Philippines. The May presidential election became a grand victory for Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino. He received 42 percent of the vote against 26 for second, former president Joseph Estrada. Aquino, who was previously a relatively anonymous congressman, had a reputation for being honest and corruption-free. He was best known as the son of two famous advocates of democracy: former President Corazon Aquino, who passed away in 2009, and her husband Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino who was murdered in 1983. When the mother died, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos mourned and “Noynoy” was persuaded to stand for the Liberal Party in the presidential election.
In the congressional elections, Arroyo’s valallians, Lakas-Kampi-CMD, were the biggest. The Liberal Party became the second largest. Some criticism of the election came from international observers. There were reports of violence, harassment, threats and the purchase of votes, and a new computer system was flawed so that long queues arose in several places. At least ten people were reported killed on election day.
According to COUNTRYAAH, Philippines has a population of 106.7 million (2018). The outgoing President Gloria Arroyo, who for constitutional reasons could not be re-elected to the post, was elected a member of the House of Representatives. So did Imelda Marcos, 80-year-old widow of deceased dictator Ferdinand Marcos. In the governor’s election in Maguindanao, Ismael Mangudadatu, whose wife, sisters and other relatives were murdered in a celebrated massacre in November 2009, prevailed.
Trials against nearly 200 people who had been indicted for involvement in the massacre began in September. The main accused was Andal Ampatuan, son of the then provincial governor of the same name and himself a candidate for the governor post. The father and several family members were among the defendants. According to the indictment, the younger Ampatuan himself led a riot of militiamen and police who in a brutal assault killed at least 57 people on one road. In addition to Mangudadatu’s relatives, the victims also had more than 30 journalists who would guard when his candidacy for the elections was registered.
The Maguindanao massacre focused on the many private armies in the Philippines, often with the good memory of the authorities. The Ampatuan family was allied with President Gloria Arroyo, but was excluded from her party after the massacre. For the anniversary of the massacre, the human rights organization Human Rights Watch presented a report of extensive abuse committed by the Ampatuan clan for 20 years.
President Aquino encountered resistance when he plunged into widespread corruption. The Supreme Court, whose members were appointed by Arroyo, halted an investigation into corruption crimes during her reign. The court also stopped Aquino’s attempt to dismiss an ombudsman, and to withdraw appointments made by Arroyo just before the election.
Sharp criticism was directed at the Manila police for handling a hostage frame on a bus in August. A dismissed policeman who demanded the job again held Hong Kong tourists hostage. After twelve hours, the police stormed the bus, resulting in eight tourists and the hijacker killed. In Hong Kong, the authorities demanded an investigation and warned their residents to travel to the Philippines.
Abu Sayyaf leader dead
The Philippine military says Furuji Indama, leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group on the island of Basilan, was so badly wounded in a confrontation with the army in September that he later died. Indama is accused of organizing the kidnapping of 20 tourists from Palawan Island in 2001 and several attacks on Basilan 2018. Indama’s death is believed to weaken Abu Sayyaf, whose top leader Isnilon Hapilon was killed in the siege of the city of Marawi in 2017 (see May-October 2017).
New action to combat covid-19
All cemeteries in Manila will be closed for the first time during All Saints’ Day on November 1. The measure is being taken as part of efforts to stop the new coronavirus from spreading further. The number of new cases of covod-19 has continued to increase rapidly in the metropolitan area. As of September 14, the Philippines has had 265,000 confirmed cases of covid-19 and 4,600 people have died from the disease.
Duterte pardons American soldier convicted of murder
President Rodrigo Duterte pardons the American soldier who killed a trans woman in 2014 while in the country to take part in a Philippine-American military exercise. The week before, a court had ruled that he should be released after serving half of his ten-year prison sentence, citing good behavior. However, he remained in prison awaiting appeal. The pardon, which Duterte emphasizes is his personal decision, brings to life old anti-American sentiments in the Philippines. Later, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the pardon could give the Philippines access to vaccines from US drug companies. At the same time, he emphasizes that this is his personal opinion.