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Today on Rappler.
- Philippine police and the Interpol expose an online sex extortion syndicate based in the Philippines.
- The Ombudsman grants pork barrel scam whistleblower Ruby Tuason immunity from criminal prosecution.
- Data from two firms highlight slow Internet speeds in the Philippines.
STORY 1: INTERPOL, PNP NAB ONLINE ‘SEXTORTION’ RING IN PH
A joint effort between Philippine police and the Interpol exposes an online sex extortion syndicate based in the Philippines.
Calling the scheme “sextortion,” police say the extortionists have been operating in the Philippines for about 4 years.
At least 58 are arrested from Wednesday to Thursday in various locations – Taguig, Laguna, and the Bicol region.
Philippine police chief Alan Purisima says police seized over 300 electronic devices used in the extortion scheme.
Suspects created fake Facebook accounts, posing as young females.
They befriended male foreigners via chat, and lured them to engage in cybersex.
Little did the clients know, the entire act was being recorded.
The suspects then threatened to upload the videos online unless the victims pay up, demanding $500 to $2,000 dollars.
The suspects deleted the video once they got paid.
The suicide of 17-year-old British national Daniel Perry in July 2013 sparked
an international probe into the scheme.
Police say Perry pleaded with the extortionists not to upload the video.
He said he would kill himself if they did so.
The extortionists responded, “Kill yourself, mate,” prompting the teenager to jump off a bridge.
Local authorities say Facebook cooperated in the investigation.
Interpol Digital Crime Center director Sanjay Virmani says, operations in the Philippines can be a model for solving future crimes.
SANJAY VIRMANI, INTERPOL DIGITAL CRIME CENTER DIRECTOR: It really shows a model of what works in combating this situation. You really can’t have just one single entity, one single agency. It really has to be a collaborative effort in a trusted environment to share information and to work together.
STORY 2: RUBY TUASON GRANTED IMMUNITY BY OMBUDSMAN
The Philippine Ombudsman grants pork barrel scam whistleblower Ruby Tuason immunity from criminal prosecution.
Tuason returns the P40 million she earned in kickbacks from the corruption scandal involving lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund.
Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan says, the amount will be remitted to the National Treasury.
Rafanan clarifies the return of the money did not factor into the Ombudsman’s decision.
He says it was Tuason’s direct knowledge of transactions that convinced the Ombudsman to grant her immunity.
Another factor: she’s not being charged of any other offense.
ASRYMAN RAFANAN, ASSISTANT OMBUDSMAN: I think the return of the amount was by admission of Tuason herself. It was not one of those major consideration arrived at by the office in the granting of immunity. It just so happened that she voluntarily offered to return the 40 million and the office could not reject that offer.
Malacañang welcomes the development.
Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma says, “We hope that with the immunity, Ms Tuason can reveal the whole truth, aiding in the people’s quest for justice.”
STORY 3: AQUINO RICHER BY P1.3 MILLION IN 2013
President Benigno Aquino is richer by P1.3 million.
Aquino says his increased wealth is due to his cash on hand earning “interest income.”
Aquino adds, his 2013 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth reflects his increased wealth.
The President earns a monthly salary of P120,000.
Aquino says he divested his other interests when he became president.
He declared a P54.9 million net worth in 2010, which increased to P65.1 million in 2011.
In 2012, the President’s SALN reflected his net worth to be slightly lower by less than 2 thousand pesos.
Aquino’s assets are mostly real estate properties, including a house, two residential lots, a commercial lot, and two agricultural lots.
He does not have any liabilities.
STORY 4: 3 TO 5 PH MILITARY BASES EYED FOR US USE
Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino says the Philippines and the US are looking at three to five Philippine military bases for the use of US troops.
Batino adds, the numbers are not yet final, and the locations will be identified in annexes the panels have yet to complete.
Officials are considering Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, where Philippines-US Balikatan exercises are often held.
Not too far from Fort Magsaysay is Subic in Zambales, which once hosted the largest US naval base until the Senate voted in 1991 to evict the Americans.
Batino refuses to confirm if Subic is one of the bases considered.
Subic will serve as the home base of two warships acquired from the US Coast Guard.
Subic is close to the disputed Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
The final locations will be chosen based on key mission areas like maritime security, maritime domain awareness, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
Batino says consultations are underway, and the panel is ready to face legal questions raised against the deal.
Manila and Washington signed the deal Monday, giving US troops greater access to Philippine bases.
STORY 5: INTERNET DATA HIGHLIGHT SLOW PH INTERNET
Two Internet firms may have different sets of metrics on Internet speed in the Philippines, but both highlight the dismal state of the Web in the country.
Internet metrics firm Ookla says the average Internet speed in the Philippines is at 3.55 Megabits per second or Mbps.
At those speeds, the Philippines ranks 155th out of 190 countries.
In its quarterly State of the Internet report, cloud services firm Akamai says the Philippines has an average Internet speed of 2 Mbps, much lower than estimates from Ookla.
Akamai also reports broadband adoption rates in the Philippines are low.
The adoption rate is the rate a country buys into certain Internet speeds.
Only 3.6% of the Philippines has an adoption rate of speeds above 4 Mbps, and only .2% exceed 10 Mbps.
The information from Ookla and Akamai paint a grim picture of Internet connectivity in the Philippines.
Senator Bam Aquino is asking for a probe into the country’s slow internet speed.
STORY 6: CHINESE SHIPS ENTER DISPUTED WATERS: JAPAN COASTGUARD
Three Chinese ships sail into disputed waters with Japan in the East China Sea.
The Japanese coast guard says Chinese vessels entered the waters around the Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls Diaoyu.
It’s the third incursion since US President Barack Obama declared the US will defend Japan, if China initiated an attack in the tense dispute.
China remains defiant, claiming the islands as its “inherent
The row between the two countries intensified in September 2012 when Japan nationalized some of the islands in the East China Sea.
STORY 7: VIDEO SHOWS S. KOREAN STUDENTS JOKING FERRY WAS LIKE TITANIC
A video of students aboard the Sewol South Korean ferry shows the teens joking about how it’s “getting like the Titanic…” minutes before it sank.
The footage was retrieved from the cellphone of drowned student Park Su-Hyeon.
Park’s father released the footage to South Korean media.
In the video, a student jokes “Hey, rescue me,” while another suggests the video would be “fun to put on Facebook.”
Another student jokes: it might be time to -quote- “leave my last words.”
A loudspeaker can be heard telling passengers to remain where they are.
One of the students asks, “What is the captain doing?”
The captain and 14 of his crew who survived the sinking were arrested and widely criticized for delaying evacuation until escape was almost impossible.
Of the 476 people on board, 325 were students from the same high school on a trip to a resort island.
As of Friday morning, 225 are confirmed dead, with 77 still missing.
STORY 8: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 6, there are now 7 cases of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS coronavirus in Jordan.
Since 2012, 3 already died from MERS in Jordan.
MERS is a severe respiratory disease with a mortality rate of up to 40%.
It’s considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the 2013 Asian epidemic – the SARS virus.
There is no known treatment yet for MERS.
At number 7, nearly 300,000 US soldiers who sustained brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan are expected to benefit from an implant developed to restore memory.
US military researchers say they can develop neuro-prosthetic devices that allow recollections of people, events, facts and figures.
But the experiment raises ethical questions.
Medical ethicist Arthur Caplan says, “When you fool around with the brain you are fooling around with personal identity.”
At number 8, seven of the most powerful men in Washington and Hollywood appear in a video condemning sexual assault.
US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden…
along with actors Benicio del Toro, Daniel Craig, Steve Carell, Dulé Hill, and Seth Meyers…
encourage other men to speak up against sexual assault.
For the full top 10 visit Rappler.com’s ‘the wRap.’
STORY 9: SOCIAL MEDIA POST OF THE DAY
Boxing champ Manny Pacquiao and pop superstar Justin Bieber patch things up.
The two clashed when Bieber, a fan of Floyd Mayweather Jr, mocked Pacquiao after the boxer lost to Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012.
But what amused netizens more in their picture was the photobomber behind the Pacman and Bieber.
One of our readers says he’s the son of boxer Gerry Penalosa.
Whoever he is, he sure stole the show!
Newscast Production Staff
|EXECUTIVE PRODUCER / WRITER||Lilibeth Frondoso|
|ASSOCIATE PRODUCER / PUBLISHER||Rodneil Quiteles|
|HEAD WRITER / PROMPTER||Katerina Francisco|
|MASTER EDITOR / PLAYBACK||Exxon Ruebe|
|TECHNICAL DIRECTOR / CAMERAMAN||Charlie Salazar|
|Raffy de Guzman|