Rappler Newscast | September 11, 2014

Today on Rappler.

Former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado says Vice President Jejomar Binay allegedly got kickbacks from city projects when he was still Makati mayor.
Mercado is one of the resource persons in the Senate probe on the alleged overpriced Makati city building – the basis of a plunder case against the Vice President and his son, current Makati Mayor Junjun Binay.
Mercado earlier admitted he benefitted from the Makati building.
During the probe Thursday, Mercado says Binay earned 13% in kickbacks.

ERNESTO MERCADO, FORMER MAKATI VICE MAYOR: Ako ay nakinabang sa Makati parking building. At sabi ko rin po noon, kung ang Vice Mayor ay nakinabang, ay naniniwala po akong higit na nakinabang ang aking mayor.

(I benefitted from the Makati parking building. And like I said before, if the Vice Mayor had benefitted, I believe that the mayor also benefitted.)

Sa bawat project po sa Makati, ang aming pong mayor ay nakikinabang ng 13% sa bawat proyekto.

(For every project in Makati, the mayor gets 13%.)

In his years as a supposed “bagman” for Binay, Mercado says he would deliver from P1.5 million or about $34,000 to P10 million or about $227,000 to Binay’s home.
In return, Mercado says he was promised P120 million or about $2.7 million in funds for his political party.
Even as a city councilor in the 1990s, Mercado says he got “allowances” from then-mayor Binay.
He says the money was coursed through a certain “Attorney Ignacio.”

ERNESTO MERCADO, FORMER MAKATI VICE MAYOR: May natatanggap ho kaming envelope, may laman minsan P15,000, may laman minsan P20,000. Tinatanong ko, ano ba yan, saan galing yan?

(We received envelopes that had P15,000 inside, sometimes P20,000. I asked, where did that come from?)

Si Atty Ignacio, ang lagi ho niyang lecture sa aming mga konsehal ay 'Basta good boy lang kayo, masaya kayo rito.'

(Atty Ignacio, he would always tell the counselors, “As long as you are good boys, you will be happy here.”)

In a statement, Senator Nancy Binay denies Mercado’s allegations, adding “It saddens me that the Senate is being used to spread baseless allegations.”

The daughter of alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles faces charges for evading taxes.
The Justice Department approves the filing of tax evasion charges against Jeane Napoles.
She will be charged with 2 counts of attempt to evade tax and 2 counts of failure to file an income tax return for over P17.88 million or about $407,000 in unpaid taxes.
In October 2013, the Bureau of Internal Revenue filed a complaint against Jeane for failing to file any income tax return that would show her capacity to buy 2 properties:
a luxurious apartment in Los Angeles worth P54.73 million or about $1.2 million and a farm lot in Pangasinan worth P1.49 million or about $35,000.
Jeane's parents already defended her through their counter-affidavit, saying they were de facto owners of these properties.
But the BIR says Jeane failed to declare the properties as gifts.

Metro Rail Transit spokesman Hernando Cabrera blames bureaucratic problems for the delays in upgrading the railway system.
The MRT has come under public scrutiny after a series of glitches including the derailment of one of its trains.
Cabrera says the MRT management sees the urgency in upgrading the trains’ systems, but adds bureaucracy is a major hurdle.

HERNANDO CABRERA, MRT SPOKESMAN: It's basically funding. We have this problem, on our part, two things: the procurement law that we have, it's very, very difficult to procure anything. You have to pass through a lot of processes just to buy 10 pieces of airconditioning units. You have to go through a lot of process to buy the needed spare parts for the trains.

Cabrera says the problems could have been prevented but the complicated relationship between the MRT’s joint owners, the government and the Metro Rail Transit Corporation, got in the way.

HERNANDO CABRERA, MRT SPOKESMAN: This capacity issue and rehabilitation upgrading issue is quite complicated. We cannot just simply come in at a time earlier because of the complication brought about by the contract that we have with the private owners. We have to remember that this project, MRT3, is a result of a build-operate-transfer scheme. And in that scheme, in that particular contract, we have given some rights or the obligation to the private owners to do all this upgrading and rehabilitation and capacity expansion thing... which has not been done for the last several years.

Cabrera apologizes to the public for the railway system’s problems.
But he says there are several things in the pipeline.
Aside from replacing faulty train coaches and upgrading station facilities, Cabrera talks about plans to build a new MRT7 from North Avenue in Quezon City to San Jose del Monte in Bulacan.
He also mentions plans to construct extensions for existing railways and develop key stops into intermodal stations.

HERNANDO CABRERA, MRT SPOKESMAN: A few years back I saw a plan, I think I got involved in this planning session. Interconnection in a sense that two or three possible stations could converge, we looked at the Blumentritt station of line 1, because line 1 intersects with PNR line in the Blumentritt area. So what we're trying to do that time is to explore the possibility of creating one big station in the area in which passengers from LRT line 1 can easily transfer to the station of PNR in that area. I think the plan's still there, it's just a matter of pursuing this in the future.

There’s roughly a year and a half left until the end of the Aquino administration, but Cabrera says he’s hopeful the MRT management can turn things around.

HERNANDO CABRERA, MRT SPOKESMAN: Yes. We have enough time to make a contribution to alleviate the problems that we have now, especially on the sufferings being experienced by the passengers every day, in the morning and in the afternoon.

Business tycoon Manny Pangilinan dismisses speculations he might seek public office as the running mate of Vice President Binay.
In March this year, Binay said he was considering Pangilinan as his vice presidential bet for the 2016 polls.
But Pangilinan says he’s not interested, and jokes, “The Vice President might get hurt already if I have to repeat it."
Pangilinan says he's only interested in two things at the moment: business and sports.

President Benigno Aquino says he will ask Congress to sign a joint resolution allowing additional power supply for the expected power shortage next year.
There is an expected shortage of about 300 megawatts in the summer of 2015 that could lead to rotating brownouts for 20 days.
Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla says Aquino asking Congress to act is not tantamount to using emergency powers.

JERICHO PETILLA, ENERGY SECRETARY: We're not after any other thing other than allow government to contract additional capacity on a short-term basis. That's it.

The law prohibits contracting for additional power unless the President declares a power crisis.
Earlier, Petilla suggested Aquino declare a power emergency and invoke his powers but he backpedaled after critics said the administration was using the energy crisis as reason to increase the President’s powers.
On Thursday, Aquino says the government is “keeping tabs” of the energy situation.

Rebels affiliated with terrorist group Al-Qaeda free the kidnapped UN peacekeepers from Fiji Thursday.
45 Fijian peacekeepers were captured by Syrian Al-Nusra Front rebels on August 27.
On Wednesday the Fijian government's team flew to the UN headquarters in New York to work on the safe release of the troops.
The Fijians are part of the UN Disengagement Observer Force or UNDOF.
It was established in 1974 to maintain the ceasefire between Syria and Israel forces in the Golan Heights.
A group of 75 Filipino peacekeepers were also attacked but avoided capture.

US President Barack Obama says he will expand America’s campaign against terrorist group ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria including possible airstrikes in Syria.
The address comes at a poignant time for America on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Obama delivers a primetime TV address asking the American people and the international community to support what he calls a “comprehensive, sustained counter-terrorism strategy” against ISIS.

BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: Our objective is clear:  We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.
We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.

Under his strategy, Obama says America will increase support for moderate Syrian rebels.
He also rules out what analysts called an “unholy alliance” with President Bashar al-Assad.
Experts and former US officials say Obama's declaration of war on ISIS could damage the militants without defeating them and will also increase the risk of America being sucked into Syria's civil war.
US officials acknowledge there is no viable "moderate" Syrian opposition capable of holding ground.

American teenager Shannon Maureen Conley pleads guilty to providing material support to terrorist group Al-Qaeda and its affiliates.
Conley was arrested in April 2014 at the Denver International Airport as she was about to leave for Syria to join the jihadist movement.
The Denver Post reports prior to her arrest Conley was found stalking a Christian church.
She faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

The surge in support for Scottish independence ahead of the referendum on September 18 encourages Catalans trying to break from Spain.
Thousands of Catalans are expected on the streets of Barcelona to demand a referendum on independence –
a week before Scotland is set to have its own.
Both Scotland and Catalonia clamor for independence, but their situations are different.
The 1707 Act of Union joined England and Scotland but preserved Scotland’s institutions.
But Catalonia seeks to break away from a single unified state.
Experts say the dispute between Spain and Catalonia "gives the impression that the two parties are involved in a bull-fight.”
Scotland prospered under the United Kingdom, while Catalonia continues to be burdened by Spain’s weakening economy.

A South African judge says paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius is not guilty of intentionally killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, dismissing the most serious of charges against him.
On Thursday, Judge Thokozile Masipa says, "The state clearly has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder.”
Pistorius could still be found guilty of culpable homicide which may warrant a lengthy prison term, a suspended sentence, or acquittal.
A murder charge would have meant a life sentence.
Pistorius was arrested and put to trial following the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013.
Pistorius claims to have mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar when he shot her.
The verdict comes after a 6-month murder trial that cast a harsh spotlight on the fallen hero's private life.
Whatever happens, Pistorius's glittering sporting career is likely over.
Once a poster boy for disabled sport, Pistorius has been stripped of lucrative endorsement deals by global brands and has withdrawn from all competition.


Israel's army investigates incidents involving its forces during the Gaza war.
Among the cases being investigated are the shelling of a UN school in July that killed at least 15 and the July 16 bombing of a Gaza beach where 4 children died.
The United Nations and international rights groups earlier condemned Israel for attacks that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians.

Gmail users might want to change their passwords after almost 5 million usernames and passwords were reportedly published on a Russian Bitcoin forum Wednesday.
But Google says there’s no evidence its systems have been compromised.
News site Lifehacker reports the passwords appear to be leaked from other websites that were associated with Gmail addresses.

China will launch its second orbiting space laboratory in 2016.
It is the latest step in an ambitious space program Beijing says will one day land a Chinese man on the moon.
Astronaut Yang Liwei, who became China's first man in space in 2003...
makes the announcement at the Association of Space Explorers congress in Beijing.
China sees its multi-billion-dollar space program as a symbol of its rise and the Communist Party's success in turning the once poverty-hit nation around.

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