Rappler Newscast | December 27, 2012

Australia welcomes proof Australian Warren Rodwell is alive, but is concerned over the 54 year old’s prolonged captivity. | Terrorist group Abu Sayyaf uses YouTube and Facebook to announce ransom demands for the first time. | The Australian government denies reports its agencies working in the Philippines to free Rodwell are uncoordinated.

Today on Rappler.

  • Australia welcomes proof Australian Warren Rodwell is alive, but is concerned over the 54 year old’s prolonged captivity.
  • Terrorist group Abu Sayyaf uses YouTube and Facebook to announce ransom demands for the first time.
  • The Australian government denies reports its agencies working in the Philippines to free Rodwell are uncoordinated.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr welcomes news that Australian Warren Rodwell is alive after being held hostage for more than a year in the Philippines.
Carr says the “confirmation of Mr Rodwell’s welfare is welcome” but describes his prolonged captivity as a “major concern.”
Rodwell, a 54-year-old former soldier from Sydney, was kidnapped from his home in the southern Philippine town of Ipil on December 5, 2011.
In the video, he confirms he was captured by the Abu Sayyaf, a group founded in the late 1990s with money and training from Al-Qaeda.
WARREN RODWELL: “This video clip today is to say that I am alive. I am waiting to be released. I have no idea what’s going on outside. I am just being held in isolation. Again, I am alive. It’s 378 days, I think – something like that. The newspaper is from the Philippines.
I do not trust the Abu Sayyaf. I do not trust the Australian government. I just don’t trust anyone. Personally I don’t care, Is that it?
Carr acknowledges the Philippine government’s efforts for Rodwell’s release.
He adds, “The Australian government is assisting Philippine authorities where appropriate.”
The Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history and has kidnapped foreigners and Christians for ransom.

Terrorist group Abu Sayyaf uses YouTube and Facebook to announce ransom demands for a captive for the first time.
Shortly before midnight of December 26, 2012, a YouTube account calling itself the “official channel of the Al-Harakatul Islamia” – the formal name of the Abu Sayyaf …
uploaded a proof-of-life video of Australian Warren Rodwell.
A few hours later, a Facebook account shared the video with this message:  
“Attention!!!! … Warren Rodwell Australian kidnapped victim.”
Then it gives a mobile number number saying, “He is in need of help.”
Authorities are now investigating the mobile number, which also appears on the YouTube account.  
Intelligence sources tell Rappler the YouTube account belongs to the Abu Sayyaf because of past activity and the network it connects.
The owner of the mobile number says the asking price is 2 million US dollars, but if half is delivered– the kidnappers are willing to hand Rodwell over to anyone, including a middleman.
In past kidnappings, smaller groups hand over their victims to larger groups, who then charge a higher ransom.
The Facebook account also incorporates the black flag, a symbol used by  al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups.
Al-Qaeda believes its black banners herald the apocalypse that would bring about the triumph of Islam.
In September 2012 Cairo riots, a group scaled the U.S. embassy and tore down the American flag, replacing it with a black flag, which also appeared in Benghazi, Libya.
Authorities discovered black flags in the Philippines after they raided two Abu Sayyaf camps in Mindanao this year.

The Australian Embassy denies reports its agencies working with Philippine authorities for Rodwell’s release have differing goals and tactics.
Negotiations for Rodwell’s release have been going on since January.
Rappler sources say differing tactics among Australian agencies are prolonging negotiations.
Andrew Byrne, Deputy Head of Mission at the Australian Embassy in Manila, tells Rappler…
“the Philippine Government is leading the response… assisted by Australian Government agencies.”
He says the Australian agencies are “working towards the same objective and are tightly coordinated.”
“Any suggestion that they are taking separate approaches… has no basis in fact.”

Aman Futures Group President Fernando Luna surfaces and submits his counter affidavit to the Department of Justice on Thursday.
Luna and his wife Nimfa tells the DOJ they are willing to testify against Aman Futures owner Manuel Amalilio.
The couple is being investigated for estafa in connection with the pyramid scam.
He says Amalilio appointed him president of Aman even if he was just a driver. He says he agreed because he wanted to earn more money.
Luna says he and his family were forced to hide because of the death threats.

Officials say at least 6 people were killed and 3 are missing after tropical storm Quinta sweeps through the Visayas on Wednesday.
NDRRMC director Benito Ramos says the toll is relatively low because the public was quick to take precautionary measures.
He says, “They were all aware that a typhoon was coming. They were all aware of what happened with Pablo.”
Three of the victims belong to the same family and died when a tree fell on their hut and crushed them.
The NDRRMC says over 13,000 citizens are affected by the storm, and more than 6,000 are being served inside or outside of evacuation centers.
Quinta weakens into a low pressure area Thursday but fishing boats and other small seacrafts are still advised not to venture out into the seaboards of Luzon and Visayas due to the enhanced Northeast Monsoon.

House Speaker Sonny Belmonte tells the United Nationalist Alliance not to politicize an administrative case.
UNA, led by vice president Jejomar Binay, is accusing the government of harassing suspended Cebu governor Gwen Garcia.
Belmonte, chairman of the ruling Liberal Party, says UNA is “injecting politics” into a simple administrative case.
He adds, “I don’t think anybody is harassed by the LP.”
Belmonte says although he’s a close friend of the Garcia family, the suspended governor must “let the course of justice do its job.

Apart from being a banner year for the economy, the government says 2012 is also the 4th consecutive year when Filipino households are the primary savings driver in the country.
Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas show Filipino households savings increased by 6.3% to P909.8 billion.
BSP says it can be attributed to two things – sustained inflows of overseas Filipinos’ remittances and favorable domestic labor market conditions.
Overall domestic savings, which include households, government, non-financial corporations and financial corporations, increased by 6.8% to P1.85 trillion this year.

The United Nations on Wednesday orders more than 200 non-essential staff and families of other workers to leave Central African Republic because of a rebel offensive against the government.
Rebel coalition troops stop short of the capital but UN says the rebels’ continued military offensive suggest they might be intent on taking Bangui.
UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky says, “The temporary relocation is a precautionary measure.”
He adds the UN will ” continue its support to the peace consolidation and development efforts in the Central African Republic.”
A UN official says major political mission in Central African Republic seeking to help the government overcome more than a decade of strife.

Story 9: THE wRap
Let’s now look at Rappler’s “wRap” for today…
a list of the ten most important events around the world you shouldn’t miss.

At number 2, In a letter to US lawmakers Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says they will bring “extraordinary measures” to avoid the fiscal cliff.
The US government will hit its legal borrowing limit Monday, and with no resolution on budget talks…
Geithner can take action that would give another $200 billion in headroom to keep it operating until February or early March – putting off a full-blown debt crisis.
President Barack Obama cuts short his Hawaii vacation to return to Washington to try to hammer out a deal.

At number 3, In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declares Toyota’s design could cause acceleration pedals to get caught in the floor mats.
It triggers the car company’s largest recall ever and leads to the largest auto industry settlement of a suit filed in 2010 – if approved.
Toyota offers to pay about $1.1 billion to install new safety equipment.

At number 7, The first trains left Beijing on their way to Guangzhou Wednesday, the maiden voyage of the world’s longest high-speed rail line. This means the new 2,290-kilometer line can whisk passengers from the capital to the southern commercial hub in just 8 hours, compared to the 22 hours it used to take.
State media reports December 26 is the launch to commemorate the birth of revered leader Mao Zedong.
China’s high-speed rail network was first established in 2007 and is now the world’s largest – a symbol of its growing power as the world’s second largest economy.

At number 8, The general who was supposed to stop defections is himself defecting! This is the latest signal that momentum is shifting against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war that has raged for nearly 2 years.
In a video on Al Arabiya, Maj. Gen. Abdul Azia Jassem al-Shallal, the highest-ranking military officer to defect so far, publicly announced the Syrian military has deviated from “its fundamental mission to protect the nation.”

And at number 10, In the US, Universal’s ‘Les Miserables’ opens to No. 1 with a box office take of $18.2 million, doing better than expected.
Quentin Tarantino’s R-rated ‘Django Unchained’ comes in second with $15 million.
Theater fans have been waiting for the film version of the Victor Hugo hit because it combines a star-studded cast with a theatrical approach to making a musical film.
Actors don’t prerecord their songs in the studio which is the way it’s normally done. Instead, with just a piano funnelled into their earphones, actresses like Anne Hathaway are filmed singing live while they’re acting – a technique that promises a more emotional experience. – Rappler.com