Philippine arts

Rappler Newscast | September 5, 2013
DAR employees admit transferring pork barrel to Napoles NGOs. A US Senate panel backs air strikes against Syria but 3,000 Filipinos refuse to leave the war-torn country

Today on Rappler.

  • Agriculture department employees admit transferring pork barrel to Napoles NGOs.
  • A US Senate Committee backs limited military strikes against Syria.
  • More than 3,000 Filipinos refuse to leave the war-torn country.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee continues to investigate the pork barrel scam, a system of kickbacks for lawmakers and public officials.
Subsidiary agencies of the Agriculture Department are in the hot seat, revealing some of the scam’s complex layers.
Ayee Macaraig reports.

The pork barrel scam unravels. This time, subsidiary agencies of the Agriculture Department come under fire.
Former heads of the National Agribusiness Corporation or NABCOR and ZNAC Rubber Estate Corporation or ZREC face the Senate Thursday, admitting their agencies transferred lawmakers’ development funds to fake NGOs linked to Janet Napoles.
Former NABCOR and ZREC officials confirm what the Commission on Audit told the Senate a week ago.

RHODORA MENDOZA, FORMER NABCOR VP FOR FINANCE: I am very sure of the 3 senators: Revilla, Estrada and Enrile.

SALVADOR SALACUP, FORMER ZREC HEAD: Cong Valdez, Cong Velarde, Sen Estrada, Enrile, Revilla coursed PDAF through ZREC.

The lawmakers are not the only ones in a bind.
Former NABCOR president Alan Javellana and former ZREC head Salvador Salacup say they approved the NGOs based on mere documents and did not check their offices or the actual project implementation.
Senators say this violates the procurement law and COA circulars.

FRANCIS ESCUDERO, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: Based on endorsement, hook line and sinker, pasok na, go na yun? No performance bond, no other requirements as long as endorsed by legislator?


Javellana also admits he met Napoles twice in her office building, thinking she was a prospective NABCOR investor.
He also met her cousin now principal witness Benhur Luy but can’t remember the names of the legislators whose endorsement letters Luy carried.

TEOFISTO GUINGONA III, CHAIRMAN, BLUE RIBBON COMMITTEE: Yung mga detalye parang kape, walang pinakain sa iyo, naalala niyo. Pero ang lawmakers di mo maalala. Selective memory ata iyan. Sino ang lawmakers? Give me one?

JAVELLANA: Estrella I mentioned earlier.

Javellana’s former subordinate Rhodora Mendoza helps him out.
She says the 3 senators did not just endorse the supposed Napoles NGOs but even signed their liquidation papers.
Senator TG Guingona says this helps nail down the senators, who deny knowing about the scam and blame the implementing agencies.
Senators aim to summon Luy and other whistleblowers before inviting their own colleagues to explain.

AYEE MACARAIG, REPORTING: Who is at fault: lawmakers or the implementing agencies?
Both sides are pointing fingers as they face public pressure to account for billions in taxayers’ money. The investigation here shows that the pork barrel scam is a complex issue where law and accountability broke down in not just one but many levels… with officials left to plead either incompetence or guilt.  Ayee Macaraig, Rappler.

Malacañang says an inter-agency council is also investigating networks of fake NGOs outside of Janet Lim-Napoles’ syndicate that also received lawmakers’ pork barrel.
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda says the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council or IAAGCC will also investigate others linked to anomalous NGOs based on the Commission on Audit’s 2007-2009 special report.
On Friday, COA released a report which found 12 senators and 180 representatives channeled their pork barrel to questionable NGOs.
At least P6.156 billion were released to these NGOs.
The report also exposes the names of other syndicates behind questionable organizations that received government funds.
Rappler’s special reports in July on the National Agri-Business Corporation also shows fake NGOs getting fund releases during the Aquino administration.
Another Rappler report shows that NGOs like these are endorsed by lawmakers and accredited by implementing agencies.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council or AMLC will look into the bank accounts of others involved in the pork barrel scam, not only those allegedly owned by Napoles.
On Thursday, AMLC Executive Director lawyer Julia Bacay Abad says, “If there’s a determination that the subject bank accounts are related to money laundering activities, then any account related to it should be included in the petition and frozen as well.”
The AMLC asks its foreign counterparts for help in tracing other possible Napoles accounts.
Abad says only accounts involved in the scam will be ordered frozen.
On August 16, the Court of Appeals imposes a freeze order on the bank accounts of Napoles, her family, and her employees.
The order also covers accounts linked to non-government organizations Napoles allegedly formed for the scam.

The supposed resolution to scrap the P25.2-billion lump sum for the pork barrel turns out to be a “statement of support” for the abolition of the controversial funds.
On Wednesday, House Speaker Sonny Belmonte says political party leaders in the House are still consulting their members on what to do with the funds.
On Monday, House leaders agreed to remove the lump sum Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF from the proposed 2014 budget, but it was not clear where the amount would go.
At present, the amount is still included in the proposed 2014 General Appropriations Act.
Belmonte says once the majority gets the needed support, the “statement of support” could become a letter or a resolution to be submitted to the committee on appropriations.
The committee will then remove the lump sum allocation for the PDAF and realign it to national government agencies.

The Philippine Foreign Affairs department says it may use China’s construction in the disputed Panatag Shoal or Scarborough Shoal in its case against China.
An international tribunal is hearing the Philippines’ case against China, which practically claims all of the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea.
Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario says the Philippines will also file a diplomatic protest over the construction in Panatag.

ALBERT DEL ROSARIO, FOREIGN SECRETARY: I think that’s a substantive piece of information that we can tack on to our arbitration case. We can have it work positively for us.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin earlier reported China put up at least 75 concrete blocks in the disputed shoal off Zambales.
He describes it as an obvious “prelude to construction.”
This is the latest in tensions between the two countries, following a cancelled visit by President Benigno Aquino to China.

Prominent tour guide Carlos Celdran loses his appeal in the case filed against him for “offending religious feelings.”
In January, a Manila court found Celdran guilty for violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code after he disrupted a service at the Manila Cathedral in 2010.
On Thursday, a Manila court reaffirms the court’s decision — “guilty without reasonable doubt” — and sentences Celdran to 2 months and 21 days in jail.
Celdran says he will appeal the decision before a higher court.
In September 2010, the outspoken reproductive health advocate went to the Manila Cathedral dressed up as Filipino hero Jose Rizal and held up a sign with the word “Damaso,” in reference to the villainous priest in Rizal’s famous novel “Noli Me Tangere.”

The country’s largest nickel producer opens a processing plant in Surigao del Norte. The investment is a welcome development to the country’s struggling mining industry.
Judith Balea reports.

It’s the single largest investment in the mining industry today.
Nickel Asia inaugurates its processing plant near its Taganito mine in Surigao del Norte.
Its Japanese partners are pouring in 1.6 billion dollars for the plant to produce high-value nickel from low-grade ore.

YOSHIAKI NAKAZATO, PRES., SUMITOMO METAL MINING: This facility will produce 30,000 tons of nickel and… cobalt per year. This project contributes significantly to economic growth of the Philippines.

The plant starts operations after a rebel attack 2 years ago.
That delayed its construction and pushed up costs.
Nickel Asia president Gerard Brimo says it will boost the company’s earnings as nickel prices start to bottom out.

GERARD BRIMO, PRES., & CEO, NICKEL ASIA: There are two things that will help us about this plant equity accounting of the plant itself and increase in shipments of ore of our 60% subsidiary Taganito Mining.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas says the new plant is proof of the trust and confidence of foreign investors in the country.

MAR ROXAS, DILG SECRETARY: This facility, the second of its kind in the country, is considered single largest foreign direct investment in the mining industry today, amounting to P65.8 billion. It will also strengthen the Philippines’ foothold as a vital source of transition metals in the international market.

Since President Benigno Aquino issued a mining policy banning new contracts, the industry has been on a free fall.  
Most investors, especially foreigners, are holding on to their purses as a new revenue-sharing scheme is in the works in Congress.
The mining industry struggles with political risks, but a silver lining remains.
Judith Balea, Rappler Surigao del Norte.

Despite the threat of a US attack in Syria, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario says 3,333 Filipinos remain in Syria and refuse repatriation.
The Foreign Affairs department says the number of repatriates from Syria will reach 4,636 by Friday.
23 Filipinos arrived from Syria Thursday, while 45 more will arrive on Friday.
Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis says higher pay is one of the reasons Filipinos refuse to leave.

RAFAEL SEGUIS, FOREIGN UNDERSECRETARY: Number one, tinaasan ang suweldo nila. Pangalawa, pinangakuan sila ng, ‘Huwag kayong matatakot, okay ‘to. Pangatlo, sabi nila, ‘Ano pong gagawin namin pag-uwi namin? Mabuti kayo may trabaho. Kami, ano, nag-aaral ang mga anak namin, nasa kolehiyo. Sinong gagastos sa kanila?’ (Number one, their employers raised their salaries. Second, it was promised to them: “Don’t be afraid, this is going to be fine.” Third, they say, “What will we do when we return? Good for you; you have a job. What about us? We send our children to school; they’re now in college. Who will shoulder their expenses?”)

The Philippine government ordered its citizens to leave Syria since last year.
On Monday, the Foreign Affairs department warns Filipinos “to get out of harm’s way and seek immediate repatriation.”

US President Barack Obama clears the first hurdle on a proposed military strike against Syria after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passes a resolution authorizing a limited military response.
Voting 10-7, the committee approves a plan giving the White House a 90-day window for military intervention and barring US troops on the ground.
Senate leaders will debate on the measure next week.
In a visit to Sweden, US President Barack Obama tries to rally global support for the strike, meant to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons against his own people.
Obama says the use of chemical weapons breaks a taboo and constitutes both a crime under international law and a threat to US security.
US State Secretary John Kerry says an international coalition is gathering behind the attack plan.
He says, “We are building support with…other countries, among them the Arab League.”
In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad says Damascus has –quote– “taken every measure to retaliate against… an aggression.”
He adds, “The Syrian government will not change position even if there is World War III.”
Syrian allies Russia and Iran warn a military intervention would have devastating regional consequences.

At number 4, In a rare statement, the head of the world’s biggest religious order condemns the United States’ planned attack on Syria as an “abuse of power.”
Society of Jesus superior general Fr Adolfo Nicolas says the US should stop acting like the world’s “big boy.”
He says, “I cannot understand who gave the United States or France the right to act against a country in a way that will certainly increase the suffering of the citizens of that country.”
Nicolas leads the 18,000 members of the Society of Jesus.
His statement adds to the response against the planned attack in Syria.

At number 6, a report warns a massive tsunami generated by an earthquake off Alaska could force 750,000 people in California to evacuate.
The US Geological Survey’s damage assessment is based on the scenario of a 9.1 magnitude quake off Alaska’s Pacific Coast, which it says is “hypothetical but plausible.”
California has long braced for a monster 8.5 plus magnitude earthquake expected to occur on one of the state’s seismological weak spots.

And at number 8, More sleep means increased production of cells that produce myelin, an insulating material that protects the brain’s circuitry.
Researchers of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke say deep sleep appears necessary for nervous systems to work properly.
Deep sleep coincides with the release of growth hormones in both children and young adults.


Newscast production staff

DIRECTOR Rupert Ambil
  Dindin Reyes
HEAD WRITER / PROMPTER Katerina Francisco
  Exxon Ruebe
  Adrian Portugal
  Francis Lopez
  Naoki Mengua
GRAPHICS Jessica Lazaro
  Matthew Hebrona

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