Rappler Newscast | September 4, 2013

Rappler.com
PH jumps 6 notches in global competitiveness. China puts 75 blocks in Scarborough Shoal. US Senate may give White House a 90-day window to intervene in Syria.

Today on Rappler.

  • The Philippines jumps 6 notches higher in global competitiveness.
  • China puts up 75 blocks in the disputed Scarborough Shoal.
  • The US Senate may give the White House a 90-day window to intervene in Syria.

 

Story 1: PH JUMPS TO 59TH IN COMPETITIVENESS INDEX
The Philippines jumps a total of 26 places since 2010 in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index. What does this mean?
Cherrie Regalado reports.

ROBERTO DE OCAMPO, VICE-CHAIR, MAKATI BUSINESS CLUB: The Philippines is getting more in the radar screen of the entire global community in terms of becoming a better investment destination.

Thanks to the anti-corruption drive of the Aquino government, the world still thinks the Philippines is the one of the places to be.
The World Economic Forum highlights this in its 2013 Global Competitiveness Index.
The Philippines rises six notches to rank 59th out of 148 countries.
It’s been a steady climb since 2010.
The Philippines jumps a total of 26 places as the fight against corruption becomes the government’s battlecry.
This is reflected in institutions, one of the measures of a country’s competitiveness and where the Philippines makes its biggest leap.
Corruption has been one of the biggest drags on competitiveness.
There are a lot of gains, but sustaining a corrupt free Philippines remains a concern.
Hogging the headlines lately is Janet Napoles, the alleged queen of the pork barrel scam, which involves questionable releases of the development fund.  

GUILLERMO LUZ, CHAIR, NATIONAL COMPETITIVENESS COUNCIL: It can be a temporary set back, depends on how we fix it. If we come out of it with solid reforms and fixes and then we can bounce back from it.

But corruption is no longer the biggest hindrance to competitiveness.
According to the report, that has been replaced by poor infrastructure.
The survey notes a slight improvement in the country’s infrastructure, but other countries are doing better and may leave the Philippines behind.

GUILLERMO LUZ, NATIONAL COMPETITIVENESS COUNCIL CHAIR: With the country growing the way it is we have to remember with the economy as it is 7.5 percent year-on-year, there’s a lot of strain in infrastructure. We need more of it…When you’re in non competitive position, you can’t attract investments and create the jobs you need to create. There’s no way to inclusive growth and beat poverty if we are uncompetitive.

The Philippines wants to step up its game and intends to be among the top 1/3 of all competitiveness indices by 2016.
Experts say it is more crucial to look beyond the numbers.
These ratings and rankings should translate to something more tangible: this means jobs, education and improved quality of life.
Cherrie Regalado, Rappler, Manila

Story 2: CHINA PUT UP 75 BLOCKS IN SCARBOROUGH
A second reconnaissance flight by the Philippine Navy shows China placed at least 75 concrete blocks in the disputed Panatag Shoal or Scarborough Shoal off Zambales.
Defense spokesperson Peter Galvez says the blocks are scattered in a 2-hectare area in the northern portion of Panatag.

PETER GALVEZ, DEFENSE SPOKESPERSON: We had another reconnaissance flight to check yung naunang pictures natin and we have seen there are approximately 75 concrete blocks scattered in a 2 hectare area, sa may northern portion ng Bajo de Masinloc natin. Each block is approximately 2×2, 2 feet by 2 feet.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin initially reported 30 concrete blocks based on a reconnaissance flight on August 30.
Panatag Shoal is located 124 nautical miles from Zambales, within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
China claims practically all of South China Sea.
The Philippines filed a complaint against China before the UN’s International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
Galvez says they are now coordinating with the foreign affairs department.

Story 3: ‘RIDICULOUS FOR FOI NOT TO PASS UNDER AQUINO’
Representatives from government, civil society, media and the academe unanimously support the Freedom of Information or FOI bill during the Senate public information and mass media committee’s first hearing on the measure Wednesday.
The bill aims to allow greater transparency by providing a system for citizens to access government documents.
President Benigno Aquino drew criticism for his lukewarm support for the bill after making a campaign promise to push for its passage.
Transparency and Accountability Network executive director Vince Lazatin describes Aquino as “one of the most transparent presidents we’ve seen,” adding, “It would seem ridiculous that this kind of legislation could not pass.”
Advocates of the bill also reassure Aquino the bill won’t cover matters of national security and diplomatic affairs.
Senators and resource persons say the decade-old bill is long overdue.
They say passing it is important, following the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam, which revealed an intricate web of corruption involving lawmakers, government agencies, and fake non-governmental organizations.
FOI advocates expect the bill’s smooth passage in the Senate, which approved the measure in past Congresses.
It is in the House of Representatives where the group expects challenges. 

Story 4: MIRIAM WANTS P500K WAGE PER SENATOR
Sen Miriam Santiago proposes a uniform P500,000 salary per senator to avoid discretionary funds similar to the pork barrel, which critics hit because of several lawmakers’ alleged misuse.
Santiago says the salary amounts to around P200,000 with deductions.
She says senators have several sources of income.
Those who get elected to the Senate get “discretionary funds” of P1.5 million to P2.3 million per month.
In a press conference Tuesday, Santiago says, “To avoid confusion, let’s impose a uniform salary.”
Santiago says senators get P90,000 monthly based on the law, but their take-home pay is only P60,000.

MIRIAM SANTIAGO, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: Huwag naman P90,000, dahil ako, ayoko ng gano’n. (Not P90,000 please, and I will go home only with P60,000.) I’m not going to work that hard, work myself to death, which I’ve done. I’ve worked myself sick. Huwag naman P90,000 – and I will go home only with P60,000. It’s not worth my time. Magpatuka na lang ako sa ahas. (I’d rather have a snake bite me.)

Story 5: ENRILE BLOC: NOT OUR JOB TO CHECK NGOs
The Senate minority bloc says the Commission on Audit or COA is wrong in saying there’s no legal basis for non-governmental organizations to receive public funds.
The group also says lawmakers are not obliged to check the legitimacy of NGOs.
They say this is the job of implementing government agencies and local government units.
Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Gringo Honasan, Tito Sotto, Nancy Binay, and JV Ejercito say the national budget has provisions allowing the transfer of funds to NGOs.
Enrile, Estrada, and Honasan are among those tagged in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.
In a Senate hearing last week, COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan says the agency believes there is no law allowing the transfer of funds to NGOs.
But Senate President Franklin Drilon says the General Appropriations Act and other COA circulars show granting NGOs public funds is allowed.

Story 6: MIRIAM TO SENATORS IN PORK SCAM: ‘DIE!’
Sen Santiago supports the filing of criminal charges against senators linked to the pork barrel scam.
She also backtracks on her earlier stance and says pork barrel queen Janet Napoles can become a state witness if she can identify the real masterminds behind the scam.
In a press conference, Santiago says whistleblowers’ testimonies before the National Bureau of Investigation can support criminal charges against the senators.

MIRIAM SANTIAGO, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: No matter how many they are, government must, at least, file criminal charges against them, because the newspaper reports were based on affidavits executed by eyewitnesses before the NBI. That constitutes evidence already.

The fiery senator also has something to say about the lawmakers involved in the scam.

MIRIAM SANTIAGO, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: Die! That’s my advice. Eat, blank, and die!

Story 7: KAPUNAN: NAPOLES ‘ENTITLED TO DUE PROCESS’
Lorna Kapunan, lawyer of alleged pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles, defends her decision to take on Napoles as a client, saying she wants to –quote– “know the truth about the PDAF” or the pork barrel.
Napoles is tagged as the mastermind of a scam that siphons lawmakers’ pork barrel through fake NGOs.
In a television interview, Kapunan says she is not coddling Napoles nor apologizing for Napoles’ actions.
State auditors confirm the modus operandi, while the justice department is conducting its own probe on the pork barrel scam.
Asked if she believes Napoles is innocent, Kapunan says, “I believe she is entitled to due process, wherever that leads.”

Story 8: US SENATE MEASURE HAS 90-DAY DEADLINE FOR SYRIA ACTION
The US Senate drafts a measure giving the White House a 90-day deadline for military intervention in Syria, but bars US troops on the ground.
This week, the US Congress is debating US President Barack Obama’s push for military action, in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons against his own people last month.
On Tuesday, US State Secretary John Kerry appeals to lawmakers not to succumb to “armchair isolationism.”

JOHN KERRY, US STATE SECRETARY: That the world is watching not just to see what we decide. But it is watching to see how we make this decision…President Obama is not asking America to go to war…He’s asking for authorization to degrade and deter Bashar al-Assad’s capacity to use chemical weapons…If Assad is arrogant enough, and I would say foolish enough, to retaliate to the consequences of his own criminal activity, the United States and our allies have ample ways to make him regret that decision without going to war. Even Assad’s supporters, Russia and Iran, say publicly that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable.

House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor urge their Republican colleagues to approve Obama’s proposal.
But polls released Tuesday show public opposition to a US military intervention.
A Pew Research Center survey shows some 48% of Americans oppose “conducting military air strikes.

Story 9: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 6, About 150 Islamic hardliners protest in Jakarta, Indonesia against the Miss World beauty pageant, the latest outburst of anger about the contest in the Muslim-majority nation. Days before the pageant starts, protesters urge authorities to cancel the event, saying it will –quote– “invite danger and vice.”
The organizers’ decision to drop the bikini round this year fails to appease hardliners, who pledge to stage huge rallies during the September 28 finals.

At number 8, Variety magazine reports a film about the life of Pope Francis is in the works in his native Argentina.
The film entitled “Historia de un cura” or “A Priest’s Tale” will star Rodrigo de la Serna as the Pope, who was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
In his first few months in office, Pope Francis has shown a strong reformist drive, setting up committees to reform the Vatican hierarchy.

And at number 10, A feminist parody of Robin Thicke’s controversial hit “Blurred Lines” goes viral on YouTube, after being briefly banned from the website for being too raunchy.
The spoof by three Auckland University law students titled “Defined Lines” satirizes the original pop hit and takes aim at pop videos that objectify women.
Critics condemn Thicke’s song, saying the lyrics refer to the issue of sexual consent.

Story 10: SHAKIRA SISON: THE COURAGE TO WRITE
Rappler columnist Shakira Sison talks about the courage to write and the challenges still faced by the LGBT community.
Sison recently won the first prize in the Palanca Award essay category for The Krakauer Table, a story that delves into her relationship with her father.
Sison is a prolific writer on LGBT issues and the Filipino diaspora.
She says her writing aims to raise awareness and provide a contrary voice against negative stereotypes.

SHAKIRA SISON, 1ST PLACE PALANCA WINNER: Our society likes to not talk about things. We’d rather just gloss over things. If you’re gay in the Philippines, for the most part your parents would much rather not discuss it…Why do I speak up about it, because that is not the truth. When you ask someone to behave just like everyone else you’re asking him to change a fundamental truth about themselves, their identity.

Sison recently hosted a meet-up with her followers from social media.
Her main message: be brave.

SHAKIRA SISON, 1ST PLACE PALANCA WINNER: One of the things I always tell them is that courage is the one thing they can’t take from you. No one can question it.  It’s hard to control your own fear, you can be scared of many things, but you can control how brave you are, you can control how courageous your actions are, it’s one thing you can control.

– 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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