Rappler Newscast | September 18, 2013

Government files rebellion charges against Zambo siege rebels. Baligod: a Napoles lawyer offered money. Senators pass the FOI bill at committee level.

Today on Rappler.

  • The government files rebellion charges against rebels behind the Zamboanga siege.
  • The latest in the pork barrel case – the counsel for whistleblowers says a Napoles lawyer offered money to settle the case.
  • Senators pass the Freedom of Information bill at the committee level.


The government prepares rebellion charges against followers of Moro National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari, who attacked and occupied parts of Zamboanga City for 10 days now.
Deputy regional state prosecutor Peter Medalle says 70 members will be charged and additional names may be included.
The justice department designates a panel of prosecutors to handle the inquest and preliminary investigation.
The prosecutor’s office is collecting evidence to charge more rebels.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas says the MNLF members will also face charges of murder and illegal possession of firearms.
The Philippine National Police says it collected 159 sworn affidavits to strengthen the government’s case against the rebels.

The siege in Zamboanga City leaves more than a hundred dead and thousands displaced.
But on day 10 of the standoff, the city starts to show signs of rising again.
Carmela Fonbuena reports.

BENG CLIMACO, ZAMBOANGA CITY MAYOR: Zamboanguenos are bigger than this. We shall fight for justice and rebuild this city. We shall come out stronger after all this.

It’s Day 10 in the standoff between government forces and the MNLF.
Rebels hold their ground in pockets of areas.
Fire broke out again in Sta Catalina.
Two soldiers died in gun battles.
104 people have died, most of them rebels. Almost 126,000 residents are staying in evacuation centers.
But little by little, Zamboanga City is trying to rise again.
The rebels are still here but the release of many hostages was somehow comforting.

JOSEFINA MALINDOG, TEACHER: Ngayon so far sa akin personal okay okay na siya. My prayers were answered already na na-ano na hostages. Feeling ko this will end. (Now, so far, personally the situation is okay. My prayers were answered already. The hostages were released. I feel this will end.)

Schools and offices are still closed. The city continues to impose a curfew.
Zamboanga City’s market remains closed. But vendors have found a temporary place to do business.
Some banks, stores, and restaurants have opened.
The airport and the seaport will soon resume operations.

MYRNA JUHURI, ZAMBOANGA CITY RESIDENT: Monday to Wednesday, mahirap talaga. Mga tao na-phobia…Ngayon okay na. Kasi pwede na pumunta pueblo makabili gulay. (Monday to Wednesday – it’s been really hard. People now have phobias. But now, things are okay because people can go to the town center and buy vegetables.)

Despite the odds, many are hopeful.

TAOPI CASSIMAN, PARKING BOY: 10 days wala ako trabaho. Wala ako makain anak ko, asawa ko. Tapos nagpunta ako kahapon sa DSWD, pinaaalis ako. Kailangan dito evacuate dito…Estimate ko mga Monday pa. hintay na lang tayo. ((For 10 days, I had no work. I couldn’t feed my children or my wife. Yesterday I went to the DSWD and they shooed me away. People here need to evacuate. My estimate is that this will end on Monday. Let’s just wait.)

Mayor Beng Climaco says for Zamboanga City to rise again, it’s important that the attackers are put in jail.
The Mayor wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

BENG CLIMACO, ZAMBOANGA CITY MAYOR: I stand firm with President PNoy’s pronouncement that charges shall be filed and justice shall be claimed for those whose lives were wasted in this adversity. Let the perpetrators be put in jail and never be allowed to come back to our city.

The justice department has created a panel to focus on the charges to be filed against the rebels.
Never again. This is Zamboanga City’s battle cry.   
Carmela Fonbuena, Rappler, Zamboanga City.

President Benigno Aquino is on his 6th day in Zamboanga City, but Malacanang does not disclose specifics of the president’s activities there.
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda does not say when Aquino will return, but says the president is giving support and directions to the military.
Lacierda also says Aquino has not neglected his other duties.
He adds, “He is in touch with the Cabinet officials. He is in touch with the Executive Secretary, so the business of government runs even if he is in Zamboanga.”
The presidential spokesperson also defends the work of intelligence units in the crisis, saying it was –quote– “able to prevent amassing of the MNLF forces.”
This comes after lawmakers suggested the budget department should increase the military’s intelligence fund.

The filing of plunder charges before the Ombudsman won’t stop the Senate’s own investigation into the pork barrel scam.
Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman TG Guingona says the probe will continue on September 24.
Guingona says principal whistleblower Benhur Luy and other whistleblowers are invited to the hearing.
This comes two days after the justice department filed plunder cases against 38 individuals involved in the scam — including Senators Bong Revilla, Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada.
Sen Chiz Escudero says the Senate has yet to look into the 74 non-government organizations not linked to scam mastermind Janet Napoles.
Sen Nancy Binay says the probe must be expanded to look into national agencies, local government units and government owned corporations that use NGOs as conduits for public funds.
Escudero says the Senate must hear from Napoles and other individuals Luy mentioned in his testimony last week.

Records of pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy show Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and Juan Ponce Enrile received millions in kickback money from disbursements to fake NGOs.
In the formal complaint filed by the justice department before the Ombudsman,
Estrada received more than P183.7 million over 8 years from 2004 to 2012.
His staff members Pauline Labayen and Ruby Tuason received the money.
Both also face plunder complaints.
Revilla is reported to have received the biggest amount in kickbacks — P224 million over 4 years.
Enrile is reported to have received P172 million through Tuason and his chief of staff, Gigi Reyes.
All 3 senators deny involvement in the pork barrel scam.

The counsel for the whistleblowers in the pork barrel case says the lawyer of alleged scam mastermind Janet Napoles offered money to settle.
In an interview with Rappler, Levi Baligod says a Napoles lawyer approached him with money to settle the illegal detention case against Napoles.

LEVI BALIGOD, LEGAL COUNSEL FOR WHISTLEBLOWERS: I was approached by the lawyer of Mrs Napoles, offering me money to settle the case involving the serious illegal detention case. And with regard to public crimes like plunder, malversation involving government officials, I also received both subtle and overt messages and acts intended to silence us.

MARIA RESSA: You mentioned the lawyer of Janet Napoles, Lorna Kapunan?

BALIGOD: No, Atty Freddie Villamor.

MARIA RESSA: Were you approached by any lawmakers to keep their names out?

BALIGOD: Through their emissaries.

Baligod represents the whistleblowers who revealed details of alleged collusion between Napoles and several lawmakers to divert public funds in exchange for kickbacks.
A Commission on Audit report shows at least P6.156 billion in pork barrel were misused by 82 questionable NGOs.
Although some lawmakers say the COA report alone is not enough evidence, Baligod says the report and witnesses’ testimonies strengthen the case.

LEVI BALIGOD, LEGAL COUNSEL FOR WHISTLEBLOWERS: Well the COA report is enough to establish the fact that there were irregularities in the implementation of the PDAF. With the testimonies of the whistleblowers coupled by the evidence they have, it makes a strong combination to support at least a finding of probable cause on the level of the Ombudsman and hopefully a conviction beyond reasonable doubt after trial in the Sandiganbayan.

Baligod also says no politicians are supporting him and his clients, to protect what he says is the integrity of the process.

MARIA RESSA: Are there politicians who are supporting you or helping you in this?

BALIGOD: There’s none, and I made sure that there is no politician or any interest group behind us.

LEVI BALIGOD, LEGAL COUNSEL FOR WHISTLEBLOWERS: We gave more emphasis to the integrity of the process. We do not want it blemished or influenced by partisan political interests…This is a rare opportunity for us to bring to justice powerful people. So we want people to regain their confidence in the system.

The pork barrel scam reveals a web of corruption and collusion among lawmakers, and citizens are now calling for greater transparency.
On Wednesday, the bill that would make public information accessible passes the Senate committee level.
Ayee Macaraig reports.

One month after the Million People March, bloggers and journalists aren’t content with the filing of plunder cases against lawmakers and the mastermind.
They call for the swift passage of the Freedom of Information or FOI bill.

ROBY ALAMPAY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, INTERAKSYON.COM: More meaningful than impeaching the Chief Justice, more stunning than jailing a President, more selfless than giving up your pork barrel, more courageous than stepping out of the Ombudsman’s way, nothing will herald a new dawn more clearly than passing a law that tells Filipinos – “Here is your government, we have nothing to hide.”

Heads of TV and online news organizations say it’s not just a law that’s needed, but also a system to ensure information is both accessible and usable.
Rappler CEO Maria Ressa suggests clear timetables for requests for information in an era when news first breaks on social media.

MARIA RESSA, CEO AND EXECUTIVE EDITOR, RAPPLER: 15 days in the time of online news is a generation…We would like to submit that news orgs not be subjected to 15-day waiting period.

Senators point out government agencies lack resources and skills to post information online.
Media companies offer to help share the information on their websites.
Blogger Tonyo Cruz says netizens can help the government digitize records, secure websites and make apps.
Cruz says the passage of the bill is long overdue.

TONYO CRUZ, BLOGGER: It is important to note that the first FOI bill filed in 1992 antedates the Philippines’ first Internet connection. We first had the first FOI bill before the Philippines in March 1994.

The Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media passes the bill and will submit its report to plenary next week.
The FOI bill is now a priority of President Aquino– the first time since he promised to push for its passage in the 2010 election.
The authors of the bill want the President to do more.

JV EJERCITO, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: I know this will be the battleground, the House of Representatives. And if the President certifies this bill as urgent or as one of their measures that will be in their wish list, I don’t think it will have a problem in passing.

The Senate vows to pass the bill this year but it’s still unclear if the President will use his popularity to convince his allies in the House.

AYEE MACARAIG, REPORTING: Facebook, Twitter, websites. The tools used to organize the anti-pork barrel protests can also help prevent and expose the kind of corruption that outraged the nation.
Beyond supporting the passage of the FOI bill, netizens and journalists promise to offer their services to ensure its effective implementation.
The question is how far the President and lawmakers will push for a bill it says it a priority but isn’t urgent.
Ayee Macaraig, Rappler.

Tropical storm Odette — international name Usagi — intensifies as it continues to linger east of Cagayan.
As of 4pm Wednesday, Odette is spotted 770 kilometers east of Tuguegarao City.
It’s forecast to move towards Cagayan and Batanes at a slow 7 km/h.
The storm continues to enhance the southwest monsoon, with heavy to intense rainfall expected within the storm’s 500 km diameter.

Rights group Amnesty International awards its highest honor to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ education.
Malala will share the 2013 Ambassador of Conscience Award with American singer and human rights activist Harry Belafonte.
The 16-year-old says she is “truly honored” to receive the award.
She adds, “I would like to take the opportunity to remind everyone that there are many millions of children like me across the world who fight every single day for their right to go to school. 

At number 5, The operator of the leaking Fukushima nuclear plant says it dumped more than 1,000 tons of toxic water into the sea, after a typhoon swamps the enclosure walls around tanks containing the water.
Tokyo Electric Power says about 1,130 tons of water containing strontium are released.
Strontium is a potentially cancer-causing substance that accumulates in bones if consumed.

At number 7, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says he will push the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China to take joint action on the Syria crisis at a meeting next week.
This comes as UN envoys from the five permanent Security Council members fail to overcome divisions over a resolution to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.
The UN recently released a report saying sarin gas was used in an attack that killed hundreds of civilians in Damascus.

And at number 10, The billionaire media mogul who brought Miss World to Indonesia hits the government for moving the entire beauty pageant to Bali because of Muslim hardline pressure.
The head of MNC media group says the decision sends the wrong signal about Indonesia and creates the perception that a decision can be instantly changed because of public pressure.
Authorities in Indonesia changed events in the past because of opposition from Islamic radicals, like in the case of pop star Lady Gaga, who called off a show in Jakarta in 2012 following protests.

– Rappler.com

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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