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- Panama defends finance sector vs ‘unfair’ accusations as tax haven
Panama mounted a fierce defense of its crucial financial services sector, trying to head off a feared international clampdown on its offshore business in the wake of the “Panama Papers” leak. President Juan Carlos Varela vowed firmly to “confront whoever comes to put down Panama’s image.” Diplomats accredited to the small Central American nation were called in to hear Varela and other officials argue that it was unfair to single out Panama in the expanding scandal. The government has also written a harshly worded letter to the head of the OECD, Angel Gurria, attacking a statement he made describing Panama as “the last major holdout that continues to allow funds to be hidden offshore from tax and law enforcement authorities.” Those accusations were false, “unfair and discriminatory” and “distort the facts and tarnish the reputation of the country,” Deputy Foreign Minister Luis Miguel Hincapie wrote in the letter. The Panama Papers is a leak of 11.5 million financial documents, which was examined by investigative journalists in over 80 countries. It revealed the shell companies and hidden accounts linked to more than 100 prominent international figures, including heads of governments.
- PH ex-finance chief: Senate probe won’t do help, get the FBI
The investigation into the $81-million Bangladesh bank heist “is much better conducted” by other investigative bodies rather than the Senate, former Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo said. De Ocampo, now chairman of the Philippine Veterans Bank said the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Interpol should be able to aid the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Anti-Money Laundering Council since they are more knowledgeable about the processes involved. Bangladesh, on March 19, reportedly formally sought the help of the FBI in tracking down details of hackers who stole roughly $101 million (P4.7 billion) from its account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. At least $81 million (P3.8 billion) was wired to the Philippine-based bank accounts, converted to pesos, and eventually delivered to casinos. “This is not the kind of thing where you can get the truth out by means of a Senate public investigation,” De Ocampo said. The Senate blue ribbon committee has so far conducted 4 public hearings on the issue. Key witnesses and resource persons, however, continue to “stonewall and hide behind the laws.”
Read the full story on Rappler.
- 20M Bangladeshis drink poisoned water – rights group
Some 20 million poor Bangladeshis are still drinking water contaminated with arsenic, two decades after the potentially deadly toxin was discovered in the supply, Human Rights Watch said. A new report from the rights group said Bangladesh had failed to take the basic steps needed to tackle the problem, which kills an estimated 43,000 Bangladeshis every year, mostly in poor rural areas. It dates back to the 1970s, when the Bangladesh government drilled millions of shallow tube wells to provide villagers with clean water – not realizing the soil was heavily laced with naturally occurring arsenic. “The reasons why this huge tragedy has remained so pervasive are due to poor governance,” said HRW researcher Richard Pearshouse. HRW said there was no proper government oversight of the scheme, with politicians earmarking the new wells for their own supporters rather than putting them in the worst-affected areas. The United Nations’ World Health Organization has called Bangladesh’s arsenic crisis “the largest mass poisoning of a population in history.”
Read the full story on Rappler World.
- More than 120 countries to sign UN’s Paris climate deal
More than 120 countries have said they are ready to sign the United Nation’s accord to fight global warming, French ecology minister Segolene Royal said April 6. This meant the climate deal clinched in Paris in 2015 would likely be ratified in New York on April 22. Almost 200 governments reached an agreement in December which set a target of limiting global warming to “well below” 2.0ºC (3.6ºF) compared to pre-industrial levels. “I fixed an objective… of a hundred signatures and we are now at over 120 signatures,” Royal, who took over as head of the COP21 this year, told a press conference in Paris. COP21 is the acronym for the 21st conference of parties to the UN climate arena. The 32-page deal also calls on rich nations to muster at least $100 billion (90 billion euros) a year in climate aid from 2020. Just how that will happen has yet to be worked out. The deal only comes into force, however, if at least 55 countries responsible for at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions ratify the accord.
Read the full story on Rappler World.
- High Court orders poll body to lift ban on election debates livestream
The Supreme Court announced on April 6 that it lifted key restrictions in the coverage of the presidential and vice presidential debates, allowing media companies to livestream the events. In a 14-0 vote during its en banc session in Baguio City on April 5, the SC granted the petition of Rappler to stop Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista from restricting online access to the debates. The presidential and vice presidential debates can now be “shown or live streamed unaltered in petitioner’s and other websites subject to the copyright condition that the source is clearly indicated,” the High Court said. This was not allowed in the first two presidential debates that were held in Cagayan de Oro on February 21, and Cebu on March 20, with the Comelec and media organizers citing the Memorandum of Agreement as basis for the restrictions. Interpreting the MOA differently, the SC stressed that the agreement, signed by Bautista and 8 media organizations, including Rappler, “recognizes the public function of the debates and the need for the widest possible dissemination of the debates.”
- PH senator ordered arrested over misused fund when he was mayor
The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s 5th division has ordered the arrest of Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito and 5 others for the alleged misuse of San Juan City funds when he was still mayor almost a decade ago. The case filed by the Ombudsman involves the alleged unlawful diversion of P2.1 million ($45,360) in calamity funds for the purchase of high-powered firearms for the city’s police department. The transaction was completed in 2008. The others ordered arrested are members of the city government’s bids and awards committee: City Administrator Ranulfo Dacalos, Treasurer Rosalinda Marasigan, City Attorney Romualdo Delos Santos, City Budget Officer Lorenza Ching, and City Engineer Danilo Mercado. The Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group has been given a copy of the arrest warrant. The court set bail at P30,000.
Read the full story on Rappler.
- If Pacquiao doesn’t retire, whom will he fight next?
Manny Pacquiao’s announcement that he’d retire after his upcoming 3rd fight with Timothy Bradley Jr has been met by its fair share of skepticism. As fight night draws closer, even Pacquiao seems less sure. “I don’t know yet because I’m not there yet so I don’t know what’s the feeling [of being retired],” Pacquiao said on April 6. Pacquiao’s head trainer, Freddie Roach would like to see Pacquiao hang around for 2 to 3 more fights. Roach’s wish list includes WBO junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford, middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, and – of course – a rematch with the recently retired Floyd Mayweather Jr. “[Alvarez] is a challenge, a good fighter,” said Roach of the current WBC middleweight titleholder, who faces Amir Khan on May 7. “I know he’s big, might have to make a few stipulations on the weight and how much he can weigh after the next day. It may be doable.” Roach says Arum had previously presented the fight to Roach. “I didn’t say no but I didn’t say yes either. I want to see how he does against Amir Khan, a boxer.”
Read the full story on Rappler Sports.
- Esang of ‘Voice Kids PH’ joins ‘Les Mis’ Manila cast
There’s another Filipino joining Rachelle Ann Go in the Manila run of Les Miserables: Esang de Torres, The Voice Kids season 2 Top 4 finalist. Esang caught the attention of producer Cameron Mackintosh during his visit to Manila, and she is now one of the alternates for little Cosette in the Manila run of Les Miserables. With her is fellow Filipino Rachelle, who plays Fantine. A Filipino-Australian, Chloe de Los Santos, also played little Cosette. Little Cosette sings the sweet song “Castle On A Cloud.” Young Cosette lives with the villainous Thénardiers while her mother Fantine works to support her. When Fantine falls to misfortune, Cosette is rescued by Jean Valjean, a reformed ex-convict on the run from the relentless Inspector Javert. Esang first grabbed everyone’s attention when she sang “Tomorrow” from Annie on It’s Showtime’s “Mini Me” segment. For the segment, Esang was called Lea Salonga’s mini-me.
Read the full story on Rappler Entertainment.
- YouTube Gaming app now in PH
YouTube Gaming’s mobile app on iOS and Android is finally available for use in the Philippines, 8 months after YouTube’s dedicated website and app for gaming-related videos and livestreams was made available for downloads in other countries. The YouTube Gaming service pulls in gaming content from around YouTube, with around 25,000 dedicated pages for specific games with featured content on each. Dedicated livestream pages are also available within YouTube Gaming.
Read the full story on Rappler Technology.
- Rappler kicks off its series of senatorial debates
Fifty candidates are vying for the 12 Senate seats that are up for grabs. To help voters make informed decisions on their Senate bets, Rappler and its partner organizations will mount senatorial debates for 3 consecutive Fridays starting April 8. The first of the #TheLeaderIWant Senatorial Debates will be held at the AMA University and Colleges in Quezon City from 3 pm to 5:30 pm. It will feature candidates Levito Baligod, Greco Belgica, Leila de Lima, Susan “Toots” Ople, and Francis Tolentino. To be streamed live on Rappler, the debate will reach viewers on nationwide radio via DZRH-Manila and 17 relay stations in the provinces. On television, viewers can watch it on Media ng Bayan-PTV4’s 14 stations all over the country and DZRH News Television (Channel 18 on Cignal). The next two senatorial debates will be on April 15 at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, and on April 22 at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
Read the details on Rappler #PHvote.