Faces of the News: May 31, 2020
House Deputy Speaker and Sagip Rep. Rodante Marcoleta was thrust into the spotlight earlier this week when he led the attack on network giant ABS-CBN’s application for franchise renewal in the House of Representatives.
Pinch-hitting for Solicitor General Jose Calida, Marcoleta premised his attacks on a viral video of ABS-CBN talent Kim Chiu, which came to be known as “Bawal Lumabas.”
Netizens described what he did as lowbrow and a form of public shaming.
Marcoleta, whose party-list group in Congress presents itself as an advocate of quality education and universal health care for indigent Filipinos, also alleged that the media giant had violated tax, labor and corporation laws, and that the network had violated the Constitution since its owner and former president, Gabby Lopez III, was an American citizen when he took the helm in 1986 — claims that had been debunked by the network and government agencies in previous forums.
In 2017, Marcoleta gained the dubious distinction of moving to slash the 2018 budget of the Commission on Human Rights to P1,000, purportedly over its critical stand against the government’s bloody war on drugs.
At the start of his career in public service, Wilkins Villanueva got involved in the war on illegal drugs, making his recent appointment as Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director general almost a certainty, given his over 30 years’ exposure to campaigns against narcotics.
In a statement, Sen. Panfilo Lacson described Villanueva as a “good and professional officer who is fit for the job. With the challenge of going after drug personalities amid the ‘new normal’ posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, he indeed has his work cut out for him.”
Villanueva, a Philippine Military Academy graduate, began his crusade against drugs as an officer of the Philippine National Police narcotics group. His ideas for clearing communities of the drug menace gave birth to the PNP’s controversial “Oplan Tokhang (knock and plead) operation” and the barangay antidrug abuse councils.
His stint at the PDEA has resulted in the dismantling of a number of clandestine “shabu” (crystal meth) laboratories, and the confiscation of large hauls of illegal drugs. Villanueva has vowed to keep his agents safe while chasing after the big fish.
—Jeannette I. Andrade
George Floyd was a Texan who, a friend said, went to Minneapolis in Minnesota to set something straight for his children; he reportedly had two. The African-American, 46, a former basketball and football athlete, worked as a trucker and later, security guard at a nightclub where fellow employees described him as a gentle giant.
On May 25, Floyd was arrested by police for allegedly using counterfeit money to buy cigarettes from a store. A cell phone video of the arrest showed police leading a compliant Floyd out of a car and onto a sidewalk ledge where he sat quietly.
But moments later, the video showed him cuffed and lying face down on the curb, the knee of a white police officer pressing his neck. He was shown gasping for breath.
“I can’t breathe,” he pleaded several times before he died.
Those words became the rallying cry at the violent protests in Minneapolis that have since spread in other cities in the United States.
Although the white policeman in the encounter has since been charged with third-degree murder and three other police officers fired from their jobs, rallyists continue their cry for justice in this latest case of racial bias.
—Cenon Bibe Jr.
Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa
Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa might have spoken too soon when he rhapsodized, “Sarap ng buhay! (What a good life!)” on Tuesday as the Senate concluded early its session that had several senators, Dela Rosa included, joining the discussion from home.
The remark quickly went viral and sent netizens into a frenzy, as they called out the senator for being “insensitive” and “callous” at a time when most people were stewing in frustration and hunger under lockdown restrictions because of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The neophyte senator explained that his words were merely a reaction to the Senate session conducted “more efficiently” via Zoom.
Aside from online derision, the remark earned Dela Rosa a summon to physically attend the Senate session on Monday.
That directive from Senate President Vicente Sotto III during Wednesday’s “hybrid” plenary session would probably prompt Dela Rosa to now say, “mahirap na ang buhay (life’s tough),” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said in jest.
“Now he’d have to stay at the Senate until 10 p.m.,” he added.
As if to console him, another senator told Dela Rosa that he could at least enjoy Lacson’s birthday merienda on Monday.
—Pennie A. Dela Cruz
Sen. Imee Marcos apparently got schooled on history when, during a Senate hearing last week, she asked Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III about the government’s COVID-19 stimulus program.
The P5,000 cash aid given to farmers was not enough to buy seeds, she said. She then claimed that the “Masagana 99” program of her father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, had been effective in using banks to provide farmers with loans and increase rice production, allowing the country to export rice.
But Dominguez quickly contradicted her, saying that, as agriculture secretary in the succeeding administration of former President Corazon Aquino, he had to clean up the mess left by the Marcos program.
Some 800 banks were bankrupted, he said. Dominguez also pointed out that the country had never exported rice, a claim that Marcos disputed a day after with a report saying that the country did export rice briefly, from 1977 to 1978.
This week, Dominguez offered to hold a special briefing for Marcos, who chairs the Senate’s economic affairs committee.
He “acknowledged the questions and concerns” she raised, adding that these were “valid points” that needed to be addressed.
—Leila B. Salaverria
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