NEWSCAST top story: US-PH troops accident kills fisherman
A fisherman in Basilan dies when his pump boat collides with a sea vessel belonging to US troops. Is this collateral damage? | Senator Chiz Escudero admits warning his friend President Aquino against “inordinate focus” on Chief Justice Renato Corona. | Former President Joseph Estrada talks about life, imprisonment, and the 2013 elections.

Story 1: US TROOPS

A fisherman was killed Wednesday night when a military vessel carrying American and Filipino troops collided with a fishing boat. In a statement, the US Embassy confirmed the accident, saying it occurred during a routine maritime activity between Filipino and American soldiers. 

The fisherman’s son was also injured when their motorized boat slammed into a military speed boat. A relative of the victim says the family will accept compensation since the tragedy was, in their words, “unintentional”.

More than 600 US troops are stationed in different parts of Mindanao since 2001, as part of their campaign to train, assist and advice Filipino troops fighting terrorism.

China sends another surveillance ship to Scarborough shoal, the 3rd since tension began more than a week ago.  After the 2nd confrontation, both sides agreed to focus on diplomacy.

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez complains the agreement was meant to defuse the tension but China’s moves have only escalated it.

Manila says it will bring up the issue once negotiations resume. Hernandez adds the Philippines can still pursue a case in the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, which the DFA sees as a great equalizer in the case, considering China’s military power.

Will former President Joseph Estrada run for Mayor in Manila?

His birthday party Thursday brought together family and friends… lots of friends, or more appropriately, political allies from all political colors, including President Aquino, Vice President Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senator Miriam Santiago and the widow of presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr.   

On April 16, Estrada said he was considering running for Mayor of Manila.

During the party his former running mate and close political ally, Binay says the public should wait for the 75-year-old leader to make up his mind. His son, JV Ejercito, believes his father has nothing left to prove.

Later in the night, Erap gives an engaging speech with his trademark punchlines. Using impeachment lingo, he says his “life, career in public service can also be declared as sui generis, one of a kind.”  The former actor sums up his life – calling himself a “multi-awarded prisoner and a president removed illegally by conspiracy.” He adds, “As President,  people laughed at my English. If others can be president, why not me? Inggit lang kayo!” Estrada says that he has learned to forgive.  That is why he is happy on his birthday.

Story 4: SM TREES
Here’s an update on the continuing controversy in Baguio over the relocation of trees by the most popular mall chain in the country. On Wednesday, environmentalists in Baguio checked the earth-balled trees. They say, mall giant SM did it all wrong. 

Find out why from Rapplers Natashya Gutierrez.

(VTR rolls)

Heated arguments between SM and protesters reach a new level. The establishment allows inspection of the site where trees were earth-balled for the mall’s expansion but environmentalists don’t like what they see.

Beyond the boards around the mall, this is the view.

Pine trees that have been earth-balled are slowly dying, since a temporary environment protection order has been issued by the court, forcing SM to halt operations.

“Very low survival. At this point. The drooping of the pine needles are signs of eventual death.”

Celia Austria 
UP Baguio 
Associate Professor of Zoology

Foresters say there are many violations in the procedure too. The earth-balled trees are too old to be removed, and there are roots left sticking out without the protection of soil, depriving the tree of nutrients.

“This here behind me is one of the trees earth-balled by SM. Environmentalists say it was done wrong. For one, the diameter is wrong. It should be as wide as the crown of the tree. And now protesters are livid.”

Natashya Gutierez

SM insists that a representative of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources was present to supervise the earth-balling of trees on april 9, when it first started. But DENR officials present during the inspection say they were only there on April 10. Given what they believe was a poor earth-balling job, protesters doubt that someone from DENR was even there at all. Even a DENR forester hesitates to say the procedure was done right.

“We have to continue it this way….may limits, may constraints…nakikita niyo naman its still in the process of being completed.”

Mois Bai
DENR Forester

On the site where the trees were relocated, another problem. SM says they have transplanted 51 alnus trees and one pine tree. But the group doubts the trees even have roots, saying it could have just been put there to appease them.  SM says they are only doing what the court has told them to do, and it was denr that recommended the earth balling.

“DENR said we should earth-ball so we’re trying to do our best. Being a publicly listed company, kami po ay sumusunod sa batas.”

Bien Mateo
SM Baguio Vice President

The temporary court order to stop the transfer of trees is diminishing the trees’ chance of survival day by day. SM says they got a permit Monday, April 16 to move the burlapped trees. While protesters have volunteered to re-bury the roots themselves saying that will increase its chance of living. What will be done with these earth-balled trees is still uncertain, but one thing is sure: neither sides are happy with each other, but they must find a compromise fast.
Before more trees die, waiting.

Natashya Gutierrez, Rappler Baguio City.

On his first day of high altitude training in Baguio, Manny Pacquiao avoids political questions, works out twice, and finds time for bible study. Pacquiao will be in the city of Pines for the next 3 weeks before moving his training camp to Los Angeles to prepare for his June 5 fight with Timothy Bradley. 

When asked about the 2013 elections and a potential match-up against Floyd Mayweather Jr., The People’s Champ only had this to say, “Bahala na bukas…God’s will kung anong gagawin natin.”

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano says the Corona impeachment trial is a better alternative to coup d’etats, political killings, and blackmail, but adds the trial is using up energy and resources that could have gone to nation-building. Cayetano also tells Rappler the trial only underscores the fact that things are never black and white.

A question from twitter about Senator Cayetano’s wife triggers an explanation about the controversy involving his wife in Taguig. Comelec ordered a recount of the elections for mayor in response to an electoral protest filed by Mrs Cayetano’s rival, Dante Tinga. Mayor Cayetano’s camp barricaded City Hall to block efforts to retrieve ballot boxes for the recount. 

“There has always been cheating in taguig and ever since it has been our opponent who was proven in court to have done that. My wife won fair and square. Even chairman Brillantes said that there was no cheating and you cannot cheat with machines. So, I’ll throw back the questions to our accusers. You can can count the CF cards and they say you cannot cheat why are they insisting that they count the ballots.“

Story 7: CHIZ
Senator Francis Escudero admits he warned President Benigno Aquino against what he calls the president’s “inordinate focus” on the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

“Not really ask. I’m not in a position to ask but, not as a senator talking to a president, but perhaps as a person talking to his friend, as a conversation between a friend. Somehow I understand the pressures behind the president wanting him to run after President Arroyo. If we keep on looking behind you, there’s a big chance that you won’t reach what you want to reach simply because you might trip and fall.”

Speaking to Rappler Thursday, Escudero gave long-overdue answers about his aborted stint for presidency in 2010. Escudero says it was not the right time to run for president.

Speaking about the future, the senator was at times evasive, even cryptic. Political observers are closely watching to see if Escudero will join Aquino’s Liberal Party or Vice President Binay’s United Nationalist’s Alliance. Escudero campaigned for Aquino and Binay in the last presidential elections. But he insists he has no stake in their political parties now.

When asked whether or not he will run for president in 2016, he had this to say. “I would be very interested in seeking higher office in 2016 for the simple reason that I’m halfway through my last term and my firm belief has always been when I lose in any public office that I have run for, then you have to give it to others. That would be the end of my stint as a public servant.”

The new trailer for the popular online multi-player game Medal of Honor features a mission that’s all too real for many in the southern Philippines. The game takes place in Isabela City, Basilan, 30 kilometers away from Al Barqa, the site of a daring mission against the Abu Sayyaf that ended in the grisly death of 19 fresh recruits. 

Gamers will play as operatives sent to rescue government workers taken hostage by terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
According to the game’s website, it “creates dotted lines to real world events by featuring real world terror threats in the game.”

This is not the first time Medal of Honor has used the Philippines. In 1999, it featured Jose Rizal as a playable character and the fifth sequel, Medal of Honor: Rising Sun featured a mission called “The Fall of the Philippines.”
Medal of Honor: Warfighter will be released internationally in October 2012.

Story 9: JESSICA
Filipino favorite Jessica Sanchez climbed to American Idol’s Top 6 after a dramatic rescue by the judges in last week’s elimination. The little girl with the big voice gave a soulful rendition of the Alicia Keys song Fallin’ which was well received by the judges. 

Judge Steven Tyler told Sanchez that with talent like hers, she has a right to get mad at a song. Judge Jennifer Lopez said she was glad the judges saved Sanchez last week. 

Jessica also sang Otis Redding’s Try a Little Tenderness which got mixed reviews from the judges, who urged her to connect with the audience. 

Idol’s top 6 was completed with the shocking exit of Tennesee rocker Colton Dixon who gave his version of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. Dixon was considered a front runner since he was never in the bottom three.

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