Rappler Newscast | March 20, 2014

Today on Rappler. 

A new lead on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 surfaces Thursday.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says there’s "new and credible information" suggesting the missing plane might be close to Australia.
Abbott says two objects possibly related to MH370 were sighted from satellite images.
Surveillance planes scour the southern part of the Indian Ocean, 3,000 kilometers off the western coast of Australia.
In a press conference Thursday, Malaysia says the satellite images are a credible lead but have yet to be confirmed.
Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says search operations will continue.
He adds, “For families around the world, the one piece of information they want most is the information we just don't have: the location of MH370.”
But the find comes as a potential breakthrough in the nearly two-week search for the aircraft and its 239 passengers and crew.
The search encountered a few false alarms, including Chinese satellite images of suspected debris and oil spills off the coast of Vietnam.
MH370 vanished in the early hours of March 8 after veering drastically off course over the South China Sea while en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.

Two of the witnesses in one of the biggest corruption scandals in the country face questions about their credibility.
Lawyer Dennis Manalo, who represents pork barrel scam bagman Ruby Tuason, says her testimony is crucial.
He says Tuason provides direct and personal knowledge of delivering kickbacks to top lawmakers.

DENNIS MANALO, LAWYER OF RUBY TUASON: Mrs. Tuason’s testimony is so critical because she establishes direct evidence on the personal delivery of funds to Senator Estrada...to the chief of staff of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile…That is exactly where the materiality of Mrs. Tuason’s testimony will come in, because according to Mrs. Tuason, Senator Enrile appeared in a very private moment by lunch and coffee in a private restaurant, this is no longer an official meeting - this now becomes a personal meeting and what would Senator Enrile be doing in that kind of moment, that kind of activity. And Mrs. Tuason was clear in her testimony that meeting was precisely to deliver money.

Manalo tries to justify the different approaches Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile allegedly used in the scam.  
While Tuason was able to establish a direct link to Estrada, it was a different case for Enrile.

DENNIS MANALO, LAWYER OF RUBY TUASON: It’s different strokes for different folks, meaning Senator Estrada has his own way of dealing with Mrs. Tuason, meaning that for Senator Estrada he chose to deal directly with Mrs. Tuason by receiving the money himself. With regard to Senator Enrile, he decided to use the hierarchy in his office. I guess he wanted to use what is called criminal litigation as layering, you will not be directly receiving money from a conduit, you will ask another person to do it for you.

Manalo says the witness’ credibility does not depend on how spotless he or she is on record.
He also says that while the rule of law holds, public clamor dictates political processes.

DENNIS MANALO, LAWYER OF RUBY TUASON: Whenever you try to magnify a person or look at a person under the microscope, you will always see the imperfections. If you will say that we will only accept witnesses who look pretty and handsome under the microscope, then wala nang papasa na testigo because nobody looks pretty or handsome under the microscope…So kung ang pinag-uusapan natin is the delivery ng money, the attack on the person’s credibility must be on the falsity of that delivery, not on any other aspect of her life like the alleged undervaluing of the sale of her property.

Manalo echoes legal analysts, saying the case will drag on for years.

DENNIS MANALO, LAWYER OF RUBY TUASON: The fastest will be 3 years…that’s the fastest. Well, if you look at trials in other countries like the trials abroad, you will notice that they’re quite particular, they’re strict with their evidence. Once they fix a date, you can’t move that without without a life and death reason.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada says critics cannot rule him out in the 2016 polls despite being linked to the pork barrel scam.
Estrada says he has yet to decide on his 2016 plans but adds he still has the mass support and machinery for a possible vice presidential bid.
The senator says he tested the waters by visiting several provinces.
Estrada says while he had to explain his alleged involvement in the scam, he was not "ostracized" in his visits.

JINGGOY ESTRADA, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: I am not a hypocrite to tell you I’m not affected by these issues hounding me. Of course, we will have to weigh everything…I have been making the rounds all over the country and the reception is still warm.

The senator faces a plunder complaint for allegedly funneling his pork barrel funds to fake NGOs of mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
He was initially reported to be the running mate of Vice President Jejomar Binay but observers say the scam dashed his political ambitions.
Estrada says he will still run for vice president if Binay offers him to be his running mate.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima says journalists who accept public funds as bribes may be charged with offenses like direct bribery or malversation.
The Inquirer reported 3 media men received checks from the bank accounts of the National Agribusiness Corporation or Nabcor.
The report named TV5 news anchor Erwin Tulfo, DZBB’s Carmelo del Prado Magdurulang, and a third unidentified journalist.
The two reportedly received checks amounting to over P245,000 each.
Nabcor was used as a conduit of pork barrel-funded projects of fake NGOs.
De Lima says journalists who benefited from the pork barrel will be held liable because public funds are at stake, even if they are private individuals.

A courier company tapped to deliver gun licenses to applicants ends its deal with the Philippine National Police or PNP after a news story linked its owner to PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima.
The Werfast Documentation Agency Inc decides not to renew its accreditation which expires end of March.
This comes a week after reports said the company was owned by a former superior of Purisima, retired Civilian Security Group chief Ireno Bacolod.
Under the PNP's new system that took effect early this year, licenses to possess firearms are delivered straight to the homes of applicants.
Purisima says this aims to curb corruption in the Firearms and Explosives Office or FEO.
But gun owners say Werfast's services were bad or non-existent – deliveries would come in late, or would not come at all.
The changes in the issuance of licenses came after the PNP discovered anomalies in the FEO.

The Supreme Court allows the continuation of criminal proceedings against lawyer Alex Alvarez, a co-accused of arrested businessman Delfin Lee.
On Wednesday, the Court issues a temporary restraining order that negates the appellate court's junking of charges against Alvarez, a former foreclosure manager of the Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG Fund.
Both Alvarez and Lee are accused of syndicated estafa for using ghost borrowers to obtain P6.6 billion in housing loans.
The Department of Justice or DOJ filed criminal complaints against Lee, Alvarez, and three others in relation to the scam.
The DOJ questioned before the High Court various rulings preventing the department from pursuing its case against the 5 alleged scammers.
Lee was arrested on March 6.

Power distributor Manila Electric Company or Meralco announces a huge cut in its January generation charge increase, following a regulatory order voiding electricity spot market prices.
The company says its recalculated generation charge is now P6.12 per kilowatt-hour in January, significantly lower than the P10.23 per kilowatt-hour it originally computed.
With the recalculated rate, Meralco will now only recover 45-centavos per kilowatt-hour from consumers, but the company says the Energy Regulatory Commission or ERC will still have to approve the amount.
The ERC earlier voided electricity spot market prices for November and December, citing “market failure.”

Ukraine announces plans to cut ties from a key post-Soviet alliance and to slap visas on Russians, following the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea.
The Ukrainian government is also preparing to evacuate its soldiers and their families from Russian-occupied Crimea to the mainland.
Pro-Russian forces earlier seized two Crimean navy bases, and detained Ukraine's naval chief, who has since been released.
The assault began when some 200 militants sawed through a fence and overran the base while Ukrainian servicemen barricaded themselves inside.
The pullout is tantamount to surrender, even if the provisional government in Kiev insists Russia's annexation of Crimea is illegal.
The spiralling crisis prompts the White House to warn Russia it is "creating a dangerous situation."
The commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO says Russia’s seizure of Crimea is “the gravest threat to European security and stability since the end of the Cold War.”

At number 2, angry relatives of the passengers of the missing Malaysia plane hit the government for giving conflicting messages.
Distressed relatives tried to gatecrash Malaysia's daily media briefing on Wednesday, unfurling a protest banner that read "Give us back our families."
In yet another twist in the plane mystery, authorities say investigators discovered that data were deleted from the home flight simulator of pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah about a month before the plane vanished.
It is not yet clear what this means.

At number 7, Farmers commit suicide in western India after freak hailstorms and rains destroyed winter crops worth millions of dollars.
The unusual weather struck parts of western Maharashtra state from late February, damaging fruits like grape, mango, papaya, lime and watermelon.
The opposition says the number of farmer suicides rises to 37, and demands that the natural disaster be declared a "national calamity.”

And at number 10, In what could be the most expensive dog sale ever, a businessman buys a Tibetan mastiff puppy for almost $2 million.
The mastiff, a prized status symbol among China’s wealthy, was sold at a “luxury pet” fair in China.
A property developer paid 12 million yuan for the one-year-old golden-haired mastiff.

– Rappler.com

Newscast Production Staff