Rappler Newscast | August 27, 2013

Rappler.com
An inter-agency probe launches investigations on pork barrel scam. An SC decision nears on RH law. US may consider military action against Syria for alleged use of chemical weapons.

Today on Rappler.

  • An inter-agency probe launches its investigations into the pork barrel scam.
  • A decision by the Supreme Court nears as oral arguments end.
  • A senior official says the United States may consider military action against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons.

Story 1: DE LIMA: SOLONS INVOLVED IN PORK SCAM COULD FACE PLUNDER
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima says lawmakers tagged in the multi-billion pork barrel scam could face plunder charges.
On Tuesday, the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council or IAAGC formally begins its probe on the misuse of lawmakers’ pork barrel and the Malampaya Fund.
The IAAGC is composed of de Lima, Commission on Audit chair Grace Pulido-Tan, and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
The National Bureau of Investigation will recommend the filing of charges over the pork barrel scam in one to two weeks.
De Lima and Morales did not provide the names nor the number of lawmakers involved.
A special Commission on Audit report tagged 192 lawmakers for misusing at least P6.1 billion worth of funds.
But De Lima says the report by itself cannot stand as evidence.
She says it will serve as a “reference” document to make it easier for investigators to gather evidence against those involved.

Story 2: OMBUDSMAN TO USE FULL POWERS IN PORK PROBE
The Ombudsman plays a key role in the inter-agency probe on the pork barrel scam.
It has the power to direct agencies to cooperate and to file charges against people involved in the scam — with or without their cooperation.
In their report on the misuse of pork barrel, the Commission on Audit or COA asked several lawmakers to explain the questionable use of their funds.
Unlike the Ombudsman, COA does not have prosecutorial powers that would force them to respond.
Many of the lawmakers did not.
As shown in the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, the Ombudsman can direct all government agencies to cooperate in its investigation.
The Ombudsman was key in exposing Corona’s dollar accounts, which prompted the Senate to convict Corona for failing to disclose his net worth.
It was also able to go around the bank secrecy law by tapping the Anti-Money Laundering Council or AMLC to provide Corona’s bank records.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales says her office asked the budget department and the AMLC for documents related to the pork barrel scam.
Morales adds her office will also ask the Securities and Exchange Commission for documents on nongovernment organizations that may have received the funds.

Story 3: NAPOLES SIBLINGS IN PH, SAYS DE LIMA
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima says Janet Napoles, in the center of the pork barrel scandal, and her brother Jojo Lim are still in the Philippines.
In a press conference, De Lima says the two have not left the country.

LEILA DE LIMA, JUSTICE SECRETARY: All existing leads that the NBI has gathered point to the fact that they’re still here, that they’re hiding.

The two are wanted for illegal detention of their cousin Benhur Luy, the whistleblower who divulged the multi-billion pork barrel scam.
The Napoleses are accused of running a syndicate that used lawmakers’ pork barrel by creating dummy NGOs.
Asked why the government has not yet found the Napoleses two weeks since the arrest orders, De Lima says, “We don’t have enough people, but we’re exerting all efforts.”

Story 4: CMFR: NAPOLES FILES LIBEL CASE VS RAPPLER REPORTER, 3 OTHERS
The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility reports Janet Napoles filed 4 separate libel complaints against those implicating her in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.
Napoles is demanding P10 million each in damages from the respondents.
CMFR reports Napoles filed the complaints against Rappler reporter Natashya Gutierrez, lawyer-blogger Berteni Causing, fashion designer Eduardo Baddeo, and 4 individuals from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
In a demand letter dated August 1, Napoles’ lawyers threatened to charge Rappler and the Inquirer with libel supposedly for our “disregard for the truth.”
Rappler is being singled out for our series of stories on the family’s lavish lifestyle.
Natashya Gutierrez’s stories are based on public documents from assessors available online.
Rappler has yet to receive a copy of the case filed.
We have – and will continue to – stand by our reports.
A libel case is a common form of intimidation against journalists.
In pursuing this story about public officials who try to escape accountability, journalists cannot and should not be intimidated.

Story 5: PALACE TO HOLD DIALOGUE WITH PROTESTERS
Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda will arrange a dialogue between Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and some of those who joined the #MillionPeopleMarch on Monday.
In a press briefing Tuesday, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte says the dialogue will be held soon.
Valte says, “As a consequence of what happened, many have been reaching out to some government officials.”
On August 23, President Benigno Aquino announces the current pork barrel system will be overhauled to prevent public funds from being used in questionable transactions.
Valte says 15 senators support the abolition of pork barrel, but adds Malacanang does not know how many members of the House share the same position.

Story 6: SC ENDS RH LAW ARGUMENTS
The Supreme Court ends hearing oral arguments for and against the Reproductive Health law. What happens next?
Carmela Fonbuena reports.

It’s the fifth and final day of oral arguments here at the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health law. Both camps are confident.

MARIA CONCEPCION NOCHE, LAWYER FOR PETITIONERS: It is different from lobbying before congress, both Senate and House of Representatives. This is the last frontier and we are very hopeful that the justices will look into all issues.

EDCEL LAGMAN, FORMER ALBAY REPRESENTATIVE: We think that the fight is nearing finish line and we will be sustained by the Supreme Court. Finally, the Filipino people will reap the benefits of the RH law.

The discussion goes back to the question: Does the RH law violate freedom of religion?
But the biggest debate since Day 1 revolved around the question: Are contraceptives abortifacients? The Catholic Church says they are.

MARIA CONCEPCION NOCHE, LAWYER FOR PETITIONERS: We have always felt that the issue here is about life. This is about right to life from the moment of conception. I think that’s the most important issue and the most compelling issue we brought out and argued.

It’s mostly a repeat of the arguments raised in the last 13 years in Congress.

EDCEL LAGMAN, FORMER ALBAY REPRESENTATIVE: The arguments of the public respondents private intervenors were strongly anchored on the unequivocal provisions of law, medical and empirical researches. Petitioners based theirs feebly on religious dogma and imagined fears.  

Emotions are high at the Supreme Court as it was in Congress. Lawyers against the law say government funding of contraceptives violates the constitutional right to life and the law of God.
Rh law advocates disagree, insisting the law in fact preserves the lives of mothers and teenagers exposed to unwanted pregnancies.
Critics of the RH law were the first to present their arguments. They were grilled for hours by justices perceived to be in favor of the RH law. When it was the turn of the RH law advocates to present their side, justices perceived to be against the law asked the tough questions.
What happens now? Both camps will submit their memoranda. It will be discussed in en banc session, and the justices will finally decide.

MARIA CONCEPCION NOCHE, LAWYER FOR PETITIONERS: We don’t really know when the SC is going to come out with its decisions. Normally we will be given a minimum of 30 days. We will probably ask for even more than that so that we can prepare for the our memorandum very well.

The fate of the Reproductive Health law is now in the hands of 15 Supreme Court Justices.

CARMELA FONBUENA, REPORTING: It’s not an easy task. The Chief Justice herself asked: Can the Supreme Court reverse a policy made by the legislative and the executive? Or should the justices exercise judicial restraint? Carmela Fonbuena, Rappler Manila.

Story 7: UK: DESPITE TRAVEL WARNING, PH MOSTLY ‘TROUBLE-FREE’
Explaining its updated travel warning, United Kingdom Embassy officials say the Philippines is mostly “trouble-free” despite some threats on foreigners’ safety.
Embassy officials say the travel warnings only cover parts of Mindanao.

STEPH LYSAGHT, UK EMBASSY POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC SECTION HEAD: The main message is, we encourage, we want all people to come trade, invest, and visit the Philippines, but we also want people to be aware that there are different risks on the island of Mindanao, and they should be careful to understand what they are, and to act on it.

The latest update involves a –quote– “imminent kidnap threat against foreigners in Zamboanga del Norte province in Mindanao.”

Story 8: US BUILDS CASE FOR SYRIA ATTACKS
A senior US official says the United States is considering military action against Syria for using chemical weapons against its own people last week.
The official says the US is increasingly convinced chemical weapons were used, despite the denial of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
This comes after United Nations inspectors were shot at as they headed to the site of the alleged attack outside Damascus.
US President Barack Obama has the authority to launch air strikes against Syria, but he has to notify lawmakers in Congress.
US State Secretary John Kerry says the administration is –quote– “actively consulting with members of Congress.”
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warns the West against intervening in the Syrian conflict without the approval of the UN Security Council, saying military action would violate international law.
Lavrov says the West is unable to produce any evidence to back claims the Syrian government used chemical weapons in the incident last week.

Story 9: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number  5, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will be in Manila on August 29 and 30 to conclude his Southeast Asian trip, meant to stress Washington’s strategic “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific.
Hagel earlier met with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and defense officials to discuss military cooperation.
The US pivot to Asia-Pacific means a resurgence of US warships and planes, believed to be a move to contain Beijing’s aggression in the South China Sea.

At number 6, a Brazilian diplomat resigns after he admits helping a Bolivian senator escape to Brazil.
Sen Roger Pinto, an opponent of Bolivian President Evo Morales, escaped on August 23 in an embassy car escorted by Brazilian marines.
Brazilian diplomat Eduardo Saboia says he helped Pinto escape because — quote — “There was an imminent threat to the life and dignity of the senator.”
In response, Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca says he has –quote– “deep concern over the transgression of the principle of reciprocity and international courtesy.”

And at number 8, a study shows oceans that grow more acidic because of fossil fuel burning emissions can amplify global warming by releasing less of a gas which helps shield the Earth from radiation.
Carbon dioxide emissions can lower the pH balance of the world’s oceans.
Acidic oceans mean lowered amounts of dimethyl sulfide or DMS.
The team says an 18% decline in DMS emissions by 2100 could contribute as much as 0.48 degree Celsius to the global temperature.

– Rappler.com

Newscast production staff

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER / WRITER Lilibeth Frondoso
DIRECTOR Rupert Ambil
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER / PUBLISHER Rodneil Quiteles
  Dindin Reyes
HEAD WRITER / PROMPTER Katerina Francisco
MASTER EDITOR / PLAYBACK Vicente Roxas
  Exxon Ruebe
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR / CAMERAMAN Charlie Salazar
  Adrian Portugal
  Francis Lopez
  Naoki Mengua
GRAPHICS Jessica Lazaro
  Matthew Hebrona


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