News Round-up: January


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.

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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

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(Source: Microsoft Website)



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)

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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.

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

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