Text by MARICHU A. VILLANUEVA
Photos courtesy of THE PHILIPPINE STAR
The year 2017 saw many earthshaking events in the Philippines that took place under the watch of President Rodrigo Duterte. Less than a year in office at Malacañan Palace, President Duterte’s leadership came under armed challenge from local terrorist groups inspired by the deadly Islamic States (IS), an international terrorist group that threatened to take over Marawi City. On the political front, the new administration of President Duterte found itself under heavy fire throughout the year, battling accusations of human rights violations in the conduct of the all-out war against illegal drugs. These developments took place as the backdrop of the most significant events that catapulted President Duterte to the international limelight. Here they are:
1. Miss Universe 2016 held in Manila
The first major international event that took place at the start of 2017 was the staging of the Miss Universe beauty pageant in the Philippines. This was the third time our country played host to the pageant, where three Filipino beauty queens took home the crown. The 65th Miss Universe pageant was held on Jan. 30 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. The reigning Miss Universe, Pia Wurtzbach of the Philippines, crowned Iris Mittenaere of France as her successor.
2. Sen. Leila De Lima arrested
Sen. Leila De Lima maintained the allegations against her as “political persecution” in her counter petitions at court, while she remains at Camp Crame Custodial Center in Quezon City. In October, the Supreme Court en banc voted 9-6 to dismiss De Lima’s petition, and upheld the lower court’s jurisdiction over her drug case. Lawmakers from the European Parliament and other human rights groups have since supported her cause. They accused President Duterte of purportedly trying to veer attention away from investigations on many reported extrajudicial killings (EJKs) that De Lima was conducting at the Senate.
3. P6.4-billion shabu smuggling
While police were waging the anti-illegal drugs war of the Duterte administration, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) bungled the seizure of P6.4 billion worth of shabu that was smuggled from China. BOC agents seized the contraband in a Valenzuela City warehouse in May, without prior coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as mandated by law.
Mark Taguba, a broker-turned-whistleblower, claimed bribing several BOC officials after the shabu shipment was traced to him. Taguba dragged presidential son and Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte into the controversy as the alleged “Davao Group” behind the smuggling activities during the public hearings conducted in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
BOC officials implicated in the shabu smuggling (led by ex-Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon) resigned one after the other. The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee cited Faeldon for contempt and has since then remained in detention at the Senate. Pesident Duterte immediately appointed PDEA director-general Isidro Lapeña to replace Faeldon.
Damaged houses, buildings, and a mosque are seen inside the main
battle area in Marawi City /Photo by Kriz John Rosales
4. Martial law declared in Mindanao
The Marawi siege first erupted when IS-influenced Abu Sayyaf and Maute terror groups took over the largely Muslim-dominated capital city of Lanao del Sur on May 23. A few hours after he flew to Moscow for his state visit to Russia, President Duterte cut short his trip after he declared martial law in Mindanao.
Following the confirmed slay by government troopers of IS-inspired leaders, Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, President Duterte declared on Oct. 17 the liberation of besieged Marawi City from terrorists. The successful operations to regain control of Marawi City came 148 days into the crisis.
As of this writing, President Duterte declared it would be up to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines
(AFP) to recommend to him if there is still a need for martial law, which —
as earlier approved by the 17th Congress — will lapse on Dec. 31, 2017.
5. Sen. Manny Pacquiao loses title bout
On July 2, Filipino boxing legend and now senator, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, bowed to still undefeated Jeff Horn in a title bout at the fully packed Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia. The judges gave Horn a unanimous decision to become the new WBO Welterweight champion. The 11-time world champion was the hot favorite, but he lost the match to the much younger 29-year-old Australian boxer. Pacquiao dominated Horn, but the judges’ decision disappointed his fans here and abroad. Pacquiao went back to his Senate duties and is reportedly frustrated by politics, while mulling whether he will run for re-election in 2022 or vie for higher office.