2016 has been a year of upsets. Many Filipinos still can’t begin to grasp why some of these happened or even believe that they did. Their repercussions will echo into 2017, whether good or bad. Here are 10 of the top stories that spilled broadsheet ink, captured broadcast airtime, and were shared virally in social media.
Presidential Election 2016
The biggest Philippine newsmaker of 2016 was the presidential elections. The campaign was marked by numerous controversies among the candidates, such as Grace Poe’s citizenship and Jejomar Binay’s corruption scandals. By May, the Philippine electorate catapulted Rodrigo Duterte to the Office of President with an overwhelming majority. The Davao City mayor ran primarily on a harsh anti-drug platform and his brash rhetoric proved successful. Many of the following newsmakers that dominated headlines stem directly from his Presidency.
All-Out Drug War
Duterte’s first priority and his most contentious policy, the war on drugs has dotted headlines with daily body counts. An average of 30 people per day has been killed in drug busts and extra-judicial killings. The sheer amount has caused massive outrage but the policy still has numerous defenders. The policy has reduced crime and uncovered corruption, and its supporters wish to see the war continue until the big fish has been brought to justice as well.
West Philippine Sea Territorial Dispute
But before drugs took center stage, all Filipino eyes looked north and west. At the start of the year, tensions were high over the West Philippine Sea between the Philippines and China. Filipinos were outraged by China’s continued possession of the Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands, which were part of the country’s maritime domain. The Philippine case was bolstered by a win in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Hague, which ruled Chinese claims as illegal. Things were so bad that talk of a potential war was in the air. Fortunately, the issue has died down after Duterte pursued bilateral talks with China.
‘Independent Foreign Policy’
But bilateral talks over the disputed islands weren’t the only foreign policy news. Duterte has pivoted the Philippines away from its general alignment with US interests. Unlike previous Philippine Presidents, the feisty Davaoeño has a disagreement with US President Barack Obama over the anti-drug campaign, which led to sharp words, an ASEAN discussion on the America’s human rights record, and the suspension of joint-military exercises. Duterte is also expanding the Philippines’ list of allies with countries that have rocky relationships with the States such as China and Russia.
Traffic, Traffic, Traffic
While foreign policy made earthquakes the region and the world, most Filipinos have local concerns and everyday concerns. For Manileños, that concern is traffic. Efforts to ease the gridlock on EDSA have not been successful and people’s grumblings about the incompetence of those responsible for its management grow each day. Duterte has asked Congress for emergency powers to tackle the problem but the bill has not yet passed. Considering that Cebu has been named 2016’s worst metropolis for drivers by navigation app, Waze, EDSA may be just the beginning of a nightmare that will infect the entire country.
Leila De Lima’s Indiscretions
But while the traffic maze is bad, the maze of corruption is more scandalous. Leila De Lima came into prominence as an advocate of human rights. Elected senator, she became an opponent of the drug war. Unfortunately, she was tied to drug money, colluding with notorious drug lords for preferential treatment. Her case was dragged into Congress and all over the news, including her indiscretions with a former driver bodyguard.
Corruption has always left a bad stink in Philippine politics. It’s no surprise that the sudden and unexpected burial of Ferdinand Marcos, the epitome of corruption for many Filipinos, after getting permission from the Supreme Court generated tons of indignation. Various groups took to the streets in protest.
Aleppo and the Syrian Civil War
But Filipinos aren’t always concerned with things at home. Syria has been in the midst of civil war since 2011 but the conflict has returned to the headlines with the recent bombardment of the city of Aleppo. Many cry for the innocent victims of the Syrian government and the rebels.
Brexit and the European Crisis
But atrocities aren’t the only newsworthy happenings abroad. The world watched in surprise as the citizens of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. For many Filipinos, it was the first news of anti-EU sentiment. For its inhabitants, Europe has become a haven of unthinkable events, inundated by migrants and attacked by terrorists. Brexit has been followed by an Italian referendum, which spelled even further the doom of the EU project.
But perhaps the most surprising vote of all happened in the United States. Last November, real-estate billionaire and reality TV celebrity, Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the Unites States. Billions were surprised because media indications heavily favored Hillary Clinton. Despite Trump’s brash, boorish, and deplorable behavior, his views against illegal immigration and TPP, and for an improved relationship with Russia, has endeared him to millions who believe he’s anti-war, pro-working man, and most importantly, anti-establishment.
Social Media and the Growing Distrust of Mainstream Media
But perhaps the biggest newsmaker of all isn’t the events; it’s the medium. Many of the news here were first encountered over social media. But more than that, some of the events would not have happened without them. Duterte’s Presidential campaign enjoyed fierce online support. In Italy, the referendum was won by lavish support from the Five Star Movement, an online political party. Trump also was a Twitter fiend who posts until 3am and his supporters weaponized memes to defend Trump and attack his enemies. But that also shows the waning power of mainstream media. In these elections, the media was seen as supporting the political establishment instead of a neutral arbiter. There is a growing distrust of traditional media while alternative news in social media is increasing in relevance.
That’s M2 .0’s list! Do you agree? What would you like to add? Share in the comments below!