Today on Rappler.
- Customs chief Ruffy Biazon resigns after being charged in the pork barrel scam case.
- President Aquino tells new disaster rehabilitation czar Ping Lacson: ensure transparency in the use of funds.
- Energy Secretary Petilla backtracks: he’s not 100% sure power can be restored to typhoon-hit areas by Christmas.
Story 1: RUFFY BIAZON RESIGNS AS CUSTOMS CHIEF
Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon resigns Monday, three days after the justice department implicated him in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.
In a press conference, Biazon announces his “irrevocable resignation” after meeting with President Benigno Aquino.
Biazon says he is resigning to –quote– “prevent the exploitation of the controversy” by critics of the administration.
Biazon, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, is the first party mate of Aquino implicated in the corruption scandal, where lawmakers allegedly siphoned funds to fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for hefty kickbacks.
Biazon, a former Muntinlupa congressman, is accused of pocketing P1.95 million of his pork barrel during his 2007-2010 term.
He denies the accusations and adds he is –quote– “willing to face the allegation in the proper forum.”
He also says his resignation is not an admission of guilt, but an attempt to protect his family and the President.
Last July, Biazon offered to resign after Aquino hit the Bureau of Customs’ alleged incompetence and corruption in his 4th State of the Nation Address. Aquino did not accept his resignation then.
Biazon says he is resigning to “give way to new leadership,” whose credibility will not be questioned.
He adds, “I would rather see the reforms of this administration succeed than retain my opportunity to serve.”
In a statement, Aquino says he is giving Biazon until the end of the week for the transition.
Story 2: AQUINO TO LACSON: TAKE CARE OF FUNDS
President Aquino asks former senator Ping Lacson to oversee the government’s massive and costly rehabilitation program for areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda — international name Haiyan.
The President met with Lacson in Malacanang on November 29, where they discussed in broad strokes the former senator’s functions.
Lacson says his job as rehabilitation czar means ensuring transparency in the use of funds and overseeing rehabilitation efforts.
PANFILO LACSON, YOLANDA REHABILITATION CZAR: Overall, overseer, supervisor. Yung mga implementing agencies na related, ito yung may critical responsibilities sa typhoon-stricken areas, eh dapat synchronized or orchestrated ‘yung galaw nila. So parang ang magiging papel ko dito, konduktor ng orchestra na kung saan dapat tama ‘yung kumpas at kung may mga out of tune o mali ang kilos, i-correct din. ([My role] is to be the overall overseer, supervisor of related implementing agencies. These are the agencies with critical responsibilities for typhoon-stricken areas. Their actions must be synchronized or orchestrated. My role here is to be the conductor of the orchestra. The notes must be right, if there is someone out of tune, we will correct.)
Lacson says Aquino is concerned about reports that foreign relief goods were repacked and sold to the victims.
The Philippines received at least 21.18 billion pesos or 484.67 million dollars in foreign assistance pledges as of Monday.
PANFILO LACSON, YOLANDA REHABILITATION CZAR: Sinabi niya importante kasi dito transparency. Sabi ko kuha ko na agad ang message niya: pangalagaan ang pondo, gawing transparent lahat ‘yung paggastos ng pondo ng gobyerno at kung anumang resources na gagamitin…Ang tingin ko lang ‘yung tiwala na binigay sa akin when he offered the job to me ay konektado sa sinabi niyang importante ang transparency. ([Aquino] said transparency is important. I said I immediately got his message: take care of the funds, make the use of all government funds and other resources transparent…I think the trust he gave me when he offered the job to me is connected to what he said that transparency is important.)
Aquino’s directive to be transparent in the use of funds comes after the Malampaya Fund scam, where funds intended for victims of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng allegedly went to ghost projects.
On Monday, Malacanang says Lacson’s role will be threshed out in the Executive Order it will issue.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda says Aquino felt the need for one person to handle rehabilitation efforts full-time because of the magnitude of the typhoon’s damage.
He says Lacson’s –quote– “national stature” gives him the experience he needs to deal with “building blocks.”
As former chief of the Philippine National Police, Lacson was known for his investigative skills and strong stance against kidnappers and car thieves.
He earned both praise and criticism for this.
He was also implicated in the Kuratong Baleleng rub-out case in 1995 and the Dacer-Corbito double murder case in 2001.
He became a fugitive for 13 months after his arrest was ordered by a court in 2010.
Lacson surfaced after the Court of Appeals cleared him.
Story 3: LACSON: YOLANDA REHAB UNTIL JUNE 2016
The newly appointed rehabilitation czar says he hopes to accomplish the job by June 2016, the end of term of the Aquino administration.
In a media forum Monday, Lacson says he will officially start working once the executive order creating his position is issued.
Last week, the Cabinet outlined a rehabilitation plan for typhoon-hit areas.
The government needs to allocate P40.9 billion for the rehabilitation program.
Palace insiders say Lacson’s appointment surprised many Cabinet officials.
A former presidential aspirant, the 65-year-old Lacson does not belong to any of the key factions within the administration.
Lacson says “politics and dynamics” are among the challenges in his new role, but he adds his aim is to “get things done.”
Story 4: DARK OR LIGHTED VISAYAS CHRISTMAS? PETILLA ‘NOT 100% SURE’
Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla says he is not “100% sure” the Department of Energy or DOE can restore power to typhoon-hit areas by Christmas eve, but adds there is a “good chance” it will meet the target.
Petilla earlier promised to resign if the devastated areas in Visayas will have a dark Christmas.
In a press briefing Monday, Petilla says less than 50% of the damaged transmission and distribution facilities have been repaired.
The National Grid Corporation earlier said it would take 5 to 6 weeks to fully restore power in the Visayas.
Petilla says it’s possible that most typhoon-hit areas will have electricity before December 25, but says the entire Eastern Samar province and the municipality of Isabel in Leyte may have a dark Christmas because many posts were damaged.
Petilla says the restoration of transmission and distribution facilities will cost some P6.5 billion.
Story 5: NDRRMC: TOO MANY COOKS SPOIL THE BROTH
It’s nearly a month since the super typhoon hit the Philippines and left at least 5,670 people dead.
A Rappler investigation shows that despite existing mechanisms, the government relied on too many officials with overlapping functions as it prepared for the world’s most powerful storm.
Based on how the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council was organized, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin should have been in charge of disaster preparation and response.
But he was sidelined.
Other people who took charge before and after the typhoon included Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
The result: initial chaos on the ground, delaying relief operations for survivors.
Story 6: NEW US ENVOY: PH NEEDS US MORE AFTER HAIYAN
The United States’ new ambassador to the Philippines cites the super typhoon to justify his top priority: increasing US troops in the Philippines.
In a briefing with reporters Monday, US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg says a framework agreement will bring Philippine-US ties to the “next level.”
He says, “It’s important for the Philippines to have an even greater ability to provide for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”
He adds, “There are reasons to build minimal defense capability and maritime defense awareness. That will come with the framework agreement.”
The Philippines and the US are negotiating a military deal to allow more US troops, aircraft and ships to pass through the Philippines.
But despite months of talks, both panels failed to sign the agreement.
Story 7: IS CORONA ENTITLED TO RETIREMENT PAY?
The Supreme Court is expected to discuss next month whether dismissed Chief Justice Renato Corona is entitled to a retirement pay.
Rappler learned that in a letter he sent to the Court, Corona asked his former colleagues to allow the release of his retirement pay.
On Sunday, a group of former senior government officials hits the supposed P50-million pay Corona asked for.
The former chief justice denies asking for P50 million.
Lawyers familiar with the issue say Corona’s retirement pay would amount to a lump sum of P20 million.
But the basic issue is whether or not he is entitled to it.
Lawyers say dismissed justices are not entitled to retirement pay.
The group of former government officials adds, “He did not retire. He was thrown out of office. He has not been accepted into the Association of Retired Justices.”
In May 2012, the Senate convicted Corona for failing to declare his assets in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
Story 8: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 4, the leader of mass opposition protests in Thailand says he held crisis talks with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, but vows to topple the government and “hand over power to the people.”
The meeting follows a clash between protesters and the police Sunday.
The police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protesters after they tried to storm government headquarters.
The street rallies are the biggest since the mass protests in Bangkok 3 years ago.
At number 7, a smartphone app designed to give early warning of earthquakes could be ready as early as next year.
The app can send alerts between a few seconds and one minute before a tremor hits, depending on where the user is in relation to an earthquake’s epicenter.
The app is based on technology used in an early warning system to detect a quake’s strength and location.
And at number 8, China launches its first moon rover mission on December 2, the latest step in an ambitious space program.
State television shows the rocket carrying the Jade Rabbit rover blasting off into the dark sky from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
It is the world’s third lunar rover mission following those by the United States and former Soviet Union decades earlier.
China’s military-led space program aims to establish a permanent space station by 2020 and eventually send someone to the moon.
Story 9: ‘FAST AND FURIOUS’ STAR PAUL WALKER DIES IN CAR CRASH
American Actor Paul Walker, best known for his role as undercover agent Brian O’Connor in the “Fast and the Furious” movie franchise, died in a car accident in California on Saturday. He was 40.
Walker died when the sports car he was riding slammed into a tree and caught fire in the town of Santa Clarita, in Los Angeles county.
Walker attended an event to raise money for victims of Typhoon Yolanda held by Reach Out Worldwide, a non-profit disaster relief group he founded.
Representatives of his official Facebook page confirm the news, saying, “It is with a truly heavy heart that we must confirm that Paul Walker passed away today. He was a passenger in a friend’s car, in which both lost their lives.”
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|
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