Philippines in 2017: The Year in Review

MANILA, Philippines - The year is almost over and Filipinos have witnessed events and stories that affected the country and shaped 2017.

Top Stories Philippines 2017

Take a look as The Summit Express made a lowdown of the top 10 stories that made headlines this year (in chronological order):

1. The 65th Miss Universe Pageant held in the Mall of Asia Arena, Manila (JANUARY 2017)

In a memorable event in the pageant community, the Philippines became the venue of the 65th Miss Universe pageant. It is the third time that the country hosted the event.

On January 30, the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, Manila lit up for a night of glitz and glamour. Beauty queens all over the world gathered to witness the crowning of a new Miss Universe queen.

Our very own Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach passed the crown to the new Miss Universe Iris Mittenaere of France. It had been 63 years since France won in the competition.

Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach passed the crown to Miss France Iris Mittenaere.
Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach passed the crown to Miss France Iris Mittenaere. Photo Courtesy: Miss Universe

The Philippine bet Maxine Medina had wowed the judges and had the loudest cheers from the crowd. Medina placed in the top 6.

The presenters were Steve Harvey and Ashley Graham. Harvey took the time to make jokes about his last fiasco with our Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach.

Philippine bet Maxine Medina placed Top 6 Miss Universe
Philippine bet Maxine Medina placed Top 6. Photo Courtesy: Philstar

You can watch the announcement of the 2016 Miss Universe Iris Mittenaere,

2. Arrest of Senator Leila de Lima (FEBRUARY 2017)

Senator De Lima was allegedly receiving money from drug lords.
Senator De Lima was allegedly receiving money from drug lords. Photo Courtesy: Inquirer

A staunch critic of President Duterte, Senator Leila de Lima was allegedly involved in illegal drugs. The senator was allegedly connected and received “protection money” from drug lords in the New Bilibid Prison. It took 5 months of investigation and witnesses including her alleged lover/driver, Ronnie Dayan that eventually led to her arrest.

It was on February 17, that the court charged De Lima in violation of Section 5 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, which penalizes the "sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of illegal drugs."

De Lima vehemently denied the allegations. The senator claimed that the President is out to get her for her previous call to investigate on extrajudicial killings in Davao City when Duterte was a mayor.

Charges were dropped against Bilibid "drug lords” Herbert Colanggo, Engelbert Durano, Vicente Sy, Jojo Baligad, and Peter Co after testifying against De Lima. The Liberal Party called this unacceptable and claimed their testimonies were only made under duress.

On February 24, Senator De Lima surrendered to the PNP for her arrest. She made a strong statement that the allegations were lies and she has faith in God. She said, “It's my honor to be jailed for the principles I am fighting for.”

Here’s the presscon that Senator De Lima held just before she was arrested:

3. 30th and 31st ASEAN Summits held in Manila (APRIL AND NOVEMBER 2017)

On April 28-29 and November 10-14, 2017, the 30th and 31st ASEAN Summits were held in the Philippines.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states pledged to “promote accountability and transparency in civil service in the region and it is agreed that relevant civil service bodies of each member state will cooperate through the ASEAN Cooperation on Civil Service Matters (ACCSM).”

The ASEAN Summit promotes cooperation in the region.
The ASEAN Summit promotes cooperation in the region. Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

The ASEAN member states include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. All leaders of the member states attended the summits except for Myanmar which was attended by state councillor, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Several world leaders also joined in cooperation and friendly dialogue including were United States President Donald Trump, China Premier Li Keqiang, Russia Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, European Union President Donald Tusk, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, South Korea President Moon Jae-in.

Here are some highlights from the event:

4. Battle of Marawi (MAY-OCTOBER 2017)

The Battle of Marawi lasted for 5 months and displaced 1.1 million civilians.
The Battle of Marawi lasted for 5 months and displaced 1.1 million civilians. Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

The Battle of Marawi or the Marawi Siege was the longest urban battle in the history of the Philippines. The siege started on May 23, 2017 between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and several groups of Islamic militants who claimed to be connected to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), including the Maute and Abu Sayyaf Salafi jihadists.

Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf gathered his group with the Maute group and faced the Philippine army and the local police.

The army admitted that it was a struggle to end the battle because the militants seem to have “unlimited” reinforcements. They were heavily armed with sophisticated guns and armaments. The militants have also made use of underground tunnels and mosques for their hideouts. There were even foreign militants joining the group, who allegedly trained them.

The battle lasted for 5 months with over 95% of the structures in the city heavily damaged. The government released a report noting that the casualties included 974 militants and 165 government forces were killed. Nearly 1.1 million civilians were displaced.

President Duterte frequently visited the troops during the siege.
President Duterte frequently visited the troops during the siege. Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

The government formally called on the end of the war on October 17, 2017 following the deaths of leader Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute. President Duterte declared Marawi to be “liberated from terrorist influence.”

Here’s a quick look at how devastated the city had been after the 5-month long battle:

5. Proclamation of Martial Law in Mindanao (MAY 2017-DECEMBER 2018)

On the verge of escalating conflict in Marawi City, President Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law.

The President was in Moscow when reports came that militants have attacked Marawi City. On May 23, 2017 at Moscow, President Duterte signed Proclamation 216 that declared a state of martial law and suspended the writ of Habeas Corpus in Mindanao for 60 days.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the proclamation is allowed for up an initial period of 60 days and can be extended in cases of “rebellion, invasion or when public safety is required.”

The minority bloc and leftist groups argued that the extension was unnecessary and they feared the proclamation might extend nationwide.

martial law was extended in Mindanao until 2018
In an effort to stop insurgencies in the region, martial law was extended in Mindanao until 2018. Photo Courtesy: ABS-CBN

Despite hesitation and disapproval from critics, the resolution was extended until December 31, 2017. A special joint session between the House of Representatives and the Senate, voted 261-18 lawmakers in favor of the extension.

It only took less than half a day for the lawmakers to approve another extension of the martial law in Mindanao, this time it will last for a full year. On December 13, 2017, a total of 240 lawmakers voted in favor of the extension until December 2018 while 27 lawmakers were against it.

President Duterte requested for the year-long extension following the recommendation of
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana due to rising insurgency in Mindanao.

Here is President Duterte’s reaction on the martial law extension in Mindanao until December 2018:

6. Attack on Resorts World Manila killed 38 civilians (JUNE 2017)

Attack on Resorts World Manila killed 38 civilians
Resorts World Manila was gripped with fear as a lone gunman started opening fire. Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

On June 2, 2017, the Resorts World Manila was gripped with fear when a lone gunman started a violent commotion. Around midnight, the gunman started setting casino tables on fire that caused panic and eventually a stampede. He was carrying a bottle of gasoline and armed with an M4 rifle.

When the gunman started opening fire, people started running for the exit but several decided to stay and hide. At least 36 were reported dead due to smoke inhalation of toxic fumes. One Korean guest died due to heart attack. Bodies were recovered in the casino room and bathrooms.

By 1:30 AM, SWAT team arrived and a gunfire erupted. The gunman, allegedly wounded, locked himself in room 510 of the Maxims Hotel. He lit the room on fire and committed suicide by shooting himself in the head and setting himself on fire. Alongside his burnt body, the bag of gambling chips that he stole, a rifle and a pistol were recovered.

A probe was opened on June 7, 2017 by the House of Representatives' Committee on Public Order and Safety and the Committee on Games and Amusement. The Resorts World Manila admitted the lapse on their security but was confident they practiced their emergency protocol.

On June 29, Resorts World resumed its gambling operations. They also hired new agency to tighten its security.

Here is the footage showing how the armed gunman was able to enter the premises:

7. The War on Drugs Campaign: The Ozamiz Raid and Killing of Kian delos Santos (JULY-AUGUST 2017)

Even during the election campaign, President Duterte had been adamant that he will fight to stop illegal drugs in the country. The War on Drugs campaign have been rolled out and several of its stories have captured the nation.

Duterte War on Drugs Campaign
The President presented his narco-politicians and warned everyone. Photo Courtesy: CNN Philippines

On July 30, 2017 at dawn, a group of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) conducted a raid on the property of Ozamiz Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog. The team was supposed to serve a search warrant after the Parojinogs were named as narco-politicians. Allegedly, Parojinog’s team of securities started to open fire on the authorities prompting a gunfire between the two groups.

The raid that turned violent resulted to 15 persons killed including Mayor Parojinog and his wife. The authorities recovered several arms including a rifle, grenades, .45 pistols, about P1.4 million in cash, 500 grams of suspected illegal drugs, two cellphones, and an M16 rifle. Vice Mayor Nova Parojinog-Echavez and her brother, Reynaldo Jr were arrested and brought to Camp Crame.

The Parojinogs denied any involvement in illegal drugs and claimed that the recovered arms and illegal drugs were “planted.” They also denied firing at the authorities and claimed that the raid was a “rubout.”

A few months after, another controversial case had divided the nation. On August 16, 2017, a 17-year-old student Kian delos Santos was fatally shot by authorities while conducting a drug operation in Caloocan, Manila.

A CCTV footage was able to capture two uninformed policemen dragging the minor in a dark alley where Delos Santos’ body would soon be found.

Much controversy surrounded the event not only because Delos Santos was a minor but because the involved policemen’s version of events were different from the CCTV footage. The authorities also insisted that while Delos Santos was not on the watch list, he was actually a “runner” of illegal drugs for his uncle.

President Duterte reminded the police to not abuse their powers. He was quoted saying to PNP Chief Dela Rosa, “hulihin mo na at kulungin mo ang mga pulis na dawit sa pagkasawi ni Kian.”

On August 25, Delos Santos’ family filed murder and torture charges against police officers involved in the drug operation.

Here is the meet-up between President Duterte and Delos Santos’ parents at Malacanang:

8. Presidential son, Paolo Duterte appears in Senate for P6.4 billion shabu issue (SEPTEMBER 2017)

During the House of the Representatives’ investigation on the P6.4 billion worth of shabu shipment, Presidential son, Paolo Duterte and brother in-law Mans Carpio were mentioned by drug “fixer” and customs broker Mark Taguba. Taguba claims that Duterte is part of the “Davao group” that uses their influence in Customs to allow the entry of illegal drugs.

Photos showing Duterte and other personalities involved in the drug scandal had surfaced on social media. President Duterte denied the allegations and called it mere propaganda. The President even instructed the PNP to kill Paolo if his involvement with illegal drugs is proven.

A series of tirade had erupted between the President and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, one of his staunch critics.

Watch Paolo Duterte answers allegations hurled by Senator Trillanes:

9. P1,000 Commission on Human Rights (CHR) 2018 budget (SEPTEMBER 2017)

There was a public uproar when the House of Representatives gave the Commission on Human Right a 2018 budget of P1,000.

On September 12, 2017, 119 lawmakers approved the P1,000 CHR budget.

119 lawmakers made the “clenched fist” sign in a unitary move to approve the P1,000 CHR budget
The 119 lawmakers made the “clenched fist” sign in a unitary move to approve the P1,000 CHR budget. Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

The CHR with its leader, Chito Gascon had been very vocal of the administration’s alleged human rights abuses in its War on Drugs campaign. The agency had also been criticized for “not doing its job” and focused solely on the administration’s actions and being mum on other abuses.

CHR Commissioner Gwen Pimentel Gana confirmed that House Speaker Alvarez had asked Gascon to resign and if not, the P1,000 budget will be approved.

On September 20, the CHR along with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) had their 2018 budgets restored. The CHR’s 2018 budget of P508.5 million finally was approved.

Here is Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez defending the P1,000 CHR budget:

10. The Anti-Dengue Vaccine, Dengvaxia Health Scare (DECEMBER 2017)

The world’s first anti-dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia is in the middle of controversy after its makers admitted several health warnings.

world’s first vaccine, Dengvaxia caused a national health scare
The world’s first vaccine, Dengvaxia caused a national health scare. Photo Courtesy: Mims

The French pharmaceutical Sanofi Pasteur had released a warning about the effects of Dengvaxia to those who have no history of dengue. They admitted that the vaccine would only be beneficial to those who have already been infected with dengue before. But for those who haven’t been exposed to the dengue virus, it could cause severe hospitalisation.

This resulted to a public uproar after almost 733,000 school children were part of the Dengvaxia national immunization program. Under the Aquino administration, the government procured P3.5 billion worth of the vaccine.

A Senate probe had begun and former Health Secretary Janette Garin denied any anomalies surrounding the procurement of Dengvaxia. She clarified that there was no corruption or “fast-tracking” of negotiations to benefit them. Garin continued that the DOH acted “based on the data available at that.”

Senator Richard Gordon had been vocal that the Aquino administration along the Sanofi Pasteur should be held liable for the “health scare.”

Aquino appeared before the Senate and vowed that he acted on “good faith.” He clarified that he was not advised of the dangers of the vaccine. He was not even informed about Sanofi Pasteur’s issues of bribery and corruption in some parts of the world.

The Senate probe is still ongoing but here is Aquino’s statement:

Which one were you most affected about?

— Sally, The Summit Express

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