FACES OF THE NEWS: March 17, 2019
Retired Marine Gen. Alexander Balutan capped off another interesting chapter in his postmilitary career when he resigned last week from his post as general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), a leading fund-generating government agency.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier announced that President Rodrigo Duterte had fired Balutan over allegations of corruption, details of which were not divulged.
Malacañang would later retract its statement to clarify that Balutan had indeed quit, and pledged to give the resigned PCSO chief a fair investigation.
In a text message, Balutan hinted that he quit after powerful people in Malacañang and in Congress wanted him “to do something [he] could not stomach.”
Fr. Robert Reyes, also known as the “running priest,” revealed last week that he and other priests had received death threats in the form of chilling, explicit text messages sent from an unknown number in February.
The activist priest did not mince words when asked if President Duterte’s frequent tirades against the Catholic Church had played a role in the threats.
“Whatever he says, whether it sounds like a joke, becomes policy,” Reyes said. “When he says, ‘Kill the bishops,’ that’s policy.”
Reyes rejected the idea of receiving a security detail from the police force — the executors of the drug war he condemns vehemently.
Rather than be cowed, he addressed President Rodrigo Duterte directly: “Digong, we are not afraid of you. There is only one we fear — the Lord our God.”
Residents without water
In pockets of Metro Manila hit hardest by the sudden loss of water supply, a mad dash to secure this vital resource has ensued.
In Mandaluyong City, where dry taps have crippled households for over a week, near-dystopian scenes unfolded as thousands of people took to the sun-baked streets carrying all forms water containers.
Many had skipped work to wait in queues for firetrucks tasked with rationing water.
The shortage, the result of a supply adjustment scheme implemented by Manila Water Co. Inc., hobbled the residents’ ability to perform basic chores, and forced family-owned businesses to shut down temporarily.
On survival mode, people found scant comfort in the latest announcement from the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System that dry taps would be the new normal in the next 150 days.
On the cusp of another White House run, money appears to be a daunting challenge for former US Vice President Joe Biden’s path to the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
While Biden has topped early voter surveys and is greeted warmly on the campaign trail, his run would start off at a fundraising disadvantage compared to those of rivals who had an early flood of small-dollar donations.
The lifetime politician has long disliked the process of political fundraising, but has no campaign operations in key states that would help him raise millions of dollars in a matter of weeks.
Although Biden is well-connected to the Democratic donor community, party officials say that fundraising is now turbocharged by social media, and the 76-year-old is not of the social media generation.
The State of New York slapped Paul Manafort, the former chair of US President Donald Trump’s campaign organization, with charges beyond the president’s power to pardon.
The 69-year-old political operator now faces at least 25 years in jail from the state charges in addition to the seven and a half years he got from federal courts in Virginia and Washington.
But the new indictment still has to be tried in court since state statutes prohibit state-level charges that mirror federal counts already resolved.
While none of the charges are related to claims that Trump and his team had been playing footsie with Moscow, they showed that Manafort, at the very least, had for decades concealed his work for a foreign government and earned millions of dollars without paying taxes on them.
After two stunning defeats in the UK Parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May struggled to pull off an against-all-odds rescue of her EU divorce deal, which has polarized the United Kingdom and exasperated the 27 remaining members of the European Union.
May must spend the next few days trying to persuade opponents ahead of another vote on her deal on Wednesday, the eve of the EU summit in Brussels where she will formally ask the bloc for a Brexit extension until June 30.
She faces a struggle to overturn two huge defeats in Parliament that have shredded her authority.
Success would be a remarkable turnaround for May, whom colleagues in the Conservative Party have defied because they think her deal keeps Britain too closely bound to EU rules and regulations.
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