Hello, Rappler readers!
Here are the big stories from the Philippines and around the world that you shouldn’t miss:
A Human Rights Watch warned the Philippine government “that there will be consequences” for the high death toll in its drug war, numbering more than 7,000 in just 8 months. “There’s a human rights commission meeting which is starting next week and the Philippines will be high on the agenda. The Philippines will be on the same category as North Korea and Syria and governments like that,” HRW Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert told Rappler. “So do you really want to go from one of the most vibrant civil societies in Asia to being in a category with those kinds of criminals? But that’s the future and that’s the risk.” HRW launched a report on the role of Philippine police in the killing of drug suspects. The New York-based organization said in its report released on Thursday, March 2, that Philippine police were responsible for extrajudicial killings linked to the drug war. It also noted that police planted evidence and faked post-operation reports to justify the killing of suspects allegedly in the conduct of police operations. As HRW said President Rodrigo Duterte could be held liable for crimes against humanity, the Philippine leader said there will be more killings to end the drug menace.
Despite the perceived cooler ties between the Philippines and the United States under the Duterte administration, the superpower continues to be the most trusted foreign country among Filipinos, according to a Social Weather Stations survey released on Thursday, March 2. The SWS held the survey in early December 2016 but released the results only 3 months later. They showed that the US maintained its “very good” net trust rating of +59, making it still the top foreign country trusted by Filipinos. Australia and Japan were tied as second most trusted among Filipinos, both with a “good” trust rating of +37. Russia and China, though having the lowest net trust rating among Filipinos, are apparently reaping the fruits of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “independent foreign policy,” based on the survey results. The December 2016 figures of the two countries – both with a “neutral” net trust rating of +9 – are significant improvements over their previous ratings.
Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo, the younger brother of Iglesia ni Cristo Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo was arrested Thursday afternoon, March 2, and brought to Camp Karingal in Quezon City. Police investigators refused to confirm charges against Angel, but there were reports shots were fired indiscriminately from his house the night before inside 36 Tandang Sora Avenue, the property disputed by the family and the politically influential religious organization founded by their grandfather and last headed by their late father Eraño Manalo. Police raided Angel’s house without showing any search warrant and accosted his family, without stating where they would be brought. Before this, Angel said, the INC leadership, headed by his older brother Eduardo, had their mother’s and sister’s house demolished. Since the operation began, Angel said his family had not received food and water rations which, he said, mirrored their experience last year – their electricity and water were cut off, and sewage water has been forced inside their house.
After highly-publicized gaffes from Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, there’s a new policy in Malacañang: only Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella can issue Palace statements. A Palace source trusted by President Rodrigo Duterte told Rappler that after the joint military-police command conference on Monday, February 27, Andanar spoke with Presidential Communications Operations Office officials to issue a directive: from now on, only Abella’s office can release Palace statements while Andanar will focus on overseeing PCOO programs, departments, and the various state-run media. Abella confirmed this order.
The United States Supreme Court has come down on the side of Democrats who charged that certain US electoral districts in Virginia were drawn to dilute the influence of black voters elsewhere in the state. The high court found that a lower court had erred in deciding that race was not a dominant factor in drawing Virginia’s electoral map. Democratic lawyers had argued that racial criteria were used to pack 11 districts with African American voters, thereby increasing the proportion of white majorities in other districts. Black voters tend to vote Democratic, while majority white districts are more likely to go Republican. The justices instructed the lower court to review its decision, taking into account whether Virginia’s method of drawing the electoral map is constitutional. The ruling is particularly noteworthy as civil rights organizations fear a tightening of voting rights for minorities under President Donald Trump.
Beijing said Thursday, March 2, it will push a “China solution” to global cyber governance after releasing its first strategy paper outlining a vision of the web where individual countries control the information that flows across their borders. The rollout is part of an effort by Beijing to play a more active role in shaping the management of the internet, advocating what some critics have called a more atomised, less connected web. While China is home to the world’s largest number of internet users, a 2015 report by US think tank Freedom House found that the country had the most restrictive online use policies of 65 nations it studied, ranking below Iran and Syria. But China has maintained that its various forms of web censorship – collectively known as “The Great Firewall” – are necessary for protecting its national security. Sites blocked due to their content or sensitivity, among them Facebook and Twitter, cannot be accessed in China without special software that allows users to bypass the strict controls.
Urban noise pollution and hearing loss are closely linked, according to rankings of 50 large cities in both categories released on Friday, March 3. High-decibel urban areas – such as Guangzhou, New Delhi, Cairo and Istanbul – topped the list of cities where hearing was most degraded, researchers at Mimi and Charite University Hospital in Berlin reported. Cities least afflicted by noise pollution – including Zurich, Vienna, Oslo and Munich – registered the lowest levels of decline in hearing. The findings are preliminary, and have yet to be submitted for peer-reviewed publication. “But this is a robust result,” said Henrik Matthies, managing director of Mimi Hearing Technologies, a German company that has amassed data on 200,000 people drawn from a hearing test administered via cell phones. “The fact that noise pollution and hearing loss have such a tight correlation points to an intricate relationship.”