Rappler Newscast | June 20, 2013
Today on Rappler.
- A labor official denies prostituting Filipinos in Jordan in an alleged “sex for flight” scheme.
- The head of the government panel negotiating with communists says he is convinced the National Democratic Front did not want peace.
- A bishop accused of sexual indiscretion and financial irregularities says he “kept quiet for the good of the Church.”
Story 1: LABOR OFFICIAL DENIES 'PROSTITUTING' OFWS
A labor official denies charges he prostitutes overseas Filipino workers working in Jordan.
Ace Tamayo reports.
Acting labor attaché Mario Antonio faces the media -- accused of prostituting Filipinos who sought shelter in a halfway house in Amman, Jordan for 1000 dollars a night.
MARIO ANTONIO, LABOR ATTACHE, JORDAN: Ako si Mario R. Antonio humaharap sa inyo upang pabulaanan at itanggi ang mga paratang na ipinupukol sa aking pagkatao. Matindi na po ang epekto nito sa aking reputasyon at pamilya. Ginampanan ko ng buong dedikasyon ang aking tungkulin na protektahan ang kapakanan at ipaglaban ang karapatan ng ating mga kababayan. (I am Mario R. Antonio and I am here to refute and deny these allegations hurled at me. This has affected my reputation and my family. I served at my position with full dedication, to protect the welfare and the rights of our countrymen.)
Antonio says he finished his tour of duty in Jordan last June 12.
Antonio is one of three ‘predators’ who allegedly abused OFWs in the Middle East.
The other two are Blas Marquez of the Labor Office in Kuwait and a ‘Kim” in Syria, who was caught in “an intimate act” with a female OFW at an embassy shelter.
Antonio says the allegations may be because of his strict leadership in Jordan.
He told his bosses, labor recruiters were behind the allegations.
ANTONIO: May mga patakaran tayong ipinapatupad sa POLO at sa resource center para sa proteksyon ng mga distressed workers, at ito ay aking mahigpit na ipinapatupad bilang Acting Labor Attache ng POLO. (We have rules we implement in POLO and at our resource center for the protection of distressed workers. I have been strictly implementing these as Acting Labor Attache of POLO.
On Tuesday, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz formed an investigative team to look at the case.
Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Head Carmelita Dimzon says Antonio may or may not be suspended. It will all depend on the outcome of the probe.
Dimzon recalls, Antonio was reliable in his work.
CARMELITA DIMZON, ADMINISTRATOR OWWA: Nung mga taong nakasama ko si Mr Antonio, very dependable siyang welfare officer. Nakakdeliver naman siya basta binigyan ko ng assignment sumusunod yan ng walang question mapa-gabi o mapadaling araw andun kami sa airport sumasalubong sa mga workers. (During the years I worked with Mr. Antonio, he was very dependable as a welfare officer. He can deliver. When I give him an assignment, he follows without question. Whether it be night or day, he’s there in the airport welcoming our workers.)
The accuser, Akbayan Representative Walden Bello says his information comes from department and embassy insiders, affidavits of witnesses, and confidential reports.
WALDEN BELLO, AKBAYAN REPRESENTATIVE: Sexual abuse on our womenfolk perpetrated by their hosts in a foreign country is an awful crime. But there is something more awful, and that is their exploitation by their own compatriots in that strange land.
Bello met with labor officials Thursday describing the meeting as confrontational.
He says Antonio’s defense that illegal recruiters are after him is a lie.
WALDEN BELLO, AKBAYAN REPRESENTATIVE: We wanted to have a presidential investigating committee form kasi there are people na informants naming sa DOLE that are not confident that the DOLE process will be objective.
ACE TAMAYO, REPORTING: Antonio says he is ready to face a full investigation. He asks the public to reserve judgment until the case is resolved, all read in a statement in this building, the very same home of officials who vowed to protect the welfare of those allegedly victimized by Antonio. Ace Tamayo, Rappler, Manila.
Story 2: 8 MORE ENVOYS COMING HOME FOR PROBE
The PH Department of Foreign Affairs or DFA orders 8 more of its Middle East ambassadors to return to the Philippines to join investigations into the alleged “sex-for-flight” scheme.
DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez says this will allow the DFA “to be as thorough as possible in addressing the issue on the alleged sex-related offenses.”
These ambassadors will come from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, and Lebanon.
The investigations come after Akbayan Rep Walden Bello revealed embassy staff in Kuwait, Damascus, and Jordan allegedly prostituted distressed migrant workers.
This brings to 11 the number of envoys who have been called home for an investigation.
Story 3: AQUINO: ENOUGH WEATHERMEN IN PH
President Benigno Aquino says state weather bureau Pagasa has enough experts who will monitor the weather as the typhoon season rolls in.
Aquino says Pagasa and the Science and Technology department got 37 new meteorologists to replace the 5 weathermen who left Pagasa since 2000.
Aquino adds there are 10 students who are currently studying for degrees in meteorology and atmospheric physics.
He says in Filipino --quote-- "5 personnel left, 37 replaced them, and 10 more are waiting.
“Let's not tell the public that we lack the brain power to predict the weather.”
The President says he will also look at the status of the bonuses supposedly not yet received by Pagasa personnel.
Pagasa's problems are in the spotlight again after Congress failed to pass the weather bureau's modernization bill.
It would have raised the salaries of personnel and bought better equipment for the bureau.
Story 4: JACK ENRILE CALLS FOR PROTEST VS P4-B LTO PROJECT
A month after the May 13 polls, defeated senatorial bet Jack Enrile comes through on his threat to expose an allegedly questionable government project.
In a YouTube video posted Wednesday, Enrile asks the public to oppose the 3.85-billion-peso project of the Land Transportation Office or LTO to require new plates for all vehicles nationwide.
Another 8.2 billion pesos will supposedly be allocated for the project's "support system."
He says the project will cost a total of 12 billion pesos.
Enrile argues it’s not reasonable to spend money on the LTO project when a lot of Filipinos go hungry.
JACK ENRILE, DEFEATED SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Lahat po tayo masasagasaan. Kaisa po ninyo ako. Pigilan po nating umandar ang proyektong ito. (We will all be affected. I am one with you. Let's stop this project from pushing through.)
The project is supposed to begin June or July, but there have been delays in the bidding.
The LTO boasts of the security features of the new car plates.
It is expected to discourage car theft because the license plate can no longer be used if it is forcibly removed.
Car theft photo from Shutterstock
Story 5: BAYAN: PADILLA OUT? AQUINO ABANDONING PEACE PROCESS
Leftist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan criticizes President Benigno Aquino for abandoning peace talks with communist rebels with the appointment of chief government negotiator Alexander Padilla to state health insurance agency Philhealth.
It's not clear if Padilla will keep both posts but he says he is "frustrated and disappointed" with the peace process.
Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes says Aquino should explain how the government will continue talks with the communist-led National Democratic Front.
Peace talks between the government and the NDF stalled since 2004, with both sides accusing each other of being insincere in pursuing the talks.
Story 6: PADILLA: NDF DID NOT WANT PEACE
The head of the government panel negotiating with communists says he is convinced the National Democratic Front did not want peace.
After 3 years, Alexander Padilla wants to leave the talks.
The newly appointed CEO of the state health insurance agency says he is --quote-- “frustrated and disappointed” with negotiations after a deadlock between the government and the NDF.
ALEX PADILLA, GOVT PEACE PANEL HEAD: The talks have failed? Well, let's put it this way. I think I did not live up to the expectations in relation to the peace process. I was really confident that time that we were going to come to terms…I think it was practically arrogant on the part of government and the NDF that we could ever conclude an agreement among the two sides. We were trying to conclude an agreement that would resolve all conflicts. The roots of conflict, so to speak. You're really talking of utopia…So after assessing the behavior or the process itself, I was convinced that it was a process that would never end. That it was a process not intended for peace and to continue the war and get concessions in the meantime.
Negotiations between the two sides deadlock after NDF chair Jose Maria Sison backtracked from a --quote-- “special track” he proposed in December 2012.
But Padilla says negotiations are not enough to topple the insurgent movement.
ALEX PADILLA, GOVT PEACE PANEL HEAD: This movement cannot be toppled purely on military might alone. I’m convinced of that. It’s all a combination of negotiations, economic initiatives in order to try and win over everyone. If we bring progress to areas that they have influence on, I think that will change.
Comparing the negotiation process with the communist movement to talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Padilla says the communists see peace talks only as a means to an end.
ALEX PADILLA, GOVT PEACE PANEL HEAD: The MILF is an equally armed group, very strong. But they themselves believe that the peace process is part of the modes of trying to attain justice. The communists don’t. They have been very very consistent in saying that the peace negotiations is but a means to an end. And that end is to overthrow government and to establish a National Democratic Front, state, leading to a communist state eventually.
Story 7: BUHAIN: I KEPT QUIET FOR THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH
Former auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Manila Teodoro Buhain Jr. says he “kept quiet for the good of the Church” after he was accused of sexual indiscretion and financial irregularities.
Before he resigned in 2003, he was accused of fathering a child and failing to account for the million-peso donations to Radio Veritas, which he managed.
Buhain says he wanted to face the charges, but then Cardinal Sin asked him to keep quiet to prevent adding to the controversy caused by two other bishops -- Crisostomo Yalung and Teodoro Bacani.
TEODORO BUHAIN JR., FORMER AUXILIARY BISHOP, ARCHDIOCESE OF MANILA: At the beginning -- and Cardinal Sin knew this -- I wanted a formal investigation...I opted for formal investigation and to initiate that I asked, in writing, for a list of faults, charges so that I know what not to do and so also I could improve. No answer. Then came...Cardinal Sin called for me, and he says, you know what has been happening, I know you have always been a man of obedience. So I'm asking you to please keep quiet for the good of the Church.
This is the first time Buhain spoke of what Cardinal Sin told him.
When asked why the charges were thrown at him, Buhain alludes to Church politics.
MARIA RESSA: How political is the Catholic Church?
TEODORO BUHAIN JR: Let me put it this way. For me I'm convinced as long as there are 3 persons, there will be politics…Somebody, a fellow cleric wrote a cardinal and mentioned these points about Radio Veritas and so forth...But then came this special assembly of the priests. It was officially in connection with Yalung and Bishop Bacani, but somebody had warned me, I think it was the same cleric who wrote the letter, that I would be the next.
Buhain says it is unjust he was not given the chance to defend himself in court.
TEODORO BUHAIN JR., FORMER AUXILIARY BISHOP, ARCHDIOCESE OF MANILA: I personally feel and think no because I feel and think I am entitled to due process and I was not given a day in court. So is that unjust? Yes, I think so. Now I do not flaw the institution, I flaw members, maybe leading members of the institution.
Story 8: PH COURTS WEAKEN ANTI-TRAFFICKING EFFORTS
For the second straight year, the Philippines fails to get a higher anti-trafficking rating from the United States.
In its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the State Department retains the Philippines' Tier 2 rating.
That means the Philippines “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. However, it is making significant efforts to do so.”
The US State Department says the Philippines’ weak justice system obstructed efforts to hold trafficking offenders accountable.
It adds, the number of prosecutions remained low, with the Philippines convicting only 24 traffickers in the past year.
Story 9: US LASHES CHINA, RUSSIA FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING
The United States downgrades China, Russia and Uzbekistan to the bottom of a US watch list for failing to fight human trafficking more effectively.
The three countries stayed on the US watch list for years, after being granted waivers in the past and promising to do better.
The move could trigger cuts in non-humanitarian and non-trade US aid.
President Barack Obama will determine whether to impose sanctions against the three nations in September.
In the 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report, three other countries -- Azerbaijan, the Congo and Iraq -- are elevated to Tier 2 status as a reward for what US officials call "real movement" in the fight against trafficking.
The US estimates about 27 million remain enslaved around the world.
Story 10: US FED KEEPS STIMULUS BUT MAY CUT SOON
The US Federal Reserve’s policy board keeps its stimulus program locked in place, saying unemployment remains high and growth is held back by government spending cuts.
The stimulus program aims to hold interest rates down and encourage investment.
But Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says if growth picks up, the Fed could begin pulling back the program sometime later this year and bring the operation to a close by mid-year 2014.
Bernanke's comments confirm market expectations the Fed sees growth tentatively firm enough to begin pulling back the program.
But some analysts say the Fed remains vulnerable to domestic spending cuts and slower growth in Europe and China.
Story 11: SMOG IN SINGAPORE REACHES RECORD HIGH
In a historic high, the air pollutant index in Singapore breaches the “hazardous” level Wednesday, triggering irritation and anger among locals and tourists.
The pollution index hits 321, well past the 200-mark which is considered “very unhealthy.”
The last time Singapore had a severe haze reading was in September 1997 when the pollution index hit 226.
The problem peaks during the dry season of June to September when monsoon winds push clouds of smoke from Sumatra in Indonesia to nearby Singapore and Malaysia.
Singapore resident and Yahoo reporter Peace Chiu says she hasn’t experienced this kind of haze before.
PEACE CHIU, SINGAPORE RESIDENT: I actually feel a bit of eye irritation. I had a cough before this haze. It's gotten worse. When you look around you just can't see anything. It looks hazy, it looks a bit like a nice fog thing but it's actually just unbreathable air to me. There doesn't seem to be much information on what health hazards it will cause yet. I think people are just more concerned about how bad it will get and what kind of precautions they can take. But in terms of the next step, people don't really know. I think the government hasn't really done anything. This hasn't happened to Singapore before.
Story 12: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 9, Fashion icons Dolce & Gabbana are sentenced to one year and 8 months’ imprisonment for tax evasion.
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are accused of transferring control of their brands to a company in Luxembourg to avoid paying taxes in Italy.
They are accused of owing 1.33 billion dollars in taxes.
Lawyers of the designer duo say they will be appealing.
Founded in 1985, Dolce & Gabbana employs more than 3,000 people and has 250 shops in 40 countries worldwide.
And at number 10, Emmy award-winning US actor James Gandolfini, star of the long-running mafia drama "The Sopranos," died at the age of 51 in Italy.
Media reports say Gandolfini, who won awards for his portrayal of mob boss Tony Soprano on the HBO series, died of a heart attack.
Newscast production staff
|EXECUTIVE PRODUCER / WRITER||Lilibeth Frondoso|
|ASSOCIATE PRODUCER / PUBLISHER||Rodneil Quiteles|
|HEAD WRITER / PROMPTER||Katerina Francisco|
|MASTER EDITOR / PLAYBACK||Vicente Roxas|
|TECHNICAL DIRECTOR / CAMERAMAN||Charlie Salazar|