#ThewRap: Things you need to know, January 17, 2017
Hello! Here's a round-up of news you need to know this Tuesday
Dear Rappler reader,
Rain in the South. That was Monday's biggest story, with not just Cagayan De Oro, which declared a state of calamity, but the rest of Visayas and Mindanao inundated by rain and flood.
Other newsmakers were besieged too by a metaphorical rain – the Commission on Elections is under scrutiny as losing candidate Bongbong Marcos claimed election memory cards contain damning evidence of poll fraud. Senator Sonny Trillanes was stripped of his power to probe the Bureau of Immigration. The peace talks in Oslo didn't exactly get rained on, but the winter chill chased the peace panels away to sunnier Rome. The sterling plummeted – still a fallout from Brexit. And swamped would be an understatement for the Samsung owner's heir who's embroiled in a bribery scandal.
Then there's this bit of good (or bad news, depending on how you look at it) from the economy: Remittance growth in November was the fastest in 8 years.
And of course, it's raining beautiful ladies in Manila now as Miss Universe contestants romp through the cities and countryside.
Below are the big stories we think you shouldn't miss.
Two weather systems – a low pressure area and the tail-end of a cold front – caused heavy flooding, Monday, in Cagayan de Oro City. City officials declared a state of calamity after the streets were submerged in neck-deep floods and people were stranded. The local government also ordered forced evacuation – as of Monday night, 3,865 people had been evacuated, excluding students who were stranded in colleges and universities while 1,341 families are in evacuation centers. PAGASA warns provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao to be on alert for more floods and landslides. Reports say non-stop rains also triggered floods in Cebu and Leyte. Around 953 families or 4,378 persons were displaced in Eastern Visayas and Northern Mindanao, all of which are staying in 16 evacuation centers. The silver lining behind the dark clouds – the crisis in CDO brought out the good samaritans who sprang into action. See this list for work and class suspensions.
The camp of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr believes data found in some SD cards retrieved from supposedly unused vote-counting machines (VCMs) strengthens the defeated candidate's case. 13 out of the 26 cards so far, were found to have folders with data in them during the decryption believed to be Smartmatic Automated Election System (SAES) files. In June, Marcos filed an election protest against the winner, now Vice President Leni Robredo, citing alleged "massive electoral fraud, anomalies, and irregularities" during the May 2016 national polls. Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez, meantime, said it is better to let the process of decryption be completed first, and not to speculate on the supposed files in the SD cards.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said it is "far-fetched" for Duterte to declare martial law "because the administration is clearly gaining headway" in the ongoing war against drugs. The same assurance was made by Philippine National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa who said it’s not likely that President Rodrigo Duterte would declare martial law. Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III also said there is no reason to declare martial rule saying it should not be a cause for worry. Duterte on Saturday said he’ll declare martial law if the Philippines turns ‘virulent.’ While Alvarez, Dela Rosa and Pimentel downplayed what Duterte said, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar claimed the media misreported the President’s speech. Video from state television Saturday shows Duterte saying, in no uncertain terms, he will declare martial law ‘to preserve the nation’.
Voting 14-7, the Senate stripped Senator Sonny Trillanes of the power to probe the Bureau of Immigration, including the proposal to reorganize the agency. As chairman of the committee on civil service and government reorganization, Trillanes wanted to lead the probe into the corruption scandal involving two BI officials accused of extorting money from tycoon Jack Lam. Senator Richard Gordon insisted that the committee on justice, which he heads, should be the one to handle it. Trillanes is one of the fiercest critics of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The 3rd round of formal talks between the Philippine government and the communist National Democratic Front (NDF), to be held from January 19 to 25, moved venues from Norway, the 3rd country facilitating the talks, to Rome in Italy. Find out why.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said remittances spiked by 18.5% to $2.22 billion in November, the fastest growth since July 2008 and a rebound from the 2.8% decline posted in October 2016. The BSP said "improving global economic conditions, particularly in the US, may have contributed to the overall growth in remittances."
The pound struggled at 32-year lows against the dollar in Asia on Monday, after reports said British Prime Minister Theresa May was ready to take the country out of the European Union in a so-called "hard Brexit." German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her part insisted that "we Europeans have our fate in our own hands" after Donald Trump criticized the EU and praised Britain's decision to leave the bloc.
South Korean prosecutors sought the arrest of the heir to giant conglomerate Samsung, Lee Jae-Yong, for bribery in connection with a political scandal that has seen President Park Geun-Hye impeached. Lee, 48, is the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics and the son of the Samsung group chairman Lee Kun-Hee. Samsung is the single biggest contributor to foundations of Park's secret confidante Choi Soon and separately paid Choi millions of euros. Lee also faces charges of perjury.
Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach tells the audience at at the Governor's Ball on Monday, "Behind that sash is a girl with a story of inspiration, of empowerment, and that’s what Miss Universe is all about." See the Miss Universe candidates in their gowns here. In a related story, Wurtzback confirmed her romance with Swiss-Filipino Marlon Stockinger, saying she shares many things in common with the race car driver because he's Filipino and a Catholic.