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- Head of Abu Sayyaf victim dumped in Jolo
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the execution of Canadian John Ridsdel held hostage by Islamic militants in the Philippines. Ridsdel’s head was dumped in Jolo, Sulu, 25 hours after a ransom deadline passed for two Canadians and a Norwegian held hostage by terrorist Abu Sayyaf. Gunmen kidnapped 4 individuals – 3 foreigners and one Filipina – from a resort in Samal Island, Davao del Norte, in September 2015. Six weeks after, the group released a video of their hostages demanding P1 billion ($21 million) each for the three foreigners. In the most recent video, Ridsdel, a retiree in his late 60s, said he would be killed on April 25 if a ransom of P300 million was not paid. The Abu Sayyaf is also believed to be holding a Dutch bird watcher kidnapped in 2012, and has been blamed for abducting 18 Indonesian and Malaysian sailors from tugboats near the southern Philippines over the past month. Abu Sayyaf’s leaders recently declared allegiance to ISIS.
- Comelec divided on rules 2 weeks before polls
With two weeks left before the May 9 polls, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) remains divided on at least two rules in polling precincts on election day. The Comelec is set to tackle the rules in its regular meeting on Tuesday. One contentious rule allows voters to get replacement ballots if, through no fault of their own, vote-counting machines (VCMs) reject their original ballots. Another rule classifies the filing of “frivolous objections” as an election offense. Rappler sources said that Commissioner Christian Lim, the steering committee head for the 2016 elections, has formally opposed the rules, joining Comelec Commissioner Sheriff Abas. At least 2 of 7 Comelec members oppose another proposal by Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, this time on mall voting.
- Kris Aquino broke the law – election lawyer
Election lawyer Emil Marañon III, in a Thought Leader’s piece on Rappler, said presidential sister Kris Aquino broke the law when she rode a presidential chopper to go to the campaign sortie of administration standard bearer Mar Roxas in Cebu. Marañon cites Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Act that says “use of public facilities owned or controlled by the government for an election campaign” is prohibited. Malacañang issued a statement saying that “members of the President’s immediate family are allowed to ride with him in official government vehicles.”
Read more on election lawyer’s take on Kris chopper ride.
- Poe husband no longer a US citizen
A month before the May presidential elections, the husband of presidential bet Grace Poe renounced his American citizenship. Teodoro Misael Daniel “Neil” Vera Llamanzares filed his renunciation of his US citizenship on Thursday, before a barangay chairman of Barangay of San Juan. Poe had earlier vowed there would be no “American boy” in Malacañang. Llamanzares had been a citizen of both the United States and the Philippines since his birth in 1970. He was born to Filipino doctors who were then studying and working in the US. It was also later publicized that Llamanzares was a former US Air Force member from 1988 to 1992.
Read more on Llamanzares’ renunciation of US citizenship.
- 2,000 sacks of rice given to Koronadal farmers
Hundreds of hungry farmers affected by drought emerged victorious after the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Region XII decided to release 2,000 sacks of rice as government aid. In a post on Facebook, police in the province said that the rallyists decided to end their protest Monday “after coming to terms with the negotiating team.” A group leader said that although their demand for 15,000 bags was not granted, the farmers were “happy” with the initial aid. But according to insiders, the crisis management group headed by Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes was surprised when a truckful of rice immediately came. The initial decision was to allow the farmers to go home first and distribute the rice in the communities.
Read more on rice for Koronadal farmers.
- Report: China to start construction on Scarborough Shoal
Beijing will start construction this year on a South China Sea islet within the Philippines’ claimed exclusive economic zone as it seeks to project its power in the disputed waters, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported Monday. Citing an unnamed source, SCMP reported China will establish an outpost on Scarborough Shoal, 230 kilometers (143 miles) off the Philippine coast. The Philippines claims Scarborough Shoal but China took control of it in 2012, stationing patrol vessels in the area and shooing away Filipino fishermen, after a two-month stand-off with the Philippine Navy. The report comes ahead of an international tribunal ruling, expected within months, on a case brought by the Philippines over the South China Sea. It also follows an announcement by the US and the Philippines that they would launch joint naval patrols in the sea.
Read more on China’s Scarborough Shoal construction plans.
- Mexico’s voter database leaks, 87 million names affected
The personal information of 87 million Mexican voters were made public on an Amazon Web Services server before the server was taken down by authorities on Friday. The Scientific American reported that MacKeeper security firm researcher Chris Vickery alerted authorities in the US and Mexico to the leaked information. According to a MacKeeper blogpost by Vickery on the issue, “There was no password or authentication of any sort required. It was configured purely for public access.” The data leak is also serious, as one considerable problem in Mexico – kidnapping – may be made worse by having the names and addresses of people available for cartels to exploit. Mexico’s National Electoral Institute confirmed the leak Friday, and is now looking into whose fault it is.
Read more on the Mexico voter database leak.
- Name of Jokowi’s trusted minister in Panama Papers
An Indonesian senior cabinet minister – and one of President Joko Widodo’s most trusted – was among those in the infamous Panama Papers. The stash of records leaked from legal firm Mossack Fonseca named Coordinating Minister for Political, Law and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan as director of Seychelles-based company Mayfair International. Indonesia-based daily Tempo – which was among the media groups involved in digging through the trove of 11.5 million documents – said Mayfair was set up by the Panama-based law firm which specializes in putting up offshore companies on June 29, 2006. Panjaitan said he has never heard of Mayfair and claimed that he had no address in Seychelles. But the certificate also includes Panjaitan’s address in South Jakarta, and there is also said to be a copy of his passport among the papers.
Read more on Minister Luhut’s Panama Papers appearance.
- Recap: Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Parts Unknown’ Manila episode
The highly anticipated Manila episode of Parts Unknown has aired, and fans saw what Anthony Bourdain was up to during his trip to the Philippines last December. The award-winning Parts Unknown explores a city’s cultural identity through food. Bourdain sampled sisig, chicken from a popular burger joint, lechon, kare-kare and halo-halo.
Read more for a sneak peek into the ‘Parts Unknown’ Manila episode.
- Prince tops Billboard charts after death
Prince soared Sunday to number one on the US chart after his sudden death, with three of his albums entering the top 10. Tracking service Nielsen music said The Very Best of Prince, a greatest hits collection released in 2001, topped the weekly chart and his classic 1984 album Purple Rain came in at number two of the Billboard chart. The Hits/The B-Sides from 1993 re-entered the latest chart at number six. The strength of the compilations indicates the renewed popularity of Prince’s hits such as “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry,” “1999,” “Raspberry Beret” and “Kiss.” Prince, a famously prolific artist who was a master of the electric guitar and coined a unique brand of danceable funk, died unexpectedly from unknown causes on Thursday. He was cremated Saturday.
Read more on the resurgence of Prince’s hits.