Today on Rappler.
- Rehabilitation czar Ping Lacson says victims of Typhoon Yolanda will be buried by Sunday.
- Malacanang welcomes the scrapping of the special allotment release order system but critics say it’s a step back for transparency.
- The United States has not yet paid the P58 million fine a year after its navy ship ran aground in Tubbataha Reef.
Story 1: YOLANDA VICTIMS BURIED BY SUNDAY – LACSON
Nearly two months after the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda — known internationally as Haiyan, rehabilitation chief Panfilo Lacson says the burial of bodies lying in open fields is finally underway.
Lacson says the burial started Thursday and is expected to finish by Sunday.
Media reports earlier said 1,400 bodies lay in a muddy open field in San Isidro, a farming village in Tacloban City.
But Lacson says the reported figure is not accurate because it might have included bodies exhumed in other areas and transferred to the mass burial site.
Asked how many bodies the government counts as unburied, Lacson says there are 600 bagged cadavers and 200 remaining on the ground.
The world’s most powerful typhoon, Yolanda flattened entire towns and cities, killing
at least 6,166 and leaving 4.4 million people homeless when it hit the Visayas on November 8.
In a press briefing Thursday, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said the identification of bodies delayed the process.
Story 2: ALMOST 1,000 INJURED DUE TO FIRECRACKERS
The number of fireworks-related injuries from the new year celebrations nears the 1,000 mark.
Assistant Health Secretary Eric Tayag says as of Friday, the department recorded 933 fireworks-related injuries.
Tayag says the number is higher than the 2012 figures of 919 injuries.
The banned firecracker piccolo remains the leading cause of injuries, with 354 cases attributed to it.
The Philippine National Police says about 30 victims are hit by stray bullets, with two killed: a 3-month-old baby in Ilocos Sur and a toddler in Ilocos Norte.
Because of the rising number of cases, lawmakers propose banning the sale of firecrackers to individuals and holding fireworks displays instead.
Tayag also says more cities want to follow the example of Davao City, which banned fireworks since 2001.
The city launched a Torotot Festival using party horn blowers to ring in the New Year.
Senator Nancy Binay calls for stricter gun control measures, urging the police to come up with a “comprehensive profiling of gun owners.”
Story 3: NO NEW TAXES IN 2014 – PALACE
Malacañang says there will be no new taxes in 2014 except for the scheduled increase in sin taxes this year.
In a press briefing, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma says the President is serious about keeping his promise to impose no new taxes without first addressing the corruption in the use of the national budget.
The multi-billion peso pork barrel scam exposed in 2013 sparked public outrage after it was revealed billions of taxpayers’ money were siphoned by lawmakers and the alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
Coloma also says the government will pursue more Public-Private Partnership projects and reforms to attract investments and provide more jobs.
Story 4: PALACE, CRITICS CLASH ON SCRAPPING OF SARO
Malacañang welcomes the budget department’s decision to scrap the special allotment release orders or SARO system, saying it will help reduce corruption.
But critics hit the move, saying it’s a step back for transparency.
A SARO is a document of the Department of Budget and Management or DBM that paves the way for the release of funds.
On Thursday, the DBM says agencies no longer need to secure SAROs to get funds because the 2014 budget acts as the official budget release document.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte says the move will fast-track government projects.
She also says it will –quote– “lessen opportunities for corruption because there is less red tape.”
The DBM decision comes as the National Bureau of Investigation looks into a scam involving fake SAROs.
But Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares criticizes the decision, saying it will only benefit Malacañang’s allies.
He adds, “Without SARO, [lawmakers’] access to their pork is difficult to trace especially for legislators allied with Malacañang.
It will also mean a lot of scrambling for congressional insertion in the next budgets.”
But Valte says there will still be safeguards in the use of funds even without the SARO.
Under the new system, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad says lump-sum funds, the President’s Special Purpose Funds, and Budgetary Support to Government Corporations will still require clearance before release.
Story 5: A YEAR LATER, US YET TO PAY P58-M TUBBATAHA FINE
Nearly a year after a US Navy ship ran aground in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, the United States government has yet to pay the fine for the damage to the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On January 17, 2013, the USS Guardian crashed into the reefs, damaging more than 2,300 square meters.
It remained stuck in the marine sanctuary for 10 weeks until salvage teams removed the ship in March.
The Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau or PAWB says the US has not yet paid the fine of P58 million or $1.3 million.
In April 2013, environmentalists filed a case before the Supreme Court, demanding compensation and the prosecution of two US Navy officials and the crew of the USS Guardian.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs or DFA is also in talks with the US government about this.
DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez says the department is –quote– “committed and determined” to pursue compensation.
Last June, the Supreme Court sent the US embassy a letter requesting for a comment on the filed petition, but the embassy has yet to respond.
In February 2013, a month after the grounding, the US issued an official statement saying it is prepared to compensate the Philippines for the damage.
Story 6: SNOWSTORM SLAMS NORTHEASTERN US
Snow, high winds and a glacial chill hit the northeastern United States Thursday, forcing the cancellation of some 2,200 flights.
The National Weather Service issues winter storm warnings and advisories for several areas, including Chicago, New York, and Washington.
It also says blizzard conditions are possible for eastern Long Island and the coast of Massachusetts.
A state of emergency is raised over New Jersey.
Officials urge residents to stay indoors, warning about the risk of freezing or hypothermia.
In New York, temperatures are expected to drop to minus 13 degrees Celsius.
Forecasters also predict 4 to 8 inches of snow and winds that could reach up to 56 kilometers per hour.
Story 7: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 6, Indian police say a teenage girl who was gang-raped twice in Kolkata last October died after she was set on fire by her abusers.
Before her death, the 16-year-old girl gave a sworn statement claiming she was set on fire by two people, who earlier abused her.
Until the death-bed statement, police treated the girl’s death as a suicide.
In December 2012, a gang-rape of a student in New Delhi sparked a public outcry, forcing government to pass stronger laws against rape.
The new rape case triggers a fresh wave of anger from politicians and women’s groups.
At number 7, The Washington Post reports the US National Security Agency or NSA is eyeing a “quantum computer” that could break nearly any kind of encryption.
Citing leaked documents from ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the computer would allow the spy agency to break encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world.
Quantum computing uses the power of atoms and molecules to increase the security of computers, and perform millions of calculations at once.
But experts say it’s unlikely the NSA would be close to creating a quantum computer without the scientific community being aware of it.
And at number 8, The New York Times and The Guardian publish editorials urging the Obama administration to grant clemency to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Both papers published Snowden’s disclosures, which the United States claims is harmful to national security.
The papers say Snowden’s leak of classified documents is outweighed by the importance of his revelations on the scope of the United States’ spying program.
The Times says, “Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight.”
The Guardian says it hoped US officials will –quote– “allow Mr. Snowden to return to the US with dignity” as a “shining example about the value of whistleblowers and of free speech itself.”
Newscast Production Staff
|EXECUTIVE PRODUCER / WRITER||Lilibeth Frondoso|
|ASSOCIATE PRODUCER / PUBLISHER||Rodneil Quiteles|
|HEAD WRITER / PROMPTER||Katerina Francisco|
|MASTER EDITOR / PLAYBACK||Vicente Roxas|
|TECHNICAL DIRECTOR / CAMERAMAN||Charlie Salazar|
|3D GRAPHICS||Sten Bautista|