Rappler Newscast | March 4, 2014

Doctors hit an ad depicting them as tax cheats. Pork barrel scam whistleblower fires his lawyer. Filipinos in Ukraine are told to prepare for evacuation

Today on Rappler.

  • Doctors slam a government ad depicting them as tax cheats.
  • Whistleblower Benhur Luy fires his lawyer Levi Baligod.
  • The Philippines’ foreign affairs officials tell Filipinos in Ukraine to prepare for evacuation.

Doctors slam a print ad by the Bureau of Internal Revenue or BIR.
The ad shows a doctor sitting on the shoulders of a school teacher with the words, “When you don’t pay your taxes, you’re a burden to those who do.”
The ad is part of the BIR’s crusade against tax evasion.
Philippine Medical Association president Leo Olarte says portraying doctors as tax cheats is -quote- “absolutely unfair.”

DR. LEO OLARTE, PHILIPPINE MEDICAL ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT: Nasaktan yung mga nagbabayad ng tamang buwis. Nalulungkot kami. Hindi namin expected na ganito ang mangyayari. Na kami’y nagbayad ng magandang buwis and then ganoon pa ang ipapakita. Na hindi kami nagbabayad ng buwis. Na ang dating namin tax evader. Yun ay talagang di namin matatanggap. (The doctors who pay their taxes were offended. This saddens us. We didn’t expect this would happen. We pay our taxes. And then this is how we’re portrayed. That we don’t pay our taxes. That we are tax evaders. That’s something we cannot accept.)

Olarte says the depiction may have come from the stereotype of doctors as rich, but he says not all doctors are wealthy.
In a television interview Tuesday, BIR chief Kim Henares defends the ad, saying it was just –quote– “making a statement of fact.”
She adds, “If you’re paying the right taxes, it’s not alluding to you. If you’re not paying the right taxes, then it’s talking to you.”

Family doctor visit in a clinic image from Shutterstock



Pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy fires his counsel Levi Baligod.
In a letter to Baligod dated Monday, Luy thanks the lawyer for his “time and effort” but says Baligod has been very busy with “other advocacies.”
The letter reads -quote- “It will not be easy though but this will mutually benefit us in the end. With deep gratitude for our friendship, I formally release you from any obligation and/or contract to litigate on my behalf and to represent me as legal counsel effective today.”
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima confirms the news Tuesday.
She says Luy complained about Baligod’s lack of time, and will be replacing his former counsel with 3 to 4 lawyers.

Why did Benhur Luy fire Levi Baligod?
Rappler sources say several reasons triggered the parting of ways, among them Baligod’s busy schedule and disagreements over strategy.
Newly widowed when he took on Luy’s case in early 2013, Baligod got engaged last January to a wealthy Leyte politician, Marilou Galenzoga.
Baligod’s frequent visits to his fiancee’s hometown of Baybay, Leyte reportedly took much of his time.
Luy reportedly first observed that Baligod -quote- “had his mind on other things” during hearings on the illegal detention case against alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles.
Baligod only attended at least twice in the many times Luy and other witnesses were summoned by the court.
The lawyer also missed several appearances in the Senate Blue Ribbon hearings.
But the last straw was Baligod’s failure to accompany Luy when he appeared before a Supreme Court investigation on allegations against Sandiganbayan Senior Justice Gregory Ong.
Ong is a member of the 4th Division that tried the P3.8 million Kevlar helmet case where Napoles was among the accused.
Ong often attended the same parties Napoles did.
Luy also complained that Baligod kept him in the dark about legal strategies.
One instance involved Technology Resource Center chief Dennis Cunanan, whom Luy said benefitted from the scam.
Baligod is also Cunanan’s counsel.
A source from the whistleblower’s camp said Luy is concerned that he and Cunanan will have conflicting statements.
The source adds, “We’re saying he accepted bribes. He is saying he did not. How do we reconcile this conflicting claim?”

Ten Filipino businessmen with a combined net worth of 40.1 billion dollars make it to Forbes Magazine’s elite list of world billionaires for 2014.
The richest Filipino is 89-year-old Henry Sy Sr., #97 with a net worth of $11.4 billion.
Sy chairs one of the Philippines’ largest family conglomerates SM Investments Corporation.
The second richest in the Philippines, 79-year-old Lucio Tan, moves up to #227 with a net worth of $6.1 billion.
Tan owns Asia Brewery, maker of popular Beer na Beer, and a stake in Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco.
With a net worth of $4.7 billion, 61-year-old Andrew Tan comes in at 319, up from 345 in 2013.
Tan owns Alliance Global Group, which is in food and beverage, real estate, and gaming.
The 2014 world’s richest list includes a record 1,645 billionaires, with a combined net worth of 6.4 trillion dollars, up from 5.4 trillion dollars last year.
Microsoft’s Bill Gates is back on top as the richest person in the world, with a net worth of $76 billion dollars.

The wife of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile tells all, confirming an affair her husband once denied.
Cristina Enrile says her husband did have an affair with his former chief of staff Gigi Reyes.
In a rare TV interview with Winnie Monsod, Mrs. Enrile says her husband’s affair with Reyes pushed her to file for divorce.
But the senator refused to grant it.
Enrile denies the affair, saying his relationship with Reyes was a –quote– “official and professional one.”
Reyes resigned in January 2013.
She was later named one of the respondents in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.

Metro Manila residents will have to endure massive traffic jams until 2016 as work begins on at least 15 road projects.
The government says it’s a long-term solution to traffic, but how will this affect road users in the short term?
Katerina Francisco reports.

At least 15 road projects in an already congested city – it’s a traffic nightmare for residents of Metro Manila.
The government promises faster travel and less congested roads by 2016, but for jeepney driver Erasto Fernandez, it’s a long wait.
Until the projects are completed, the traffic jams will hit him where it hurts: his pockets.

ERASTO FERNANDEZ, JEEPNEY DRIVER: Malaking pilay sa amin ito, gawa ng trapik eh. Sobrang ano to. Maaaring mawawalan kami dito ng halos kalahati sa kinikita namin. Kung kumita kami ng mga, whole day, P800, maaaring kumita na lang kami diyan ng P400. Eh magkano naman gagastusin sa isang araw? (Heavy traffic will cripple our livelihood. We might lose nearly half of what we usually earn. If we earn P800 for the entire day, we might end up earning only P400 because of traffic. But how much do we spend for our everyday needs?)

Silvano Tero begins his day picking up passengers at 4 a.m. to earn P800 a day.
It’s enough to feed his family, he says — but it won’t be if traffic gets worse.

SILVANO TERO, JEEPNEY DRIVER: Pag medyo grabe na trapik, wala na kaming kikitain, syempre maghahanap na naman kami ng paraan kung paano kami mabubuhay. Mga dalawang ikot, tatlong ikot ka na lang paano ka mabubuhay dyan? (If the traffic gets worse and we stop earning as much, we’ll have to look for different ways to make a living. If we simply make two, three rounds of picking up passengers, how can we live on that?)

Traffic has long been a problem in Metro Manila — and it’s costing the country.
The gridlocks turn investors away, and a study shows the Philippines loses P2.4 billion a day in potential income from the traffic jams in Metro Manila alone.
This includes lost work hours, lost business opportunities due to delays and missed deadlines and wasted fuel.
The losses add up to P576 billion a year just for the economic cost of traffic on weekdays.
That’s more than the P400 billion infrastructure budget for 2014.
By 2030, the Philippines stands to lose P6 billion a day.
More traffic means longer time on the roads, more pollution generated and more greenhouse gas emitted.
University of the Philippines professor Jose Regidor also points out a hidden cost that’s hard to translate in money terms.

JOSE REGIN REGIDOR, U.P. PROFESSOR: A parent instead of nasa bahay na siya nag-aalaga ng anak nina, nandun pa siya sa traffic. Mahirap lagyan ng presyo yun eh. (A parent, instead of being at home to take care of the children, ends up being stuck in traffic. It’s hard to put a monetary value on that.)

The government says its road projects will solve traffic and help the Philippines achieve this administration’s catchphrase: inclusive growth.
But how inclusive are projects intended for road users?
For Regidor, inclusivity also means making reliable public transportation a priority.
Regidor says it’s time the government spends more on mass transit systems to decongest a bursting mega city.
Officials say it’s a case of delayed gratification: suffer now, enjoy later.
But that’s assuming population and vehicle density stays the same until 2016.
Katerina Francisco, Rappler, Manila

The United States suspends military cooperation with Russia because of its decision to send troops into Ukraine.
Both Washington and the European Union say they are considering sanctions against Russia for threatening to use force against its neighboring country.
But despite criticism from world leaders, Russia stands firm, saying Ukraine’s ousted president Viktor Yanukovych asked Russia to send troops across the border into Crimea.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin says the move aims to stop radical extremists and preserve democracy.
But US President Barack Obama slams the move, adding Russia is –quote– “on the wrong side of history.”
At an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting, Ukraine’s envoy asks for help, saying Russia sent 16,000 troops into Crimea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says they are not trying to make Crimea a part of Russia.
Earlier Tuesday, Russian troops near the Ukrainian border were ordered back to their bases.
On Tuesday, the Philippine foreign affairs department tells Filipinos in Ukraine to prepare for possible evacuation.
The department raises crisis alert level 2 in Ukraine because of ongoing tensions.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said around 175 Filipinos work in Ukraine.

FULL COVERAGE: Crisis in Ukraine

At number 2, French scientists discover a giant, harmless virus locked in the Siberian permafrost for more than 30,000 years.
They thawed the virus and watched it replicate in a petri dish, where it infected an amoeba.
Called the Pithovirus sibericum, the virus has 500 genes compared to the influenza virus that has only 8.
The French National Center for Scientific Research says the discovery has implications on public health risks in connection with exploiting mineral or energy resources in Arctic Circle regions.

At number 9, a new witness surfaces in the case of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius.
Pistorius pleads not guilty in the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, whom Pistorius says he mistook for an intruder.
His neighbor Michelle Burger says she was awakened by “terrible screams” on February 14, 2013.
Burger says she heard a woman scream for help, followed by that of a man’s.

And at number 10, the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT says the university struggles with ethical issues on the collection and analysis of big data.
During a workshop on Big Data Privacy, MIT president L. Rafael Reif addresses the compromise involved in digital learning.
He challenges people to – quote – “harness this flood of data to generate positive change without destroying the very idea of privacy.”

– Rappler.com

Newscast Production Staff

DIRECTOR Rupert Ambil
  Dindin Reyes
HEAD WRITER / PROMPTER Katerina Francisco
  Marga Deona
  Emerald Hidalgo
  Jaene Zaplan
  Adrian Portugal
  Francis Lopez
  Naoki Mengua
GRAPHICS Jessica Lazaro
  Raffy de Guzman
3D GRAPHICS Sten Bautista


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