Rappler Newscast | August 2, 2013

US Senate resolution supporting peace in South China Sea riles up China. Biazon reshuffles district collectors. Russia grants asylum to Edward Snowden.

Today on Rappler.

  • A US Senate resolution supporting peace in the South China Sea riles up China.
  • Customs chief Biazon reshuffles district collectors.
  • Russia grants asylum to US whistleblower Edward Snowden.


The maritime dispute between the Philippines and China heats up Thursday as the two countries clash on the US Senate’s resolution supporting peace in the South China Sea.
In a statement, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr thanks the US Senate’s foreign relations committee for passing the resolution unanimously.
Cuisia says, “While the US has no direct stake in the dispute, it is important for the US that freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce, and the observance of international laws are guaranteed.”
He also welcomes the US Senate’s support for the Philippines’ decision to file a case against China.
China protests the resolution for “sending the wrong message.”
In a statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying says the resolution wrongly places blame on China.
Hua adds, “We urge relevant US senators to respect the facts and correct their mistakes so as not to make matters and the regional situation more complicated.”
China denounces third-party involvement in South China Sea disputes, and pushes for bilateral negotiations instead.
In its resolution, the US Senate says it condemns the use of force in the South China Sea to –quote– “assert disputed maritime or territorial claims or alter the status quo.”
The US Senate adds it supports “collaborative diplomatic processes” for resolving disputes, including arbitration, which the Philippines resorted to.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas questions Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima’s decision to clear the cops who cleaned up the site of the July 26 bombing in Cagayan de Oro.
The blast killed 8 and injured 46.
On Tuesday, Purisima cleared policemen of irregularities just 3 days after Roxas’ scolding.
The cops cleaned up the crime scene less than 24 hours after the explosion.
Roxas even instructed the police to “reconstruct” the crime scene through interviews.
On Friday, Roxas says he will ask Purisima to explain why he cleared the cops.
Talks of a premature clean-up raised concerns the bombers would never be found.
Purisima initially called the clean-up an “obstruction of justice” but changed his position a day later.
He says the blast site was cleaned up only after police had gathered evidence. 

Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon says he will announce the new assignments of Customs collectors in two weeks.
Biazon ordered 17 district collectors to leave their posts as part of the bureau’s revamp last July 26.
On Friday, Biazon met with the district collectors for the first time since the order.
Of the 17 district collectors, 16 were present.
Two of the district collectors refused to follow the order, citing possible disruption of operations and saying it’s unnecessary to tender their resignations.
They are Port of Irene District Collector Julius Premediles in Cagayan and Ninoy Aquino International Airport District Collector Carlos So.
Biazon clarifies a reassignment does not mean the district collector did anything wrong.
He adds, “We will base [the new assignments] on the performance in the districts and the collections, and the reports we have received on how they have done their jobs.”
In addition to the 17 district collectors, 37 sub-collectors were also asked to resign.
The reassignment is part of reform efforts in the bureau, after President Benigno Aquino said the agency is inefficient and corrupt in his State of the Nation Address.
Sources tell Rappler Aquino is giving Biazon one more chance to prove he can change the system, although senior advisers of the President admit they are thinking of tax chief Kim Henares as a possible replacement to Biazon.

Rappler’s editor at large Marites Vitug says the Philippines is out of step with other Catholic countries.
These states already passed laws allowing contraception.
Here’s her video blog.

This week, Ireland passed a law that will allow abortion when there is a threat to the mother’s life.
The enactment of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act ended months of street protests and intense debates.
The experience was divisive, but the Irish government forged ahead.
Like the Philippines, Ireland is a Catholic country.
In the 1980s, it passed a law that allowed contraceptives.
Spain, Italy, and Portugal, all largely Catholic countries, have their own family planning laws.
Spain legalized the use of contraceptives in 1978 and allowed state-funded family planning centers.
Italy, where the Vatican is, also passed a similar law in 1975.
Portugal considers family planning a constitutional right.
The state is responsible for promoting knowledge on family planning methods.
The Philippines is out of step with other Catholic countries.
It’s 2013, and the hard-fought RH law is still in limbo.
And we’re not sure the Supreme Court, where it is being challenged, will uphold it.
This is Marites Vitug for VitugVlogs.

Manila’s bus ban eases traffic in the congested Philippine capital.
Who benefits from the ban?
Bea Cupin reports.

It’s almost afternoon rush hour along Espana Boulevard in Manila, but traffic flows freely.
It’s the result of a new policy.
Starting mid-July, only buses with terminals in the city can pass through Manila.
The city government revises the ban a week later — only valid bus franchises are allowed to enter, 10 at a time.
Loading and unloading is allowed only at designated bus stops and terminals.

BEA CUPIN, REPORTING: Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno says the bus ban will help a ‘deteriorating’ Manila turn into a ‘gate to heaven from being a ‘gate to hell.’ But commuters ask: who really benefits from the new scheme?  

Workers and students who live in nearby cities are forced to change their routes.
Buses from Quezon City without terminals inside Manila, go around Welcome Rotonda and try their luck with passengers there.
Joseph doesn’t take that route because it costs him an extra 5 pesos.
But taking a jeep home also means 20 more minutes traveling from his school to Quezon City.

JOSEPH SANTIZAS, MANILA COMMUTER: Bus… bus lang, isang sakay lang. Ngayon jeep nalang kasi pag magdalawang sakay ako, mas mahal. (I used to take a single bus to work. Now I take a jeep because if I don’t, i’ll be paying more.)

Moreno says the move will benefit everyone — Manila residents as well as “transients,”– those who work and study but live outside the Philippine capital.

ISKO MORENO, MANILA VICE MAYOR: Umaapila kami, buong kababaang-loob na nakikisuyo sa kanila baka naman hindi kalabisan na sila’y magising 15 or 30 minutes advance sa kanilang regular schedule. (We’re appealing to commuters. Waking up 15-30 minutes earlier than usual isn’t too much to ask.)

BJ, a senior at a university in España, says the bus ban has reduced his travel time.

BJ VIOLAGO, UST STUDENT: In favor kasi kasi parang mas madali na yung transportation ko pauwi. Sa papunta lalo kasi mas maluwang na yung road… halos na-minusan ng 30 minutes yung travel time ko. (I’m in favor of the bus ban because it’s easier for me to commute. My travel time went down by almost 30 minutes.)

He admits the scheme isn’t perfect for everyone, but says it’s easy to work around it — there are jeepneys and FXs back to Quezon City.
But for commuters like Joseph, change isn’t easy.

JOSEPH SANTIZAS, UST CAMPUS HAULER: Mahirap sumakay. Tapos may jeep, sasabit ka pa. (It’s hard to get a ride home. When I take jeepneys, they’re almost always full.)

Moreno asks commuters to be patient.  
He says desperate times call for desperate measures.

ISKO MORENO, MANILA VICE MAYOR: [The traffic problem]… is a cancer and we need drastic moves.

Other modes of transport — trucks, jeepneys, tricycles, and FX services– will also be overhauled.
The bus ban is only the beginning.
Bea Cupin, Rappler, Manila

Russia grants a one year asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden in defiance of the United States.
The “temporary asylum” is renewable and allows Snowden to live, work and travel in Russia.
The 30-year old whistleblower finally leaves Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, where he was in limbo for months.
The Wall Street Journal quotes White House spokesman Jay Carney, “We are extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step despite our very clear and lawful request [to have him expelled]”.
Legislators says it’s a slap in the face of the Obama administration and call for retaliatory moves against Russia.
The WSJ says Carney directly acknowledged for the first time the White House may back out of a September summit meeting in Moscow.
It also quotes a US official saying the risk of Snowden “bartering” more confidential information is real.
In a New York Times round up of social media reactions, a Russian social network offers Snowden a job in data security. 

At number 2, A new Guardian report says a National Security Agency tool called XKeyScore collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’.
The Guardian reports, a “simple on-screen form” and a “broad justification for the search” is all that is needed for an analyst to mine the NSA databases.
The tool reportedly gives NSA the ability to intercept “real time” Internet activity and collect data like email, browsing history, and social media activity.
In a reply to The Guardian, the NSA says its activities are “specifically deployed against legitimate foreign intelligence targets.”

At number 7, Italy’s top court convicts former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for tax fraud, confirming his prison sentence and shaking up the country’s fragile political scene.
In an emotional video message broadcast on Italian television, Berlusconi says the verdict was “based on nothing at all.”
Berlusconi is charged with avoiding taxes from his business empire Mediaset.
He is also appealing convictions in other cases: for having sex with an underage prostitute, abusing his prime ministerial powers and leaking police wiretap transcripts to damage a political rival.

And at number 8, US President Barack Obama praises Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas for their leadership in agreeing to resume peace talks.
The negotiators from Israel and the Palestinian Authority meet in Washington for talks they hope will lead to an agreement within nine months.
The Obama administration’s last foray into the conflict ended in failure, when talks launched in September 2010 collapsed weeks later.

Our social media post of the day is this photo of US President Barack Obama’s bunny ears.
Obama congratulates University of Connecticut women’s basketball team Wednesday, after the girls win the NCAA championship title in April.
Two players give the president bunny ears as they posed for photos.

Motorola introduces the much-anticipated Moto X smartphone.
It’s a move aimed at reviving the mobile device maker bought by Google.
The Android-powered phone is the first Motorola smartphone created since Google bought the company.
Google acquired Motorola mobility in May 2012 for $12.5 billion.
The Moto X will be released in the US late August and will also be available in Canada and Latin America.
Motorola’s newest smartphone could be a formidable foe in a global market dominated by Samsung.
An independent Silicon Valley analyst says –quote– “On paper, this is arguably the best Android phone on the market.”

– 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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