March 6, 2014 Edition

Valerie Castro

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

  1. PH court: Napoleses can’t touch assets

    File photo by Rappler

    A Philippine court prohibits alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and her family from touching select assets in their name until mid-March. The Provisional Asset Preservation Order (PAPO) issued February 26 covers bank accounts, monetary instruments, motor vehicles, and real properties. The order by the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 22 also covers other suspects in the pork barrel scam, including former Napoles employees turned whistleblowers. In August 2013, the Court of Appeals ordered Napoles’ bank accounts frozen. In its investigation, the Anti-Money Laundering Council discovered  “highly suspicious transactions” in the bank accounts and insurance policies now covered by the PAPO. It was also discovered that the Napoleses have no other legitimate sources of income that would justify the huge funds in their accounts.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  2. 5 questions on the credibility of first gov’t official witness

    Senators and observers raised concerns about the  assertions, background, and the timing of the revelations made by Former Technology Resource Center director Dennis Cunanan.  1. Did he receive kickbacks in the scam? Principal whistleblower Benhur Luy, who first exposed the multi-billion-peso scandal, said Cunanan received a 10% commission from Napoles. 2. Why did he verify signatures through calls? Cunanan said he personally called the legislators’ officially listed landline numbers to verify their signatures. The senators he accuse questioned his method of verification. 3. What is the value of his testimony? Justice Secretary De Lima said Cunanan’s testimony is valuable as he is the first government official to testify and provide a direct link to two senators – Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada. 4. Does he have no responsibility for the scam? Cunanan took great lengths to explain that the TRC had “no choice” but to release the funds because the lawmakers “dictated and imposed” their projects on the agency.  5. Why did he become a witness only now? Senators Revilla and Estrada question the timing of the justice department’s decision to make him a “provisional state witness” months later. Cunanan’s checkered past is also being exposed – he supposedly passed himself off as a graduate of the University of the Philippines when appointed to the Commisison on Higher Education.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  3. Ruby Tuason in Los Angeles to sell properties

    Rappler photo

    The lawyer of pork barrel scam witness Ruby Tuason confirms his client is in Los Angeles to secure funds so she can return the commission she earned from the illegal transactions. Lawyer Dennis Manalo said Tuason is negotiating with “people who are interested in buying her property” in the Philippines. Manalo says Tuason coordinated with the Department of Justice or DOJ for her travel. A statement from the Bureau of Immigration spokesman said Tuason took a flight to Hong Kong March 2. Manalo added Tuason is prepared to go back to the Philippines “at any time she is called by the NBI, the DOJ, or the Senate.” He also denied Tuason is meeting with people linked to the pork barrel scam. Tuason was admitted provisionally under the DOJ Witness Protection Program after she promised to return a portion of what she received as bagman for Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile’s transactions in the scam. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was furious at the release of reports about Tuason’s whereabouts saying it’s a “Witness Protection Program matter, covered by confidentiality provision.”

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  4. Justice Dept: Luy free from influence

     Photo by Leanne Jazul/Rappler

    The justice department denied claims that pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy is being “influenced” as a state witness to favor certain politicians linked to the scam. Luy fired Levi Baligod on Tuesday as counsel in cases related to the pork barrel scam. Rappler sources say Baligod’s busy schedule and disagreements over strategy triggered the decision. Luy was also reportedly uncomfortable that Baligod had taken on another witness, Dennis Cunanan, as his client. Luy noted that his testimony and Cunanan’s contradict. An Inquirer report quoted Baligod as saying, “Someone wants to control Benhur Luy.” But Justice Secretary Leila de Lima says the protocol within the Witness Protection Program leaves no opportunity for politicians to access witnesses in their custody.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  5. Fiberglass boats for Haiyan-hit fishermen

    Fishermen from areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda lost most of their boats, affecting their livelihood. Months after, they get back on track with new boats that are not made of wood but of fiberglass. The company who makes the boats, BP Technologies, said they are trying to make the boats as fast as possible.General manager Nick Naz said, “We make the molds here in Manila and prefab all the materials here then we send it to our different locations.” So far the company has shipped 1,400 boats. Naz said they can make one boat per mold per day. Traditional wooden boats need a week to prepare and around 10 people.  The company makes 7 to 10 boats with just one mold. Fiberglass boats also save hardwood trees from being cut. Wooden boats are easily damaged and hard to repair unlike fiberglass ones. Naz said it’s time the Philippine’s upgrades to better fishing fleets.

    Read more on Rappler.

  6. Canada’s Prime Minister open to softening anti-marijuana laws

    File photo by EPA/Abir Sultan

    Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper is open to softening laws against recreational marijuana use, changing his tone from seven years back when he hit what he called a Beatles-era drug culture. Attorney General Peter MacKay said the government has not yet decided if it will legalize or decriminalize marijuana possession and use. Harper’s apparent about-face comes after rival Justin Trudeau’s call to legalize marijuana use. The opposition Liberal leader, who has admitted smoking pot since being elected to parliament in 2008, has come out ahead in polls. Under the proposed law, police would be allowed to fine pot smokers for possession of small amounts of cannabis, instead of laying criminal charges. But the ruling Conservative caucus appeared split on the issue, with some government ministers inclined to support an existing prohibition on pot.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  7. NATO steps up pressure on Russia

    Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced it would be putting a slew of accords with Russia under “review” following Russian moves into the Ukrainian region of Crimea. The military alliance also said it will boost cooperation with non-member Ukraine. NATO’s announcement comes after talks broke off between Western diplomats and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. US Secretary of State John Kerry said he would meet Lavrov in Rome Thursday to continue discussions about tensions in Crimea. Ukraine accuses Russia of a military invasion in the disputed region, but Russian President Vladimir Putin said it was following a request from ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Putin does not recognize the new leaders in Kiev as legitimate. Ukraine’s former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko told Al Jazeera, “Kremlin has declared war not just on Ukraine, not just on Crimea but on whole world. The more time we lose, the more we have to lose.”

    Read the full story on Rappler and Aljazeera.

  8. North Korea defends March missile tests

    North Korea on Wednesday defended a recent series of missile and rocket tests as justifiable self-defense drills and hit back at “vicious” critics Seoul and Washington. Pyongyang fired half a dozen short-range missiles into the sea off its east coast over the past week, followed by a volley of rockets from multiple launchers. The move violated UN sanctions banning any ballistic missile test by the Pyongyang. But in a statement, a Korean People’s Army spokesman said the tests were “ordinary military practice,” and said these did not have the “slightest impact” on regional peace or stability. The tests were largely seen as a display of military might to reflect the North’s anger over ongoing South Korea-US military exercises.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  9. Forbes list: 10 richest women in the world

    The annual Forbes tally of the world’s richest included a good number of female billionaires. Topping the list is Wal-mart’s Christy Walton with a net worth of 36.7 billion dollars. Her sister Alice is at number 3 at 34.3 billion dollars.  Steve Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs inherited her husband’s Apple and Disney shares worth 14 billion dollars, putting her at number 10. Others on the list include Liliane Bettencourt of L’Oreal and Jacqueline Mars of Mars Confectionery.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  10. Baby treated for aids now virus-free

    Doctors announced a second case of a baby who is free of the HIV virus after being treated within hours of birth. The baby was born in Los Angeles to a mother infected with HIV and who had not been taking her medications. Four hours after birth, the baby was given high, treatment-level doses of antiretroviral drugs even before tests confirmed the baby was HIV-positive. After 6 days, the virus was undetectable. The baby, now aged 11 months, is still being treated with antiretroviral drugs. Doctors said they may stop therapy once she turns two to see if she would be in remission. The latest research follows the approach taken for a Mississippi baby, who has been off treatment for 21 months and still has no detectable virus in her system. There is no known cure for AIDS, which has infected some 70 million people around the world and killed 35 million.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

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