Rappler Newscast | October 3, 2013
Today on Rappler.
- Former president Arroyo and her Cabinet officials face plunder charges over the Malampaya fund.
- The Philippines gets another seal of approval - investment grade status from credit agency Moody’s.
- Talks between US President Barack Obama and Republicans leaders fail to end a government shutdown.
Story 1: PLUNDER RAPS VS GMA OVER MALAMPAYA FUND
Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and 5 members of her cabinet are named in the plunder complaint for the misuse of the Malampaya fund.
Natashya Gutierrez reports.
Another plunder case for two of the country's most notorious women: former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
The Justice Department files the plunder charges with the Office of the Ombudsman, accusing Napoles and her cronies in government agencies of pocketing P900 million pesos from the Malampaya Fund through the Department of Agrarian Reform.
The money meant for farmers affected by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng was diverted to Napoles' dubious non-governmental organizations.
LEILA DE LIMA, JUSTICE SECRETARY: In sum, the DAR Malampaya Fund projects intended to rehabilitate farmer-beneficiary victims of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng were all ghosts projects with no delivery whatsoever.
A total of 24 individuals face charges from this batch alone.
Aside from Napoles and Arroyo, the list includes former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, former Budget Secretary and now Congressman Rolando Andaya, Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, and ex Agrarian Reform Chief Nasser Pangandaman.
Other DAR officials include then Director of DAR Finance and Management Service Teresita Panlilio and ex-DAR Usec Narciso Nieto.
The government officials allegedly received hefty kickbacks.
DE LIMA: As a result of this whole scheme of diverting the P900 million Malampaya Fund allotted to DAR to Napoles NGOs on the basis of manufactured and fake letter-requests from Mayors and MOAs, kickbacks or commissions amounting to P337,775,000 were distributed all around to the public officials who participated in the plunder scheme. The following are the public officials specifically identified by the whistleblowers as having received kickbacks from Napoles, the same being their share for their indispensable participation in the execution of the plunder scheme: Nasser Pangandaman, P75 million received in cash from Napoles and through bank withdrawal care of Rene Maglanque; Teresita Panlilio, P14 million received in cash from Napoles and through bank withdrawal; Narciso Nieto, P6 million received through bank withdrawal care of Evelyn de Leon; Ruby Tuason, P242,775 million received through bank withdrawal for a still unidentified principal.
Tuason, the former Social Secretary of former President Joseph Estrada, is also facing charges.
Arroyo and Ermita were not spared and are accused of helping facilitate the release of funds.
DE LIMA: As to the participation and culpability of former President Arroyo and Exec Sec Ermita...the release of the SARO and the NCA would not have been possible...if it were not for the hastily issued EO which invalidly liberalized the exploitation of the Malampaya Fund for purposes not contemplated by existing laws, and the latter's approval of the Request for Authority of Sec Andaya.
The Malampaya Fund can only be used for energy-related projects.
The DOJ complaint says Andaya requested to use Malampaya money for flood victims on Oct. 8, 2009.
Five days later on Oct. 13, Arroyo and Ermita approved the request and issued EO 848 allowing the Malampaya fund to be used for areas affected by natural calamities.
DE LIMA: This leniency of control displayed by the former President in the use of and access to an essentially presidential discretionary fund made possible the plunder of such fund, either intentionally or through gross inexcusable negligence.
Others facing charges are DAR staff members, Candaba Mayor Rene Maglanque and Napoles' former employees listed as Presidents of her NGOs for forging signatures and faking liquidation documents.
The list includes her brother Ronald Francis Lim, and her nephew Ronald John Lim.
NATASHYA GUTIERREZ, REPORTING: First lawmakers, now the former president and the government agency officials face charges. The second batch of cases illustrates the massive scope of the scam, and the shocking amounts involved. Natashya Gutierrez, Rappler, Manila.
Story 2: MALAMPAYA SCAM WORSE THAN FERTILIZER FUND SCANDAL
The story of how the Malampaya Fund went to pork barrel queen Janet Lim Napoles shows how it’s worse than its predecessor, the P728-million fertilizer fund scandal.
In the fertilizer fund scam, lawmakers, local officials, and dubious suppliers supposedly benefited from kickbacks in overpriced fertilizers.
In the Malampaya Fund scam, only a few people shared the money, with the bulk -- P900 million -- going to Napoles.
This time, local government officials had their signatures forged by Napoles' team in MOAs and project proposals.
The Malampaya Fund represents royalties from the oil and gas operations in the waters off Palawan.
In October 2009, President Gloria Arroyo allowed P900 million taken from the fund to help farmers affected by typhoons that year.
To go by the accounts of whistleblowers and the internal probe of the Department of Agrarian Reform, it was a premeditated crime.
A whistleblower says Napoles informed her staff she was able to get some funding from the DAR as early as July or August that year.
This was a month or so before the government set aside the P900 million from the Malampaya Fund to help farmers.
Of the 12 Napoles NGOs that cornered the P900-million funds, 4 were registered 3 months before an agreement was reached to tap the funds.
These 12 NGOs supposedly entered into an agreement with 97 LGUs to implement projects amounting to between P7.5 million to P10 million.
Based on an earlier Rappler report, Napoles got first crack at the Malampaya Fund based on advance information provided by a department secretary.
The Malampaya Fund scam comes only 3 years after the 2004 fertilizer scam was investigated by the Senate Blue Ribbon and the Agriculture committees.
Story 3: GMA: WIDE DISCRETION OVER MALAMPAYA FUND LAWFUL
Former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Arroyo says her extensive discretion over the use of the Malampaya fund is lawful.
In a statement, Arroyo's legal counsel and chief of staff Raul Lambino says the funds were authorized “pursuant to the policies and purposes as mandated by the provisions of Presidential Decree 910.”
Under Presidential Decree 910, the government’s share from the Malampaya fund should be used for energy-related projects.
After a series of typhoons in 2009, Arroyo issued an executive order expanding the use of the fund to include rehabilitation purposes.
Arroyo's then budget secretary and now Camarines Sur Rep Rolando Andaya Jr asks why he was dragged in the case when none of the whistleblowers testified against his direct involvement.
Andaya says his job --quote-- "did not come with an early warning device" that would alert him about a --quote-- “possible hijacking or pilfering when the funds are on its way to the beneficiaries.”
He also criticizes the justice department’s supposed "file now, investigate later" tactics in relation to the scam, saying he was not given the chance to respond to the charges.
Story 4: MIRIAM TO AQUINO: IT'S STILL BRIBERY
Sen Miriam Santiago rejects President Aquino’s statement the money given to senators from the government’s Disbursement Acceleration Program cannot be considered bribery because it was given months after the conviction of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
In a television interview, Santiago says bribery after the act is still bribery.
Aquino earlier defended DAP from criticism his administration used it to bribe senators to convict Corona.
He says the money could not have been bribery because it was released in October 2012 while Corona was convicted in May 2012.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad admits an average of P50 million was released to senators, but says it was meant to address underspending.
Santiago, former Sen Joker Arroyo, former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and constitutionalist Fr Joaquin Bernas question the constitutionality of the DAP.
Beyond the bribery issue, Santiago also says the administration’s defense of the legality of DAP was --quote-- “dead wrong.”
The Palace says the Constitution and the administrative code allow the President to realign savings.
But citing Article VI, Section 25 of the Constitution, Santiago says the government cannot transfer, but only augment existing items in the budget.
Story 5: 3 AYALA FIRMS FACE CHARGES OVER SERENDRA BLAST
It was a night everything went wrong. But it’s not just about chance -- it’s mostly about negligence.
4 months after the Serendra blast, the government is pointing fingers-- not just at the unit owners-- but also at 3 Ayala firms.
Bea Cupin reports.
MAR ROXAS, INTERIOR SECRETARY: Hindi na natin papayagan ang bahala na o okay na, lalo na sa maseselang system tulad nitong vaporized distribution system ng gas. (We will not allow negligence when it comes to something like a vaporized distribution system.)
A series of unfortunate events and negligence caused the Two Serendra explosion on May 31, 2013.
An inter-agency task force led by the Interior department and a private company say the explosion was caused by the leak and accumulation of gas inside Unit 501B.
Roxas says the leak was caused when a gas range was moved without "unauthorization" during renovations.
Safety devices inside the unit — a leak detector and a gas valve — failed to work.
Add to that, the building's sole leak detector also failed to go off.
Why didn't residents smell the leaking gas?
The investigation finds Two Serendra gas supplier Bonifacio Gas Corp lacking in technical competence.
MAR ROXAS, INTERIOR SECRETARY: In the process of vaporizing, nawalala yung odorant, nawalala yung baho, yung amoy ng marcaptan kaya marahil hindi naamoy ang na-leak na gas na ito. (In the process of vaporizing, the odorant was lost. Maybe that’s why [residents] did not detect the leak)
Four people died as a result of the blast — 3 Abenson employees, and Angelito San Juan, the guest occupant of Unit 501B.
Found liable are the unit owners and caretaker, construction compnay RM Ladrido, Two Serendra, Bonifacio Gas Corp and Makati Dev’t Corp.
But the DILG stops short of recommending charges against the 4.
Roxas says it is beyond their mandate.
MAR ROXAS, INTERIOR SECRETARY: Ito ang kauna-unahang pangyayari na ganitong klase sa ating bansa, kaya doon kami nagfocus sa science, anong ba nangyari dito at ano ang contributing elements. Now whether these contributing elements constitute legal liability, mas mabuti yung abogado gumawa nun. (It’s the first time something like this happened in the country. We focused on the science, the contributing elements. Now whether these contributing elements constitute legal liability, we leave that to the lawyers.)
He says it is up to the justice department to file charges.
Tower B of Two Serendra can now be returned to its unit owners.
BOBBY CABRAL, TWO SERENDRA HOMEOWNERS ASSOC: As far as I'm concerned, it's time for people to move on. I'm just glad that we have closure.
But it might not be “business as usual” right away.
BOBBY CABRAL, TWO SERENDRA HOMEOWNERS ASSOC: I know one who didn't want to come back anymore... some of them are taking psychiatric help... even now.
The Serendra blast probe officially ends with the findings.
But will the shock waves continue to reverberate for top condo developer Ayala Land which calls itself a trusted name in urban land development?
Bea Cupin, Rappler, Manila.
Story 6: PH WINS INVESTMENT GRADE FROM MOODY'S
The Philippines wins investment grade status from credit rating agency Moody’s -- another seal of approval for the country after international debt watchers Standard & Poor's and Fitch also awarded investment grade status early this year.
Moody’s says its decision to give Manila a "Baa3" rating with positive outlook is based on the Philippines’ strong growth, political stability and improved governance.
A Baa3 rating is the lowest in the outfit's investment ranks but represents an important milestone for the country.
The Philippine economy expanded 6.8% in 2012 and 7.6% in the first half of 2013, among the highest in Asia-Pacific.
Presidential communications chief Ricky Carandang says the upgrade is --quote-- “proof that the continuing fiscal reforms are further improving our credibility in the international community."
An investment grade is a seal of good housekeeping.
It tells investors it’s safe to do business in the country.
It also means lower borrowing costs for the Philippines, generating savings that are used for social services.
Story 7: BASES ACCESS: PH, US DISAGREE ON 'CRITICAL PROVISIONS'
On the fourth round of talks to allow the United States greater access to Philippine bases, the two countries disagree on “critical provisions.”
Philippine Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino says there are “gaps” in these provisions that need “more work.”
The agreement aims to increase presence of US troops in the Philippines.
It’s also expected to boost the defense capability of the Armed Forces.
The panels have not yet agreed on the timeframe of the agreement.
The Philippines wants a timeframe shorter than the 20-year-agreements the US has with other countries.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta adds, “Our guidance is that the duration should be such that they cannot build permanent bases.”
Story 8: POPE FRANCIS TO DELIVER MESSAGE IN MANILA-BASED CONFERENCE
For the first time, Pope Francis will address Filipinos attending a Manila-based conference on October 18.
On Thursday, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle says the Pope agreed to deliver a video message at the closing Mass for the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization.
The conference will be held from October 16 to 18 at the University of Santo Tomas.
It is the biggest event in the Philippine Catholic Church this year.
Story 9: WHITE HOUSE TALKS FAIL TO END GOV'T SHUTDOWN
Talks between US President Barack Obama and Republicans leaders fail to end a government shutdown Wednesday, with both sides accusing the other of refusing to move off hardened positions.
Obama meets with Democratic and Republican leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, for more than an hour.
Speaking after the meeting, Boehner says, “The President reiterated one more time that he will not negotiate.”
Obama says he would not negotiate on budget matters until Republicans pass a bill that would reopen government and raise the US debt ceiling.
Senate Democrats repeatedly block Republican House funding bills that seek to delay Obama's signature health care reform bill.
The deadlock leaves government without a budget for the new fiscal year, sending thousands of federal workers home.
Obama also sends Wall Street a blunt warning that it should be worried about the political crisis that could trigger a US debt default.
He says, “When you have a situation in which a faction is willing to potentially default on US government obligations, then we are in trouble.”
Story 10: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 5, The UN Security Council urges the Syrian government to make aid more accessible to civilians trapped in the ongoing conflict.
In a statement, the 15-nation body asks the Syrian government to “take immediate steps to facilitate the expansion of humanitarian relief operations and lift bureaucratic impediments and other obstacles.”
The Syrian government opposed aid missions from nearby countries, fearing supplies will go to rebel forces.
At number 7, a California jury clears concert promoter AEG Live for Michael Jackson’s death by drug overdose.
The jury dismisses the lawsuit filed by Jackson’s family seeking millions of dollars in damages.
The jury says AEG Live hired Dr Conrad Murray and decided he was competent, clearing the concert promoter of liability.
Jackson died in 2009 from an overdose of a drug given by Murray, who was convicted of involuntary slaughter in 2011 for giving the drug to Jackson.
And at number 10, American bestselling author Tom Clancy dies at a hospital in Baltimore, Maryland on Tuesday.
He was 66.
The Baltimore Sun newspaper says Clancy died "after a brief illness."
He is famous for writing bestselling spy, thriller and military science novels, including Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Hunt for Red October.
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|