Rappler Newscast | May 12, 2014

Today on Rappler.

President Benigno Aquino admits he has seen two versions of the controversial list of lawmakers allegedly involved in the pork barrel scam.
But Aquino says the two lists, supposedly from scam mastermind Janet Napoles, don’t match.
The pork barrel scam is seen as the biggest corruption scandal in recent Philippine history.
The lawmakers on the lists allegedly worked with Napoles in channeling public funds to fake non-governmental organizations for hefty kickbacks.
Aquino says the first list was sent directly to him before Napoles decided to speak with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
He did not say who gave him the list.
Aquino says the second list came from de Lima, after Napoles decided to tell all she knew about the scam.
But the President also says former senator Ping Lacson briefed him about a third list.
Aquino says he has yet to see it but based on Lacson’s brief account, the list is -quote- "not consistent already with the other two."
De Lima earlier said the justice department will vet the list to make sure the names are backed by evidence.
The justice secretary promises not to sanitize the list, saying she prefers releasing it at the proper time.
Aquino supports De Lima, saying the contradictions alone are enough reason to keep the list confidential for now.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee orders Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to present the so-called Napoles list.
Committee head Senator TG Guingona says he signed a subpoena for de Lima to release the list of lawmakers Napoles implicated in the scam.
Guingona promises to release the list once De Lima submits it to the Senate.
De Lima responds, saying "Since it's a subpoena, I will comply."
Guingona earlier said he would wait for De Lima to evaluate Napoles’ testimony.
But he says he decided to issue the subpoena "in the spirit of transparency."
Guingona also says former senator Ping Lacson agreed to submit his own copy of the Napoles list to his committee.

The annual Balikatan exercises between the Philippines and United States are underway.
With the Philippines locked in a territorial dispute with China, this year’s war games serve as the US’ ‘ironclad’ commitment to train - and defend - its ally against attacks.
Carmela Fonbuena reports.

War games between the Philippines and the US make international headlines after US President Barack Obama spoke in front of US and Filipino troops standing shoulder to shoulder.

BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: Our commitment is ironclad ... friends stand together.

Bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty, the 2 militaries hold annual Balikatan exercises to make sure they'll know how to fight together.
It is no coincidence, games this year focus on maritime security exercises because the new threat is China.  
Conducted on Philippine beaches facing the disputed waters, it aims to synchronize the Philippines and US navies.

COL. ALVIN PARRENO, SUPT OF THE MARINE CORPS TRAINING CENTER: The importance of this is the combined operation which might come later on during invasion war or rebellion at least we are ready that.

The interoperability is helpful to the troops.
The Americans say training together is a learning experience between forces with similar training techniques.
It’s the weather they find to be a challenge.

MAJ. JOSEPH WEINBURGH, US ARMY: I’ll tell you what, one of the things is not to take the Pacific weather for granted. We’re in Hawaii and we’re also a Pacific Island. Just the exposure to heat has been the number one training lesson.

Critics question the constitutionality and the sociological impact of the presence of US troops in the Philippines.

COL. ROBERT McDOWELL, CHIEF OF JSOTF-P: We are not creating new bases. We serve at the pleasure of the Philippine government. We work in numbers that are acceptable to the Filipino people as a whole and what the government allows.

With the Philippine military one of the weakest in Asia, the Aquino government says the Philippines needs the US to face the new threats.
And when you're the little kid on the block, big brother watching your back may be the best way to stand-up to the bully.
Carmela Fonbuena, Rappler, Cavite.

Former Navy chief Alexander Pama takes over as the new head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council or NDRRMC.
He will replace retired Army general Eduardo del Rosario, who resigned on April 24 because of health reasons.
Pama will be tasked to rescue the reputation of the agency, which came under fire for its slow response at the height of Typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan.
Office of Civil Defense spokesman Major Rey Balido says Pama will likely continue projects to help local governments respond better during disasters.

Among all the areas devastated by Haiyan, Tacloban City remains the most affected.
Six months after the typhoon, Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez says the economic powerhouse of eastern Visayas is still in shambles.
He says Tacloban’s local government finished its rehabilitation plan as early as January 2014, but with no final master plan from the national level, follow-through is at a standstill.

ALFRED ROMUALDEZ, MAYOR, TACLOBAN CITY: But nagkakaproblema kami diyan kasi the national government for example ang airport hindi naman, that is not under the jurisdiction of the local government eh. (We’ve been having problems because there are things the national government are responsible for, and are not under the jurisdiction of the local government.) So the long range midterm plan and the immediate plans of the airport, that’s under the DOTC. So, that’s not, in fact even our port is under PPA, under the DOTC ‘yan. So there, the uhh, the main highway is under DPWH. Dapat ang gumagawa dapat ng PDNA talaga, ang national government. (The national government should be doing the post-disaster needs assessment.)

Romualdez blames bureaucracy for the delays.

ALFRED ROMUALDEZ, MAYOR, TACLOBAN CITY: Red tape… I think the red tape there. There is a certain standard that has to be established. Ang problema sa red tape na 'yan, nagkaproblema kami because its like a passport. (The problem with red tape is, it acts like a passport.) You just declare it as a temporary and anything goes. And hindi naman pwede anything goes because tao ang nakatira dyan eh, we have to safeguard these people. (It can’t be anything goes because people, lives are at stake, and we have to safeguard them.)

Romualdez calls on cabinet departments to be responsible and accountable for their actions.

ALFRED ROMUALDEZ, MAYOR, TACLOBAN CITY: You can’t say, “The money went here, the money went there.” That’s your responsibility. Who released the money? It’s your department, you release that money, you should know. It’s up to you also to have your long-range plan, your master plan there in your department, what you’re doing, according to the policies of the president. That’s your responsibility. The buck should stop there.

Two officials from the Agriculture Department resign, less than a week after former senator Francis Pangilinan is appointed Presidential Assistant for Agriculture.
Administrators Euclides Forbes of the Philippine Coconut Authority or PCA and Orlan Calayag of the National Food Authority or NFA submitted their courtesy resignation letters to President Aquino.
The PCA and NFA are two of the 4 agencies Pangilinan will oversee.
He took his oath on May 6 with marching orders to clean up the agricultural agencies linked to irregularities.
Calayag faces a plunder complaint for his alleged involvement in the importation of overpriced rice from Vietnam.
Forbes was criticized for his agency's slow pace in containing the coconut scale insect outbreak in Region 4A.

Islamist militant group Boko Haram releases a new video claiming to show the Nigerian schoolgirls abducted a month ago.
In a video obtained by Agence France-Presse, group leader Abubakar Shekau says the teenagers converted to Islam and would not be released until the group’s militant prisoners are freed.
The footage shows about 130 girls in Muslim dress praying in an undisclosed rural location.
Nigeria’s government is under fire for its lack of immediate response following the kidnapping of 276 girls from the northeastern town of Chibok, in Borno state. Some 223 are still missing.

At number 4, ASEAN foreign ministers raise “serious concerns” about China’s oil drilling operations in the disputed West Philippine Sea or South China Sea.
They also urge the parties involved not to resort to threat or force to resolve their differences.
The ministers were referring to China and Vietnam clashing over the Paracel Islands.
They emphasize the need to quickly work “towards an early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.”

At number 9, the Washington Post reports Pope Francis, known to be a liberal and an advocate of inclusion and forgiveness, remains locked in --quote-- an “epic battle with the oldest enemy of God and creation – The Devil.”
Citing theologians and Vatican insiders, the Washington Post says the Pope dwells extensively on Satan in his sermons and speeches, much more compared to his predecessors.
Progressive theologians say Francis is opening the door to superstition, a step back from allegorical references to evil.
But exorcists say the new pope has become their champion in the face of modern skepticism.

And at number 10, Tennis stars will be in Manila to compete in the first-ever International Premier Tennis League.
Andy Murray of Great Britain will lead Team Manila.
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi will play for any of the 4 teams competing in the first leg of the tourney from November 28-30.
The matches will be held in either the Mall of Asia Arena or Smart Araneta Coliseum.

For our social media post of the day: The internet exploded when bearded diva Conchita Wurst of Austria won Europe’s biggest singing contest Eurovision 2014 on Sunday.
Praises and greetings for Conchita poured in on Twitter, highlighting the relevance of Conchita’s triumph as representative of the LGBTQ community, in the wake of Russia’s recent laws against homosexuality.
British comedian Russell Brand showed his support for Conchita...by tweeting a photo of himself in a green dress.

– Rappler.com

Newscast Production Staff