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Faces of the news

/ 05:58 AM March 18, 2018

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz

Suddenly, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples (IPs) found herself being described as a terrorist and included in a list of alleged members of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Some 600 others were named in the list as the government renews its campaign against the Reds after a brief postelection dalliance. This was payback for her statement of concern over martial law in Mindanao and its impact on IPs, said this indigenous leader from the Kankanaey Igorot people of the Cordillera Administrative Region in northern Philippines. Though she fears for her safety and those of other rights activists, Corpuz said she’s standing her ground. After all, she enjoys immunity from arrest or detention as a member of the United Nations.

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Ice Seguerra

Singer and former child actor Ice Seguerra resigned as chair of the National Youth Commission on March 5, a year and a half after assuming the post. Seguerra personally conveyed his decision to leave the government to President Duterte, whom he campaigned for during the 2016 elections, saying he wanted to avoid speculations. Though Seguerra did not detail the reasons for his decision, he left a message for the youth in his Facebook post: They form the heart of society and they must be heard, the actor reminded them. He also took note of the current “divisive society,” and asked the youth to lead the country in finding common ground to bring people together. He ended his message with a simple reminder: Be kind, always.

Peter Lim and Kerwin Espinosa

The government’s antidrug war unraveled this week with some surprising twists. Alleged drug lords Peter Lim and Kerwin Espinosa, and at least six others were exonerated in a drug trafficking case by a panel of state prosecutors, who cited weak police evidence and inconsistent testimonies from the lone witness. Nobody could have imagined this scenario under the government’s ruthless war on drugs. In July 2016, Mr. Duterte threatened to kill Lim after publicly identifying him as one of the biggest drug dealers around. Lim turned out to be Mr. Duterte’s wedding cosponsor. “It’s political in nature so it’s a fake war on drugs,” former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said, noting that the government treated the complaints against the alleged drug lords and Sen. Leila de Lima differently. Lim, a businessman from Cebu, was investigated when the House of Representatives inquired into the drug trade in 2006. Kerwin and his father, then Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., were tagged as among Eastern Visayas’ biggest drug lords. Kerwin went into hiding and was arrested in Abu Dhabi in October last year on drug charges. Police killed his father, Rolando, in a mysterious predawn raid on his jail cell in Baybay, Leyte, the following month. The exoneration has sparked public outrage, with Mr. Duterte vowing to review the case. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II formed a new panel to investigate the case. Meanwhile, the killings of small-time drug suspects continue.

Cadet Fritz John Napalinga Vallador

Vallador made his childhood dream come true the best way possible: graduating valedictorian of the Philippine National Police Academy “Maragtas” Class of 2018. Vallador grew up with an absentee father, while his mother continues to work as a domestic helper in Spain to support him. Relatives became his foster parents. The unconventional family setup did not deter Vallador from reaching for the stars. Life was normal, recalled Vallador, 24, adding that he simply persevered to be successful. He also vowed to be a policeman who would uphold and enforce the law. On March 21, Vallador will receive the Presidential Kampilan Award and Plaque of Merit from President Duterte at his class’s graduation rites.

Cadet First Class Jaywardene Hontoria

When elementary schoolteacher Teresita Jallorina asked pupils in her Grade 5 class in 2005 what careers they intended to pursue when they grow up, one boy stood up and declared: “I want to be in the Army.” Cadet First Class Jaywardene Hontoria of Iloilo province did not only fulfill his childhood dream, he also graduated today as valedictorian of the Philippine Military Academy “Alab-Tala” Class of 2018. Hontoria, 25, a registered nurse, was raised by Oscar and Nancy who owned a 4-hectare farm at Balabag village in Pavia town. “He was always a leader as a boy,” said Jallorina. Jaywardene also took the entrance exam for the Philippine Coast Guard, which he served for three months.

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