Headlines for Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Janet Lim-NapolesLawyer: Janet Napoles is not ‘pork’ scam matermind
MANILA, Philippines—Detained businesswoman and pork barrel Queen Janet Lim-Napoles is ready to spill the beans to prove that “she is not the mastermind” of the multi-billion pork barrel scam, her legal counsel said Wednesday. “As early as now, I can say that her testimony will show that she is not the mastermind of the pork barrel scam,” Atty. Bruce Rivera, spokesperson of Napoles said in an interview over Radyo Inquirer 990AM. Rivera said Napoles signed a sworn statement during her meeting with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima detailing personalities embroiled in the pork barrel scam, but was quick to add that he could not divulge the details of the statement.

Philippines wants ‘clearer’ statement of support from US in West PHL Sea dispute
President Benigno Aquino III will be clarifying the terms of support of the United States to the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea dispute during US President Barack Obama's visit next week, Malacañang hinted Wednesday. At a press conference, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino and Obama will discuss defense, political, security cooperation between the two countries. "From the Philippine perspective, we would like to be able to arrive at a clearer understanding with the US on important aspects of the strategic partnership... and we can be sure that President Aquino will take up with President Obama what he considers to be the primary or priority concerns of the government," he said.

Barack ObamaObama advance team already in Manila
MANILA, Philippines - An advance party of United States (US) President Barack Obama has arrived and is now working with Philippine authorities to thresh out the security preparations for his state visit next week. Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and other agencies are now coordinating with the US Secret Service for the security measures. “A meeting between the Secret Service and the Presidential Security Group was held last Monday. It was a planning conference,” Zagala said.

Aquino allies will not be spared - Palace
MANILA, Philippines — Even officials close to President Benigno Aquino III will bear the brunt of law if businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles implicates them in the pork barrel scam, Malacañang said on Wednesday. Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said the focus of the government is the quest for truth and the President has repeatedly proclaimed that the evidence—even if it's unfavorable to his allies—must provide the directions in the case. "We have time and again pointed out that the symbol of justice of this country is a blind-folded lady carrying the scales of justice and that means that there is no fear or favor in the exercise of our responsibility to bring to the bar of justice those who are involved in the alleged misuse of public funds," Coloma said at a televised press briefing.

Joseph "Erap" EstradaErap: Hong Kong assured OFWs will be protected
MANILA, Philippines — Former president and now Manila City Mayor Joseph Estrada said the strained relations between the Philippines and Hong Kong are now back to normal since his apology over the hostage tragedy in 2010 has been accepted by officials there. In a phone-patch interview on ANC, Estrada described the result of his efforts as a "very, very fruitful and successful resolution of the case." "I apologized to them (Hong Kong officials) in behalf of the city council, myself as mayor, and the people of Manila over that unfortunate incident," Estrada told ANC.

Hong Kong accepts Philippines' apology; sanctions also lifted
MANILA, Philippines – The Hong Kong government has finally accepted the apology of the Philippines over the 2010 Manila Hostage Crisis after Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada travelled there to apologize to the relatives of the victims. “The HK Government and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines have agreed that the four demands made by the victims and their families on apology, compensation, sanctions against responsible officials and individuals, and tourist safety measures will be resolved and settled,” a joint statement released Wednesday afternoon said.

Delfin LeeDelfin Lee: Blame Pag-Ibig, not me
It’s the government’s Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF), or Pag-Ibig Fund, that is responsible for defrauding legitimate home buyers who got caught up in the P6.6-billion Globe Asiatique scam, GA owner Delfin Lee insists. In a motion for oral arguments filed in the Supreme Court (SC) by his counsel on April 14, Lee said the alleged ghost buyers of GA’s Xevera town homes in Mabalacat and Bacolor, Pampanga, were “actually the defaulting buyers or borrowers whose memberships were certified to by HDMF through its own form known as the Membership Status Verification Slip which included a 30-day post-validation process.” Lee said he himself was a victim of the scam as Pag-Ibig was responsible for approving the loans of the unqualified buyers, whom it had branded as fictitious or ghost.

Batanes court orders arrest of 8 Coast Guard men in Balintang shooting
A Batanes court has ordered the arrest of eight Philippine Coast Guard personnel charged for the death of a Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters in May last year. In his order, Judge Ramon Baroña of the Batanes Regional Trial Court Branch 13 issued arrest warrants against the Coast Guard men facing homicide charges for the incident. A bail of P40,000 each was recommended for the suspects' temporary liberty. The order was issued last April 7, but released to the media only on Tuesday.

Angel LocsinBid for Angel Locsin’s Chevy Chevelle
Angel Locsin’s latest relief effort is off to a good start as the bidding for her 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle, auctioned for the benefit of “Yolanda” survivors through ABS-CBN’s Sagip Kapamilya, has already reached ₱1.7 million. The online auction kicked off on April 21 (bidding started with ₱1 million), via Sagip Kapamilya’s eBay account. It will end on May 1. As of April 23, which also marks Locsin’s 29th birthday, the vintage car had received 19 bid amounts from eight unique bidders.

Meralco rate hike frozen indefinitely
Baguio City – The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday extended indefinitely the temporary restraining order (TRO) that stopped the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) from enforcing its December, 2013 rate increase of the P4.15 per kilowatt-hour. The extended TRO also applies to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) which provisionally approved Meralco’s rate increase in an order dated December 9, 2013. With the indefinite extension of the TRO, Meralco cannot charge its consumers more than the rate prevailing before December 9, 2013 until the cases pending with the SC are resolved with finality.

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