Rappler Newscast | March 6, 2014
Today on Rappler.
- Corruption scandal witness Dennis Cunanan fails to convince senators he did not benefit from the pork barrel scam.
- Senator Santiago says Cunanan’s testimony shows a conspiracy among 3 senators to pocket pork barrel funds.
- Ukraine’s autonomous region Crimea asks to join Russia.
Story 1: POE ON CUNANAN: WHO NEEDS WEAK WITNESS?
Pork barrel scam witness Dennis Cunanan takes the stand at the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing.
The first government official to testify claims he did not benefit from the scam.
Ayee Macaraig reports.
MIRIAM DEFENSOR SANTIAGO, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: If you had no participation in kickbacks, are you calling these whistleblowers liars?
DENNIS CUNANAN, POTENTIAL STATE WITNESS: Hindi po. (No, I’m not.)
SANTIAGO: Natutuwa ka tinawag kang liar? (Do you like being called a liar?)
BENHUR LUY, PRINCIPAL WHISTLEBLOWER: Hindi po. (No, I don’t.)
Potential pork barrel scam state witness Dennis Cunanan faces the Senate but his answers raise more questions.
The Technology Resource Center chief says he never benefitted from the scam.
The problem is, the prosecution’s star witness says he did.
BENHUR LUY, PRINCIPAL WHISTLEBLOWER : Ms Napoles instructed me to prepare P960,000. Dinala ko sa conference room. Di ako personally nakipag-usap, I handed it to Evelyn de Leon sa conference room. After po, 'yung paper bag, nakita ko po siya bitbit niya. (I brought it to the conference room. I didn’t speak to anyone personally. Afterwards, I saw him carrying the paper bag.)
DENNIS CUNANAN, POTENTIAL STATE WITNESS: Nire-recollect nga po namin ang situation. Most likely na may chance na may once na part ng inspection na ginagawa namin sa mga institution na nag-iimplement. (On recollecting the situation, most likely there’s a chance that visiting the JLN office was once part of an inspection we did on the implementing agencies.)
Senator Grace Poe finds this hard to believe.
She points out Cunanan did not mention the meeting in Napoles’ office in his affidavit.
She says the meeting also contradicts Cunanan’s past media statements denying that he ever met the alleged scam mastermind.
GRACE POE, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: So hindi kayo sigurado, 'maari' sabi mo? Hindi mo matandaan ang pagpunta sa JLN? So ano ang nangyari sa pera na sinasabi ni Benhur Luy na naibigay daw dapat sa inyo, hindi 'nyo natanggap 'yun? (So you’re not sure? You say “it’s possible”? You don’t remember visiting the JLN office? So what happened to the money Benhur Luy said should have gone to you? You didn’t receive it?)
DENNIS CUNANAN, POTENTIAL STATE WITNESS: Your honor, hindi po. (No, your honor. I didn’t.)
Poe pursues a tough line of questioning, pointing out inconsistencies in Cunanan’s statements, background and connections.
Cunanan admits he was appointed executive director of the Commission on Higher Education during the Arroyo administration even without a college diploma.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago too, rejects Cunanan’s claims of innocence.
Using a line from an Oscar-winning song Santiago says he cannot evade liability.
MIRIAM DEFENSOR SANTIAGO, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: Sabi ko sa iyo let it go! You keep on insisting innocence. This is not a hearing about you, gusto natin isara ang butas sa sistema. (I told you, let it go. We want to close the holes in our system.) I debate you on this issue you keep repeating you were only undertaking ministerial duty. Ministerial has no immunity from suit. Drop this argument.
Senators warn Justice Secretary Leila de Lima against accepting witnesses without testing their credibility.
GRACE POE, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: Hindi ko sinasabi na perpekto ang testimonya ng iba, pero may pag-amin na malinaw at may boluntaryong pagsasauli. Sana naman, may kasabihan nga, 'wag tayo sanang mapuwing sa sarili nating alikabok or tamaan ng sarili nating kidlat. (I'm not saying the other witnesses' testimonies are perfect, but there is a clear admission and voluntary forfeiture. I hope, as the saying goes, we don't hurt our eyes by our own dust motes or get hit by our own lightning.)
The senators say they will leave it up to the Department of Justice to resolve the contradictions between Luy and Cunanan’s testimonies.
AYEE MACARAIG, REPORTING: De Lima says Cunanan’s testimony is needed to secure the conviction of the top players in the scam. But can the prosecution achieve that victory while undermining its star witness?The curious case of Dennis Cunanan renews questions about how the government is handling the country’s biggest corruption scandal as taxpayers get more impatient for justice. Ayee Macaraig, Rappler.
Story 2: COLLUSION? SAME TYPO IN SENATORS' PDAF DOCS
Dennis Cunanan says the senators implicated in the pork barrel scam submitted identical documents to his office.
In a Senate hearing Thursday, the head of the Technology Resource Center or TRC says endorsement letters signed by Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla had similar typographical errors.
DENNIS CUNANAN, PROVISIONAL STATE WITNESS: Sa wrong spelling ng ‘project description,’ ang 'e' naging 'i,' pare-pareho pa sila. (In the wrong spelling in the word ‘project description,’ where ‘e’ became ‘i,’ they had the same mistake.)
Senator Miriam Santiago says Cunanan’s testimony shows a conspiracy among the 3 senators to pocket billions of pesos of public money.
MIRIAM SANTIAGO, PHILIPPINE SENATOR: What happened to the PDAF of Revilla and Estrada was part of a grand conspiracy kasi yung mga papeles nila pare pareho. Parehong paggawa, parehong lengwahe, parang nagkopyahan lang sila. (Because all their documents look the same. They have the same format, same language. It’s like they copied from each other.)
Cunanan says he personally called Revilla and Estrada to verify their signatures in pork barrel documents.
In Enrile’s case, he talked to the senator’s former chief of staff, Gigi Reyes.
Santiago says she found Cunanan’s testimony on the 3 senators credible but not his claim that he did not receive kickbacks.
Story 3: BENHUR ON BALIGOD: WE DID NOT FIGHT
Pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy refuses to confirm reports he had a falling out with ex-legal counsel Levi Baligod over differences in the testimonies of certain witnesses.
During the hearing Thursday, Luy says Baligod should answer the allegations.
Luy says he fired Baligod because he wasn’t prioritizing his case.
He says Baligod was more concerned about his "advocacies."
Baligod is also the lawyer of provisional state witness Dennis Cunanan.
Rappler sources say Luy is concerned that his testimony and Cunanan’s contradict.
Luy says Cunanan benefitted from the scam, which Cunanan denies.
Lawyer Raymond Joseph Ian Mendoza is Luy’s new counsel.
Mendoza is a senior partner at the Mendoza Antero and Bautista law firm.
Story 4: NAPOLES FAMILY CAN'T TOUCH ASSETS – COURT
A Manila regional trial court prohibits alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and her family from touching select assets in their name until mid-March.
The Provisional Asset Preservation Order issued February 26 covers bank accounts, monetary instruments, motor vehicles, and real properties.
The order also covers other suspects in the pork barrel scam, including former Napoles employees turned whistleblowers.
The Court of Appeals ordered Napoles' bank accounts frozen in August 2013.
In its investigation, the Anti-Money Laundering Council discovered "highly suspicious transactions" in Napoles’ bank accounts and insurance policies.
It was also discovered that the Napoleses have no other legitimate sources of income to explain their wealth.
Story 5: DOJ FILES TAX EVASION CASE VS CORONA
The justice department on Monday files tax evasion cases against former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Corona is indicted for failing to pay P120.5 million in taxes and failing to file his income tax return for 6 years.
On Thursday, State Prosecutor General Claro Arellano says the department denied Corona’s motion for reconsideration against the tax evasion complaint filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue on August 30.
Corona’s arraignment is set on March 26 and April 2.
The impeached chief justice says he is --quote-- “a victim of insatiable gluttony of senators and congressmen.”
Corona was dismissed in 2012 for failing to accurately declare his wealth in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
Story 6: PH MILITARY LAUNCHES ELITE UNIT VS TERRORIST ATTACKS
Terrorist attacks are a stark reality in a post-9/11 world.
The Philippine military launches an elite unit to respond to chem-bio emergencies.
Carmela Fonbuena reports.
CARMELA FONBUENA, REPORTING: The Philippine military shows off its 4 month old CBRNE unit capable of responding to new threats of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear explosives. It's a unit that the military hopes it will not need to deploy but incidents worldwide show the threat is real.
This 30-man unit is trained to respond to the most demanding emergencies of all-- terrorist attacks.
The training and the equipment are expensive.
But the plan is to grow this team and deploy them nationwide.
MAJ. GEN. DANILO SERVANDO, ARMY SUPPORT COMMAND: This is just the start of building up our own capability. We have started it and we will improve on it. We will come up with a bigger unit. We will acquire more equipment to improve the capability of this unit.
The Philippines is where top terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed hatched the Bojinka plot, the blueprint used in the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
In the same year, anthrax, a lethal chemical, was used to lace letters sent to US agencies.
Local terrorists bombed a Philippine superferry in 2004, the biggest maritime terrorist attack in history, and a bus in Makati on Valentines day in 2005.
There's the Tokyo sarin gas attack in the same year.
In Syria, thousand of civilians were killed by chemical attacks.
Terrorist threats nowadays include human bombs, liquid bombs, printer bombs, underwear bombs, and bombs surgically implanted in the bodies of terrorists.
In 2013, there was the Boston Marathon attack that used pressure cooker bombs.
LT. COL. RAMON ZAGALA, MILITARY SPOKESPERSON: In our case, where we actively used this as a means of containment is our deployment in the UN. If you remember we had a threat of a chemical attack in our deployment in Golan Heights that prompted us to have more protection equipment because the threat is real.
Smart Technology, a security company tapped to train the Filipino troops says armed forces worldwide should continue to upgrade as terrorist groups innovate.
KEVIN SALIM, SMART TECHNOLOGY MANAGING DIRECTOR: From a terrorist’s point of view, they are looking for new methods to attack us. When we become more aware on explosive sectors, they start looking at other markets, for example anthrax and other biological and chemical substances as well.
As technology evolves, so does terrorism.
The Philippine military says a special crack unit will be one of the many steps in coping with changing threats in a changing world.
Carmela Fonbuena, Rappler, Quezon City.
Story 7: PH WARNED ABOUT BACKLASH FROM CHINA
Observers warn about a possible backlash from China once the Philippines files its memorial, or written pleading, in its historic case against Beijing over disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea.
The memorial is due on March 30.
Former Interior Secretary Raffy Alunan says -quote- “China is threatening us not to file. They've said behind the scenes: 'Don't do it, or else.'”
Alunan cites the economic sanctions China imposed in 2012, at the height of the Panatag standoff.
Back then, China advised its citizens not to travel to the Philippines and also blocked the entry of Philippine bananas supposedly because of crop diseases.
Former national security adviser Roilo Golez earlier said China offered the Philippines incentives to stop it from filing its memorial.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry denies the reported incentive.
Story 8: CRIMEA PLANS TO JOIN RUSSIA, ASKS REFERENDUM
Pro-Moscow authorities in Crimea ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to examine a request for the region to join the Russian Federation.
Crimea’s parliament sets the referendum on March 16 to ask residents if they want the region to become part of Russia.
Crimea is an autonomous region in Ukraine.
It fell under Russian control in recent days following the ouster in Kiev of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych.
The move is the latest in rising tensions between the two countries.
On Wednesday, UN special envoy to Crimea Robert Serry says he cut short a mission to Crimea after being threatened by unidentified pro-Russian gunmen.
Serry tells CNN armed men confronted him and tried to force him into a car.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO also says it will put accords with Russia under "review.”
Ukraine accuses Russia of a military invasion in the disputed region but Putin denies this.
He also says he does not believe the new leaders in Kiev are legitimate.
Ukraine’s former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko told Al Jazeera, "Kremlin has declared war not just on Ukraine, not just on Crimea but on whole world. The more time we lose, the more we have to lose.”
Story 9: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 6, Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper is open to softening laws against recreational marijuana use, changing his tone from seven years back when he hit what he called a Beatles-era drug culture.
Harper's apparent about-face comes after rival Justin Trudeau's call to legalize marijuana.
Trudeau, who has admitted smoking pot since being elected to parliament in 2008, has come out ahead in polls.
Under the proposed law, police would be allowed to fine pot smokers for possession of small amounts of cannabis, instead of filing criminal charges.
At number 8, North Korea says a recent series of missile and rocket tests are justifiable self-defense drills.
Over the past week, Pyongyang fired half a dozen short-range missiles into the sea off its east coast.
The move violates UN sanctions banning ballistic missile tests by Pyongyang.
But in a statement, a Korean People's Army spokesman says the tests were "ordinary military practice" that does not affect regional peace or stability.
The tests are seen as a show of anger over ongoing military exercises between South Korea and the United States.
And at number 10, Doctors announce a second case of a baby who is free of the HIV virus after being treated within hours of birth.
The baby was born in Los Angeles to a mother infected with HIV.
Four hours after birth, the baby was given treatment-level doses of antiretroviral drugs. 6 days later, the virus was undetectable.
The latest research follows the approach taken for a Mississippi baby, who has been off treatment for 21 months and still has no detectable virus.
Story 10: ASTEROID MAKES CLOSE PASS BY EARTH
An asteroid the size of a football field makes a close pass by Earth Wednesday.
US space agency NASA says the asteroid, called 2014 DX110, passes close to earth around 2100 GMT or 4 am Manila time.
NASA says such close encounters happen about 20 times a year.
Its closest approach to Earth will be at about 350,000 kilometers -- a bit closer than the average lunar distance of 385,000 kilometers.
Newscast Production Staff
|EXECUTIVE PRODUCER / WRITER||Lilibeth Frondoso|
|ASSOCIATE PRODUCER / PUBLISHER||Rodneil Quiteles|
|HEAD WRITER / PROMPTER||Katerina Francisco|
|MASTER EDITOR / PLAYBACK||Exxon Ruebe|
|TECHNICAL DIRECTOR / CAMERAMAN||Charlie Salazar|
|Raffy de Guzman|
|3D GRAPHICS||Sten Bautista|