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FACE OF THE NEWS: Dec. 16, 2018

/ 07:00 AM December 16, 2018

Rolando Andaya Jr.

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Shortly after Sen. Panfilo Lacson divulged the billions of pesos in pork barrel funds allotted to the districts of select House members, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. came out swinging, accusing Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno of being behind the alleged insertions of P51 billion in infrastructure funding.

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Andaya refuted Lacson’s claims that his district in Camarines Sur and that of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Pampanga received a windfall from the pork bonanza.

Instead, he claimed that Arroyo’s predecessor, former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, received the biggest congressional allotment, with P5 billion worth of projects.

Andaya, the budget secretary during the corruption-plagued Arroyo administration, faulted Diokno for supposedly allocating billions of pesos in infrastructure projects without the consent of Public Works Secretary Mark Villar and President Rodrigo Duterte — an allegation that Diokno vehemently denied.

Benjamin Diokno

The beleagured Duterte budget secretary held the same post during the short-lived term of President Joseph “Erap” Estrada.

He later became a staunch critic of the economic policies of Presidents after Erap — including now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

After Sen. Panfilo Lacson revealed that Arroyo’s and her former Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr.’s  congressional districts would get “pork” next year, the two quickly turned around and pinned the blame on Diokno.

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Members of the lower House grilled Diokno for alleged insertions in the proposed budget, and for allegedly favoring infrastructure projects where his in-laws were supposedly involved.

Diokno denied the allegation of conflict of interest and swore on his integriy.

When a House resolution called for President Duterte to fire him, Diokno managed to secure the President’s full support.

Other members of the Cabinet also rallied behind him.

Catriona Gray

She lava-walked her way into the world—or rather, universe—stage, sending fans over the edge with her  flirty slow-mo twirl in the swimsuit walk.

Determined to avenge her controversial Miss World loss in 2016, Gray made sure she’d stand out by donning outfits that bannered the country’s culture, including dragging behind her a giant Pampanga “parol” (Christmas lantern) as part of her national costume.

But in the post-Donald Trump era of this Olympics-level beauty contest, Gray’s most explosive move by far is championing body image positivity, shutting down critics with her impassioned performance, “tiger stripes” (stretch marks) and all.

On Monday morning, Manila time, Filipinos hungry for another international beauty title are sure to be glued to their TV sets, hoping to hear that this year’s Miss Universe is: “Catriona Magnayon Gray, Philippines!”

Maria Ressa

An American newspaper and four journalists, including the Philippines’ Maria Ressa, were honored as Time magazine’s “Person(s) of the Year,” in an unmistakable message that the influential publication supports the idea of truth-telling being critical to democracy.

Aside from Ressa, Time named jailed Burmese journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, slain Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, where a gunman shot and killed five of their colleagues in June.

Ressa, founder of the news site Rappler, has been charged with tax evasion after publishing withering criticisms of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Whether they have been denied their freedom or been brutally murdered, honoring their work speaking truth to power is essential at this critical time when reporters are under unprecedented threat across the globe,” said Margaux Ewen of the media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres.

Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron struggled to overcome the biggest crisis of his presidency on Saturday as “yellow vest” protesters mounted their fifth weekend of demonstrations against the increasingly unpopular leader.

Macron announced a package of tax and minimum wage measures to calm his countrymen, but until this week, a clear majority backed the protests, which sprung up initially over fuel tax hikes before snowballing into wide opposition to Macron’s pro-business agenda and style of governance.

Two polls, conducted after Macron’s concessions, found that France was now split 50-50 on whether the protests should continue.

But the matter is far from being concluded with Macron’s political opponents also working to bring discontent to a tipping point.

The protests have continued despite calls for sobriety after a shooting in Strasbourg this week left at least four dead.

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TAGS: Benjamin Diokno, Catriona Gray, Emmanuel Macron, Face of the News, Maria Ressa, Rolando Andaya
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