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The Friday Briefing: Could Christmas have been any worse for Filipinos?



Any journalists hoping for a relaxing Christmas break would have been sorely disappointed this past week. As if typhoon Nina wasn’t enough, there were bombs, shootings, rumours of nefarious American plots (see our report here) and more “provocative” statements from the president. Here’s our executive summary of the week that was:

Please speak clearly

We’ve been accused of pedalling “fake news” for our report of Wednesday’s Leyte bomb attack (see here, and here). To be clear, the president’s official spokesman announced that 10 had been killed, which we reported in good faith. This claim was later retracted. This is not the first time that poor communication from the Malacañang has caused confusion and upset. Now the Filipino journalist union has spoken up on the issue. Read The Inquirer’s report here.

Call me Scarface

In the latest baffling statement from the president (that’s almost certain to be dismissed as “a joke” or flatly denied by palace spokesmen at some point) Mr Duterte claimed he once threw somebody out a helicopter. He then threatened to do the same to anyone misusing public funds intended for the typhoon Nina clear-up operation. UK newspaper The Daily Mail has details here, along with a pretty decent summary of the first six months of The Punisher’s rule.

Oh, hang on, what was that?

Here’s another example. Remember all those times the president told the police to go out and kill drug pushers? Really? Do you? Well you’re wrong. It never happened. You must have been imagining things, or perhaps you’re on drugs yourself. (That fentanyl is strong stuff.) To help correct your faulty recollection, please read this report from The Inquirer here.

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No, not you! You’re OK my friend…

Right, one last example. Just the other day, the president said that “three out of five Americans are idiots”. Of course, he didn’t mean American people generally. Oh no, of course not. He meant the government, as in the outgoing administration. Actually just Obama. “Three out of five Obamas are idiots”. That’s clearly what he meant. GMA News helps provide some much-needed clarity here.

Rock on

Whoever did (or didn’t) say what to whom, or when, or why, police chief Ronald “The Rock” dela Rosa has announced that the war on drugs is being won. The nation’s top cop reckons his force is 70% of the way to its official six-month target. However, The Manilla Bulletin disputes this claim here.

Keep it beautiful, baby

Here at PLN we’ve received reports of homeless people being scooped up off the streets of central Manila in the run-up to the Miss Universe pageant. With commendable honesty, Mr Duterte has spoken out against this policy of cosmetic cleansing. The Manila Bulletin has more on this here.

Beggars belief

So, it turns out that a quite sensible law to prevent begging was so poorly drafted that it accidentally criminalised the tradition of carol singing. The president has quite rightly announced his intention to reform the country’s “mendicancy” laws. The Manila Standard has more here.

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Birth control

Despite reservations from the Catholic Church, it seems a government plan to distribute condoms to students will go ahead next year. Bishops fear the policy might, somehow, lead teenagers to start thinking about having sex. Because, of course, left to their own devices, it wouldn’t ever enter their innocent little heads to make “the beast with two backs”. Read more at ABS-CBN here.

Preaching to the choir

Not a good week for the bishops, I think. The president has criticised the Catholic Church for not getting fully behind his war on drugs. I mean, it’s only reasonable that a religion that worries about killing spermatozoa should support people being shot in the streets, right? The Manila Standard has more here.

Peace on earth, goodwill to men

While it hardly seems news-worthy these days, it should be reported that five drug suspects were gunned down by police on Christmas Day. I do hope the officers involved were paid overtime for working on the big day. For details of this festive blood-letting, see The Manila Times here.

Drug bust

Just in case any cynics out there start to doubt whether the whole war on drugs thing is just a front for tightening a grip on society, a huge haul of meth has been seized in Manila. Reuters has details here.

Blow out

Thankfully, Typhoon Nina (or Nock-ten) didn’t cause a fraction as much death and destruction as feared. While not to diminish the several deaths and the sadness of thousands who had their Christmas celebrations interrupted, the Philippines got off rather lightly with this one. That said, the storm is still affecting lives. The Inquirer has more here.

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It’s an ill wind…

However, the typhoon did provide an opportunity for some political point scoring. Critics have questioned why Vice President Robredo didn’t rush back from her Christmas celebrations in the USA to show support for the beleaguered provinces. Whether this is behind her recent drop in public popularity is anyone’s guess. ABS-CBN reports on the latest satisfaction ratings for the nation’s politicians here.

Comrades calling

In the latest indication of the Malanañang’s shift in foreign policy, it’s been announced that the Russian Navy will make a “goodwill” visit to Manila next week. Because nothing says “I love you” like a warship. Rappler has details here.

Cheer up, folks

Despite all the doom and gloom, the Filipinos remain a cheerful bunch. The Philippine Star has reported that 95% of the population are optimistic about the coming year. Read more here.

Hardened criminals

In what has become an annual tradition, gay and transgender inmates of Quezon City Jail have held their own Miss Universe pageant. Wearing elaborate mardi-gras style costumes, the cross-dressing inmates brought some festive cheer to one of the world’s most congested prisons. Read The Manila Times report here.

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