Rappler Newscast | September 16, 2013
Today on Rappler.
- Senators Estrada, Enrile, and Revilla face plunder charges for the pork barrel scam.
- The military launches air strikes against MNLF rebels on Day 8 of the Zamboanga City siege.
- UN chief Ban Ki-moon will present a report on Syria’s chemical weapons.
Story 1: PLUNDER COMPLAINTS VS ESTRADA, JPE, REVILLA
It’s plunder charges for Janet Napoles and her alleged network of conspirators for systematically diverting funds to fake non government organizations.
Among those charged are 3 senators and 5 congressmen.
Natashya Gutierrez reports.
A truckload of evidence, whistleblowers, and a case investigators call airtight.
About 2 months since details of the pork barrel scam was made public, the National Bureau of Investigation finally files charges at the Ombudsman.
Lawmakers are accused of conniving with alleged syndicate head Janet Lim-Napoles, to siphon development funds commonly known as pork barrel.
LEILA DE LIMA, JUSTICE SECRETARY: Eto pong first batch, base sa mga dokumento at base sa mga kwento ng whistleblowers, ito nga yung mga habitual na series of series of transactions na. Hindi lang isa, dalawa, tatlo. Paulit-ulit ginagamit yung mga Napoles NGOs. (This first batch, based on documents, these are the ones who had habitual series of transactions. Not just once, two or three times, it was over and over that they used the Napoles NGOs.)
38 face criminal charges.
But what makes it so explosive: it’s a rogue’s gallery of supposedly honorable men.
3 senators -- Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla -- are charged with plunder, along with two former members of the Lower House, Rizalina Seachon-Lanete and Edgar Valdez.
3 other lawmakers face charges of malversation, bribery and other graft and corrupt practices, including former Congressmen Rodolfo Plaza, Samuel Dangwa and Constantino Jaraula.
LEILA DE LIMA, JUSTICE SECRETARY: Why do we say plunder? When said lawmakers each accumulated more than P50 million which is the, as you know, yun pong threshold amount for plunder, through a series of transactions overtime through misappropriation, conversion, misuse, and malversation of the cash value of the project cost allocated from the lawmakers' PDAF. Doon naman po sa tatlo, bakit hindi plunder? At bakit recommendation lang po namin is malversation, direct bribery and other graft and corrupt practices? Dahil yung pinaka-basis po dito yung threshold na amount, rebates from Napoles was less than 50 million although their total PDAF allocations are more than 50 million. (For the three, why not plunder? And why does our recommendation only cover malversation, direct bribery and other graft and corrupt practices? Because the basis of this is the threshold amount.)
The list also includes 8 staff members of the lawmakers, 5 heads of agencies and 10 employees and 6 bogus NGO presidents.
The 38th person facing charges? Napoles herself.
DE LIMA: The 38th individual being recommended to be charged for plunder in the case as co conspirator in the case of the 5 lawmakers being charged for plunder and also as a conspirator in the case of 3 other lawmakers being charged with malversation and corruption of public officials is Ms. Janet Lim-Napoles - the owner of the JLN group of companies and believed to be the mastermind of the PDAF scam operations.
But this is only the beginning.
The 38 names are only the first of 3 batches of cases the NBI plans to file.
DE LIMA: Next week we will file the Malampaya. The case regarding the Malampaya scam, and then hopefully the week after next, the 2nd batch of the PDAF scam complaints. Yung po and plano po ng NBI. (That’s the plan of the NBI.)
The Ombudsman must now evaluate the evidence, a process that will take weeks given the mountain of documents.
De Lima says she will issue a lookout bulletin for the 38 respondents to monitor their movements.
All are free to leave the country until the case reaches the courts, except Napoles who is in jail.
NATASHYA GUTIERREZ, REPORTING: Historic. This is the word De Lima uses to describe the filing of the first batch of cases. Will this be enough for an angry public that marched in Luneta? Will big fish finally be put behind bars for stealing the people's money? Natashya Gutierrez, Rappler, Manila.
Story 2: REVILLA, ESTRADA: DON'T JUDGE US
Responding to the plunder case filed against them over the pork barrel scam, Senators Bong Revilla Jr and Jinggoy Estrada deny involvement in the scam, and ask the public not to judge them.
The two are among those accused of endorsing fake non-government organizations for their pork barrel in exchange for kickbacks.
Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, also a respondent in the case, missed Monday’s Senate session.
His staff and allies say Enrile was rushed to the hospital Saturday because of high blood pressure.
In a statement, Enrile says the plunder case is filed after an “incomplete, hasty, and partial investigation.”
He adds, “Let me make clear that I am innocent of the charges filed against me.”
Holding back tears and with his voice cracking, Revilla tells reporters, “I ask the Filipino people, do not judge us. We will explain until the very end.”
Like Revilla, Estrada says he will face the charges against him but uses a stronger tone.
JINGGOY ESTRADA, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: Ako po ay walang kinalaman sa anumang kamalian o katiwalian sa pag gamit ng PDAF allocation sa Senado. Handa ko pong sagutin at ipaliwanag sa lahat ang mga ito sapagkat kailanman ay hindi ko dinungisan o balak dungisan ang pangalan ng aming pamilya. (I have nothing to do with whatever wrongdoing or corruption in the use of the PDAF. I am ready to answer and explain everything because I have never dirtied our family name and I never plan to.)
Estrada also belittles the case against him, saying the evidence is just the Commission on Audit report and the endorsement letters.
JINGGOY ESTRADA, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: If the sole basis for plunder are the endorsements, the COA report, I don’t think endorsing an NGO is a crime.
Story 3: DRILON: ARREST WARRANT WILL SUSPEND LAWMAKERS IN 'PORK' SCAM
Senate President Franklin Drilon says a warrant of arrest will effectively suspend lawmakers charged in the pork barrel scam.
In a television interview, Drilon says the non-bailable offense merits a suspension because “the lawmaker is prevented from reporting for work.”
The Department of Justice filed plunder cases against Senators Bong Revilla Jr and Jinggoy Estrada over the pork barrel scam.
Plunder carries a penalty of life imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from public office.
Drilon earlier said legislators cannot be suspended until they are convicted because Congress has the power to discipline its members.
But on Monday, Drilon says once arrest warrants are issued, the lawmakers will be under the court’s jurisdiction.
Drilon says the controversy taints the Senate’s image, but adds it is going through a “cleansing process.”
He adds, “It is a difficult process but it is our obligation to strengthen this institution of democracy.”
Story 4: DAY 8: AFP LAUNCHES AIR STRIKES VS MNLF REBELS
It started Monday last week. About 200 Moro National Liberation Front rebels entered the coastal barangays of Zamboanga City and took about 180 hostages.
The ragtag army is a shadow of the old MNLF, which negotiated a peace deal with the government in 1996.
This attack was their show of force in defiance of the new peace deal the government is hammering with its break-away group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, now the more dominant rebel organization.
Carmela Fonbuena reports.
It's Day 8 of the Zamboanga Crisis.
It's not over but government troops are making headway against the faction of the Moro National Liberation Front, led by Commander Habier Malik.
The MNLF shut down the city, turning 4 barangays into a battleground.
Government statistics say at least 62 are dead. Over a hundred are wounded.
70,000 evacuated and hundreds of houses razed to the ground.
For the first time air strikes are used, targeting Rio Honda, a coastal barangay where Malik is believed to be holed up. The military says the rebels are down to 100 from the original 200 who attacked the city.
Malik, the top aide of MNLF founder Nur Misuari, says he is ready to die.
The rebels continue to respond with their remaining might.
There's also fear that fleeing rebels could launch attacks outside the battlezone.
Even as government steps up attacks, residents remain terrorized.
The Zamboanga crisis does not with the military defeating Malik's forces.
The attack brought Zamboanga City down to its knees, severely damaging business, tourism and the morale of its people. The next challenge is how to rise again.
Carmela Fonbuena, Rappler Zamboanga City.
Story 5: 26 ZAMBOANGA HOSTAGES RELEASED
The Moro National Liberation Front releases at least 26 hostages Monday evening.
The Zamboanga City government's Twitter account says the official list of hostages will be released after the hostages are screened and processed.
Zamboanga City Councilor Benjamin Guingona says 3 of the hostages are injured and are now being treated.
Story 6: HRW: CIVILIANS TRAPPED IN ZAMBO BUILDING
The Human Rights Watch says an estimated 300 civilians are trapped in an ice plant building in Barangay Rio Hondo, Zamboanga City, while others remain trapped in at least 5 villages.
The group says soldiers stop some civilians from leaving while others fear getting caught in the crossfire.
In a statement Monday, the group says residents fear they would be accused of being rebels and could be “subject to government attack or mistreatment in custody.”
Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adams says, “Government forces should not be making blanket assumptions about whether individuals are rebels based on whether they have proper documents or not.”
The group also says the military may have violated the laws of war by stationing forces in a hospital.
Story 7: LPA OFF LUZON NOW TROPICAL DEPRESSION ODETTE
State weather bureau Pagasa says the low pressure area east of Luzon develops into tropical depression Odette.
As of 4pm Monday, its center is spotted 930 kilometers east of Casiguran, Aurora.
It is forecast to move west northwest.
No storm warning signals are up, but the tropical depression is expected to enhance the southwest monsoon, bringing rain over parts of Luzon.
Story 8: OBAMA TO VISIT THE PHILIPPINES IN OCTOBER
The White House announces US President Barack Obama will make his first trip to the Philippines in October.
In a statement Friday, the White House says Obama will travel to Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines as part of his “ongoing commitment to increase U.S. political, economic and security engagement with the Asia Pacific."
Obama will be in Manila October 11 to 12.
Manila will be Obama's last stop.
Malacañang spokesperson Edwin Lacierda says Obama will meet with Philippine President Benigno Aquino to --quote--“discuss ways to further strengthen the enduring Philippines-US alliance, including the expansion of our security, economic and people to people ties.”
Obama’s visit comes as both countries negotiate an agreement that will allow increased rotational presence of American troops in the Philippines, and give them wider access to the country’s military bases.
Story 9: BAN TO PRESENT KEY SYRIA CHEMICAL REPORT
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon is set to reveal the findings of a UN investigation team of Syria’s chemical weapons.
He will present the report to the UN Security Council in New York at 11:15 am -- 11:15 pm in Manila.
The UN report will influence any attempt by the Security Council to agree on a resolution backing the Russia-US accord on the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons.
On Sunday, a Syrian minister calls the US-Russia deal a "victory" for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
In Geneva last week, US State Secretary John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discuss the plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons by mid-2014.
Syria's information minister says Damascus would commit to the plan once it has United Nations approval.
Story 10: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 5, US State Secretary John Kerry warns the threat of US military action against Syria remains “real.”
This comes a day after it struck a deal with Russia to destroy Damascus's chemical weapons stockpile.
Kerry says, “Make no mistake, we have taken no options off the table.”
The US earlier warned of a military strike on the Syrian regime after a chemical attack last month in Damascus.
At number 8, A pair of converted military drones are the US space agency's newest tools for tracking hurricanes and tropical storms.
The two Global Hawks began operating as NASA drones in 2012 to improve forecasters’ ability to predict hurricanes.
The drones operate in most active months of the Atlantic hurricane season.
And at number 9, a Filipino-language rock opera on the life of Filipino saint Lorenzo Ruiz is staged at the De La Salle college.
“Lorenzo” is a play within a play -- a post-modern story where the artistic process that leads to the creation of the play becomes part of the story.
The play is directed by the acclaimed Nonon Padilla and features the music of Ryan Cayabyab.
Story 11: #DROSETOUR IN MANILA
Derrick Rose, the youngest player to win the NBA's Most Valuable Player award is in the Philippines for the last stop of his Asian tour.
On Saturday, Rose watched the Adidas 3 on 3 Grand Finals.
He holds a press conference Monday before heading to the Mall of Asia Atrium to join a video game contest in the afternoon.
In an interview with Rappler, the Chicago Bulls star who is coming off a knee injury explains why he decided to sit out this season despite being cleared to play.
DERRICK ROSE, NBA STAR: I had to think about my future and at the time I wasn't 100%. I wasn't able to take on double teams. I knew that I could get around one person but 2 people, I wasn't ready for that at first.
Rose, a Chicago native, looks up to NBA Great Michael Jordan.
When asked which other player he admires the most, he pauses before answering.
DERRICK ROSE, NBA STAR: I'll have to say… that's a tough one… Larry Bird. I think for someone to be not athletic and still go out there and score 40 points in an NBA game, that just shows you how hard he worked. He just outworked people. So, I can understand that. I can relate to it.
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|