Today on Rappler.
- Supreme Court justices grill critics of the reproductive health law on the first day of oral arguments.
- The Philippine foreign affairs department raises alert level 2 in Egypt as violence increases.
- A transparency International report says corruption in the Philippines decreased over the last two years.
Story 1: JUSTICES ON RH LAW: WE’RE NOT DOCTORS
The showdown over the controversial Reproductive Health law moves from Congress to the Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, Supreme Court justices grill critics of the RH law in oral arguments as the High Tribunal studies a petition questioning the constitutionality of a law that took 13 years to pass.
Critics say the law promotes abortion and violates a constitutional right to life.
Former Sen. Francisco Tatad compares the law to genocide which –quote– “prevents the birth of a child.”
Maria Concepcion Noche, lawyer for the petitioners, says life begins at conception.
But Associate Justice Antonio Carpio asks, “You are asking members of this Court, none of us doctors, to decide the medical issue of when conception happens.”
Noche argues the Court needs to intervene over the issue of conception because it is not settled in the medical profession.
But Carpio responds, “If it is not settled in the medical profession, how do you expect us to rule?”
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen echoes Carpio’s concern that the petitioners are giving the Court the responsibility to decide when life begins.
Leonen tells Noche, “We are not a council of faith, nor medical doctors, we are only SC justices. What we can only use as tools are the law.”
But Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo tells the petitioners, “I agree that life begins at the meeting of egg and sperm. Give us a list of abortifacient drugs.”
Noche says she’s confident in the arguments she presented.
MARIA CONCEPCION NOCHE, LAWYER FOR PETITIONERS: It was a gruelling five hours but I was able to, I think, express what I needed to express our objections to the RH law and I think that’s what’s important.
But Albay Rep Edcel Lagman, proponent of the RH bill, says the pro-RH side is ready to counter the petitioners’ arguments.
EDCEL LAGMAN, FORMER ALBAY REPRESENTATIVE: We have been prepared for this for so long. We have always said that this would eventually reach the Supreme Court. And we have prepared our arguments that the RH law is constitutional.
On Tuesday next week, it will be the government’s turn to argue why the law is constitutional.
Both pro and anti-RH law groups stage rallies outside the Supreme Court.
The RH law funds the distribution of free contraceptives and requires government institutions to provide reproductive health services.
President Benigno Aquino marshalled congressional support for the divisive measure, angering the Catholic Church.
Story 2: NSO: TEEN PREGNANCY, MATERNAL DEATHS ON THE RISE
More and more teenagers are getting pregnant, and more of them are dying while in labor.
The National Statistics Office says the number of teenage mothers rose by 4.6% as teenage maternal deaths rose by 5% from 2000-2010.
NSO administrator Carmelita Ericta says 11.7% of babies born in 2000 were delivered by mothers aged 15-19, in contrast to 2010 when teenage mothers delivered 7.1% of the births.
From the teenage pregnancies recorded, 10% died in 2010, compared to 5% who died in 2000.
Despite the rising number of pregnant teenagers, fewer teenagers got married.
Meantime the Department of Education issued guidelines preventing public schools from stopping students from studying because they got pregnant.
Story 3: OFWS IN EGYPT ADVISED TO PREPARE FOR REPATRIATION
The Department of Foreign Affairs raises crisis alert level 2 over Egypt, advising some 6,000 overseas Filipino workers to prepare for repatriation.
This also means the Philippines will suspend the deployment of new workers to Egypt.
If the situation in Egypt worsens, the Philippines will urge or order its citizens there to leave.
DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez says Crisis Alert Level 3 means voluntary repatriation, while Alert Level 4 means mandatory repatriation.
Violence continues in Egypt after a military coup ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
Hernandez says the DFA raised the alert level because of the “deteriorating peace and order situation” in Egypt.
On Monday, Egyptian police allegedly killed 51 Morsi loyalists protesting the coup.
Story 4: 75 FILIPINOS DEPORTED FROM JAPAN
The Japanese government deports 75 Filipinos who violated immigration rules.
Filipinos rank 3rd in immigration violations in Japan.
On Tuesday, the Philippine Foreign Affairs department confirms the deportation of 54 adult males, 13 adult females, and 8 children from Japan.
DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez says the deported Filipinos arrived Saturday on a chartered flight.
Foreign nationals who violate Japan’s immigration control act are detained in immigration centers.
Hernandez says prior to the deportation, over 200 Filipinos were housed in Japan immigration centers.
Story 5: AQUINO ALLY PUSHES FOR CHARTER CHANGE
As a new Congress opens, incoming Speaker and Quezon City Rep Sonny Belmonte pushes for charter change again.
On Tuesday, Belmonte files a resolution proposing changes in the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, particularly on the lifting of the 40-percent limit on foreign ownership of land and companies in the Philippines.
The move is supported by many in the business community.
In the 15th Congress, Belmonte and then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile tried to convince President Benigno Aquino to amend the Constitution but failed.
Despite Aquino’s refusal to consider Charter change, Belmonte tells reporters he feels –quote– “duty bound” to take it up again with the President.
Belmonte says, “Charter change is something that is dear to my heart but only with respect to the economic provisions that we have been talking about.”
Earlier, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte says Aquino does not see the need to relax restrictions on foreign ownership given the country’s good economic performance.
Story 6: GLOBAL STUDY: LESS CORRUPTION IN PH IN THE LAST 2 YEARS
A report by Berlin-based Transparency International shows corruption in the Philippines decreased over the last two years.
In the group’s Global Corruption Barometer 2013 released Tuesday, 12 percent of respondents in the Philippines reported paying bribes, down from the 16% who reported paying bribes in the Global Corruption Barometer 2010/2011.
35 percent of respondents also said corruption “decreased a little” while 31% said it “stayed the same.”
Besides the Philippines, 106 other countries were surveyed in the report.
The survey found global corruption worsened in the past two years.
Story 7: COURT CONVICTS ARMY OFFICER IN AL-BARKA FIASCO
A military court on Tuesday convicts a former battalion commander for the Al-Barka fiasco that led to the killing of 19 of his troops.
Army Lt Col Leo Peña is declared guilty of neglect.
He was the former commander of the elite 4th Special Forces Battalion that was behind a fatal attack in Al-Barka, Basilan on Oct 18, 2011.
Peña will be punished with a two-year suspension from his command, a two-year freeze in promotion, and a reduction in rank.
The Al-Barka mission led to the killing of 19 soldiers, one of the biggest blunders in Philippine Special Forces history.
In October 2011, the Special Forces deployed soldiers undergoing scuba training to Al-Barka, a stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Moro National Liberation Front and the terror group Abu Sayyaf.
The rebels mounted a counter-attack that practically wiped out the Army troops and triggered calls for government to suspend talks with the MILF.
Story 8: ORTEGA SLAY SUSPECT GRANTED BAIL
One of the principal suspects in the murder of broadcaster Gerry Ortega is allowed to post bail.
In a ruling released Monday, a judge grants the bail petition of Romeo Seratubias, owner of the pistol allegedly used in the January 2011 shooting.
In his defense, Seratubias says he already sold the gun before it was used for the murder.
The bail is P300,000.
The suspected masterminds, former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother Mario, are still at large.
Ortega’s wife says the family — quote — “still believes in the judicial system to eventually convict all those responsible.”
Gerry Ortega was a prominent broadcaster and environmentalist who exposed corruption in the province.
Story 9: STEM CELL THERAPY FUTURE OF MEDICINE?
Stem cell therapy is now all the rage.
But scammers and swindlers are also taking advantage of the fad, pushing the Health Department to step in. Buena Bernal reports.
It’s the new medical buzzword in the Philippines.
Stem cell therapy is a procedure which uses repair cells found in the body to replace old cells.
Dr Florencio Lucero started doing the procedure 6 years ago.
DR FLORENCIO LUCERO, STEM CELL TRANSPLANT SURGEON: Stem cells can help degenerative diseases. Some people who have serious illnesses, and they cannot find any solution to their condition, they seek this kind of treatment, because it can improve their condition. But not a cure. It cannot cure.
Stroke survivor Pilar Vasquez says she felt energized after undergoing the treatment.
PILAR VASQUEZ, STEM CELL TRANSPLANT PATIENT: Stem cell is very good. I did not feel pain or what. Everything is very good. Before, I don’t talk. Now, I always talk. That’s a very good difference, because now they say, ‘Ay si Mommy, ang galing galing niyan, parating nagsasalita!’
But stem cell therapy became controversial after 3 government officials allegedly died from the treatment, while another official filed charges against his German doctor for his botched treatment last year.
Food and Drug Administration director Dr. Kenneth Hartigan Go says right now, stem cell therapy is “allowed but under investigation”.
DR KENNETH HARTIGAN-GO, DIRECTOR, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: We are keeping an objective mind and saying, okay, if this is investigational, go ahead. And then we have to see outcome, say, within a period of a time whether the product actually works or not.
The Department of Health cautions the public from engaging in prohibited forms of the treatment — those that are performed outside accredited facilities and those that source stem cells from human embryos.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona says he does not want to stifle the innovation but there must be regulation.
ENRIQUE ONA, SECRETARY OF HEALTH: Yes, we are encouraging it but part of an investigative process. Stem cell or the use of stem cell in medicine is the future of medicine.
Stem cell transplant patient Pilar Vasquez will soon be celebrating her 89th birthday.
Her family is thankful for the innovation that they say gave Pilar her renewed strength.
Buena Bernal, Rappler, Manila.
Story 10: TYPHOON SOULIK STILL ON ITS WAY
State weather bureau Pagasa says typhoon Soulik is still expected to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility on Wednesday.
As of 4pm Tuesday, Soulik is estimated at 1,570 km East of Basco, Batanes.
It is forecast to move West at 20 kph.
Soulik won’t have any direct effect on the country until Thursday, when it will bring rains to the western part of the country in the afternoon.
Story 11: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 1, A Chinese court gives former railways minister Liu Zhijun a suspended death sentence, which means life in prison.
Liu’s conviction makes him the first top official to be jailed since new leaders promised to clean up the ruling Communist Party.
Liu was sacked as railways minister in 2011 after 8 years in the post.
He is charged and convicted of accepting 64.6 million yuan in bribes to help 11 people secure contracts and promotions.
At number 4, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemns the latest wave of bloodshed during dawn prayers in Cairo.
He calls for an inquiry into the fresh violence which killed over 50 people, mostly loyalists of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.
Ban says he is “deeply disturbed” by the killings, which Morsi’s supporters describe as a “massacre.”
And at number 5, the United States and China discuss their concerns about hacking, two days before their main annual talks.
US and Chinese officials meet in Washington for the first session of a “cyber working group.”
A State Department official says this will allow them to –quote– “raise concerns, develop processes for future cooperation and set the tone” on cyber issues.
Both sides have accused each other of waging vast hacking campaigns.
Newscast production staff
|EXECUTIVE PRODUCER / WRITER||Lilibeth Frondoso|
|ASSOCIATE PRODUCER / PUBLISHER||Rodneil Quiteles|
|HEAD WRITER / PROMPTER||Katerina Francisco|
|MASTER EDITOR / PLAYBACK||Vicente Roxas|
|TECHNICAL DIRECTOR / CAMERAMAN||Charlie Salazar|