Text by MARICHU A. VILLANUEVA
Photos courtesy of THE PHILIPPINE STAR
2017 was history in the making for the Philippines. THE PHILIPPINE STAR’s Marichu A. Villanueva lists down the year’s most significant news stories:
(For the first part of the list, click here)
6. EJKs, Kian, Kulot, Carl
The word nanlaban or “trying to fight off policemen” became a household term, becoming the usual reason of the many reported EJKs in the Philippines. The latest to fall in Duterte’s drug war was Reynaldo Parojinog, mayor of Ozamiz City, along with his wife and 10 others who were all slain during a series of pre-dawn police raids at his house in July. The slay of the mayor was subsequently followed by the killings of teenage drug suspects: Kian Loyd delos Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman during police operations.
After he met with parents of the teenagers, President Duterte continued with his public avowals in defending the PNP, the AFP and other law enforcement agencies implementing his anti-drug war dubbed as “Oplan Tokhang.” As of this writing, the President relented to suspend for now “Oplan Tokhang,” and let the anti-drug war be conducted by the PDEA.
At the height of the outcry against the rising number of EJKs, staunch opposition leaders, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague a formal complaint against President Duterte. In June, the two opposition stalwarts
flew to The Hague urging the international tribunal to step in and investigate President Duterte in his bloody campaign against illegal drugs. According to them, the Philippine government has shown no interest to make the Chief Executive accountable for his alleged crimes against humanity.
7. The year of impeachments
A few weeks before the 16th Congress adjourned sine die its first regular sessions in May, Magdalo Rep.
Gary Alejano filed an impeachment complaint against President Duterte before the House Committee on Justice. However, the ruling majority from the President’s PDP-Laban dismissed the complaint for lack of form and substance. The dismissal of Alejano’s complaint effectively insulated President Duterte for one year, or until May 2018, during which he enjoys immunity from any new impeachment attempt.
Four more impeachment cases were filed during the rest of 2017. Two of which gathered grounds and progressed to nearly bringing the cases to the next level of the impeachment trial at the Senate. A formal impeachment complaint was filed against Vice President Leni Robredo, while Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales dared her critics to file one against her.
On Oct. 11, the House of Representatives led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez overturned the decision of its justice committee by voting to impeach Commission on Elections (COMELEC) chairman Andres Bautista after he earlier announced his decision to step down from his post at the end of this year. The impeachment complaint against the Comelec chief stemmed from the public disclosures of his estranged wife who claimed he did not declare his other sources of family income in his statement of assets and net worth (SALN), among other allegations.
President Duterte saved the day for Bautista, when he accepted on Oct. 23 the resignation of the COMELEC chairman effective immediately. Had this not happened, Bautista would have faced the impeachment trial at the Senate. Another impeachable official of the land, Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno is currently undergoing the House Committee on Justice public hearings on complaints filed against her of alleged betrayal of public trust. As of this writing, lawyers of Sereno were trying to prevent a full impeachment trial against the Chief Justice.
8. Jail out for former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada; former President Aquino posts bond to avoid jail
After spending more than three years in Camp Crame for plunder and graft, former Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada was released on bail in September. The Special Fifth Division allowed Estrada to post P1.33 million-bail after it found that “the evidence has not strongly established Estrada as the main plunderer.” Estrada was among the lawmakers indicted by the Ombudsman for alleged misuse of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Meanwhile, the Ombudsman affirmed its indictment of former President Aquino for graft and usurpation of authority over his alleged role in the anti-terrorist operation that led to the deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in January 2015. Aquino subsequently went to the Sandiganbayan Third Division to post P40,000-bail for his temporary liberty. His co-accused ex-PNP Chief Alan Purisima is undergoing trial for this case.
9. The Philippines hosts the ASEAN Leaders’ Summit
While diplomacy may not be a strong suit of President Duterte, he successfully hosted the stream of world leaders who flew to the Philippines to attend the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Leaders’ Summit. The 72-year-old President went about with his back-to-back meetings as chairman of the summit without missing a beat.
It was made more significant by the fact that it coincided with the celebration of the founding anniversary of this 50-year-old regional bloc. The ASEAN leaders hold two summits a year, and the turn of the Philippines to host it fell on the lap of President Duterte who conducted the 30th ASEAN Leaders’ Summit on April 29.
As the chairman of this year’s ASEAN Leaders’ meeting, President Duterte also got to chair and preside over the East Asia Summit (EAS). It brought to the Philippines 11 other heads of governments, along with respective heads of dialogue partners of the ASEAN Regional Forum with international organizations that were likewise convened here following the Leaders’ Summit.
10. Cabinet In, Cabinet Out
President Duterte has had seven out of his original 21 Cabinet officials replaced so far for various reasons, the more grave ones were due to corruption. Unceremoniously fired last April was former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ismael Sueño. The President named DILG Undersecretary Catalino Cuy as “acting” Secretary. For alleged conflict of interest, the President gave the pink slip to Department of Information and Communications Secretary Rodolfo Salalima last month. He has yet to name Salalima’s designated successor.
President Duterte announced last May he is reserving the DILG Secretary for then outgoing AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año, who officially retired after five months in battle in Marawi City. However, Año will have to wait for one more year before he can assume his position as a full Cabinet official. Meanwhile, there would be major movements again in the AFP following the promotion of Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero who took over Año’s post as AFP Chief of Staff. Guerrero was the Eastern Mindanao Command Chief who figured prominently during the battles to retake Marawi. He will serve as AFP Chief of Staff for less than two months, until he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56 years old.
According to the order of their rejection by the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA), the
following Duterte Cabinet officials exited this year, namely, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr.; Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez; Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo; Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano; and Department of Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial.
President Duterte did not lift a finger to save any of them after being bypassed by the CA three times. The President immediately appointed his erstwhile vice-presidential running mate, former Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano as Foreign Affairs Secretary and retired AFP Chief of Staff Roy Cimatu as DENR Secretary. The new secretaries for DICT, DSWD and DAR, as well as the new COMELEC chairman, are yet to be named as of this writing.
This and other top lists for 2017 are published in the People of the Year Dec. 2017-Jan. 2018 issue, in stores now.