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FACES OF THE NEWS: Feb. 10, 2019

/ 05:42 AM February 10, 2019

Illustrations by Rene Elevera

Pope Francis

The Pope became the first Pontiff to visit the Arabian Peninsula after a pilgrimage to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on Monday.

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Francis signed a document with the grand imam of Al Azhar in a bid to give a “clear and decisive sign” that respect and dialogue is possible between the Christian and Islamic worlds.

But on the way back to Rome, the Pope also showed how much change was needed within the Catholic Church when he admitted — also for the first time — that some bishops and priests have sexually abused nuns and that the crime may be continuing to this day.

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Francis made the admission as he prepared to host a meeting of Church leaders on Feb. 21 to 24, to tackle ways of dealing with the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults and with the bishops who cover up such crimes.

The meeting is seen as the start of  continuing reform at the regional, national and diocesan levels, the Vatican said.

Kenneth Dong

After more than a year in hiding, President Rodrigo Duterte’s friend Kenneth Dong was arrested for his alleged involvement in the P6.4-billion smuggling of “shabu” (crystal meth) in 2017.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President welcomed the development.

The arrest of suspected drug traffickers does not respect friendships or alliances, Panelo added.

Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation scoured five cities and provinces before Dong fell in Muntinlupa.

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A source from the bureau said Dong had been moving from one safe house to another since December 2017 after a Manila court ordered his arrest.

The NBI now wants the heads of his coddlers.

Dong is currently detained at the NBI jail along with Mark Taguba, the customs broker who revealed that Dong served as the middleman in the shabu shipment.

Francisco Duque III

When Secretary Francisco Duque III first served as head of the Department of Health (DOH) during the last years of the Arroyo administration, the country had a vaccination coverage rate of about 90 percent.

Over a decade later, Duque is back at the helm of the DOH, but this time it is reeling from the controversy surrounding a mass immunization using the Dengvaxia vaccine.

With parents fearing vaccines — no thanks to the panic and misinformation allegedly peddled primarily by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) — the immunization rate, especially in Metro Manila, dropped to barely 40 percent.

Such a situation led to today’s measles outbreak, which has already cost the lives of at least 60 kids in the Metro alone.

Without referring to PAO chief Persida Acosta by name, Duque said the “drama that they were doing really caused damage to the integrity and effectiveness of DOH to conduct and ensure … adequate immunization.”

Persida Acosta

As the Department of Health declared a measles outbreak in five regions, Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta refused to take any responsibility and even cried foul over the blame heaped on her agency for the growing number of children getting sick and dying from the vaccine-preventable respiratory disease.

Most of the affected children were not inoculated against measles because of their parents’ fear of vaccination, following PAO’s relentless accusation that the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia had led to the death of dozens of Filipino children.

Acosta, a lawyer who has no medical training, had been at the forefront of linking the dengue deaths to Dengvaxia.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier slammed Acosta and PAO for making claims “without basis.”

He said the deaths of children given Dengvaxia had the same causes as those of children in areas without the vaccine.

Glenn Chong

Former Biliran Rep. Glenn Chong is trying to get justice for his aide Richard Santillan, who was killed in an alleged shootout with the police in December last year in Cainta.

Chong alleged that Santillan was actually tortured elsewhere before being placed in the vehicle where he was summarily executed.

He cited, among others, Santillan’s missing toenail as proof.

But a police forensic expert disputed Chong’s claims, and said the loss of the toenail was due to the grazing of a bullet.

Blood spatters also showed that Santillan was alive when he was in the vehicle.

Police also insisted that they had not even known Santillan before the shootout; they were actually tracing the vehicle he was in, which had been linked to illegal activities.

The shootout occurred after Santillan evaded law enforcers who tried to flag him down.

The National Bureau of Investigation will conduct its own probe of the incident.

Ferdinand Marcelino

The disturbing news of Marine Col. Ferdinand Marcelino’s arrest in January 2016 seemed like a plot for a Hollywood movie as the military officer-turned-antidrug-crusader was supposedly caught maintaining a warehouse filled with P380 million worth of “shabu” (crystal meth).

His arrest came as a shock to many since he was known as an antidrug crusader.

Marcelino maintained that the charges against him were “fabricated,” but he still spent more than a year in four different detention cells before the Department of Justice withdrew, for lack of evidence, the criminal complaint brought against him by his former comrades in the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

His voice cracking, the battle-tested Marine tearfully recalled his nightmarish experience as he faced members of the congressional Commission on Appointments at the Senate for the confirmation of his promotion to colonel.

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TAGS: Faces of the News, Ferdinand Marcelino, Francisco Duque III, Glenn Chong, Kenneth Dong, Persida Acosta, Pope Francis
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