includes family and school.
University of the Philippines Manila freshman Kristel Tejada reportedly killed herself because she failed to pay her tuition on time.
Several groups blame her death on the strict policies of the university.
But Babao says suicide is NOT a result of a single factor.
CATHY BABAO, GRIEF EDUCATOR: Everyone seemed to have zeroed in on UP Manila, that was obvious and tuition issue, but they seem to have forgotten all the other factors that might have come into play that may have contributed to her state of mind when she decided to commit the act. Home life in this age group is also a factor that needs to be considered, the type of support systems that she had, what was going on in her life, what was going on inside the home, that's another thing that people should actually take a look into.
Babao also lists some warning signs that could hint a person might be considering suicide.
CATHY BABAO, GRIEF EDUCATOR: The student suddenly isolates herself, absenteeism, changes in sleep pattern, changes in eating pattern, loss of interest in activities that the student previously wanted to engage in, and sometimes outright saying I have so many troubles. Every threat of suicide needs to be taken seriously.
Story 8: US: TUBBATAHA REPAIR WILL TAKE 'YEARS'
US ambassador Harry Thomas admits repairing the damage caused by the USS Guardian to Tubbataha Reef will take years even if the ship is removed as early as next month.
Thomas says the US government is assessing the damage with the Philippine Navy, "but we know honestly that it will take years to repair."
The USS Guardian ran aground January 17 inside the protected area of the marine park, a UNESCO World Heritage site considered one of the best diving spots in the world.
Thomas adds it is a very difficult and delicate operation to remove the ship and the US is spending lots of funds to do this.
Pulling the minesweeper out of the reef will cost the US Department of Defense at least 25 million dollars.
Story 9: NORTH KOREA THREATENS US BASES IN JAPAN, GUAM
The North Korean army threatens a strike against the United States’ military bases in Japan after the US deployed nuclear-capable B-52 bombers for joint military drills with South Korea.
Pyongyang condemns the flights as an "unpardonable provocation," adding the drills are a rehearsal for invasion.
A spokesman for the North's supreme army command warns --quote-- “If the enemy threatens us with nuclear weapons, we will respond with stronger nuclear attacks."
In Seoul, analysts dismiss the North's threat to US bases as the latest in a series of attention-grabbing statements.
Military tensions on the Korean peninsula escalate, with North Korea threatening war after the United Nations imposed sanctions for its recent nuclear test.
North Korea already threatened to launch "pre-emptive" nuclear strikes on unspecified US targets.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says Washington will boost missile defenses along the west coast to --quote-- "stay ahead of the threat" from North Korea.
Story 10: SOUTH KOREA RECOVERS FROM CYBER ATTACK
South Korean companies hit by cyberattacks on Wednesday recover their networks and resume normal operations.
The Yonhap News Agency reports the 6 affected broadcasting stations and banks are now working on restoring damaged personal computers.
On Thursday, South Korean officials say the attack came from an IP address in China, but the identity of the hackers cannot be confirmed.
Officials initially suspected North Korea as behind the attack, after previous incidents in 2009 and 2011 that targeted financial institutions and government agencies.
Wednesday's cyber attack comes days after North Korea also accused South Korea and the United States of attacking its official websites.
It also comes at a time of heightened military tensions on the Korean peninsula, following Pyongyang's nuclear test last month.
Story 11: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 3, on his first visit to Israel, US President Barack Obama says --quote-- “America’s commitment to the security of the state of Israel is a solemn obligation.”
Obama and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu say Israel has the right to “defend itself” and that they have a “common assessment” of the Iranian threat.
Netanyahu says he is convinced Obama is determined to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state.
Netanyahu also says it is important to prevent Syria’s chemical weapons from falling into “terrorist hands.”
At number 4, French police search the home of International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde as part of a probe on her role in settling a dispute when she was finance minister.
The dispute involves a French bank and businessman Bernard Tapie, who supported former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Lagarde, who has been accused of giving Sarkozy preferential treatment, denies wrongdoing.
And at number 9, The US space agency denies a claim made in a scientific study its Voyager 1 spacecraft already left the solar system.
NASA describes the report as --quote-- “premature.”
Scientists eagerly await signs that the craft becomes the first man-made object to leave the boundaries of the solar system.
A Voyager project scientist says the team is aware of the reports.
Newscast production staff
|EXECUTIVE PRODUCER / WRITER||Lilibeth Frondoso|
|ASSOCIATE PRODUCER / PUBLISHER||Rodneil Quiteles|
|HEAD WRITER / PROMPTER||Katerina Francisco|
|MASTER EDITOR / PLAYBACK||Vicente Roxas|
|TECHNICAL DIRECTOR / CAMERAMAN||Charlie Salazar|