Hey, the Philippines has really turned a corner this year: the birds are singing, people have learned to settle their differences through dialogue instead of mayhem, corruption and violence have vanished, and the future looks bright. Happy times are here to stay!

gold bar

 

....................and if you believe that, I'd like to sell you a bar of Yamashita's gold:
buried in 1945 under direct supervision of the Japanese general, and later dug up
by Ferdinand Marcos himself. Just deposit one thousand US dollars to my PayPal
account and I'll send the bar right over via the Philippines Post Office.

 

-Chris

January
New Year's injuries

January 1: New Years injuries. Two people died while hundreds were wounded during the New Year's Eve revelry, but a health official said the number was lower compared to last year's firecracker injuries. The Department of Health listed 630 victims of which 613 sustained firecracker-related injuries, 15 were hit by stray bullets and two who accidentally swallowed watusi ("dancing" firecrackers). The DOH also reported a total of nine stray bullet injuries.

 

icrc_hostages

January 14: Red Cross abduction. Three ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) workers in Sulu were abducted by members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad himself was said to be involved in the kidnapping. The kidnapping triggered a flurry of rescue activity by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, resulting in the death of several soldiers and civilians. Officials said that more than two dozen people had been abducted in the south since October, including a 9-year-old girl. Reports indicated that ransoms had been paid in some of the abductions. “They’re back kidnapping people for money,” said army spokeswoman Lieutenant Cacho.

 

Manny Villar, Miguel Arroyo, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

January 15: World Bank bars Philippine firms for graft. The international lending agency blacklisted seven Filipino and Chinese firms that colluded in the bidding for a Philippine roads project funded by the bank. Following a major investigation spanning several years by the Integrity Vice Presidency, the bank found evidence of a "major cartel involving domestic and international firms bidding on contracts" in the Philippines. First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, husband of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (photo, center), vigorously denied allegations that he was involved in bid rigging and pocketing bribe money from the contracts (P70 million = US$1.47 million.)

 

Celso delos Angeles

January 18: Legacy closes shop. Three pre-need companies under the controversial Legacy pre-need group closed without obtaining approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Legacy was known for its "get-rich-quick schemes" which lured a wide array of hungry investors. The collapse led to a scandal involving a Congressman and Commissioners of the Securities and Exchange Commission being accused of collusion with Legacy in return for monetary considerations. Legacy CEO Celso delos Angeles was charged with misappropriating P95 million in company funds for his personal use, including P38 million for election-related purposes. By March, a total of twelve Legacy banks failed. The Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC) stands to lose at least P10 billion for the payment of deposit accounts of the closed banks.

 

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

January 29: Arroyo defends 3 execs in WB scandal. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will not sack three government officials linked in a Senate probe to alleged corruption in a World Bank-funded road project, according to Presidential spokesman Jesus Dureza. He said "Malacañang values the services of Finance Chief Margarito Teves, Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, and Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. "
(...and he might have added, "We certainly don't want any fired bureaucrats blowing the lid off this scandal.")

February
Stranded dolphins

February 10: Stranded dolphins . About 500 dolphins were stranded at a shallow area off the coast of Bataan province. UP Associate Professor Dr. Lemuel Aragones said that this is the first time that such large numbers of dolphins had turned up in that part of the country. "We are trying to come up with a possible explanation to this unusual occurrence. It could be that the dolphins had lost their bearings and inadvertently ended up on the shallow portion of the coast unable to extricate themselves." Some officials said the dolphins may have become disoriented after a seaquake.

 

Filipino WWII    
  veterans

Feb 19: Vets benefits. In the US, an economic stimulus bill signed by President Obama contains $198 million dollars in benefits for an estimated 18,000 surviving Filipino WWII veterans. The appropriation amounts to a payment of $9,000 to each veteran. As of December 2009, 10,000 vets have been paid out of 38,000 applications, which were about 20,000 more applications than had been anticipated.

March
Rebelyn Pitao

March 5: Rebel's daughter found dead. Schoolteacher Rebelyn Pitao, 20, was found dead floating in a irrigation ditch in Carmen, Davao del Norte. Her body bore five stab wounds with signs of rape and torture. She was the youngest daughter of Leoncio Pitao, aka Commander Parago, of the New People’s Army (NPA). Rebelyn was snatched by armed men suspected by her family as military agents near their house in Bago Gallera de Oro Subdivision the day before. “They made her suffer. It was a heartbreaking sight for all of us,” said her elder sister Rio. She added that the family had no doubt that soldiers from the 10th Infantry Division were behind her sister’s abduction and murder. “Who said they would get my father by hook or by crook?” she said, recalling a purported statement by then Maj. Gen. Jogy Leo Fojas that the military would nab Commander Parago by the end of 2008. Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Task Force Rebelyn exonerated the military from the abduction and killing. Senior Superintendent Aaron Aquino said there is no evidence linking Rebelyn’s killing with the military personnel earlier named by Parago. Since the beginning of the Arroyo Presidency in 2001, there has not been a single conviction of police or military personnel for human rights abuses in the Philippines.

 

Francis Magalona

March 6: RIP Francis M. Rapper and TV host Francis Magalona died in Pasig after eight months of battling leukemia. Magalona, also known as FrancisM, Master Rapper, and The Man From Manila, was a Filipino rapper, songwriter, producer, actor, director, and photographer. Often hailed as the "King of Pinoy Rap", he was considered a legend in the Philippine music community. With the success of his earliest albums, he was the first Filipino rapper in the Philippines to cross over to the mainstream. He is also credited for having pioneered the merging of rap with Pinoy rock, becoming a significant influence to artists in that genre as well. He was also a television host on MTV Asia and on noontime variety television show Eat Bulaga! Magalona died seven months after being diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. Magalona was later awarded a posthumous Presidential Medal of Merit, with a citation noting “his musical and artistic brilliance, his deep faith in the Filipino and his sense of national pride that continue to inspire us.”

 

Philippine Archipelagic Baselines Law map

March 11: Arroyo signs Philippine Archipelagic Baselines Law. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Republic Act 9522 to ostensibly ensure international recognition of the country’s maritime boundaries. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said RA 9522 reaffirms the Philippines’ claims to its territorial waters, including its extended continental shelf, economic zones, and the contested Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) off Palawan province and the Scarborough shoal. Ermita said the Philippine government is asserting its sovereignty over the country’s territorial area and economic zones because that's the right thing to do. RA 9522 was enacted in time to meet the deadline of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) for countries and archipelagic states to submit their respective claims to their extended continental shelf, set on May 13 this year.

 

Nicole and Daniel Smith

March 12: Nicole recants. Subic rape victim "Nicole" recanted her earlier statements that Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, who was convicted in 2007, raped her. Following release of the statement, Nicole left the Philippines and moved to the United States 'for good' according to her lawyer. According to a three-page manifestation and submission filed before the Court of Appeals, Corporal Smith’s lawyer said the former US Marine paid “Nicole,” P100,000: 50,000 for compensatory damages, plus another P50,000 for moral damages. A day earlier, "Nicole" had fired her Filipina lawyer and retained retained representation by Corporal Smith's law firm. Nicole then left the Philippines for the the United States to live with her American boyfriend, a former US Marine who she had met after the alleged rape
Subsequently, on April 23, 2009, the Court of Appeals reversed the 2007 decision of the lower court and ordered Smith's immediate release, stating that "... a careful and judicious perusal of the evidence on record does not convince the prudent mind about the moral certainty of the guilt of the accused, hence we must acquit." L/Cpl Smith was released and immediately flown out of the country.
The case attracted controversy for two years due to its implication for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a 1999 agreement between the Philippines and the United States which governs behavior of American servicemen in the Philippines. Critics of American military presence in the Philippines believe that the VFA is ilegal, and that incidentes such as the Nicole/Smith affair would not have happened were American soldiers not stationed in the Philippines.

April
Mary Jean Lacaba, Andreas Notter

Two ICRC hostages released. On April 2 Philippine Red Cross worker Mary Jean Lacaba (left) was released after being held by Abu Sayyaf bandits for 76 days; Her release was secured by Jolo Vice Gov. Lady Anne Sahidulla in talks with the militants.
On April 18 Swiss Red Cross worker Andreas Notter (right) was released by the same group after 92 days of captivity. Notter was quoted as saying that his Abu Sayyaf "escorts" disappeared one by one until government troops found him in Indanan town in Sulu. Government troops initially claimed to have "rescued" Notter, however, Senator Richard Gordon, who as head of the Philippine Red Cross had been involved in negotiations for the release of the hostages, insisted that Notter had been released, not rescued. Still, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. insisted Notter was "rescued". The Abu Sayyaf continued to hold Italian Eugenio Vagni.

 

Philippine rain

April 20: Abnormal summer. It shouldn't be raining in summer, and the intermittent rains could be an indication of climate change, the chief of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) warned.
Chrispforr sez: "Imagine that"

 

Jovito Palparan

April 24: Palparan is a Congressman. Jovito Palparan, who represents the anti-communist party-list group Bantay, was admitted to the House of Represntatives as a first-term Congressman. In the 2007 congressional elections, Bantay garnered 169,869 votes and ranked 32nd among party-list groups, which was insufficient to allow it to send any representative to Congress under the formula used at the time. However the Supreme Court ruled that the number of seats in the House of Representatives be increased by 55, adopting a new formula for allotting seats to party-list representatives. The ruling allowed Bantay to send Palparan as its representative to the House.
Palparan, a retired army general, was a prominent figure in the campaign against communist insurgents. Leftist organizations have dubbed him "Berdugo" (Butcher) for his alleged role in extrajudicial abductions and killings of government critics during his military service.

May
Philippine flood

May 6 to 8: Typhoon Emong wreaks havoc. The massive typhoon killed 60 people, injured 53 and left 15 missing as it hammered Northern Luzon Island. Police Director Leopoldo Bataoil said most of the fatalities came from Pangasinan and Ifugao provinces, which bore the brunt of the typhoon. Bataan, La Union and Zambales provinces also reported deaths from the storm. Some 15,000 families from more than 100 barangays in the region’s four mainland provinces were displaced or affected by the typhoon. The storm destroyed 23,444 houses and cause 11 landslides.

 

Melissa Roxas

May 19: Fil-Am abducted by military. Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas was reportedly abducted and tortured by military agents in Tarlac Province, then released six days later. In later testimony before the Commission on Human Rights, Roxas claimed that at least 15 men with long firearms had barged into the house where she and two Philippine companions were staying. The three were dragged into a blue van, handcuffed, blindfolded and brought to an unknown place. There she was subjected to physical and mental torture including being strangled, hit on the chest and having her ears slapped repeatedly during the interrogation. “Are you ready to die?” one of the torturers asked her. Her head was banged against the wall. Plastic bags were put over her head until she was choking. “I’m gonna die. I couldn’t breathe anymore,” Melissa recalled. The government and military insisted her abduction was a fabrication by the leftist group BAYAN in order to discredit the military.

June
Cesar Mancao II

June 4: Cesar Mancao returns. Former police official Cesar Mancao II arrived in Manila following extradition from the United States. He was set to testify against Senator. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson whom he reportedly implicated in the murders of publicist Salvador Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito. In a February 14, 2009 affidavit executed in the US, Mancao disclosed the moment in October of 2000 when he heard his Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) boss, Lacson, order police official Michael Ray Aquino, PAOCTF chief of operations, to liquidate his opponent, Reynaldo Berroya ("Bero"). Aquino agreed to do so but informed Lacson that "Bigote" (President Joseph Estrada) had ordered him to finish off Dacer first. Dacer had been scheduled to meet former President Fidel Ramos for lunch at the Manila Hotel on November 24, 2000, where Dacer would show Ramos “highly incriminating” documents exposing the stock manipulations of the Best World Resources company of Estrada crony Dante Ang, thus presumably incriminating Estrada himself. Following the 2000 abduction, the partially- burned bodies of Dacer and Corbito were found in Cavite.

 

Smartmatic

June 10: Comelec awards contract. Comelec announces award of Poll automation contract for 2010 national elections to Total Information Management (TIM) Corporation and Smartmatic. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and joint venture-firm Smartmatic Corp. Total Information Management (TIM) Corp. signed today the P7.2 billion poll automation contract. Comelec chairman Jose Melo led the signing of the 25-pages contract with TIM senior vice president Salvador Aque; Smartmatic International Corp. chief financial officer Armando Yanes; and Smartmatic TIM Corp. chairman Juan Villa Jr. The contractsigning was delayed by more than an hour, as it was signed by the parties at 4:45 pm, the contract signing was original scheduled at 2 pm. Melo said that "minor editorial changes" on the contract delayed the signing of the contract. "We can go on automating the elections of 2010", Melo said after signing the contract.

 

Imelda Marcos

June 15: How Imelda got her jewels back. The Philippine Justice Department ordered the return of gems worth more than $310 million to Imelda Marcos, including a Burmese ruby said to be as big as a prune.

 

Swine flu

June 22: First swine flu death. A Filipino woman has died from the deadly Influenza A (H1N1) virus in Manila, according to health officials. Officials said the 49-year old woman's autopsy showed that she died congestive heart failure and acute myocardial infarction aggravated by pneumonia. The death was the first in the Philippines, which has more than 400 reported cases of swine flu. There were no details about the woman's background or where she got the virus, but her family claimed the victim had flu symptoms before she died on June 19, two days later after the woman complained of difficulty in breathing, chills and dry cough.

 

Balangay Diwata ng Lahi

June 27: Balangay launched. A group of Badjaos from Tawi-Tawi have painstakingly built a replica of one of the oldest seafaring vessels in human history. A team led by former Transportation Undersecretary Art Valdez, plan to sail "Diwata ng Lahi" around the perimeter of the South China Sea in the boat, using pre-colonial navigation by following the positions of the sun, the stars, and cloud formations, patterns of the waves, the directions of the wind and the migrations of birds. By December the team had sailed as far as Butuan City on Mindanao, where they took a Christmas break and sent the boat for repairs due to an infestation of "marine borers."

July
Mindanao funeral

July 4: 1000 guerrillas killed. The Armed Forces of the Philippines announced that more than 1,000 Muslim separatist guerrillas have been killed in fighting in the southern Philippines over the past year. The government itself lost "more or less 30" soldiers in clashes since peace talks collapsed in August, 2008.
Of course, we can believe the government when it says that all those killed were armed combatants engaged in battle against government forces; innocent civilians ("collateral damage") would never be included in the 1000, right?

 

Cotabato bomb blast wreckage

July 5: Cotabato bomb blast. A bomb exploded in Cotabato City across the street from the Cathedral during Sunday mass, killing five people and injuring 55. According to Philippine Army spokesman Colonel Jonathan Ponce, the bomb consisted of a mortar shell and was detonated remotely by mobile phone. The cathedral did not sustain significant damage. Security forces arrested a man reportedly carrying a second device into the cathedral. The military laid the blame for the bombing on rogue elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). MILF leader Mohaqher Iqbal stated: "There's no religious conflict in the south. We're fighting for our right of self-determination."

 

Eugenio Vagni

July 12: 3rd ICRC hostage freed. Italian Red Cross worker Eugenio Vagni, 62, was releasd by the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers nearly six months after his capture. Apparently, his release wa part of a prisoner swap: A few days before, following a terrorist bombing in Jolo, two of Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad's wives were arrested and held by the government. A source said that "they would be exchanged for Vagni's freedom aside from a pledge for the implementation of development projects." Sulu Vice-Governor Lady Anne Sahidula told ABS-CBN News that a “small” payment was also handed to the Abu Sayaff for Vagni’s “accommodation.... but only P50,000” ($1,087 USD.)
Mr. Vagni is reportedly a specialist in water-supply systems, and had been wroking on an ICRC water supply project for a prison on Jolo Island when the team was kidnapped.

 

Davao death squad victim

July 12: Davao death squad: fact or fiction? Commission on Human Rights (CHR) head Leila de Lima declared a “breakthrough” in the investigation into the existence of the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) after more skeletal remains believed to be those of victims of summary executions here were dug up. De Lima said a self-confessed former member of the DDS pinpointed the exact sites. She said the informant also tagged some members of the Heinous Crime Investigation Section (HCIS) of the city police in abductions and killings in 2002 to 2003. Despite the “breakthrough,” De Lima said they still have no solid evidence to link Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the DDS. The CHR has spent several months attempting to prove the existence of the DDS, in the face of denials and stonewalling by Mayor Dutuerte and other local government officials.

 

Ceasefire graphic

July 23: New Mindanao ceasefire. MILF and GRP sign new ceasefire, 11 months after long-running peace talks were derailed by a series of deadly guerrilla attacks on Christian settler communities in Mindanao. The 2008 attacks came after the Supreme Court rejected of a planned deal that would have given the MILF political and economic control over 700 territories it claims as its ancestral domain. The Philippine military says more than 150,000 people have died due to the rebellion.

 

Arroyo and Obama

July 30: Obama, finally. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and US President Barack Obama met at the White House, with the two leaders praising the Philippine-US partnership in a range of issues. The meeting, held at the Oval Office, lasted 45 minutes, while pro- and anti-Arroyo groups held protests outside the White House gates. Obama said they primarily discussed the fight against terrorism during their meeting: "I am very pleased that President Arroyo has made such good progress on dealing with counterterrorism issues. She has initiated a peace process in Mindanao that we think has the potential to bring peace and stability to a part of the Philippines that has been wracked by unrest for too long." The meeting was reportedly the fruit of intense lobbying by Malacañang shortly after Obama won the US presidential election in November. The Washington Times criticized the meeting, saying that Obama would become a "sanitizer" for Mrs. Arroyo's troubled presidency plagued by allegations of corruption, human rights abuses, and moves to prolong her tenure. "The choice of Mrs. Arroyo for this honor was a mistake because Mr. Obama is being used to give political cover for the Philippine president's troubles back home" read the editorial titled Obama the Sanitizer.

August
Corazon Aquino funeral

August 1: Cory Aquino dies. The 76 year-old former President died following a year-and-a-half-long battle with colon cancer. She had been diagnosed in March 2008, and although her doctors initally only gave her three months to live, she survived for eighteen months. Following a wake and requiem mass broadcast across the country, Aquino was interred on August 5 beside her husband in Paranaque City. Aquino is best remembered for leading the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, which toppled the regime of Ferdinand Marcos and restored a semblence of democracy in the Philippines. She was the 11th Philippine President and the first woman to hold such office.

 

Typhoon Morakot flooding

August 7: Typhoon Kiko. Typhoon Kiko (international name Morakot) brought heavy monsoon rains to the northern Philippines, causing floods and landslides afffecting 29,000 people. Nine people were killed, including three French tourists and two guides on a trek to Mount Pinatubo who drowned when their car was swept away by a swollen river.
The storm caused even more damage in Taiwan: it was the deadliest typhoon to impact the country in recorded history, killing 461 people and causing $3.3 billion USD in damage.

 

AFP caskets

August 12: 43 killed in Basilan clash. Maj. Gen. Ben Dolorfino said 23 government troopers were "killed in action" and 13 others were injured in gunfights that started from a 3 a.m. raid at a suspected Abu Sayyaf training camp in on Basilan Island. he claimed that 20 'bandits' were also killed in the clash. He said at least 60 militants armed with high-powered guns defended the training camp against the raiding soldiers.

After the release of Italian Eugenio Vagni, the last of the three Red Cross members kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu province, the military was ordered to go all-out against the group.

 

Manuel Villar

August 12: Villar C-5 "Double insertion" investigation. At the resumption of the Senate investigation into the alleged anomalous construction of the 2008 C-5 road project in Paranaque City, Senator Maria "Jamby" Madrigal testified that Senator Manny Villar and his wife Las Pinas Representative Cynthia Villar used their corporations to get a P3.5-billion loan from the Central Bank. The Senate was investigating allegations that Manny monkeyed with the budget of the Department of Pubic Works and Highways to benefit himself by enacting two separate budgets for the same road project. Villar was also accused of realigning the C-5 road extension project to benefit properties registered in the name of corporations that he and his family own and control. On November 11, charges were dismissed against him when 12 Senators voted to shelve the investigation.
Manny Villar is the richest man in the Philippines Congress, a billionaire with a declared 2008 net worth of P1,041,383,9246 ($225 million USD.)

September
Superferry 9

September 6: Superferry 9 sinks. While travelling from the southern city of General Santos City to the central Philippines city of Iloilo City, the SuperFerry 9 capsized and sank near the Zamboanga Peninsula. Between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. on September 6, 2009, a distress signal was sent by Captain Jose Yap that the ship was listing to the starboard side. An hour later, he ordered the passengers to abandon ship. sank sometime around 9:00 a.m., almost five hours after the first distress call was sent. Of 961 passengers and crew members on the ship's manifest, there were 10 fatalities and all the reast were rescued. The next day, rescuers plucked out from the sea a woman who had spent over 24 hours in the Sulu Sea with only her life vest to keep her afloat.

 

Noynoy Aquino

September 9: Noynoy Aquino announces candidacy. Noynoy is the only son of recently deceased former President Corazon Aquino and her husband, Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., who was killed during the Marcos dictatorship. He served as Representative in the Philippine House of Representatives from 1998 to 2007, and since then has served as a Senator. Following the death of his mother on August 1, calls for him to run for higher office reached fever pitch. The Senator then went on a multi-day retreat, and upon returning 40 days after her death, announced his decision to run as a candidate for the Presidency in the 2010 National Elections. While Aquino has considerable public support, many point out that this can mostly be attributed to both his parents' successes and not his own: in his 11 years in Congress, critics note that he has no noteworthy legislative achievements.

 

Ping Lacson

September 14 and 22: Ping hammers Estrada.
Senator Ping Lacson delivered two privilege speeches in the Senate:
Speech 1: Ping claimed Joseph Estrada had bullied taipan Alfonso Yuchengco into selling his 7.75-percent stake in the Philippine Long Distance Co. to the group of Manuel V. Pangilinan. He also accused Estrada of being involved in strong-man tactics, smuggling and "jueteng" during his three-year presidency.
Speech 2: Ping claimed that the former president had a "motive" for ordering the killing of publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in 2000. He also discussed the disappearance of casino employee Edgar Bentain in 1998, a former PAGCOR employee who had released videotape of Estrada gambling (see next story.)

 

Joseph Estrada gambling

September 25: DOJ reopens Edgar Bentain case. Edgar Bentain was a former PAGCOR employee who ran the security cameras at a PAGCOR casino. One night, he caught then-Vice President Joseph Estrada on cam playing poker with some friends. He released the videotape to the public (big, big, big mistake.) Bentain disappeared in 1998, and the case was quietly dropped while Estrada was President.

 

Tropical Storm Ondoy

September 26: Ondoy wreaks havoc. Tropical Storm Ondoy (international codename: Typhoon Ketsana) inundated areas in and around Metro Manila, killing hundreds and forcing half a million from their homes. The storm brought the worst rainfall to Metro Manila among recorded typhoons since the start of rainfall record keeping: The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) documented a 24 hour rainfall of 455 millimetres (17.9 in). Flood water levels reached a record 20 feet high in rural areas. As of October 24, at least 464 deaths were officially reported from the typhoon, with another 37 missing and 308 injured. Property damage was estimated at P10.8 billion ($219 million) in damage to infrastructure and agriculture, with an estimated 126,721 hectares of unharvested rice destroyed.

 

Two US soldiers

September 29: Two US soldiers killed in blast. Two American Special Forces soldiers and a Philippines marine were killed in a roadside blast on Jolo Island that officials said was likely an attack by suspected al-Qaida-linked militants. These were the first combat-related fatalities of American soldiers since American troops were deployed to the region in 2002. Abu Sayyaff did not claim responsibility for the blast.
An estimated 600 U.S. troops are currently stationed in the country, mostly in the southern front lines of the Philippine military's operations against the Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiyah.

October
Typhoon Pepeng

October 3: Pepeng pours it on. Typhoon Pepeng (International designation: Typhoon Parma), a class 4 supertyphoon, walloped the country barely a week after Tropical Storm Ondoy. Pepeng entered the country as a typhoon and hovered over northwestern Luzon throughout the week before weakening to a tropical storm and moving out to sea. The storm affected more than 3.1 million people, leaving 419 dead, destroyed 36,349 houses, and damaged more than P10.4 billion ($225 million) worth of crops and infrastructure.

 

Little Kibungan Landslide

October 8: Little Kibungan Landslide. At 10:30 pm while residents slept, a huge landslide swept away about 30 houses and killed more than a hundred people in Barangay Puguis' Little Kibungan, in Benguet Province's capital town of La Trinidad. It is believed that the landslide was triggered by Typhoon Pepeng which saturated the deforested and populated mountainside with rain over a period of almost a week.

 

Michael Sinnott

October 11: Irish priest kidnapped. 78-year-old Irish missionary Michael Sinnott, a member of the Missionary of St. Columban, was kidnapped in Pagadian City. According to government officials, he was kidnapped from his house by six armed men who owe allegiance to a local rebel commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF.) They demanded a ransom of 2 million dollars. Sinnott had spent the past four years running a school for children with hearing difficulties, and has lived in the Philippines since 1976.
The MILF leadership became involved in negotiations for his release. The Armed Forces of the Philippines sent troops and navy gunboats to try to encircle the kidnappers to pressure them to release him.
Sinnott was released unharmed on November 12. The Department of Foreign Affairs says no ransom was paid by the Irish Government.

 

Rats

October 15: Leptospirosis outbreak kills 89, downs hundreds. The Department of Health reported an outbreak of leptospirosis, a usually rare bacterial infection, in three barangays in Marikina and expected an upsurge of cases of the disease in Metro Manila and the regions of Rizal and the Calabarzon following the flooding brought by tropical storm Ondoy. Leptospirosis is spread through animal urine mixed in with floodwater entering openings in human skin. It usually takes two weeks after infection to manifest flu-like symptoms. If not diagnosed early enough, it can lead to meningitis, liver damage and death. Nearly one in ten afflicted so far has died, an extremely high mortality rate for any disease. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the best prevention is to stay out of polluted floodwaters. However, he admitted that many people have to walk in floodwater to return to their homes or simply to get from one place to another.
By October 26, a total of 2,158 leptospirosis cases were reported in 15 hospitals in Metro Manila, with 167 deaths.

 

Greenbelt Mall heist scene

October 18: Rolex robbery. Armed with high-powered firearms, six men in bonnets and bomb squad uniforms staged a daring heist at a luxury watch store inside Makati City's Greenbelt Mall, the city's premiere mall. One killed; security guards stood by and watched. The PNP arrived much later.

 

Joseph Estrada

October 22: Erap to run again. Joseph Estrada announced his candidacy for President in the May 2010 election, with Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay as his running mate.
There are significant legal issues surrounding the convicted-and-pardoned former President's candidacy: members of the constitutional commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution have stated that the constitution clearly prohibits any successfully-elected president from seeking a second term at any point in time. However, Rufus Rodriquez, one of Estrada's lawyers, claims that the former president is within his rights to do so because the prohibition banning re-election only applies to the incumbent president.

November
Mindanao bomb scene

November 4: 10 bombings per month in Mindanao. There have been at least 10 terrorist bombings per month since January this year in strife-torn Mindanao, claiming 50 lives and injuring more than 250 others, according to military records. An executive summary of bombing incidents in Mindanao from Jan. 1 to Oct. 26 showed that 136 bomb-related incidents occurred in the region, of which 108 cases were attributed to the rogue Moro rebels and the notorious Abu Sayyaf bandit group. The bombings have killed a total of 11 soldiers and 39 civilians and wounded 35 soldiers and 256 civilians.

 

American military plane

November 5: US Congress Withholds Military Aid. The United States Congress has withheld the US$2-million military aid to the Philippines in 2010 due to human rights concerns. The US House of Representatives adopted House Resolution 3081 stating that the Foreign Military Financing Program for the Philippines may not be released until three conditions have been met by the Philippine government. These include taking effective steps in implementing the recommendations of United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions; investigation and prosecution of military personnel who have been credibly alleged to have violated human rights; and that the Armed Forces of the Philippines must not have ‘a policy of, and are not engaging in, acts of intimidation or violence against members of legal organizations who advocate for human rights.’.
According to Bayan Muna Congresional Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares, "Instead of heeding the conditions, the Philippine government merely launched high-level lobbying efforts with the US Congress.... The failure of President Arroyo to investigate and prosecute Palparan defeated all their lobbying efforts."

 

Jose Miguel Arroyo

November 10: Senate moves on NBN scandal. A majority of senators (12) signed a report by a Senate panel recommending the prosecution of 11 persons, including First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo over the anomalous $329-million national broadband network project.
The move lost momentum and there was no further followup of the initiative.

 

Hillary Clinton and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

November 11-12: Hillary Clinton visits Manila. Hillary mania gripped Manila as thousands of cheering and flag-waving Filipinos greeted US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her two-day visit. Clinton announced $19-million typhoon relief aid given by Washington to Manila. She visited the University of Santo Tomas, where she was welcomed by cheering crowds and a band playing Stars and Stripes Forever. Before a televised audience of 1,000 students packed into an amphitheatre, Clinton charmed them with talk of her family, basketball, boxing, and rock stars. "My 90-year-old mother "really likes" Mick Jagger," she confided. Alvin Peters, president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, described Clinton's visit as "a loyalty check by a master to one of its vassals."

 

Human backside showing scars

November 13: GMA signs anti-torture law.. President Arroyo signed into law Republic Act No. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law of 2009, which criminalizes torture and other inhuman punishment. The new law prescribes penalties ranging from one-month imprisonment to life sentence for the crime of torture. Commission on Human Rights chairperson Leila de Lima called the signing of the law a "historic moment for human rights in the Philippines."
Nevertheless, “The effectiveness of the law remains to be seen,” said Roneo Clamor of the militant human group Karapatan, noting that his group has documented 1,016 victims of torture from 2001 to March 31, 2009. "Torture is an integral part of the Arroyo government’s counter-insurgency program" he said.

 

Manny demolishes Cotto

November 15: Manny demolishes Cotto. Manny Pacquiao defeated former WBO welterweight world champion Miguel Cotto, by technical knockout in the twelfth round, at the MGM Grand Las Vegas. The Filipino boxing superstar is the first boxer to win seven world titles in seven different weight divisions. Upon his return to the Philippines following the fight, Manny announced his plan to run for Congress from Sarangani Province. Manny is also known by various nicknames: Pac-Man, Fighting Pride of the Philippines, The Mexicutioner, and pound-for-pound-#1-in-the-world.

 

Hacienda Luisita massacre

November 16: Fifth anniversary of Hacienda Luisita massacre. Workers and peasants of Hacienda Luisita and their supporters launched a series of protest actions to commemorate the fifth anniversay of the massacre that took place at the hacienda in Tarlac on November 16, 2004. The United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) led the protests. Another rally took place in Manila with protesters calling for the junking of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Extension and Reform (CARPER). A caravan was also led by progressive organizations on November 12-16. About 100 vehicles participated in the last leg of the caravan from the offices of the Department of Agriculture along Elliptical Road in Quezon City towards Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac where they commemorated the massacre.

 

Pasay mosque

November 18: 3 killed, 8 hurt in Pasay demolition. Tension gripped residents whose shanties beside the Muslim mosque along Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City were demolished by the authorities Wednesday, with eight injured, including a policeman. But Muslim community leader Abdelmanan Tanandato said three residents -- Hakim Husman, 50, shot in the head; Rajid Batalo, 7, who was shot in the chest; and Yacob Macalnas, 20, who was shot in the side of his body -- were killed by the demolition team.

 

Harry Thomas

November 21: New US Ambassador announced. US President Barack Obama appointed Harry Thomas as the American new envoy to the Philippines, to replace departing Ambassador Kristie Kenney. The new ambassador will face the still unresolved issue of the Visiting Forces Agreement (many Filipinos are demanding the review and/or termination of the agreement.) He will face queries on the permanent presence of US troops in Mindanao.

 

Efren Peñaflorida

November 21: RP pushcart educator CNN hero of the year. Efren Peñaflorida, a Filipino street educator, has been named the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year for starting a "pushcart classroom" in the Philippines to bring education to poor children as an alternative to gang membership. As a child, Peñaflorida picked school over gang life in Cavite City and vowed to create a way for other children to make the same choice. He created a program that brings books to children in slums and on the streets, and the 10,000 members of his Dynamic Teen Co. have brought reading, writing and hygiene to 1,500 youngsters.

 

Larissa Ramos

November 22: Miss Earth 2009. This year the Philippines hosted the Miss Earth 2009 contest, at the Boracay Ecovillage Resort and Convention Center on Boracay Island. The Miss Earth winner serves as the spokesperson for the Miss Earth Foundation, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other environmental organizations. The pageant had a total of 80 delegates from various countries and territories. At the conclusion of the competition, outgoing titleholder Miss Earth 2008 Karla Henry of the Philippines crowned Larissa Ramos of Brazil as her successor (pictured.) For the first time since 2003, all semifinals competed in both swimsuit and evening gown competitions.

 

Maguindanao massacre

November 23: Maguindanao massacre. About 100 armed men waylaid a convoy enroute to an electoral office to file papers for the 2010 national elections. At least 57 people including lawyers, journalists and relatives of a local politician, were kidnapped and then killed. The convoy, led by Genalyn Tiamzon-Mangudadatu, wife of Buluan Vice-Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, were stopped on their way to the Comelec office in the provincial capitol of Shariff Aguak. Esmael Mangudadatu plans to challenge current Maguindanao Governor Andul Ampatuan for the position in the May 2010 election. The massacre is the worst political violence in the nation’s history. Critics charge that the Arroyo government has been arming Governor Ampatuan's private militia in trade for support against muslim insurgents in the region.

 

Mindanao refugee camp

November 23: 300,000 displaced in Mindanao. According to the World Food Program, there are currently 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDP) in Mindanao, down from one year ago, when there were 750,000. Most of the Muslim and Christian refugees fled their villages in August 2008 after the breakdown of a peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which led to widespread regional fighting. "There was a lot of movement among people trying to go back home and finding out it wasn't secure enough, then fleeing again, maybe to a different place," said Stephen Anderson, the World Food Program's director in the Philippines.

December
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo files Certificate of Candidacy

December 1: Arroyo files candidacy papers. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo filed her certificate of candidacy (COC) for congresswoman in the Second District of Pampanga at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) provincial office. Before proceeding to the Comelec office, President Arroyo attended a mass at the St. Augustine Parish Church in Lubao town and graced the "support rally" attended by close to a thousand people.
Critics have assailed Arroyo's candidacy, claiming that she will try to use her presence in Congress to fend off prosecution for ostensibly having committed various crimes as President. They also suggest that she would use the position as a springboard to become Prime Minister if she is successful in implementing her long-cherished goal of "charter change" which would switch Philippines to a Parliamentary form of government.

 

Eduardo Ermita

December 4: Martial Law in Maguindanao. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita announced that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had declared martial law in Maguindanao Province and directed the military to take control there. The proclamation was issued eleven days after the bloody Maguindanao massacre, considered as the worst pre-election violence in Philippine history. "There's a rebellion in the area," Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said. "It was practically an overthrow of government." The clan have built up a heavily armed private army of at least 2,000 men. Presidential spokesman Cerge Remonde told reporters that martial law was also implemented to make it easier to bring members of the Ampatuan clan into custody.
By two days later, 47 people, mostly members of the Ampatuan clan, were arrested in the province, and large quantities of firearmsand ammunition in hidden arms caches were confiscated.
Critics impute ill motives for the imposition of martial law: they assert that for example, under martial law, persons who commit rebellion could be set free by granting them presidential amnesty. The Ampatuans could take advantage of this, and the President could use it for political coverage of her long-time support of the Ampatuan clan. The talk is that she would want to repay the Ampatuans a debt for giving her a fraudulent electoral landslide in the province in the 2004 Presidential, and 2007 Congressional, elections.

 

Agusan del Sur officials

December 10: Tribal gunmen kidnap 75. Tribal gunmen in Agusan del Sur raided a school and abducted 75 people in a bid to highlight a long list of grievances, according to police. Fifteen armed members of the Manobo tribe descended on the New Maasim Elementary School in Agusan del Sur province as children were attending a morning flag ceremony, the provincial police said in a statement. Residents of nearby homes were also abducted. The mass kidnapping continued a terrifying outburst of crimes in the Mindanao region in recent weeks.
The crisis ended on December 13 when the gunmen released the last of their captives. The leader of the kidnappers, Ondo Perez, and his men were turned over to the Archdiocese of Butuan for custody over them while a tribal council reviews their cases. The government has not yet decided whether to file kidanpping charges against the group.

 

dead bodies

December 10: Lotsa killings. The human rights group Karapatan marked International Human Rights Day by releasing its yearend annual report. According to the report, in the eight years and 10 months of the Arroyo administration, there have been 1,118 documented extrajudicial killings, 204 victims of forced disappearances and 1,026 victims of torture in the Philippines. The report also features a comprehensive analysis of the regime's counter-insurgency plan, Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), which Karapatan said is "by far the bloodiest and most brutal counter-insurgency campaign unleashed on the Filipino people by any president" for it "lumps together the armed revolutionary movement, legal and democratic organizations, media and political opposition" as targets to quell the growing dissent against Arroyo's political and economic policies.

 

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita

December 12: Martial law lifted. Following a meeting with her top security advisers, President Arroyo lifted martial law in Maguindanao province. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita told a news conference that the government had achieved its main objectives:

  • Rebellion and multiple murder charges filed against suspects now in custody. Three people were charged with multiple murder, and 24 were charged with rebellion. The Department of Justice is considering posting charges against an additional 247 persons for multiple murder, and 638 for rebellion.
  • Fifty-two arrests were made for the charge of rebellion; 128 members of civilian volunteer organizations surrendered, and 399 others were in the custody of authorities.
  • Clearing of "rebel positions" in several towns in Maguindanao by the police and military.
  • That the criminal justice system was in place and working; and
  • Restoration to normalcy of the local government units, starting with the appointment of Vice Governor Ansarrudin Adiong of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as acting governor.

 

Basilan provincial jail wall

December 13: Basilan jailbreak. Moro rebels smashed their way into the Basilan provincial jail, freeing 31 inmates, in a predawn attack that added to the image of lawlessness in the province. A jail guard and one of the raiders were killed in the assault, which enabled the rebels to rescue two detained Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commanders and several suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group. The raiders used sledgehammers to make an opening on the prison's 18-foot-high rear perimeter wall and used bolt cutters to destroy the padlock of a jail cell where the two MILF commanders were held, before shooting their way out, according to the Basilan police chief.

 

December 17: CPJ: Philippines is number one!
In releasing its tally of journalists killed around the world in 2009, the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based press freedom group, has announced that the Philippines came in first. 31 journalists were killed in the Maguindanao massacre, while a record 68 journalists were killed around the world in 2009. "The killings in the Philippines are a shocking but not entirely surprising product of a long-term reality: The government has allowed unpunished violence against journalists, most of it politically motivated, to become part of the culture," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. The runner-up was Somalia, where nine journalists were killed.

 

December 17: US grants RP $135M. The US Congress has increased Washington's development and security assistance to the Philippines for fiscal year 2010 to $135.1 million dollars, up 13 percent from last year's $119.7 million, according to Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo. He said the amount was higher than the $118.7 million the Obama administration had requested, and that the significant increase was an indication of the US governmen's confidence in and the value it places on its partnership with the Philippines. "The US Congress has always played a key role in ensuring that the alliance between the Philippines and the United States remains strong and is supportive of peace and development efforts in the Philippines," he said. Antonio Tinio, national chairman of the 40,000-strong Alliance of Concerned Teachers said they were appalled that the US had increased its development and military aid "despite the Arroyo government's undisputed track record of gross human rights violations."
So, about that November 5 announcement of the US Congress witholding $2 million military aid to the Philippines? Ha ha ha ha ha....Fogetaboutit!

 

MV Catalyn D....
MV Baleno ....

December 24/26: Two more ferries go down.
On December 24, the ferry Catalyn B sank after it rammed into a deep-sea fishing boat near Manila. 46 people were plucked from the waterway by rescue crews but 23 were still missing and presumed drowned following the early-hours collision between the flimsy wooden-hulled passenger boat and the steel-hulled fishing vessel.. "Catalyn B smashed into the side of the fishing vessel," said the regional coastguard chief, Commodore Luis Tuazon.
On December 26, the MV Baleno 9 sank near Calapan City in Oriental Mindoro. The toll was 6 dead and 36 missing. Based on survivor’s accounts, the vessel began taking in water from the bow ramp that “severely affected the stability of the vessel causing her to list and eventually sink,” the Coast Guard report said.


 

Mayon Volcano

December 25: 10,000 spend Christmas in Mayon evacuation. At least 10,030 families (47,558 people) spent their Christmas in 28 evacuation centers in the province of Albay as Mayon Volcano continues to act up, said the Office of Civil Defense Region 5 (OCD 5).

 

December 30: More crimes reported in '09.
Total crime incidents almost doubled in 2009 compared to the previous year, but the Philippine National Police quickly dismissed impressions that the crime situation was worsening in the country. The PNP reported that in 2009, a total of 101,798 crime incidents were noted, consisting of 61.26 percent of "index crimes" or crimes that are serious in nature and 38.74 percent of non-index crimes. The number was almost twice that of 2008, where 62,148 crime incidents were reported. But PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina said the statistical increase did not necessarily indicate a "worsening crime situation" but "is actually the product of a more efficient and accurate crime reporting."
Yes, that explains it: the PNP is getting more efficient! :-)

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