The Sweet and the Not So Sweet 16 of 2016
We wrap up the year with a list of 16 headliners and trending topics in the Philippines and around the world.
- POTUS DONALD TRUMP
Celebrity businessman Donald Trump wins against veteran politician Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US Presidential Election. The campaign trail was very controversial for Trump’s inflammatory remarks on immigrants and cultural minorities, sexual harassment allegations, discrimination against women and tax evasion issues. Trump assumes his post as the President of the United States of America on January 20, 2017.
- ALEPPO, SYRIA
More than 450,000 Syrians have been killed since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. What began as a citizen-government conflict quickly escalated to a brutal war. Millions are still being displaced and evacuated to this date. Air strikes in September claimed lives of innocent civilians. A photo of a young boy covered in blood and dust has gained social media attention on this humanitarian crisis. Recently, videos posted by Syrians in the middle of the conflict online also spread.
- ISIS IN PARIS AND NICE
On July 14, 2016 a tragic incident struck Nice, Paris that resulted to 86 deaths and 434 injuries. A 19-ton cargo truck plowed through a crowd in Promenade des Anglais on Bastille Day. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the atrocity. ISIS claimed that Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, driver of the truck, was fulfilling his duty. The French government declared July 16, 17, and 18, 2016 as national mourning days for the victims.
- PARK GEUN-HYE OUSTED
The scandal involving the South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, friend and founder of the Church of Eternal Life Choi Tae-min, and daughter Choi Soon-sil created civil unrest in South Korea. Park stepped down on December 9, 2016 after 234 members voted against her. The constitutional court will deliberate on the impeachment motion that could take up to 180 days. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn is currently acting President until the decision is made.
In a referendum held on June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom decided on their withdrawal from the European Union. Leaving won by 52% to 48%. The referendum turnout was 71.8%, with more than 30 million people voting.
The European Union or EU is an economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries. It began in World War II to foster economic cooperation under the notion that those states that trade with each other will unlikely go to war with each other. It has evolved to become a “single market” allowing goods and people to move with ease among members states.
- RIO 2016 OLYMPICS
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was the venue for the 2016 Summer Olympics. More than 11,000 athletes from around the globe participated with first-time participants Kosovo, South Sudan and the Refugee Olympic Team.
The games were hounded by issues the outbreak of the mosquito-borned Zika virus, pollution in the venue and crime problems.
Filipino female weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won the silver medal. She was the first female athlete to bring home an Olympic medal won after twenty years. Mansueto ‘Onyok’ Velasco won a silver medal in boxing during the 1996 Atlanta games.
- PH WINS SEA ROW VS. CHINA
The 3-year legal battle of the Philippines ended on July 12, 2016 when the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled unanimously in its favor. According to the arbitral tribunal, “the tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line.” Despite the tribunal’s decision however, China emphasized the nullity of the arbitration case and claimed to disregard the decision of the tribunal.
- PGMA ACQUITTED OF PLUNDER
In an 11-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo acquitting her of plunder. The High Court ruled that the evidence of the prosecution was weak and ordered her immediate release. Arroyo was under hospital detention since 2011 for alleged misuse of funds from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
- PH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
In May 9, 2016, 38.5% of the Filipino voters elected then Davao Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte to become the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines. PDU30 ran under a campaign promising to defeat crime by killing all criminals. His domestic policy focuses on fighting illegal drugs by initiating a drug war.
Other presidential hopefuls were Vice President Jejomar Binay, former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, Senator Grace Poe and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
Congresswoman Leni Robredo, wife of former DILG Secretary Jessie Robredo took the vice presidential seat from his closest contender, Senator Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos, Jr.
Mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Roa Duterte is the 16th and incumbent president of the Philippines. He assumed office on June 30, 2016. He ran under a campaign promise to end criminality in the Philippines within 6 months after his election. PDU30 has been very vocal about his support for the extrajudicial killing of drug users and criminals.
- GRACE POE
On March 8, 2016, with a 9-6 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that Grace Poe was qualified to run for President of the Philippines, reversing the COMELEC decision disqualifying her.
Petitioners challenged Poe’s qualifications to run for president alleging she is not a natural-born citizen and not a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding the elections. Poe was abandoned as a child and is legally considered as a “foundling” until she was later adopted by Fernando Poe, Jr (FPJ). and Susan Roces. Poe went to the United States and married Neil Llamanzares. She returned to the Philippines in 2004 when FPJ suffered a stroke. Following her father’s death, she entered politics and became the chairperson of the Movie and Television Classification and Review Board (MTRCB). Poe was elected Senator in 2013.
- MIRIAM DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO
Known for her strong personality and impeccable wit, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago was a hit among the younger generation as she ran for the presidential seat last May. It was her third time running for the position, having campaigned in the 1992 and 1998 presidential elections. Defensor-Santiago served in all three branches of the Philippine government. A few months after the elections, the feisty Senator passed away in her sleep on September 29, 2016.
- U.S. EMBASSY DISPERSAL
The police met activists protesting the militarization of lands of indigenous people and showing support for President Duterte’s foreign policy with a violent dispersal. PO3 Franklin Kho plowed the rows of protesters with a police mobile vehicle causing injuriers. Other police officers were seen on video mauling rallyists. The PNP has been the subject of criticism from various groups for their failure to exercise the required “maximum tolerance” towards participants of public assemblies.
- DAVAO BLAST
On September 2, 2016 a bombing incident that killed 14 people occurred in the Roxas Night Market in Davao City. President Rodrigo Duterte then declared a state of lawlessness for the entire country to increase security across the nation. Article VII of the Philippine Constitution, Section 18, states that “the President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.” He defined the incident as an act of terrorism.
- PHILIPPINE WAR ON DRUGS
Following his campaign promise, President Duterte launched an all out war against crime, more particularly against the drug menace. In his first State of the Nation Address, he mentioned persons allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade. Soon thereafter, the PNP launched plan “Tokhang”, a combination of the words “katok” meaning “to knock” and “hangyo” or “to persuade”.
The President and the police told drug users and pushers to identify themselves and surrender to the authorities. There were about a million users and pushers who have come out since the launch of the campaign. On the other hand, more than 3,700 deaths have resulted in what appeared to be unexplained, vigilante-style and extrajudicial killings. The Philippine campaign against the drug menace and the deaths linked thereto has gained attention from the international community.
- MARCOS BURIAL
In a 9-5 vote, the Supreme Court decided in favor of the burial of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
The Court held that it cannot interpose its authority to check and override an act entrusted to the President. The High Tribunal concluded: “There are certain things that are better left for history – not this Court – to adjudge. The Court could only do so much in accordance with the clearly established rules and principles. Beyond that, it is ultimately for the people themselves, as the sovereign, to decide, a task that may require the better perspective that the passage of time provides. In the meantime, the country must move on and let this issue rest.”