Rappler Newscast | July 30, 2013
Today on Rappler.
- Exclusive: Rappler sources say lawmakers cannot pass on acountability for the pork barrel scam.
- Sex-for-flight victims demand government action against their abusers.
- 2 Filipino women are arrested in Hong Kong for smuggling drugs worth $1.4 million.
Story 1: RECORDS SHOW LAWMAKERS DICTATE PORK ALLOCATION
Government audit reports show lawmakers dictate which non-governmental organizations get development funds 99% of the time.
Documents show these NGOs continue getting funds even after state auditors questioned their qualifications.
Rappler studied Commission on Audit reports on two government corporations, which a whistleblower identified as the source of funds to fake NGOs.
In exchange for ensuring which NGOs get the funds, lawmakers allegedly get commissions.
In its reports on the National Agri-Business Corporation (Nabcor) and the ZNAC Rubber Estate Corporation (ZREC) between 2007 and 2011, COA noted how senators endorsed NGOs to implement Priority Development Assistance Fund projects for them.
During that 5-year period, COA found that P1.35 billion in the PDAF of at least 49 lawmakers, coursed through Nabcor, went to 26 dubious NGOs.
The COA 2009-2010 report on ZREC reads, “The offices of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla and Congressman Rene Velarde all nominated [Pangkabuhayan Foundation] to implement their projects.”
A lawmaker tells Rappler, “Lawmakers choose the NGO 99% of the time.”
Interviewees privy to the budget process say lawmakers may endorse NGOs in the documents submitted to the budget department.
Every year, each senator gets P200 million while representatives get P70 million.
There’s a system and paper trail that should guarantee funds are properly spent.
Lawmakers interviewed by Rappler say a scam can only happen if there is collusion.
The money trail starts with lawmakers identifying beneficiaries of their funds.
These “nominations” are submitted to the budget department for approval.
If the department approves, it releases the money to the implementing agency.
Government corporations are supposed to vet the NGOs availing of funds.
But sources say lawmakers can still suggest which NGOs to choose.
In recent years, there is a trend of pork funds funneled through NGOs that supply items that could “disappear” – like fertilizers, pesticides, and other consumable items.
It is harder to track them.
Speaking to Rappler, Budget Secretary Butch Abad says the government is considering an accreditation system for NGOs that seek funding from lawmakers’ pork barrel.
Story 2: BISHOP: NOBODY ASKS FROM POLITICIANS
Lingayen, Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas issues a pastoral statement Monday on the pork barrel controversy.
Villegas is the incoming president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
He issues guidelines on the use of government funds that are supposed to help the poor and the marginalized.
Villegas says the faithful should follow a policy of “walang hihingi” or “nobody asks” when relating to politicians.
On the government’s part, Villegas says it’s important for those who approve the budget to be distinct and separate from those who implement projects.
Story 3: 'REVEAL CUSTOMS PADRINOS IN SENATE PROBE'
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chiz Escudero wants the Senate to investigate the alleged “padrino or patronage system” in the Bureau of Customs, following statements from Customs officials that politicians increase corruption in the agency.
Escudero files a resolution asking the Blue Ribbon, Ways and Means and Finance Committees to look into the system in the bureau.
He says, “We in Congress should police our own ranks...Who else will look into this if we ourselves turn our eyes away from it?”
The resolution comes a week after President Aquino shamed Customs officials in his State of the Nation Address for corruption and incompetence.
Without naming names, customs chief Ruffy Biazon says corrupt employees are emboldened with their illegal activities because of political backers.
He says, “We have come across situations where the corrupt ones have the audacity because they know some people are backing them up.”
Lawmakers urge Biazon to drop names, but he has yet to do so.
Story 4: TRILLANES: AQUINO KNOWS 'PADRINOS' IN CUSTOMS
Sen Sonny Trillanes raises questions about the proposed Senate probe into the patronage system in the Bureau of Customs.
In an interview Tuesday, Trillanes says President Aquino already knows the politicians backing corrupt customs employees.
Trillanes refuses to name the senators supposedly involved.
He says if the probe’s objective is to find the problem, Malacañang and lawmakers already know what it is.
The senator adds, “If we investigate to find out what the problem is, who are we kidding? I know who the padrinos are...President Aquino also knows the patrons so what is this for?”
Story 5: WHITEWASH FEARED IN SEX-FOR-FLIGHT PROBE
Victims of the alleged sex-for-flight scheme demand government action after nearly 6 weeks of waiting.
Political party Akbayan joins 7 victims in denouncing a possible “whitewash” by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment.
Akbayan’s representatives in the House, Walden Bello and Ibarra Gutierrez, launch a congressional investigation Tuesday.
One of the victims says they plan to file criminal and administrative charges against the suspects.
VICTIM OF SEX-FOR-FLIGHT SCHEME: Hindi po kami bibitaw hanggang hindi napapatawan ng parusa si Mr Tony Villafuerte. Sana lang po wag lang po bigyan ng ibang ahensya na ipagatanggol si Villafuerte. Babae din po kayo sana nararamdaman niyo ang nararamdaman namin. Marami pa po mahaharass na babae. (We will not let this case go until Mr. Tony Villafuerte gets punished. We hope no agency comes to Mr. Tony Villafuerte’s aid. You are also women. We hope you understand how we feel. Many more women will be harassed.)
The sex-for-flight scheme involves sexually abusing overseas Filipino workers in exchange for repatriation, as disclosed by Bello last June 18.
On Tuesday, Bello hits the DFA and DOLE for failing to prosecute and impose disciplinary sanctions on the suspects.
Bello says Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario promised to recommend action against the 13 individuals tagged in the scheme, but Del Rosario reportedly told Bello the department is “studying the legal implications of the proposed actions.”
Bello says DFA and the Department of Labor should show they’re “serious” and hold their people accountable.
WALDEN BELLO, AKBAYAN REPRESENTATIVE: The DOLE and DFA must realize that they cannot get away with stalling in the investigation and prosecution of the criminals in their ranks. The public will not allow this.
In a statement, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez says only 2 of the 13 accused individuals come from the DFA.
The remaining 11 come from Labor.
Hernandez says the Labor Department is conducting its own investigation.
Story 6: FILIPINAS HELD IN HK FOR DRUG SMUGGLING
Two Filipino women are arrested in Hong Kong for alleged possession of 14.5 kg of methamphetamine worth P60 million or $1.4 million.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs says the women were arrested Sunday at Hong Kong's airport on their way to Clark airport in Pampanga.
Airport authorities discover the drugs concealed inside false compartments of 3 suitcases.
Under Hong Kong law, trafficking drugs carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine of 5 million Hong Kong dollars.
Story 7: POPE FRANCIS REACHES OUT TO GAYS, EYES VISIT TO PH
Pope Francis is eyeing a visit to the Philippines, the world’s third-biggest Catholic nation.
Vatican watcher John Allen quotes Pope Francis as saying he is considering an Asian trip that his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, did not accomplish.
Francis says this on board a plane on his way back to Vatican City, coming from World Youth Day celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Francis says, “I think a trip to Asia can be done...maybe Sri Lanka, maybe the Philippines.”
In a chat with journalists who flew back to Rome with him, Francis also reaches out to gays, saying it is not his place to judge them.
He adds, "If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?"
Story 8: LONGER VISA-FREE STAY IN PH FOR CITIZENS OF 151 COUNTRIES
Good news for tourists coming to the Philippines: they can stay longer visa-free.
On Monday, the Philippines announces it will extend the visa-free stay of foreigners from 151 countries.
Starting August 1, nationals from these 151 countries can stay in the Philippines for up to 30 days instead of only 21 days.
The Department of Foreign Affairs says the move targets foreigners
“who plan to engage in tourism activities or explore the Philippines as an investment destination.”
Story 9: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 4, Israelis and Palestinians resume direct talks for the first time in three years in Washington, DC, with the United States urging negotiators to make tough compromises to reach a peace deal.
Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni and her Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat meet with top US diplomat John Kerry.
The new US state secretary staked much of his reputation on bringing both sides back to the talks.
As a first step, Israel says it will release 104 Palestinians imprisoned before the 1993 Oslo accords -- some of whom are said to have been involved in attacks on Israelis.
At number 8, Teeth can grow from the most unlikely of sources: human urine. A study published in the Cell Regeneration Journal says urine could be used as a source of stem cells that could be grown into tiny tooth-like structures.
But a stem cell scientist at the University College of London says urine is one of the worst sources of stem cells.
The teeth developed from these cells are also found to be not as hard as natural teeth.
At number 9, Why do couples stay together for the long haul?
One leading theory says men stayed around to help raise children.
Two new studies released Monday say dads become involved parents later, after being monogamous.
British and New Zealander researchers say the practice helped fathers protect their young from being murdered by rival males.
Another study concludes monogamy is a result of competition, but the researchers say their analysis excludes humans.
And at number 10, Ever heard of BreakupText?
It’s the latest app that can make the most awkward and painful part of ending a relationship bearable.
The app offers to send a full text message to the partner you want to break up with -- dramatic backstory included.
Jack Levine and Lauren Leto created the iPhone app for fun, but Levine acknowledges that instead of being brave enough to break up in person, people may resort to using BreakUpText.
Story 10: LEA MICHELE BREAKS SILENCE ON TWITTER
Two weeks after Cory Monteith's death, his partner and "Glee" co-star Lea Michele tweets for the first time.
The actress posts a photo of herself and Monteith with a message of gratitude to the public.
She says, “Thank you all for helping me through this time with your enormous love & support. Cory will forever be in my heart.”
Michele's representative earlier said Monteith's sudden death left her "devastated beyond belief."
Monteith was found dead in a Vancouver hotel on July 13.
A coroner says the Canadian actor died of a "mixed drug toxicity involving heroin and alcohol."
Story 11: TELESERYE SPARKS DISCUSSIONS ON HOMOSEXUALITY IN RELATIONSHIPS
A primetime drama tops TV ratings when it tackles a taboo topic on Philippine TV-- gay relationships.
G Tongi reports.
G TONGI, REPORTING: I’m here on the set of My Husband’s Lover, a GMA teleserye that has sparked discussions of homosexuality in relationships.
The teleserye gains momentum in the ratings because of its controversial content, prompting even Catholic bishops to react.
It has never been done on Philippine TV before - having a gay relationship as the main storyline.
Director Dominic Zapata says it’s challenging.
DOMINIC ZAPATA, DIRECTOR, MY HUSBAND’S LOVER: This is a new story to tell for me. It’s going to flex some new muscle on my part. Tapos, then I realized there will be limitations. Why should I focus on the limitations when this hasn’t been done on television, there’s so much more opportunities than there are limitations. So why should I focus on the limitations?
Zapata says directing it is like walking a tightrope.
He says there are no hard and fast rules when showing how two men love each other.
DOMINIC ZAPATA, DIRECTOR, MY HUSBAND’S LOVER: There was a scene na post coital conversation in bed. Sabi you can’t show them both naked, I mean, both topless in bed. A couple of days later, "Direk hindi na pala pwede, we can't insinuate that they made love" so I had to reshoot that scene. (There was a scene of a post coital conversation in bed. They said, you can’t show them both naked, I mean, both topless in bed. A couple of days later, “Direk, we can’t have that scene, we can’t insinuate that they made love.”)
Newcomer Tom Rodriquez who plays Vincent the husband, says he was scared at first.
He appreciates how it departs from the hysterics of telenovelas.
TOM RODRIGUEZ, ACTOR: We keep it truthful, We keep it basic. We don’t try to do it over the top, like include things like kidnapping, shootings, violence and things like that. We just try to portray something that would happen in real life. I think that’s the most groundbreaking part. The heavy scenes. No one has to be hysterical.
Actor Dennis Trillo who plays Eric, the gay lover, says he hopes it sets a standard on local TV.
DENNIS TRILLO, ACTOR: Sana lang talaga ano..masundan pa ng maraming ano at magopen pa ng iba't ibang klaseng themes at magkaroon sila ng iba't ibang ideas dahil nakakasawa nang manood...Sana ito na yung ang start na magkaroon ng revolution sa TV and cinema industry. (I really hope that a lot of other different themes will follow and that there will be new ideas because it gets boring to watch the same thing. Since I was a kid, I have watched shows that have changed very little. It’s the same old plot with maybe a slightly new treatment but it’s basically the same. I hope this will be the start of a revolution in the TV and cinema industry.)
Trillo was originally offered the role of the unfaithful spouse but wanted something different.
He considers the treatment of the love scenes key to the show’s success.
DENNIS TRILLO, ACTOR: Hindi na kailangan sobrang intimate…Kahit hindi na magpakit ng sobrang sensual. (The love scenes don’t have to be too intimate. The show doesn’t have to be too sensual.)
G TONGI, REPORTING: "My Husband's Lover” from GMA is definitely groundbreaking because it conditions an audience to expect more innovative television content and hopefully this will pave the way for more thought provoking material that you'll see on television that will tackle issues of social relevance.
This is G Tongi, Rappler Manila.
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|