Spotlight on 2012: The Top Twelve Highlights in the Philippine Political Arena

Former Supreme Court Cheif Justice Renato Corona is the first public official to be removed from office via the impeachment process. (photo source: Supreme Court website: sc.judiciary.gov.ph)
Former Supreme Court Cheif Justice Renato Corona is the first public official to be removed from office via the impeachment process. (photo source: Supreme Court website: sc.judiciary.gov.ph)

by Mariejo Ramos

In 2012, Filipinos saw nature’s fury at its greatest with weather disturbances such as the habagat in August and typhoon Pablo wreaking havoc on the country and causing death and damage on a massive scale. However, aside from the literal downpour that changed the lives of many of our countrymen, several issues and controversies also marked this year. Like it or not, these events shaped the nation’s course, and will most likely continue to influence political activity in 2013.

Here is a list of the top twelve political highlights that make 2012 a memorable year:

1. Corona faces impeachment

When the impeachment trial of former chief justice Renato Corona formally began last January, the country was once again swept into biases akin to soap opera patronage as media coverage and Senate impeachment court drama heat up the deliberations.

Corona was accused of corruption and protecting former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, with cases of election fraud and corruption leveled against her. With a vote of 20-3, Corona was removed from his post after the court found him guilty of betraying public trust and committing culpable violation of the Constitution.

Corona was the first government official to be convicted by the Senate impeachment court.

2. Philippines enters dispute with China

When the Philippine government protested the presence of Chinese “fishing boats” in the West Philippine Sea (which was labelled such, rather than South China Sea, due to the standing disagreement between the two countries), the two nations both weren’t ready to raise the white flag over the maritime territorial dispute that later ensued.

In what seems to be a cold war between the Philippines and powerhouse China, this tug-of-war over various islands in the West Philippine Sea has constantly grabbed headlines this year.

3. DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo dies from a plane crash

On August 18, the country was shaken by the news that a plane carrying Department of the Interior and Local Government Jesse Robredo and three others crashed in the waters off Masbate. After days of persistent efforts on search-and-rescue operations which later became operations for retrieval, the 54-year-old secretary, along with his pilot and co-pilot, was proclaimed dead.

With the news of his death came the abundant support from his followers, mainly from his constituents in Naga City, where he held mayorship for two full terms and was known for his “tsinelas leadership.

On October, succumbing to pressure, his widow Leni filed her certificate of candidacy to represent the third district of Camarines Sur in Congress.

4. PNoy issues new policy on mining

It was indeed a memorable year for the mining industry—in every sense of the word.

On July 2010, President Benigno Aquino signed Executive Order 79 which bans mining in prime agricultural and fishing area and eco-tourism sites.

This move is a clear response to the growing resistance to mining operations, except that with the new policy, the government expects to extract more revenues from mining by increasing tax. True enough, the policy has overlooked the possibilities of mining disasters such as the Philex mining spill in Benguet – one of the worst mining spill that happened in the country.

The amended version of EO 79 was formalized last October 10.

5. Sin tax bill signed into law

If there’s a will, there’s a way – at least, as evidenced by the rather speedy passage of the Sin Tax law.

When President Benigno Aquino III signed into law the Sin Tax reform bill on December 20, his early Christmas gift is not only the passage of the bill, but the manifestation of his administration’s priorities.

In a close vote of 10-9 in the Senate, the bill was ratified on December 11. The newly signed bill will take effect January 1 of 2013.

Additional revenues which will be raised from the measure would go to the government’s health care program. The fulfilment of this goal is the next important story to watch out for.

6. RH bill signed into law after a 13-year wait

After 13 years of painful deliberations, tug-of-war based on values and beliefs, and personal biases and principles which have pushed the bill to near-death, the controversial Reproductive Health bill was finally signed into law on December 21.

The bicameral report of the bill passed both chambers of the Congress with 11-5 vote at the Senate and 133-79 at the House of Representatives.

Now known as Republic Act No. 10354 or the “Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012,” the law aims to ease access to reproductive health and family planning services.

7. FOI bill still languishing in Congress

Promises, though already overdue, can only go too far.

For the Freedom of Information Bill, 2012 was definitely not its year. Though FOI was successfully passed in the Senate on third and final reading, the bill was constantly buried in the House of Representatives until it ended sessions for 2012. With only nine remaining session days in the House next year, proponents of the bill worry that its passage will be imperilled.

8. Sereno named as first female Chief Justice

This year was a year of firsts in Philippine judiciary. After the first impeachment trial conviction of Renato Corona early this year, the country’s justice system welcomed its first female chief.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was chosen by the president from the shortlist of the Judiciary Bar Council, which includes five other justices, to hold the highest post in the Supreme Court and its 24th Chief Justice.

9. Sotto accused of plagiarism

This year, a new word was invented courtesy of SenatorVicente Sotto III: sotto-copy.

Accused of lifting passages from a US-based blogger, and for translating and stealing parts of a speech of the late US Senator Robert Kennedy, Sotto instantly but shamefully became an icon of plagiarism.

Sotto refuses to apologize and maintains his stand that he has never committed such acts.

10. Still no justice for Ampatuan Massacre victims

Three years after the gruesome killing of 58 people in Maguindanao, the perpetrators managed yet again to avoid conviction.

Primary suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr. faces detention in Taguig City. His brother, Zaldy Ampatuan, was listed as accused December this year. Zaldy pleaded not guilty. On the other hand, the Supreme Court overturned its earlier decision and disallowed the live coverage of the trial, much to the grief of the families of the victims.

Journalists and human rights advocates commemorated the massacre’s third year on November 23 carrying mock coffins in a march to Mendiola. They demanded the government to speed up the trial for the single worst attack on media workers since 1986.

11. Enrile retracts ‘Act of Contrition’ in 1986

Fiction or non-fiction.

In his recently published memoir, Enrile revealed that the 1972 ‘staged ambush’ used by Marcos to justify the declaration of Martial Law was a hoax. He wrote:

“The incessant claim that I staged and faked my ambush to justify the declaration of martial law was simply and obviously a malicious and idiotic effort to attack and defame me.”

What prompted Enrile to retract his statements 26 years later remains a puzzle that earlier reports and his own 754-page memoir can never fathom.

12. Angry citizens strike back against Cybercrime Law

Perhaps no other issue received frenzy as much as the Cybercrime Prevention Act, especially online.

When RA 10175 was signed into law on September, protests sprouted in various ways possible to condemn its perceived unconstitutional provisions, specifically the provision on online libel. From the hacking of many government websites to profile pictures on social networking sites turned to black, the netizens made sure that their voices would be heard on the matter.

Due to overwhelming discussions against the law, the Supreme Court issued a 120-day temporary restraining order against the controversial act’s implementation. The TRO will end on February, sparking the debates once more on the controversial issue that threatens the freedom on the Internet. With a report from Jhesset Thrina Enano.

Author: TNP

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