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Political Scene 2013 by Mary-Ann R. Mandap Graphic1 Full view

Political Scene 2013 by Mary-Ann R. Mandap


Sabah Standoff

Over 200 armed members of the royal army of the Sultanate of Sulu under Jamalul Kiram III failed in their bid to reclaim Sabah in February. The clash killed 68 Filipinos and 10 Malaysian security personnel. It also forced hundreds to flee, and strained ties between Manila and Kuala Lumpur. The trial of 27 Filipinos involved in the standoff will start in January 2014.

Kiram died of multiple organ failure in October, but he had ordered his heirs to continue the fight they had begun.Meanwhile,President Aquino weathered severe domestic criticism of his handling of the crisis.

Mid-term Elections

Fifty-two million Filipinos went to the polls on May 13 when the Philippines held its mid-term national and local elections. Over 18,000 elective posts were filled up, including 12 senators, 229 members of the House of Representatives, 80 governors, and roughly 15,000 local officials.

Analysts saw this election as a broad affirmation of the support for President Aquino’s anti-corruption and economic reforms. Still, the biggest winners in the race for both houses of Congress were still the dominant political families and celebrities. The elections also saw the political comeback of ousted former President Joseph Estrada, who handily beat re-electionist Alfredo Lim for mayor of Manila.

Pork Barrel Scam

The furor over the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), more commonly known as pork barrel, has been the biggest corruption scandal ever to hit the Philippines. The scam was unearthed after whistleblowers led by Benhur Luy revealed last July the alleged misuse by legislators and middlemen of billions of pesos in pork barrel funds diverted through ghost non-government organizations and funneled to non-existent projects.

In the middle of the controversy was the well-connected businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, who, along with Senators, Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and Jinggoy Estrada and dozens of other politicians and government officials, now faces plunder charges before the Ombudsman.

Million People March

An anti-pork barrel rally, spawned in August on the social media networks Facebook and Twitter, mobilized over 200,000 angry activists marching to Luneta to denounce  the P250-million PDAF scam. The protest action was replicated in other cities nationwide and overseas.

Zamboanga Siege

On September 9, fighting broke out between a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and government forces in the port city of Zamboanga, leaving 23 military men and 12 civilians dead and more than 200 wounded on both sides after a two-week siege. Media also reported that over 100,000 were displaced and nearly 10,000 homes destroyed in the two-week firefight.

The Zamboanga siege was widely blamed on MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari, who had lamented that his people were left marginalized by a peace agreement being negotiated between the government and another insurgent group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

High Court vs Pork Barrel

On November 19, the Supreme Court (SC) unanimously decided to declare the much-reviled PDAF as unconstitutional. The verdict ended the decades-long pork barrel system, whereby lawmakers sponsored pet projects through lump sum allocations in the annual budget, giving them almost unbridled control over project funds.

The SC also declared as unconstitutional the use of the Malampaya funds outside of energy projects, and the Presidential Social Funds (PSF) financing priority infrastructure development projects.


The ruling was hailed as a triumph of the Filipino people’s strident calls for the abolition of pork barrel.







Peace Agreement with Muslims Rebels

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front agreed on a detailed set of guidelines on wealth-sharing and grant of a new automonous region under the Framework Agreement signed earlier. This recent development is seen as a significant development toward achieving lasting peace in the war-torn region of Muslim Mindanao and ushers in a new era of stability and economic prosperity in the region.

The final peace settlement comes after 15 years of negotiations between the government and the MILF ending more than 40 years of violence that has claimed over 150,000 lives and stifled development.




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