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Top 10 political events of 2020 in the Philippines

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Stephen Roan
Stephen Matthew S. Roan is a Global Affairs Columnist at Politixxx Today. He previously served as Editor-in-Chief of The Bedan Roar, the official student publication of San Beda University-Rizal SHS. He was also a former Vice-President of the Bedan Model United Nations and a Student Council Board Member. With a keen interest in global politics and affairs, and as an advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals, he is now part of a youth-led network in the Asia-Pacific - the 2030 Youth Force in the Philippines - which helps realize the 2030 Agenda. He is also pursuing his undergraduate studies at De La Salle University-Manila under the Bachelor of Arts in International Studies Major in American Studies degree program. You may reach him through his email: stephenmatthewroan@yahoo.com.

The year 2020 was a rollercoaster ride for us Filipinos. Even though political drama existed even before 2020, this year was filled with it. As the year 2019 ended with the drama of Vice President Robredo being fired as drug czar, an unexpected sequence of events brought us the coronavirus scare – which has affected the country even after the year has ended – and numerous issues amidst the pandemic to the recent unauthorized vaccination scandal among the presidential security detail. As 2020 has ended, let us take a look back at the top 10 political events that shaped the year. 

  1. P15 billion missing PhilHealth funds 
Photo courtesy from GMA News

Dubbed as the “crime of the year”, the government’s national health insurance company (PhilHealth) faced allegations of a P15 billion corruption. Whistle-blower and former PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer Thorrsson Montes Keith revealed during a Senate investigation that a ‘mafia’ of PhilHealth’s top executives siphoned money off from the agency though different fraudulent schemes. It was also revealed that the agency would run out of funds by 2022 due to increased payouts for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  1. ABS-CBN shutdown
Photo courtesy from Philnews

ABS-CBN, the largest media company in the country, was forced to go off-air as the network received a cease-and-desist order from the National Telecommunications Commission with the expiration of the network’s franchise. Despite a survey revealing that 75% of Filipinos are in favor of the network’s operations, the Philippine Congress denied the renewal of a 25-year legislative franchise due to series of allegations on foreign ownership, labor practices, tax issues, partisanship, acquisition of property after Martial Law. As a result of the network’s shutdown, media coverage for 70 million Filipinos is now at a pause and 11,000 employees are in jeopardy. 

  1. Anti-Terror Law of 2020
A protester wearing a face mask demonstrates against the Philippines’ new anti-terrorism law on July 4, in Quezon city, Metro Manila. Earlier this month, President Rodrigo Duterte approved a law that critics say could lead to more human rights abuses. Photo from NPR.

Last July 3, President Duterte signed the Anti-Terror Law despite calls and massive opposition against the counterterrorism law. The new anti-terror law repeals the Human Security Act of 2007 – which was already problematic when it was signed by then Pres. Gloria Arroyo – and raised concerns on unconstitutionality brought by its vague definition on terrorism making the law prone to be abused. 

Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio even expressed his opposition against the law and filed a petition against the law before the High Court. Carpio explained that the anti-terror law ‘penalizes’ freedom of speech and that it can be challenged right away because of it. The law also allows warrantless arrests against suspected terrorists – which is against the Constitution – and prompted several groups to challenge its constitutionality before the Supreme Court. 

  1. Sinas holds mañanita despite NCR Lockdown
VIOLATION? NCRPO chief Major General Debold Sinas parties with cops at Camp Bagong Diwa on May 8, 2020, despite a ban on public gatherings under quarantine. NCRPO photo.

Then Metro Manila top cop Debold Sinas received criticism from the public after he held a mañanita birthday celebration despite an ongoing ban on mass gatherings while the country’s strictest lockdown was in place last May 8. The surprise early morning serenade or mañanita was organized by the NCRPO with dozens of cops attending the event. 

However, Philippine National Police chief Archie Gamboa dismissed the case as there was apparently no violation because the cops practiced social distancing throughout the event. President Duterte was also quick to defend Sinas as he absolved the NCRPO chief from the alleged quarantine violation, and eventually promoted Sinas as the PNP chief on Nov. 10.

  1. Taguig cop shoots mother and son in Tarlac
Taguig policeman Jonel Nuezeca pulls out a gun during a heated argument with neighbors Frank and Sonya Gregorio. Photo from CNN Philippines

An off-duty policeman from Taguig shot dead two unarmed mother and son at Tarlac due to a heated argument over noise complaints last December 20. The incident was caught on camera and went viral on social media right after. 

Policeman Jonel Nuezeca stormed off to his neighbors’ property over the use of a homemade cannon which produces a loud booming noise. During an exchange of words between Nuezeca and the Gregorios, Nuezeca suddenly pulled out his gun and shot his neighbors in the head. Nuezeca’s daughter was even beside him as he pulled the trigger. 

After the incident, the cop eventually surrendered and was charged with two counts of murder. Records show that the Taguig cop has faced multiple disciplinary actions in the past and even homicide allegations. 

Critics of the government say that it is the culture of impunity and lawlessness that inflamed police brutality which killed Sonya and Frank Gregorio.  

  1. Police kills war veteran Winston Ragos
CCTV Footage from where an QC policeman points a gun to retired military Winston Ragos.

Winston Ragos, a retired military officer, was shot by a police officer for allegedly trying to pull a gun on a checkpoint in Quezon City. Ragos, a Marawi siege war veteran, was suffering from PTSD when he was shot by the police officer. 

Despite bystanders and witnesses easing down the situation as they explained Paragos’ psychological state, the police shot down Ragos. The incident was caught on CCTV and went viral on social media. It was later on found out that Ragos was not carrying a gun and was only carrying a bottle of water and a quarantine pass in his bag.

The issue raised concerns as police reports say that Ragos was carrying a gun to try and justify the killing but on-the-scene witnesses say that he wasn’t. As the scene involves four armed men versus a civilian with a lethal force, QC government says they will be investigating the matter. 

  1. Sulu police kills four army intel officers
CCTV Footage where Jolo, Sulu police fired over the car of slain four Army intel officers.

Four Army intelligence officers were gunned down by Sulu policemen even without a gunfight. The AFP is seeking investigation on the matter as the four intel officers were simply inside their car trying to explain their presence to the cops. The intel officers were also wearing civilian clothes as they were conducting an operation to track down alleged terrorists in the area. When the cops were trying to verify their identities, the police asked them to report to the nearest police station – which the army officers did – but then when they reached the destination, the cops opened fire to the soldiers. 

Conflicting reports from the police and the army on whether the soldiers pulled out their guns or not became the reason for an impartial investigation to be called. The NBI was tasked to probe on the incident and the cops involved in the shooting were detained and disarmed as per DILG Secretary Año who was a former military but now supervises the Philippine National Police. 

  1. Frontliners’ plead for pause, revert to ECQ
TIMEOUT. Medical frontliners from the Philippine General Hospital are seen to be lying on the floor to rest even with their personal protective gears on. The viral photo emerged as medical groups called for a ‘timeout’ as COVID cases surged hospitals.

Several groups of medical doctors pleaded with the President to revert back Metro Manila to the strictest Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) as cases surged and hospitals were overwhelmed with patients.

As a response to the call of the frontliners, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque boasted the efforts of the government to try and contain the virus that if they did not act as they had, the country would have had 3.5 million cases of coronavirus. Roque also said that IATF would discuss the possibility of reverting back to ECQ. 

Meanwhile, the President has a different take on the matter and criticized the medical frontliners for airing their sentiments in public when they could’ve asked for an audience with the administration. “Do not try to demean ]the] government. You’re not actually criticizing. You demean my government, your own government,” Duterte said during his speech. “Then you threaten a revolution. This is our country. You want us to destroy it? Start it now,” he added. 

Duterte also said that it was not necessary for a lot of doctors to tell them what to do publicly when they could’ve written a letter. He also said that resources are running out and the country has suffered economically. 

  1. Manila Bay Dolomite Beach
Aerial view of the artificial Dolomite ‘white sand beach’ along Manila Bay, Roxas Boulevard as part of DENR’s beautification project for Manila Bay.

The administration’s Dolomite Beach project along Manila Bay, Roxas Boulevard worth P389.8 million drew criticism for such an unnecessary project amidst a public health emergency and economic crisis. 

Vice President Leni Robredo said that the funds should have been used for economic aid for the poor amidst an economic crisis. She also said that the beautification project shouldn’t have been prioritized as it is deemed insensitive especially during the pandemic where many are hungry and suffering. 

Education Secretary Leonor Briones admitted that the budget used for the ‘white sand beach’ would have been useful to purchase gadgets, computers, and radio equipment for students’ blended and distanced learning. 

Environmental advocates then said that the budget would’ve been useful if utilized to cover Manila Bay’s coast with mangroves – an important feature in the marine ecosystem and coastal community – where the budget would’ve been sufficient to cover 13,000 hectares of mangroves.

  1. Typhoon Ulysses damages Luzon
Aerial footage of the extent of damage of the massive flooding brought by Typhoon Ulysses in Luzon. Photo by Senator Bong Go from CNN Philippines.

When Typhoon Ulysses entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility, people in Metro Manila and Luzon were not expecting rainfall and flooding as severe as Typhoon Ondoy back in 2009. The heavy rains flooded Metro Manila and severely affected Marikina City. Some dams in Central Luzon went over spilling level and poured over the Cagayan River which caused massive floods over cities and towns of Cagayan and Isabela. 

After the onslaught of the Typhoon, people were shocked by the huge number of families needing rescue using #RescuePH on social media. Netizens were quick to  notice that there was an apparent lack of response of the government and that there was no word from the Palace with the devastation of Typhoon Ulysses and the hashtag #NasaanANgPangulo trended over social media as well.

While President Duterte spoke to the nation after the typhoon ravaged the country, he blamed his critics for trending the hashtag but explained that he was on top of the situation before, during, and after the typhoon hit.

As a result, countless donations from private donors and ordinary citizens poured over Cagayan, Isabela, Marikina, and all those affected by the massive flood. 

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