October 22, 2013 Edition

Valerie Castro

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

  1. Did Drilon find a TRO workaround by realigning PDAF?

    Senate file photo

    Senate President Frank Drilon filed a resolution to realign the senators’ remaining Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF to the executive’s calamity fund. The Supreme Court stopped the release of the remaining PDAF for 2013, but Drilon wanted to consider the unreleased pork barrel as “savings” so they can be used to help calamity victims. Each of the 24 senators is allotted P200 million in PDAF each year. If divided into quarterly releases, the fund would still have at least P1.2 billion in the last 4 months of the year. The High Court has yet to release its decision on the constitutionality of the allocations.

    Asked if the Senate is preempting the Court’s resolution on the constitutionality of the PDAF, Drilon said, “They can still resolve it. That’s their prerogative. We are an independent body. We can make our own decision.” The Senate’s contribution to Malacañang’s calamity fund would be used for the victims of last week’s earthquake in Central Visayas and the typhoon-affected areas in Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, and Tarlac.
    Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano also filed Senate Resolution 305, urging the Executive to realign the unreleased PDAF in the 2013 GAA to a “special supplemental calamity fund.”
    Read more on Rappler.

  2. Senate finally summons Napoles

    The Senate summoned alleged pork barrel queen Janet Lim Napoles to testify before the chamber’s blue ribbon committee on November 7. Senate President Frank Drilon and Blue Ribbon Committee chair TG Guingona signed the subpoena Monday. If Napoles attends the hearing, she will face the whistleblowers who named her in the corruption scandal. As early as September 23, the Senate blue ribbon committee wanted to summon Napoles. But the Senate President’s signature was needed before a committee can issue a subpoena.  Drilon did not sign the subpoena and wrote Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales twice to ask for her opinion on the matter. Colleagues slammed the move, saying the Senate is not bound by the Ombudsman’s advice. Napoles is currently detained at Fort Sto Domingo in Laguna for an illegal detention case involving whistleblower Benhur Luy.  

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  3. ‘No more cash’ left of Malampaya fund

    NO CASH. The cash portion of the Malampaya Fund is used for the national budget. Photo from Sembcorp Marine www.sembcorpmarine.com.sg

    National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon backtracked on her previous statement and said there’s no cash left of the multi-billion-peso Malampaya fund. Several weeks ago, Sen Ralph Recto asked the budget department to explain why P137 billion from the fund was missing. Back then, De Leon said the billions from the Malampaya Fund remain “perfectly intact,” and that the P137 billion “is not gone.” She called Recto’s statement “misleading,” but did not explain then that the cash had been used. At a briefing Monday at the Senate, De Leon said there is “no more cash” from the royalties of the gas operations off Palawan, but added the P137 billion – or the amount that’s supposed to be remaining – is still “available” for appropriation. Budget Secretary Butch Abad also confirmed there is no cash sitting around from the Malampaya fund, but he added that even if there was no cash, the appropriation is still available.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  4. Arrest warrant for alleged Burgos abductor

    A Quezon City court issued an arrest warrant for an army major accused of the 2007 abduction of activist Jonas Burgos. Major Harry Baliaga Jr was being charged with violation of Article 124 of the Revised Penal Code, which pertains to arbitrary detention and penalizing the detention of any person without legal grounds by any public officer or employee. Witnesses said Baliaga and four others abducted Burgos from a restaurant in the Ever Gotesco Mall in Quezon City on April 28, 2007. Burgos’ family claimed Jonas’ activist links made him a target for the the Philippine military. Earlier investigation showed Burgos was tagged by the armed forces as a New People’s Army intelligence. Bail for Baliaga’s release is set for P40,000.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  5. Saudi’s human rights abuses criticized at UN review

    SAUDI ARABIA, MINA : Muslim pilgrims recite prayers after throwing pebbles at pillars in the

    Saudi Arabia came under fire over human rights abuses days after refusing a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Diplomats at a UN review of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record criticized the country for its continued use of the death penalty and discrimination against women. Women are still required to seek permission from male relatives to do basic things such as leave the country. Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission head Bandar bin Mohammad al-Aiban said the country has made progress since the first review in 2009, citing how women now hold 20% of seats on the Shura Council, an advisory body that can propose law changes to the king. But human rights activists disagreed, with some saying Saudi Arabia’s promises to the UN are “nothing but hot air.” The latest reviews comes just over 3 weeks before Saudi Arabia’s bid to secure a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  6. Obama: Website has problems

    epa03918183 US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 21 October 2013. President Obama directly addressed the technical problems people are facing when trying to enroll for insurance at HealthCare.gov. EPA/SHAWN THEW

    US President Barack Obama sought to downplay fears the technical problems of the HealthCare.gov website extends to his landmark health law. For months, the administration has touted the site as an online marketplace for consumers to buy insurance plans. But with many unable to use the website, consumers are urged to apply by phone instead. Republican critics said the website’s problems show deeper flaws in Obama’s Affordable Care Act. While he concedes the website has serious technical issues, Obama said Republicans should “stop rooting” for the law’s failure. But Speaker John Boehner hit the Obama administration for continuing a “troubling pattern” of “seeking to avoid accountability.” He said, “Every day, new questions about the president’s health care law arise, but candid explanations are nowhere to be found.”

    Read the full story on NY Times

  7. The cost of climate change for East Asia

    A report by the Asian Development Bank said four Asian nations will have to pay billions annually to prepare their infrastructure for extreme weather changes. The report said China, Japan, South Korea and Mongolia should expect to pay $23 billion every year until 2050. The ADB report said three East Asian cities — Shanghai, Guangzhou and Osaka — are most at risk for rising sea levels as the Earth gets warmer. ADB said weather-proofing housing will comprise bulk of the costs, but the cost of repairing roads will also rise as weather conditions will damage them more quickly. Flooding is a major risk for China, while problems with the agricultural sector will be a concern for Mongolia.

    Read the full story on WSJ.

    Global Warming Image from Shutterstock

  8. Chinese city blanketed in heavy pollution

    DANCE IN THE SMOG. Local residents dance on a square under heavy smog in Harbin, northeast China's Heilongjiang province, on October 21, 2013. AFP

    Clouds of pollution covered the Chinese city of Harbin on Monday, cutting visibility, shutting down schools and forcing transport services to close. Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed the faint outline of roads, cars and traffic signals under a blanket of charcoal-brown smog. Elementary and middle schools cancelled class and operations were stopped for public buses, long-distance coaches and the airport. News agency Xinhua reported visibility in the city center dropped to less than 50 meters. Monitoring stations reported concentrations of PM2.5 – tiny airborne particles considered the most harmful to health – reached 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter, 40 times the World Health Organization’s recommended standard.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  9. Anger in France, Mexico over US spying program

    INTEL HQ. The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland, as seen from the air, January 29, 2010. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP

    France and Mexico demanded answers from the United States over new allegations Washington tapped millions of phone calls. The allegations are the latest leaks from whistleblower and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

    French daily Le Monde reported the NSA secretly monitored 70.3 million phone calls in France over 30 days in 2012. German magazine Der Spiegel saed the NSA also hacked into former Mexican president Felipe Calderon’s email account. In a visit to Paris, US State Secretary John Kerry refused to comment on the accusations, but added Washington is reviewing its intelligence gathering operations in the wake of protests from allied governments. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was “deeply shocked” by the new revelations, adding, “It’s incredible that an allied country like the United States at this point goes as far as spying on private communications that have no strategic justification, no justification on the basis of national defense.”

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  10. Users upset over Facebook downtime

    NO POSTING. Facebook appears to be having a widespread service interruption. Screen shot from Facebook

    Social media activity almost ca to a standstill after Facebook goes down for many users. Netizens report several Facebook services are down, such as posting new status messages, liking posts, or commenting. The Huffington Post reports the issue also affected the iOS app. User reports on DownRightNow indicated a “likely service disruption” for Facebook. The website downtime tracker noted a drop in activity for Facebook at around 7:53 pm Monday Philippine time. In a statement to Huffington Post, the social network says the site “experienced an issue” while performing network maintenance.

    Read the full story on Rappler and Huffington Post.

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