Kabayan, the first month of the year is over. Here’s a roundup of the good, the bad and the not yet finished events (cases that are forever heard in the senate, the ombudsman and the Supreme Court and back again) in the Philippines.
Miss Universe Homecoming
Reigning Miss Universe Pia Alonzo-Wurtzbach went home to adoring crowds last January 23, 2016.
Ms. Wurzbach did a courtesy call at Malacañang Palace, visited the Senate, Congress and city mayor offices in Manila, Makati and Quezon city and even a visit to ABS-CBN, her home station as an actress in the country.
The grand homecoming parade stretched from the streets of Manila to Makati and Quezon City. The streets were lined with people waving Philippine flags – some were even sporting a replica of the Miss Universe crown and donning a similar blue dress Ms. Wurtzbach was wearing when she was crowned.
The reigning queen did not forget to include a charity event despite the busy schedule.
The homecoming concluded on January 28 with a special at the Smart Araneta Coliseum where Ms. Wurtzbach was given a chance to do her Ms. Universe walk.
Japan’s Imperial Couple’s Visit to the Philippines
Emperor Akihito and wife Empress Michiko arrived in the country last January 26 to mark the 60th anniversary of the Philippine-Japanese diplomatic relations.
This is the first time that the reigning Japanese royal, although not directly involved in political affairs, set foot on Southeast Asia. However, this is already the 2nd time of the Imperial couple in the Philippines, the first time was in 1962 when they were just the crown prince and princess of Japan.
The Japanese royalty is set to visit different places in Manila, Japanese memorial site Caliraya, the Japanese Language training in Los Baños, Launa and other memorial sites of Filipinos and who died during World War II.
They were welcomed by President Benigno Aquino III and the president’s sister Pinky Abellada. Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. believes that the visit highlights the friendship between the two countries adding that “as our country charts the path that leads to sustainable, inclusive growth, we are fortunate that Japan is our steadfast partner and ally.”
However not everyone is happy to meet the royal couple especially the “comfort women” of World War II who feels that the Japanese government has “never made a sincere apology or adequate compensation for the war crimes.”
As sessions in the senate opens again after a long Christmas break, lawmakers are back to discuss the events that lead to the death of 44 Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP_SAF) officers last year, January 25 while on the Oplan Exodus mission.
Senate opposition leader, Juan Ponce Enrile believes that the unfortunate turn of events were all due to the President’s leadership. He allegedly got information from conversations with wounded SAF troopers who were also in the Oplan Exodus. This was possible because Sen. Enrile was under hospital arrest at the PNP General Hospital for the pork and barrel scam.
On the other hand, Senate president Franklin Drilon and other administration senators point ex- SAF Chief Gatulio Napenas as the person responsible for the whole thing, and thus removed from position. PNP Director-General Alan Purisima admitted that he acted as a facilitator between the president and Napenas the whole time even when he was still serving his six months suspension from his position.
It would be recalled that three months after the 1st senate probe Senator Grace Poe faced the media with the results of the committee report saying that the president is “ultimatey responsibe for the Mamansapano case.”
On the other hand, the then Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila De Lima concluded in their own preliminary investigation 90 commanders and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamorro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and members of other armed groups in Mindanao as responsible for the killings that happened in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamansapano. They were all charged of direct assault with murder and theft.
Acting DOJ secretary Emmanuel Caparas vowed to bring justice for SAF 44 as Senator Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Order calls this case closed. 21 senators signed the Poe Committee report.
Bangsamaro Basic Law Update
On related news, the MILF is not any more optimistic that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will be passed soon.
The BBL was seen as a creation of a new geopolitical area that would replace the existing Autonomus Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a move that would solidify peace and order in the region where conflict was common. However, this changed after the Mamansapano incident.
MILF Peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal said he saw signs that the BBL will not push through because of the lack of quorum in the House of Representatives.
Mr. Iqbal believes that although the next administration can continue the discussion of BBL, if it will not push through with the Aquino government, then the peace talks are back to zero.
The Philippines has been on different peace talks with Musim brothers in Mindanao for years with different presidents.
The European Union including Germany and other Arab countries are in favor of the BBL saying that if this law pushes through, more investments are likely to come to the island as peace and order are essential.
2015 Philippine Economic Growth
The country’s economic growth for 2015 is at 5.8%, the highest growth since the 1970s.
The growth is due to the gross domestic product (GDP) or the total number of products produced. GDP was driven by the services sector that grew 7.4%, Industry 6.8% and services 6.7%.
Although the Industry actually fell from 9.1%, it is still a major driver of growth. In addition, agriculture also from 4.2 to 0.3.
Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said, “This growth is respectable, given the difficult fiscal environment, the onset of El Nino and the challenges in government spending in the first trimester.”
The Philippines is right behind Vietnam’s 6.68 and China’s 6.9.
The government is setting its eyes on a 7.5 to 8.5 goal for 2016.
Philippines Rank 85th from World’s Most Corrupt List
More good news, the country slid to rank 85 among 175 countries in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) from 94th the year before.
Transparency International grades each participating country from 0 to 100 with 100 as the perfect score or “clean” from corruption score. Although the country still belongs to the bottom third of the list with just 38 points, it is a big difference from four years ago with 34 points or rank 105.
The top 5 cleanest countries are Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden and Singapore while the most corrupt countries are Somalia, North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan and Myanmar.