Rappler Newscast | March 17, 2014

Today on Rappler.

The Commission on Audit or COA will file malversation charges against 100 officials for unliquidated cash advances that reached P5 billion in 2011.
COA chair Grace Pulido-Tan says the amount spans 20 to 40 years, and is on top of the funds involved in the pork barrel scam, where lawmakers allegedly funneled public money through fake NGOs in exchange for kickbacks.
Although Tan says “millions” of people did not liquidate cash advances, COA and the Ombudsman decided to set
the threshold at P1 million and above to ensure they go after people whom they could still recover the money from.
For government officials with cash advances of less than P1 million, Tan says the COA will work it out with the Civil Service Commission.
Tan first announced in January that COA intended to sue agencies and officials for unliquidated cash advances.
Tan says the COA issued a “final demand” in 2012 for the officials to liquidate their cash advances, with P1.6 billion liquidated.
Those who did not liquidate the remaining P3.4 billion will now be sued.

The Commission on Audit or COA describes the relief operations in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan as --quote-- "chaotic and crazy.”
In a Senate hearing Monday, COA chair Grace Pulido-Tan says the agency will come up with a report on disaster response systems…
following the typhoon that killed more than 6,000 people in November 2013.
COA’s findings confirm what many observers long pointed out but the government dismissed.
Tan says, “There was really no one calling the shots, doing coherent coordination...Everybody was at a loss.”
In the aftermath of the typhoon, international aid poured in, but Tan says most went straight to beneficiaries, instead of through agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development or DSWD.
Senators order the DSWD to monitor the funds that private organizations raised for Yolanda.
DSWD rules require any organization raising funds to secure a permit from the department, and report to the agency how the money was used.
DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman admitted the agency did not monitor the funds private groups raised for Yolanda.  
She says, “Technically they should have applied for a permit but because it was an emergency, that would be their reason for not asking for a permit.”

The Indonesian official who successfully rehabilitated tsunami-hit Aceh in 2004 says the Philippines should give more authority to Rehabilitation Secretary Ping Lacson.
Lacson is tasked with rebuilding areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda.
But with no power over the budget and a position limited to coordination, Lacson says his limited powers make the job difficult.
Indonesian rehabilitation czar Kuntoro Mangku-subroto says Lacson should be given more power.

KUNTORO MANGKUSUBROTO, INDONESIAN REHABILITATION CZAR: I'd like to suggest that Secretary Ping is given more power – budgetary power, implementation power, coordination power, and also a kind of freedom from the standard accounting, auditing mechanism...For such a huge job like that, just to coordinate without any real power to enforce, to implement, it's gonna be tough. But with all the support, with other departments, agencies, then he can be very successful.

The Indonesian government allowed Kuntoro not to go through a bidding process to speed up rebuilding.
His group, the Executing Agency for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction or BRR, also took a “zero-tolerance stance” against corruption.
The BRR says it received around 93% of the aid promised, while the Philippines received only around a fifth of pledges.

The Philippine Military Academy class of 2014 graduated Sunday, but controversial Cadet Aldrin Cudia was not among them.
The case goes beyond the questionable decision that caused his dismissal, and sheds light on the academy’s honor code.
Carmela Fonbuena reports.

222 members of the “Siklab Diwa” Class graduate, in the middle of a controversy on the academy’s PMA Honor Code.
The trigger, Cadet Aldrin Jeff Cudia.
He fights the system to overturn the Honor Committee's ruling to dismiss him for lying.
He gains strong public support and gets the President’s attention.
PMA head Major General Oscar Lopez's speech is filled with metaphors.

MAJ GEN OSCAR LOPEZ, PMA SUPERINTENDENT: Happily ever after. This familiar line…that no matter how difficult the situations are, no matter how horrible the villains, are the hero always wins. The good prevails. And so the story ends with everyone living happily ever. What makes the hero always win despite all odds is that he has already won himself by living a perfectly living honorable life so that the happily after is actually just the fruit of the sturdy tree of goodness planted in life.

The President tells the new graduates: practice the Honor Code beyond the walls of the academy.

BENIGNO AQUINO III, PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT: Kung tungkulin nating parangalin ang Honor Code sa loob ng institusyong ito, panindigan din natin sana sa labas ng PMA…Kung bawal magsinungaling sa klase at sa kapwa kadete, di ba't hindi din dapat hayaan ang sinuman na linlangin ang kapwa at batas. (If it’s our duty to follow the Honor Code inside the PMA, we should also stand by it outside the institution. If we are not allowed to lie in class and to our fellow cadets, we shouldn’t let anyone fool his fellowmen and the law.)

Cudia fails to persuade President Aquino to overturn his dismissal after a last minute meeting.
The last glimmer of hope for the cadet: the President orders another probe.
The probe will be led by Armed Forces chief Emmanuel Bautista, a PMA alumnus himself.
The President will most likely leave the PMA alumni to resolve the issue.
Calls for reform echo beyond the academy, especially in view of the military's spotty human rights records.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin says there may be a need to review the code.

VOLTAIRE GAZMIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: May mga batas na tayo ngayon na noong araw, noong panahon namin, ay wala pa itong mga batas na ito gaya ng International Humanitarian Law, yung Human rights. Marami nangn naidagdag na noong araw, wala pang ganiyang batas kaya walang kaming navaviolate. kaya kailangan pag-aralan. Naitasan ni Chief of Staff si Superintendent to form a technical working group to study all these things. (We have laws now that we didn’t have before in my time. We didn’t have the International Humanitarian Law or the Human Rights. We didn’t have these additional laws so we weren’t violating anything. We have to study it. Our Chief of Staff assigned the Superintendent to form a technical working group to study all these things.)

Class Valedictorian is Jheorge LLona, a farmer's son from Albay.
He asks his classmates to stay true to the values they learned.

JHEORGE LLONA, CLASS VALEDICTORIAN: Nararapat lamang na ating isa-puso ang mag aral na itinuro ng ating pinakamamahal na akademya, courage, integrity at loyalty, na mas pinatibay pa ng ating honor code at ng edukasyon na nakuha natin dito…Taas-noo ko pong masasabi na hinubog ng PMA ang kanyang mag anak upang maging epektibong leader ng AFP. (We should take to heart the teachings of our beloved academy - courage, integrity and loyalty, which is further strengthened by our honor code and the education we received…I can proudly say the PMA molds its students to be effective leaders of the AFP.)

CARMELA FONBUENA, REPORTING: The controversy comes at a perfect time because the PMA system is currently under review. The issue is bigger than Cudia graduating from PMA. It is reviewing the honor system that molds future leaders of the military and the country. Carmela Fonbuena, Rappler, Baguio City

The government orders Internet service providers or ISPs in the Philippines to block access to child pornography.
In a memorandum issued January 30, the National Telecommunications Commission or NTC orders ISPs to install filters that will block identified child porn websites.
The ISPs have until June to install the filters.
They should also submit a list of child porn websites that subscribers attempt to access to the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography.  
ISPs are also required to preserve customer data records for investigation.
The government’s move comes following reports the Philippines has become a key hub of the billion-dollar global child cybersex industry.

Crimea’s parliament declares independence.
In a referendum held Sunday, more than 96% of voters choose to leave Ukraine and join former political ruler Russia.
Crimea’s self-declared premier Sergiy Aksyonov promises to apply for membership to the Russian Federation following the results of the poll.
On the streets of Crimea, thousands of people celebrate the outcome with Russian flags and Soviet-era songs in a show of distrust against the new leadership in Ukraine’s capital Kiev.
Russian media hail the “divorce” between Ukraine and its autonomous region, but not everyone in Crimea is happy to return to Kremlin rule.
Crimea's indigenous Muslim Tatar community largely boycotted the referendum, which Ukraine’s new pro-European leaders and the West also condemn.
White House spokesman Jay Carney says, “The international community will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation.”
Earlier this month, Russian troops moved in on the region, a move that the West called a violation of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty.
Ukraine's interim President Oleksandr Turchynov says the results are -quote- "pre-planned by the Kremlin as a formal justification to send in its troops."
But Russian President Vladimir Putin says Crimeans have the right to self-determination.
Crimea’s vote triggers the most radical redrawing of the European map since Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia.

The pilots of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane are now in the spotlight a week since Flight MH 370 disappeared.
Authorities are searching the pilots’ homes for clues, including a flight simulator built by 53-year-old captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah.
In a press conference Saturday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says the plane was deliberately diverted, but refuses to confirm if it was hijacked.
He says authorities are investigating all possibilities that caused the plane to deviate from its original flight path.
MH 370 disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
It did not send any distress signals when it disappeared from radar screens.
Malaysia says both the aircraft communication addressing and reporting system and the aircraft transponder were turned off.
Najib says this is consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.
25 countries join the search for the plane, with the search area covering as far north as Kazakhstan and south to the Indian Ocean.
Philippine defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin says the country temporarily stopped its search, with no trace of the plane found near Philippine waters.

In 2009, typhoon Ondoy dumped more than a month and a half worth of rain in 24 hours.
Pasig City was one of the areas worst hit, with most of its residents victims of heavy floods.
What has Pasig City learned since then?
How do residents prepare for natural disasters?
David Lozada reports.

Every time a typhoon draws near, Dino Raymundo and his team are all geared up and ready to go.
It's part of their disaster workflow as leaders of Barangay Santolan, a flood-prone community in Pasig City.
Santolan is the catch basin for flood water coming from nearby cities during storms.
When Typhoon Ondoy hit in 2009, almost the entire community was submerged in water.
Thirty thousand people were evacuated.
Raymundo says dissemination of public information is crucial to their operations.

DINO RAYMUNDO, BRGY SANTOLAN KAGAWAD: Napaka-importante kasi magiging aware at ibababa namin sa mga tao kung paano ang kanilang mga dapat 'pag dumating yung mga ganitong scenario. Hindi lang sa panahon ng baha. Pati yung panahon ng earthquake ay pinag-aaralan ngayong araw na ito. (It is important to properly disseminate the community’s disaster response plans to the residents before calamities strike, so they know what to do when the time comes. We don’t only prepare for floods but also for earthquakes.)

But the team still lacks equipment and training to respond to big disasters.
This is where the city government comes in.

DAVID LOZADA, REPORTING: Proper information dissemination and preparedness are key to effective disaster response. But Pasig City takes this a step further. The city requires the communities to work together to address the differences in capacity and resources between barangays.

Pasig City created a system where nearby barangays help each other in times of crises.
Pasig DRRM chief Richie Angeles says the city regularly holds disaster simulation exercises.
Community leaders practice communication and rapid assessment of the situation.

RICHIE ANGELES, PASIG DRRM CHIEF: Nagtulong-tulong yung mga six, seven barangays in one cluster. So mas-stronger. Kung sa barangay ka lang, you stand alone, ang laki ng problema. Pero halimbawa, hindi naman lagi nangyayari in one area, itong barangay, lahat affected. So yung hindi affected within that cluster, will support the affected barangays within that cluster. Nagkakaroon ng parang family bonding nila lalo, yung kapwang Pasigeno. Kung ikaw ay may kakayahan at ikaw naman ay affected, eh di tumulong ka nalang muna. (Around six to seven communities help each other in one cluster so the response is stronger. If you’re only one barangay, your response is limited. But disasters don’t always happen in one area so not all communities are always affected. So those communities that are not affected, can support affected communities within the cluster. A family bond forms between Pasig residents. If you have the capacity and you’re not affected, then you should help.)

Raymundo is confident Barangay Santolan can withstand any calamity.

DINO RAYMUNDO, BRGY SANTOLAN KAGAWAD: Kami, preparado na kami dahil halos napagdastahan na naming lahat ng mga pangangailangan namin. Halos coordinated na kami...hindi lang sa local government unit, pati yung sa national, may connection na kami. (We’re prepared because we’ve addressed all our needs. We are in constant coordination with the local government units and the national agencies.)

Pasig's experience shows the greatest resource for disaster preparedness are people.
Even if short on resources, unified action, planning and innovation are the best tools for saving lives.
David Lozada. Rappler Subic.

At number 8, Thursday, March 13, marked Pope Francis’ first year in office.
As leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Francis has made leaps and bounds in creating a positive image for the church.
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo says his lasting image of Francis is of a pope who is -quote- “very simple, very affable, soft-spoken, and sort of jolly.”
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle adds, he has made the papal office more accessible to people, showing others how to live a simple lifestyle.
Tagle says, from his time as Buenos Aires Archbishop to the time he became pope, Francis remained “personable, person-oriented.”
And unlike his predecessors Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis can laugh in the presence of other cardinals.

And at number 10, American Idol first runner-up Jessica Sanchez returns to Manila Sunday for a benefit concert for the victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan.
Earlier, she performed at New York’s Madison Square Garden for the Pinoy Relief Concert.
The sales of her last single, “Lead Me Home” will also go to Yolanda victims.
Sanchez considers the Philippines her second home, and says she is proud to be able to help victims of the super typhoon.


Newscast Production Staff