Today on Rappler.
Story 1: AQUINO SIGNS HISTORIC SIN TAX BILL INTO LAW
President Benigno Aquino signs the sin tax bill into law Thursday, ending a grueling battle to reform the Philippines' excise tax system.
Aquino says the law is an early Christmas gift to millions of Filipinos.
BENIGNO AQUINO III, PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT: Sa araw pong ito, nilagdaan natin, sa wakas — ulitin ko lang po, sa wakas —ang isang batas [applause] na magsisilbing maagang Pamasko sa milyun-milyong Pilipino—mga Pilipinong masasaklaw sa abot-kamay nang Universal Health Care program, mga Pilipinong makikinabang sa mga bagong klinika at ospital na mapopondohan at maipapatayo, mga Pilipinong maililihis sa bisyo ng paninigarilyo at labis na pag-inom. Batas na po ang ipinaglaban nating Sin Tax Reform Act.
The law imposes higher taxes on tobacco and alcohol.
It will generate revenues of roughly P34 billion in the first year of implementation that will be spent for the universal health care program and tobacco farmers' livelihood.
Passing the measure is a milestone for Aquino.
Efforts to restructure the excise tax system never made it out of the committee level in Congress in 15 years.
Aquino, who certified the sin tax bill urgent last November, thanks lawmakers who helped push the bill.
BENIGNO AQUINO III, PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT: Maraming nag-isip na imposibleng maipasa ang Sin Tax Reform Bill: malakas ang kalaban; maingay, organisado, at malalim ang bulsa ng mga kumukontra.
In the Senate, the bill faced opposition from Senators Ralph Recto and Bongbong Marcos, who say it would displace tobacco farmers and encourage smuggling.
Recto resigned as ways and means committee chair after criticism he submitted a watered-down version that will raise only P15 billion in revenues.
The Senate approved a substitute bill that seeks to raise P40 billion, P20 billion less than the Aquino administration's target.
At the bicameral conference committee, debates center on the burden-sharing between tobacco and alcohol in generating the revenues.
Story 2: COURT TO NBI: LET MICHAEL RAY AQUINO GO
A Manila regional trial court orders the release of former police officer Michael Ray Aquino, arrested in 2011 for his alleged involvement...
in the 2000 murder of publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer.
On Wednesday, the court orders the National Bureau of Investigation to release Aquino after his camp moved that the evidence against him be dismissed for failing to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Aquino and fellow police officer Cesar Mancao are accused of killing Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in 2000.
Aquino flew to New York but was arrested in 2005 over an expired visa.
He was extradited to the Philippines in 2011, 5 years after pleading guilty for illegal possession of classified documents.
Aquino was senior superintendent in the now-defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force.
Story 3: CU: CONVERGENCE IS FUTURE OF MOBILE
GLOBE CEO Ernest Cu talks about the future of the country’s 2nd largest telecommunications company, in the face of shifting consumer demands and the technological landscape.
Katherine Visconti reports.
ERNEST CU, GLOBE CEO: The service you provide is closest to people’s hearts. There is no alternative, we have to be on all the time, it is a very challenging industry. And I look at it, peoples habits about consuming water and power has not changed. But people’s habits about how they use the service is changing.
The internet is changing media and telecommunications as we know them.
The man steering the second largest telco in the country through the uncertain times is Globe CEO Ernest Cu.
Partnerships are central to Globe’s strategy.
Cu is already in talks with the country's biggest media group ABS-CBN.
There are no talks yet with the second biggest -- GMA 7 -- but Globe isn’t ruling this out.
ERNEST CU, GLOBE CEO: We are always open to everyone speaking with us. There is no exclusivity right?
Partnering with a major network will help Globe in its convergence strategy to marry TV content with the vast distribution network of a telco.
Rival telco PLDT chair Manuel Pangilinan once joked that Globe is copying their convergence strategy after buying the third biggest, TV5.
ERNEST CU, GLOBE CEO: When you say it’s a copycat strategy it’s kind of interesting because every telco in the world is trying to do it. And the United States was actually the very first one to start doing it.
PLDT acquired another rival telco in 2011 and now has twice as many mobile subscribers as Globe and nearly twice as many broadband consumers.
Cu says Globe is comfortable with being number 2 and is realistic about spending so much for market share.
ERNEST CU, GLOBE CEO: Yeah at some point you have to ask yourself what it is going to cost you to go to 50%. There is always a cost. But all I can say is, we will try to drive our business as hard as we can with post paid leading the way. Mobile is disruptive. We're dealing with it by accepting it.
Katherine Visconti, Rappler Manila.
Story 4: CU: NETWORK AND CUSTOMER SERVICE TO IMPROVE IN 2013
Globe CEO Ernest Cu says the company is addressing customer dissatisfaction with network and customer service.
He says improvements will be felt in the first half of 2013.
MARIA RESSA: From @supersarit, has been a Globe several years, victim of countless misinformation given by representatives of Globe, what are you doing to improve customer service?
@johan_elizalde: How do you plan to answer or act on negative feedback especially on social network sites about Globe services?
How do you improve Globe customer service? If the signal is crappy maybe we can improve on how we relate and pacify customers.
ERNEST CU, GLOBE CEO: On the customer service side, on the front line, we've actually been working very hard at this. The first part we tried to solve was people able to call in. In the past it was difficult to call in to Globe so we solved that issue by fixing some IVR systems, by moving people off to different channels like self-serve, and also putting a social network team to answer complaints on Twitter or chat with you...People should start to see the difference sometime in the first or second quarter.
MARIA RESSA: The perception is Globe is stable, has been around, trustworthy and at the same time stodgier than your competition, that Smart is more aggressive. Is this true?
ERNEST CU:I think it's changed in the last 36 months or so, at least that's what we feel, of course everyone will have a different opinion.
Story 5: GARCIA CALLS HER SUSPENSION 'POLITICAL HARASSMENT'
A day after her suspension, Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia refuses to step down, saying only force -- and not her political rival -- can unseat her.
Ayee Macaraig reports.
It looks like a regular governors’ day.
A meeting with department heads at the province’s seat of power.
But the day is far from normal for suspended Cebu Governor Gwendolyn “Gwen” Garcia.
Garcia insists on running Cebu’s capitol a day after her suspension order is released.
President Aquino finds her guilty of abusing authority by bypassing her late Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez Jr and the provincial council in hiring contractual employees.
Vice Governor Agnes Magpale assumes office as acting governor.
Unfazed, Garcia says force – not her political rival – can unseat her.
She calls her suspension illegal and the charges flimsy.
GWENDOLYN GARCIA, SUSPENDED CEBU GOVERNOR: Over my dead body akong aalis dito. JC Look at all the police. The capitol is under siege. This is vote-rich Cebu!
Garcia and her brother, Cebu Representative Pablo John Garcia, cry political harassment.
Once allies of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Garcias are now linked with the opposition United Nationalist Alliance of Vice President Jejomar Binay, the bitter rival of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas of the Liberal Party.
Roxas says he only enforces the order based on recommendations of his late predecessor Jesse Robredo.
The Garcias don’t buy it.
They plan to ask the courts to stop the suspension.
PABLO JOHN GARCIA, CEBU REP, 3RD DISTRICT: LP is showing brute force. This is martial law, emphasis on Mar. JC Gov Magpale is not just acting governor. She is overacting governor.
Rallying her own supporters, Magpale says Garcia should follow an order that is final and executory.
With Palace and police backing, Magpale also takes control.
For her, being Roxas’ partymate and the sister of Aquino classmate Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras are not the issue.
AGNES MAGPALE, ACTING CEBU GOVERNOR: I’ve been in politics for 20 years. My brother is 18 years my junior. To drag his name is unfair. This decision is long overdue.
Magpale is leaving it up to the police to deal with Garcia.
The police say if the suspended governor continues her defiance, she may just force them to literally remove her from office.
AYEE MACARAIG, REPORTING: Who is in charge and how long will the situation last? The police and the two camps will have to confront these questions in the coming days. For now, Cebuanos will have to contend with two female governors as the provincial and national political drama drags on.
Ayee Macaraig, Rappler, Cebu.
Story 6: LP, ROXAS DENY 'PATTERN OF POLITICAL PERSECUTION'
The ruling Liberal Party denies charges by the United Nationalist Alliance the LP is engaging in a "disturbing pattern of political persecution" of opponents in the 2013 elections.
Malacañang suspended Cebu Governor Garcia Wednesday, 5 days after Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino is charged with plunder over his alleged involvement in illegal numbers game jueteng.
Both moves involve the Department of the Interior and Local Government headed by LP president Mar Roxas.
Garcia and Espino are aligned with the opposition and are perceived to be strong rivals of LP candidates in their provinces.
In a statement released by UNA, spokesperson Toby Tiangco calls the moves a "power grab by Roxas and the LP."
It adds, "This is a return to the discredited practice of the Arroyo regime...
where government power is used to harass and persecute political opponents."
With the suspension of Garcia, Cebu Vice-Governor Agnes Magpale, an LP member, replaces her.
In the 2013 polls, Magpale will be the running mate of Hilario Davide III, who is up against Garcia's brother Pablo John.
Espino, who is running for a third term, faces Alaminos Mayor Hernani Braganza, a good friend of President Aquino
Story 7: SOUTH KOREA PRESIDENT-ELECT VOWS PRAGMATIC POLICY
South Korean president-elect Park Geun-Hye vows Thursday to pursue a pragmatic policy on North Korea to guarantee the South's security while trying to build trust with Pyongyang.
In her first policy address since her historic victory, South Korea's first woman president says the North's recent rocket launch is a reminder of the threat.
During her campaign, Park distances herself from the hardline policy of outgoing President Lee Myung-Bak who suspended humanitarian aid to the North.
She promises a dual policy of greater engagement and -quote- "robust deterrence."
Story 8: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 4, The fiscal cliff deadline looms, and US President Barack Obama is pushing the Republican party to "take the deal.”
The uncertainty pushes US stocks down.
Obama says Republicans find it "very hard" to say yes to him while a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner calls the White House "irrational."
The looming fiscal cliff weighs heavy on Asian trading Thursday, even as the Bank of Japan announces plans to expand the size of its asset-purchase program.
Asian shares are mixed because of negative sentiment.
At number 7, A scathing independent report says the deaths of 4 Americans, including US Ambassador Chris Stevens in an attack in Benghazi, Libya was because of major security failures and mismanagement of the State Department.
It triggers at least one resignation and 3 suspensions.
At number 8, As America mourns the killings of 20 children ages 6 & 7 and 6 adults in Newtown, Connecticut...
President Barack Obama calls for "concrete" proposals within a month after a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden examines new gun control laws, better mental health access and the impact of violent culture.
BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: There’s no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence, and prevent the very worst violence.
And at number 10, Beware a sophisticated new campaign out to get your private information.
It offers a color change on your Facebook account through an event notification.
Story 9: PHILIPPINES IS 1ST RUNNER UP IN MISS UNIVERSE 2012
Miss USA Olivia Culpo takes home the Miss Universe 2012 crown in a Christmas-themed pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Miss Philippines Janine Tugonon is 1st runner up, Venezuela is 2nd, Australia 3rd, and Brazil 4th.
This is the Philippines' best finish since Miriam Quiambao in 1999.
It is also the 3rd consecutive year that a Filipina makes the Miss Universe Top 5.
In 2010 Venus Raj was 4th runner up, and in 2011 Shamcey Supsup was 3rd runner up.