June 6, 2014 Edition

Valerie Castro

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

  1. Mastermind, 3 senators to be charged with plunder

    File photo by Inoue Jaena/Rappler

    The Philippine Ombudsman decided with finality to file plunder charges against the alleged mastermind of the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam and 3 of the senators who supposedly received hefty kickbacks from her. Through 3 separate joint orders issued on Wednesday, June 4, the Ombudsman denied the motions for reconsideration (MRs) of Janet Lim Napoles and senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, and alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles. The Ombudsman said pieces of evidence available are “sufficient to engender a well-founded belief” that the 3 – along with their aides and middlemen – connived to siphon off lawmakers’ development funds through bogus NGOs controlled by Napoles. A Rappler report says, however, that no arrests may be expected soon. Based on the cases of two former presidents who were charged with plunder – among other high-profile cases – the Sandiganbayan, the anti-graft court, takes a few weeks, even months, to issue a warrant of arrest. Denied immunity from suits, Napoles said through her lawyer that she would no longer provide the government any information on the elaborate scam, the biggest corruption case in recent Philippine history.

    Read the full story on the charges here.

  2. Gov’t identifies risk-free resettlement sites for typhoon victims

    File photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

    Mapping conducted by the science and environment departments has identified some 4,000 hectares of land belonging to the government where permanent houses can be built for those displaced by Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan). This amount of land is more than enough space for the 214,000 housing units needed to resettle the thousands of survivors who lost their homes, Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo Ping Lacson said on Thursday, June 5. “We identified that we need 1,272 hectares for the more than 200,000 displaced families. So we can choose from the 4,000 hectares the needed 1,272,” he said. Government scientists aims to complete the mapping of all 171 Yolanda-struck cities and municipalities by end-June. While these resettlement sites are being developed, survivors will be moved out of their tents and into “transitional” shelters.

    Read the here the full report on land use planning for Yolanda areas.

  3. Sea dispute lead to tension between Vietnam, China delegates

    Photo by Rappler

    It was an unexpected concluding remark in a formal presentation on disaster risk reduction and management. In a session of the the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Manila on Thursday, June 5, Vietnam’s vice minister of agricultural and rural development, Hoang Van Thang, called China’s actions in the South China Sea an example of a “man-made disaster.” The remark came after reports that China water cannoned Vietnamese vessels on two separate occasions in disputed waters recently. The Vietnamese official’s remark prompted an unidentified Chinese delegate to stand up and defend his country. He also asked ASEM organizers to screen the remaining presentations by Vietnamese speakers to prevent a similar incident. Earlier, in a press conference in the sidelines of the ASEM, President Benigno Aquino III said there is a movement of Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea. China, Vietnam, and the Philippines are caught in a maritime dispute over parts of the South China Sea. The communist giant’s claim to nearly all of the area has strained its ties with Southeast Asian countries. Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the country may soon file another protest against China “if in fact it’s clear to us that the status quo there is being changed.” He also hit China’s “expansion agenda,” which he said casts doubt on its willingness to craft a binding code of conduct in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

    Read the full report and watch here Hoang Van Thang’s speech that caused tension at the international conference.

  4. Elites in Pacific Rim countries back America’s presence

    Influential people who are not in government in 11 Pacific Rim countries support a robust US role in the region even though they also largely China’s clout to keep growing, results of a survey showed. The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies conducted the survey online between March 24 and April 22, 2014, among 402 participants in the United States, Japan, South Korea, China, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Australia, Singapore, Burma/Myanmar, and Taiwan. Japan, whose relationship with China has been deteriorating, was the most enthusiastic about a dominant US position. On the other end of the spectrum, Southeast Asian nations preferred a “quiet, persistent presence” of the US. They  appreciate the US commitment to freedom of navigation amid tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea, but “they really don’t want to see confrontation and friction between the United States and China,” said said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the center. One surprise in the survey was the percentage of those who predicted that the US would be the dominant power in East Asia in 2024 was highest in China at 71% – even higher than in the US itself.

    Read Rappler’s report on the study here.

    A summary of the main findings of “Power and Order in Asia: A Survey of Regional Expectations” is available here.

  5. Ousted PM Yingluck faces assets investigation

    Photo from Narong Sangnak/EPA

    Ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and two former commerce ministers and their deputies are facing investigations by Thailand’s anti-graft body for a bungled multi-billion-dollar rice subsidy scheme. If they are found to have profited from the scheme, they could have their assets seized, an official of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) said on Thursday, June 5. The rice subsidy paid farmers up to 50% above market rates for the grain. Some estimates say it cost the Thai public finances $4.6 billion to $6 billion a year. It sparked protests and allegations that it battered the rice industry and fostered massive corruption – all to shore up Yingluck’s rural electoral base. Yingluck, a successful businesswoman before turning to politics, was ousted in a controversial court ruling in May, two weeks before a May 22 military coup. Her elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra, also an ousted prime minister, had $1.4 billion of his assets confiscated by a court in 2010 after ruling he abused his power.

    Read the full report here.

  6. Pope fires entire financial watchdog board

    Pope Francis sacked all 5 members of the Financial Information Authority (AIF), the regulator of the corruption-ridden Institute for Religious Works, also known as the Vatican Bank. The board members, all Italian, were supposed to serve for 5 years ending in 2016. A Reuters report said the Pope will replace them with 4 experts from Switzerland, Singapore, the United States, and Italy.  In a blog for Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Gregg Fields described the Vatican Bank’s operations this way: “They are scenes reminiscent of a Dan Brown novel: whispers of money laundering and connections to the mafia; a banker found hanging from the Blackfriars Bridge in London; and a powerful American consulting firm delving into the secrecy-shrouded financial arm of the Vatican. “In essence, the IOR (Istituto per le Opere di Religione) operated much like an ‘offshore’ banking haven like Grand Cayman or Bermuda. Like those small islands, the Vatican City-based IOR had sovereign status.”

    Read here how the the Holy See’s financial watchdog has fallen into regulatory capture.

  7. More inmates in US military prison set for release

    File photo by EPA/J. Scott Applewhite / Pool

    Amid furor over the release of 5 Taliban prisoners in exchange  for a captured American soldier in Afghanistan, the administration of President Barack Obama is moving toward closing the United States’ military United States’ military prison in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba this year. Of the 149 prisoners still remaining since the weekend releases, 78 have been approved to be freed without charge. They include 58 Yemenis and 4 Afghans. “Of the 71 who are not approved for transfer, there are 10 who are actually facing charges in the military commission system,” a US official said. These include the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, and his cohorts. US administration officials are actively working to find countries which will take them, as many cannot be sent home because of fears to US security or because they face persecution at home.

    Read the full report here.

  8. Quebec legalizes doctor-assisted suicide

    Quebec province in Canada adopted legislation on Thursday, June 5, that would allow terminally ill patients to take their lives with a doctor’s assistance. The measure will put the French-speaking jurisdiction in a judicial row with the federal government, however, since national law forbids euthanasia even with the patient’s consent. The option is only available to adult Quebec residents who are suffering from a terminal illness. An independent doctor must concur with the prognosis. Critics – including some doctors, philosophers, ethicists, lawyers, and clergymen – warned it could lead to abuses and unnecessary deaths.

    Full report here.

  9. Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs rematch is on

    The championship series of the National Basketball Association’s 2013-2014 season kicked off Friday morning, June 6 (Manila time), with the much-awaited rematch of the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs. In the first NBA Finals rematch since 1998, Heat is defending its title against the Spurs. Rappler has an infographic featuring the top performers in last season’s Heat-Spurs match. Rappler’s commentators also give basketball fans an idea of what to expect from the 2014 NBA Finals through this discussion.

    If you missed Game 1, which the San Antonio Spurs won, you can check out Rappler’s live blog.

  10. Severe hunger leads to invisible, long-lasting complication – researchers

     Irada Humbatova/EPA

    Why do children in poor or war-struck countries often fail to grow fully and remain sickly after being nursed back to health with special, high-calorie survival foods? Researchers, studying children in Bangladesh, have identified a hitherto invisible and possibly long-lasting complication of severe hunger. In a paper in the journal Nature, the team said nutrition therapy has saved the lives of millions of malnourished infants, but may not restore an imbalance in gut bacteria that is key to long-term health and vitality. Gut microbes are bacteria that help digest food and produce certain vitamins. “Therapeutic food interventions have reduced mortality in children with severe acute malnutrition, but incomplete restoration of healthy growth remains a major problem,” they said. “So these children are walking around with a developmental defect involving microbial cells that form an organ, a microbial organ.” The long-term effects of malnutrition include diarrhoeal disease, stunting, impaired vaccine response, and cognitive abnormalities.

    Read the full report here.

    Visit Rappler’s Hunger Project microsite to learn of strategies to end hunger, address poverty, and make food available for all.

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