News Round-up: January

Head

1. In aid of Legislation? The Senate Blue Ribbon Subcommittee hearings on the Makati Parking Lot Building

MakatiThe Senate Blue Ribbon Subcommittee hearing began last 2014, after allegations of overpricing in the construction of the Makati Parking Building was  divulged.  Since then, different allegations and accusations were made against Vice President Jejomar Binay, his son Makati Mayor Junjun Binay and their staff, and countless hearings led by Senators Antonio Trillanes, Koko Pimentel and Alan Peter Cayetano, were conducted, “in aid of legislation.” The senators, in particular Cayetano and Trillanes are well known detractors of VP Binay. Primary witness and “whistleblower” is former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, who had a falling-out with the Binays after being denied of their support in 2010’s Local Elections as Makati Mayor. Binay has then since denied the allegations of overpricing and corruption, claiming that all transactions were properly audited. Last January 22, the investigations continued with Housing Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) President Atty. Darlene Marie Berberabe put on the spotlight as the three senators continued to look into accusations of connivance and corruption in the security contract made between HDMF and Omni Security Investigation Inc, which is allegedly owned by the Vice President. Also on the 22nd, new claims against the VP was made by ex-ally Mercado: VP Binay allegedy got almost Php200M worth of kickbacks in a land deal made by the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP) with Alphaland. Binay is currently the President of the said organization. The BSP has denied allegations as well as the camp of VP Binay, claiming that these are all part of a propaganda backed by influential people in order to derail the VP in his ambition to be President in the 2016 Elections.

Prospero De Vera, vice president for public affairs at the University of the Philippines, said failure to provide a committee report could be seen as an indication of the Blue Ribbon Committee’s performance. (Infographic source: GMA News Online)

In a special report done by GMA News Online (which you can read in full here), out of 13 Blue Ribbon Committee inquiries done (consisting of almost 70 hearings) since 2010, only 3 of these inquiries produced proposed bills. The last time the panel (officially named the Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations) came out with a report was December 19, 2011, during the 15th Congress. The report was about the alleged misuse of almost 244.5 million pesos in intelligence funds from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). In the report, plunder charges were recommended to be filed against former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and PCSO General Manager Rosario Uriate. On that same year, 2 more reports were also filed, one in March 23, on the alleged anomalous purchase of second-hand helicopters for the Philippine National Police and another on October 13, on the plea-bargaining agreement between state prosecutors and former Armed Forces comptroller Major Gen. Carlos Garcia. Bills were filed as a result of these reports but only 2 were passed into Laws, Republic Acts 10365 and 10167, both were enacted to strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering Law.

According to reports, the senators plan to undertake this investigation until November, for they will be delving in all Binay-related anomalies.

2. Papal Visit to Sri Lanka & the Philippines

Pope Francis and the official logo of his Papal Visit with the theme, “Mercy & Compassion”

Also in the headlines is Pope Francis’ Papal Visit to the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The leader of the 1.2 billion Roman Catholic populace made his first trip to both countries, in Sri Lanka to canonize a saint and in the Philippines to visit the survivors and victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (International Name “Haiyan”)

For the trip, local media sent their representatives that joined the Pope in his trip to both countries from Vatican and back. Reports say that Pope Francis was deeply moved by the welcome and love that the Filipinos has given him during his 5-day visit to the country.

Until now, stories regarding the Papal Visit is still making headlines. Most recently, stories and pictures of street dwellers that were allegedly kept away and hidden during the Pope’s visit are on the top stories of newspapers, TV and radio newscast. Reports indicate that street dwellers in the City of Manila, in particular those living at Roxas Boulevard were asked to leave the area. Other reports indicate some homeless were taken to a resort at Batangas by officials of the Department and Social Welfare and Development. There were also some street children that was rounded-up and brought at the local government of Manila’s Reception and Action Center.

More on this story:

 

Banner Tech

3. Microsoft unveils Windows 10 – what’s new?

Microsoft unveiled its new iteration of the Windows operating system last quarter of 2014. Windows 10 will run across all devices, ranging from desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

January 21st saw Microsoft demo the new iteration of its Windows operating system. Dubbed as Windows 10, it will run across all device platforms, ranging from desktops and laptops – even in smartphones.

Microsoft’s vision for it’s operating system is for it to work on both mobile devices and PCs. Other that visual changes like reworked desktop icons, the Start Menu (which was changed, for some the right words was scrapped out in Windows 8) has a new implementation. For desktops, the standard Start Menu like in Windows 7, with pinned Live Tiles at the side. For tablets, the expanded start menu as introduced in Windows 8 and 8.1. For convertible devices, Microsoft introduced the Continuum feature, which allows smooth transition as you switch from keyboard/mouse to tablet, the continuous effort from the software giant to keep the best of both worlds.

Screenshots of Windows 10 optimized for smartphones

For smartphones, Windows 10 will be tailored to work for small screen devices. Syncing between devices was emphasized, and a more deeper Skype and OneDrive integration will be implemented for the OS. Familiar with Cortana? WP’s digital assistant will now be available in the desktops as it will be deeply integrated in the system. Speaking of integration, Cortana will not only be involved in your phone and desktop, but also in your browser. Microsoft also unveiled the much rumored “Project Spartan,” its new web browser to debut alongside Windows 10. Presented with a cleaner look in line with the modern interface of Windows 10, Project Spartan promises rich features for its future users.

Transform your world with holograms

Microsoft did not only announce Windows 10, it also unveiled a project in tied with the OS and according to them, the future of computing – holographics. Primarily, the product capable of immersing you in this world, the Microsoft HoloLens. HoloLens is a see-through visor that overlays holographic imagery over the real world. Alex Kipman, who worked on Kinect, described it as the future of technology, art, and everything.

What’s next for Microsoft? Watch what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has to say for Microsoft’s future:

Watch the video of the Microsoft HoloLens:

Microsoft HoloLens

More on this story:

(Source: Microsoft Website)

 

Entertainment

4. Miss Universe 2014

Paulina Vega, Miss Universe 2014 (Image from Miss Universe Facebook Page)

The 63rd annual Miss Universe beauty pageant was held the 25th of January (26 in the Philippines) at Doral, Florida in the United States. 88 lovely and beautiful ladies graced the stage to compete for the crown. Among the 88 candidates, Philippines’ representative, Bb. Pilipinas Universe Ms. Mary Jean Lastimosa managed to reach the Top 10 in the pageant. Unfortunately, she was not able to make it to the Top 5. Ultimately, Columbia’s Ms. Paulina Vega was crowned as Miss Universe 2014.

Social media was full of comments and support for the candidates. Upset fans of  favorites like Miss Philippines and Miss Jamaica took to Twitter and Facebook to express their disappointment.

Here is the complete list of winners for the beauty pageant:

  • Miss Universe 2014: Paulina Vega ( Columbia)
  • 1st Runner-Up: Nia Sanchez ( USA)
  • 2nd Runner-Up: Diana Harkusha ( Ukraine)
  • 3rd Runner-Up: Yasmin Verheijen ( Netherlands)
  • 4th Runner-Up: Kaci Fennell ( Jamaica)
  • Top 10

    Mary Jean Lastimosa, in her swimwear during the 63rd Miss Universe pageant (Image from Miss Universe Facebook Page)

    • Valentina Ferrer ( Argentina)
    • Tegan Martin ( Australia)
    • Mary Jean Lastimosa ( Philippines)
    • Desirée Cordero Ferrer ( Spain)
    • Migbelis Castellanos ( Venezuela)
  • Miss Congeniality: Queen Celesti ( Nigeria)
  • Miss Photogenic: Gabriela Berrios ( Puerto Rico)
  • Best in National Costume: Elvira Devinamira ( Indonesia)

(Source: Miss Universe Facebook Page, Website and Wikipedia page)

More on this story:

 

5. MRT & LRT fare hike, Oil & diesel rollbacksRoadwatch

Last in our top headlines are the latest hikes and rollbacks with relation to our transportation industry.

MRT and LRT fare hike

A few days after the new year celebrations, the Department of Transportation and Communication announced that effective January 4, 2015, the rates of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit(LRT) will have an increase. This took the public by surprise as during the past few months, the DOTC and the management of the transit systems have announced that the fare increase will temporarily be halted for further studies and consultation. As of today, multiple petitions were made at the Supreme Court and at DOTC by different commuter groups and leftist organizations to secure a temporary restraining order (TRO) for the fare increase.

Dwindling oil prices

The continued downtrend in international oil prices has led to multiple rollbacks in domestic pump prices. Diesel prices now ranges from Php26-27 while Gasoline prices now ranges from Php37-40. Oil companies said the price reduction has reflected movements in the international oil market. Department of Energy (DOE) Undersecretary Zenaida Monsada said that it is hard to predict whether international oil prices will drop further, but pointed out the international oil industry analysts note the market is well supplied. The decreasing trend was triggered when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided not to cut production in Nov that resulted in the oversupply of oil. Due to the continuous decrease of oil prices, various petitions to also decrease fare rates for public transport such as PUJs, PUBs and taxi cabs have sprung nationwide.

More on this story:


News and Opinions’ News Round-up gives you a run-down of the Top Stories of the month.

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It’s no joking matter.

Bad joke. Jessica Soho (left) tells Vice Ganda (right): Rape is not a joke.

Twitter and Facebook was buzzing yesterday: GMA News pillar and anchor Arnold Clavio and other GMA News reporters castigated Vice Ganda on his jokes during his concert last May 17 on Smart Araneta Coliseum about Ms. Jessica Soho, who also is a GMA News pillar, anchor and vice president for News Programs. You can watch the video of the rape and weight jokes here.

Ms. Jessica released a press statement saying, “Rape is not a joke and should never be material for a comedy concert.” She added: “I thank all those who shared my hurt and expressed their support, but this should not be about me but about rape victims who suffer tremendously from this terrible crime. The horrors they go through are unspeakable and should never be taken lightly, especially by way of a cruel joke.”

Vice Ganda has already apologized to Ms. Jessica. “Humihingi po ako ng kapatawaran sa inyo,” Vice Ganda said in a live telecast on ABS-CBN’s noontime program ‘It’s Showtime.’ “Opo, iyon po ay isang biro na maaaring sa inyo ay hindi magandang biro at kung hindi po magandang biro ‘yon at nasaktan ko po kayo talaga, humihingi po ako ng paumanhin, patawad po,” Vice Ganda also said. “At pinapangako ko po sa inyo na hindi na kayo magiging kasama kailanman sa anumang tema ng pagtatanghal ko,” he vowed.

Arnold Clavio (left) to Vice Ganda (right): “Bakit mo binibiktima ang mga taong seryoso sa trabaho nila? Huwag mo silang kasangkapanin para lang makapagpagpatawa.”

In response to the public apology made by Vice Ganda on Wednesday regarding the “gang rape” joke he made at her expense, Ms. Jessica Soho issued the following statement: “I acknowledge the public apology given by Vice Ganda, by way of his TV program. I sincerely hope and pray that this was done with the purest intentions and determination to put this issue behind us. Just to clarify certain points about my phone conversation with him – his call came without warning as his number was not programmed in my phone directory. I told him I wasn’t feeling well and I wasn’t sure I was ready to talk to him. But I clearly remember thanking him for his call. As I’ve said, this is not about me, but about the issue of rape not being an appropriate subject matter for comedy. Rape transcends age, economic class, gender — and even one’s weight. Once again, I thank everyone who gave their support.”

On a report on the Philippine Daily Inquirer website, a top-ranking ABS-CBN executive said by phone that the network wasn’t sure it should get involved. Besides, the executive said, it had been 11 days since the concert at Smart Araneta Coliseum. “Why are they doing this only now—and isn’t it curious that all the complaints so far are coming from their (GMA 7’s) news people?”

Why are they doing this just now? The most obvious answer I could think would be they have just heard of this issue just now. This is me speculating, but perhaps they were still busy with the post-election reports. Is it curious that complaints are coming from their GMA News personalities? No, because they ARE her co-workers, her people and friends. And,  if I’m not mistaken, some journalists from other networks, even from ABS-CBN as well, have expressed their dismay and indignation over the joke.

There are others who accuse that this is just all about network rivalry. Is it? Or are we just evading the true issues and realities at hand, eager to look for other issues to blame but not the real topic that caused this situation?

Many are claiming that the GMA News personalities have blown this issue out of proportion. Supporters of Vice Ganda are saying that other people are over-reacting to the issue, and that a joke should be taken as it is: a joke. Perhaps they haven’t heard of the saying, “Jokes are half-meant.”

Is it really over-reacting? I beg to differ. These people reacting are people who have worked with and for Ms. Jessica Soho. These are her colleagues and friends. She have even mentored some of these people. Others, are her admirers, who respect her work as a credible and outstanding journalist. So I believe it is unavoidable for them to rise up, air their opinions and criticism, their indignation to the ‘joke.’ You cannot blame them for being hurt for a person they idolize, look-up to and admire. It is a natural reaction for us to defend someone we care for, someone we respect, and someone we admire. Had things gone either way, I would believe that Vice Ganda would also be defended by his friends and colleagues.

Rape is one of the most heinous crimes in the world. Something that has plagued news reports and police blotters for many years. It is not something to joke about, especially in a place like Smart Araneta Coliseum. In a blog that many are saying is an “objective” blog, the author has this to say on this point of the issue: “Evidently, the central theme of the Jessica Soho jokes was WEIGHT. Not her achievements. Not her womanhood. Not her value as a person. NOT RAPE.” At first, I really don’t know how to react on this statement. Not only it is discriminating, but also very insensitive. I’m sorry, but has our society gone that low? We now defend a joke so badly made, discriminating and directed to a respectable person?

Some would say that in comedy bars that kind of joke is a common theme, a common routine. There is a BIG difference in doing a joke in a comedy bar, and doing it in Araneta Coliseum. There is a BIG difference in the subject, timing, setting and placement of a joke. My point is, jokes should be done in the right place, right time, right audience and the right subject matter. Should Vice Ganda also poke fun of Kris Aquino’s son Josh, since it’s only a joke? A joke is not a joke if it is made in bad taste, made against the wrong subject matter, even if the intention good and is just to make people laugh.

Some would say that the jokes done by Vice Ganda to Kris Aquino, Boy Abunda and other ABS-CBN personalities are much more worse than the joke done to Ms. Jessica. The difference is the level of familiarity between the persons involved. Vice, Kris and Boy, and other ABS personalities are known to be close friends and are of the same network, thus the jokes are delivered as it is intended: no malice and misunderstanding between them because they know each other on a personal or professional level. That does not apply to Jessica Soho and Vice Ganda. Joking between friends is common, but to joke about someone you are unfamiliar with, in a concert nonetheless, particularly a joke that offensive, will definitely garner bad attention.

Every comedian should know the limits of his or her act. There is a line between comedy and discrimination. For some it may be funny, but for most it might be offensive. Learn to qualify what you say, especially if you are a influential personality. Whether it is about Jessica Soho or not, whether Vice Ganda made the joke or not, the point is: You are and should be responsible to the words you utter, whether it is a joke, a statement or anything else. Because there are things and topics that are no joking matter.

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Personal: I recommend reading Ms. Lia Mañalac-Del Castillo’s post on this issue. She made good points and drove straight to the issue at hand. Link: http://thedivajournalist.com/2013/05/29/on-vice-gandas-comedy/

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Sound bites:

“Ang hirap nga lang kung si Jessica Soho magbo-bold. Kailangan gang rape lagi. Sasabihin ng rapist, ‘Ipasa ang lechon.’ Sasabihin naman ni Jessica, ‘Eh nasaan yung apple?'” – Vice Ganda at I-Vice Ganda Mo ‘Ko concert last May 17, 2013

 “Bakit mo binibiktima ang mga taong seryoso sa trabaho nila? Huwag mo silang kasangkapanin para lang makapagpagpatawa. Bakit hindi taga-diyan sa inyo ang gawin mong subject ng jokes mo?” – Arnold Clavio, One on One with Igan kasama si Lala Roque, Super Radyo dzBB, May 28, 2013

“Naghihilom daw ang lahat ng sugat. Pero may mga sugat na hindi lamang matagal maghilom, kun’di nag-iiwan pa ng panghabambuhay na pilat, gaya po ng rape. Sa lahat ng kultura, saanmang sulok ng mundo, mula noon hanggang ngayon, isa pa rin sa pinakamatinding salot sa sangkatauhan lalo na sa mga kababaihan, ang karumal-dumal na krimen ng panggagahasa. Sa Pilipinas, hindi bababa sa tatlo ang nare-rape kada araw. Ang mas matindi pa, rape din ang numero unong krimen na bumibiktima ngayon sa mga bata. Mas mataas pa nga raw ang bilang na ito kung tutuusin, lalo na’t hindi naman lahat ng biktima, handang ihayag ang di-makataong karanasan. Sa madalas ay mapang-husga pa ang lipunan. Sa tantiya ng United Nations, sa kada 5 babae ngayon sa buong mundo, isa ang na-rape na… o maaaring ma-rape pa lamang. Sa ngayon, patuloy pa raw na tumataas ang bilang ng mga biktima ng panggagahasa. Kaya naman isa po itong paksa na hinding-hindi dapat maging laman ng mga biro.” – Jessica Soho, Post Script, State of the Nation with Jessica Soho, May 28, 2013

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“Hypocrisy is the state of pretending to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually have.”

Don’t accuse someone of hypocrisy, especially if you have absolutely no personal knowledge of a person’s virtues, moral or religious beliefs, and principles.

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Love, Lies and the Headlines

n&otitleOf the different important issues the past few weeks, the election of Pope Francis as the new supreme pontiff, the Sabah standoff, Elections on May, the on-going campaign period, the issue on STFAP and Kristel’s suicide, and other more relevant issues such as poverty, corruption and violence, topping the headlines last Mar 20 and 21, both in mainstream media and the social media, was the Kris-James spat and the Heart-Chiz love story (or quarrel, whichever you prefer).

A brief background on the stories behind these headlines, the Kris-James spat started on the temporary protection order issued by the Makati Court denying Yap his visitation rights after a ” sexual assault” on the youngest Aquino sister. More on this video. Meanwhile, the Heart-Chiz vs. the Ongpauco parents issue started on accusations of the parents that Escudero is disrespecting them and their daughter, among other issues and accusations.

While we may consider them top showbiz headlines, it was rather disappointing that the network’s newscasts (particularly TV Patrol and 24 Oras) devoted so much airtime (28 minutes in TV Patrol? Really?) for the sit-down interview with the Aquino sisters. Meanwhile, every now and then, the Heart and Chiz story pops out in news programs (in between crime reports and national issues) when I believe that they qualify as showbiz reports (considering the reporters covering the stories are showbiz reporters) but rather, they are qualified as banner stories and national headlines. The point of showbiz-oriented talk shows such as The Buzz and Startalk was for this purpose: to grant “exclusive” and not-so-exclusive interviews on celebrities and showbiz personalities (if you consider Escudero one, well I leave that to you.) regarding their mundane lives. The purpose of newscasts such as 24 Oras and TV Patrol is to dish out news and information on the different issues and problems in our country. Yes, they may feature showbiz news, but not to the point that 2 very credible news anchors (Ted Failon and Jessica Soho) will grant interviews on such issues. That is why we have the Boy Abunda’s of the entertainment industry for them to facilitate such interviews.

My point is, as they say, “Lahat ng sobra, nakakasama.” I don’t want to speculate the reason why networks allow such interviews on their flagship news programs, but deny it or no, we all know why they do so: The Ratings Game. A little bit of trivia, do you know that TV Patrol still holds the record of having the highest rating newscast? It was when TV Patrol anchor Korina Sanchez conducted an exclusive live interview with Aquino regarding the her break-up with Joey Marquez. The September 24, 2003 broadcast, which featured Aquino’s interview, ate up most of the newscast’s airtime (like what will happen AGAIN after 10 years), making it extend beyond its 6:00pm–7:00pm timeslot. According to AGB, the broadcast, the longest in its history back then, garnered a rating of 47.2% in Mega Manila. (source: TV Patrol Wikipedia page) Maybe the management of TV Patrol wants to catch up with 24 Oras in the ratings game that they resorted to such move, maybe not. But with the rise of social media, and its continuous  involvement in the lives of the Filipino people, the more important issues that the people want to talk about rather than showbiz discussions, and with the people being more involved and intelligent, I doubt that conducting such kind of interviews will garner additional ratings. The audience will talk about it yes, but after a day or two, they will move on. So newscasts please, just stick to what you do best: reporting and exposing the issues, anomalies and other relevant stories of the day.

And, thank you for gag orders.