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/ 05:00 AM March 04, 2018

Jason Aquino

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National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Jason Aquino found himself last week being scolded by Sen. Cynthia Villar for unnecessarily causing public panic when he and his officials went to the press to announce the depleting buffer stock of NFA rice. “Why are you so proud that you haven’t done your job?” Villar asked Aquino during a Senate inquiry into the status of NFA rice stocks. It did not help any that Aquino said that the required 15-day NFA buffer stock that he had earlier announced was down to five days, and later, had gone further down to 1.7 days. His explanations at the hearing did not sit well with Senators Grace Poe and Bam Aquino who wanted him to step down for his failure to do his job in ensuring food security.

Benigno Simeon Aquino III

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President Duterte’s predecessor faced the House of Representatives’ inquiry on the controversy surrounding the Dengvaxia vaccine on Feb. 26. Aquino decried how the issue had been “politicized” to the point that it caused panic, and discouraged parents from having their children immunized from diseases. He also questioned the credentials of the Public Attorney’s Office forensics laboratory director Erwin Erfe amid the agency’s refusal to coordinate with medical experts from the Philippine General Hospital. At the same time, Aquino said he only acted based on the information he knew in 2015, and would have suspended the mass dengue immunization program had he known the risks to those who were never exposed to dengue prior to vaccination.

Maria Lourdes Sereno

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno made history in 2012 when she became the first woman to lead the Supreme Court. Then 52, she would also become the longest-serving head of the judiciary as she had 18 years more before reaching the mandatory retirement age for justices. Six years later, Sereno finds herself in another historic turn, albeit ignominiously, as she is expected to be the second Chief Justice to be impeached by the House. Her predecessor, the late Chief Justice Renato Corona, was the first. As if the tirades thrown at her by President Duterte and his political allies were not enough, Sereno now finds herself facing more formidable foes—fellow magistrates who forced her to take an indefinite leave of absence last week.

Nestor Espenilla Jr.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Nestor Espenilla Jr. announced recently that he had a successful surgery to remove the cancer that had developed in his tongue. First detected in November 2017, the cancer had caused him difficulty in speaking due to the resulting dry throat and sores. As “insurance,” the Central Bank chief—appointed to a six-year term last year by President Duterte—said he underwent radiation therapy, and has since been pronounced “cancer-free” by his doctors. Making the announcement to reporters via an instant messaging app (while on pilgrimage in Israel with family and friends), Espenilla said he remained focused on the task at hand, including implementing reforms in the local banking system.

Donnie Nietes

Proving there’s plenty of power left in him, Donnie “Ahas” Nietes stopped Juan Carlos Reveco of Argentina to retain the International Boxing Federation flyweight crown in Inglewood, California. Nietes, the longest-reigning Filipino world champion, unleashed a flurry of punches in the seventh round before a lethal left dropped Reveco, who got back up but staggered to beat the count. Nietes, who last tasted defeat in 2004, raised his record to 41-1-4, with 23 knockouts. But the 35-year-old pride of Murcia, Negros Occidental, also showed he’s an elite fighter worthy of bigger pay-per-view bouts with that rousing win before a global audience. Some of the boxers who may face Nietes next are Thai Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Nicaraguan Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzales, and Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada.

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Jayson Castro

He returned to action with aplomb. After missing one game due to an ankle injury, Jayson Castro showed what he does best at crunch time as Gilas Pilipinas survived a late scare from Japan, 89-84, in the second round of the Fiba World Cup qualifiers at SM Mall of Asia Arena. Castro unloaded all of his eight points in the second half, highlighted by a crucial floater with 12 seconds left that gave the national team an 88-84 cushion. “That’s why we have Jayson,” Gilas coach Chot Reyes said of Asia’s two-time best point guard. Though far from being 100 percent, Castro still finished with eight points and three assists in limited minutes. Reyes said he has full trust in his most senior player:“We had him rest in the last game to make sure he was ready [against Japan]. He was our premier closer.”

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