August 31, 2014 Edition

Michelle Fernandez

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

  1. Filipino peacekeepers now safe; Militants still holding Fijian contingent

    The standoff in Golan Heights involving Filipino peacekeepers is over. About 40 Filipino peacekeepers who were earlier engaged by Syrian rebels in a 7-hour firefight were able to escape midnight Sunday in Syria (about 5am in Manila), ending a nearly 4-day standoff, Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr said in a press briefing at the Philippine military headquarters. Despite the good news, the rebels, reportedly linked to Al Qaeda, still held 44 Fijian peacekeepers.

    Read more on Rappler.


  2. Binays on the offensive

    File photo from Binay's Facebook page

    File photo from Binay's Facebook page

    From cakes to parking to office space, the controversy surrounding the Binays in Makati continues to grow. This week, ex-Binay aide Ernesto Mercado accused Vice President Jejomar Binay and his daughter, now Senator Nancy Binay, of earning from the supposed overpriced Makati City Hall Building II and from the giveaway cakes for the city’s senior citizens. The elder Binay promptly debunked the allegations, but said he won’t commit to attend the ongoing Senate inquiry into the matter. Later, in a press conference, the Vice President said the city even saved from the alleged P2.2 billion pricetag of the controversial building. Meanwhile, the Commission on Audit said they have “many questions” about the building project, and said they will release results of a special audit this coming week

  3. High-level talks fail to diffuse crisis

    Eastern Ukraine continues to be a flashpoint, as the conflict in the region becomes labeled by the West an “invasion” by Russia. Despite a high-level meeting in Belarus between Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko, there was no breakthrough that could have lowered the tensions in the rebel-held territories. Meanwhile, Kiev, fresh from Independence Day celebrations over the weekend, found itself with a dissolved Parliament due to accusations that some lawmakers were supporting the rebellion. Later in the week, the US led accusations that Russian troops were on the ground inside Ukrainian territory and aiding the rebels, following pronouncements of the Ukrainian government they have captured Russian soldiers. Putin, meanwhile, appealed for an “aid bridge” in a bid to help the war-torn areas, as the United Nations puts the death toll in the months-long conflict at nearly 2,600.

  4. Economic growth accelerates; Now Asia’s 2nd fastest

    The Philippines became Asia’s second fastest growing economy in Asia in the second quarter of the year, with the country posting a 6.4% growth in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The private sector led the economic charge, coming from a 5.6% Q1 growth. Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, during the announcement of the Q2 GDP growth rate, said the country is “back on a higher trajectory of growth.” Despite this good number, analysts are still a bit cautious, saying there are still a lot of challenges ahead for the country, which was once considered as one of the region’s economic laggards. 

    Read more on Rappler.


  5. Long term ceasefire takes hold

    After 50 days of bloody and destructive war, Gaza and Israel finally saw calm after both sides agreed to a long-term truce on Tuesday, August 26. The agreement involved an immediate halt to the violence, and was greeted by celebrations across the besieged coastal enclave. The ceasefire also allowed the entry of aid into Gaza, lifting on fishing restrictions, and, later on, exchange of prisoners and the bodies of the deceased. In a month, negotiators from both sides will return to Egypt to discuss the peace further. However, the truce seems shaky, as both sides said they will rule out key demands of the opposite side. The conflict claimed the lives of 2,143 Palestinians, more than 70% of them civilians according to the United Nations, and 65 soldiers and 6 civilians on the Israeli side.

  6. Reign of terror continues

    Islamic State extremists continued their reign of terror in large parts of Iraq and Syria in the past week, sparking fears that the terror would spread to the rest of the region and the world. On Saturday, August 30, Iraq launched a major operation to liberate a jihadist-besieged town, as US Secretary of State John Kerry called for a global coalition to combat the “genocidal” militants. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah warned that the West would be the next ISIS target unless swift action is taken, after Britain raised its terror alert level over the threat of jihadist attacks. Meanwhile, the US ruled out cooperation with Syria, despite Syria saying it is willing to work hand in hand with other countries in the fight against the extremist militants. The attacks in Iraq have sparked the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region, with thousands of minorities trying to escape the wrath of the ISIS.

  7. Aquino: Continue ‘revolution’ against indifference

    Malacañang file photo

    A time to celebrate.  A time to search.  A time to demand.  On National Heroes’ Day, Filipinos organize two gatherings: one to celebrate the gains under the Aquino administration; the other to protest what many see as institutionalized corruption and President Benigno Aquino’s reversal of his position on charter change.  Many protesting see the change in the Constitution as a second term for Aquino, forbidden under the 1987 charter. Ironically on Sunday, President Aquino reminded Filipinos that the start of his presidency was a “revolution” against the “tide of indifference” that impeded progress and good governance. “Today, we are reminded of the brave men and women who laid down their lives for the liberty that we cherish today.  We are, and will forever be, indebted to their sacrifice. We sustain their legacy as we persist in weaving their dream of a free, inclusive, and empowered Philippines into a tangible reality,” said Mr. Aquino.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

    Read more on the Luneta rally.

    A contributor’s list of other heroes to emulate.

  8. 3 million Syrians now refugees

    More than 3 million Syrians have fled the civil war ravaging their country to become refugees – a million of them in the past year alone, the United Nations said Friday, August 29. Less than a year ago, the number of registered Syrian refugees stood at two million, UNHCR said, pointing to reports of “increasingly horrifying conditions inside the country” to explain the surge. In addition to the refugees, the violence has also displaced 6.5 million people within the country, meaning that nearly 50% of all Syrians have been forced to flee their homes, UNHCR said – more than half of them children. More than 191,000 people have also died from the conflict, which started March 2011.

    Read more on Rappler.


  9. PH Chief Justice laments budget cuts on courts

    The Chief Justice of the Philippines held a rare press conference to express her dismay over budget cuts imposed by the presidential palace on the judiciary. The budget department has slashed by 30% the proposed budget submitted by the Supreme Court after the tribunal struck down parts of the executive’s controversial spending program – a decision repeatedly assaulted by President Aquino in public events. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno warned that a national budget “terribly imbalanced” against the courts will hugely affect the disposition of cases, especially since Malacañang removed the allocation for the electronic court project that in past years have streamlined case workflows. The judiciary is one of the least-funded institutions in the Philippines.

    Read the full report on Rappler.

  10. Puso: Gilas Pilipinas gives Croatia a scare

    What an opening game for the Philippines’ comeback in basketball’s biggest tournament: Gilas Pilipinas on Saturday, August 30, gave top-ranked Croatia a scare when the two teams faced each other in the group stage of the 2014 FIBA World Cup. The Philippines initially trailed Croatia at the start of the game, but the tide turned when Gilas clawed back, even having a 3-point lead in the closing quarter. Regulation time ended with a tie, and in overtime, the two teams had a very close battle. In the end, Croatia won, 81-78, but the Philippine national team’s performance in the game was seen as its grand debut back in the global basketball arena after a 40-year absence.  

    Read more on Rappler, and see how Filipino netizens reacted to the victorious loss

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