World Newsletter

9 January 2020


MANILA - A massive repatriation of Filipino migrant workers in Iraq may not 
be needed as the US pulled back from the brink of war with Iran early 
Thursday, a former labor official said. 
The Philippines, however, needs to update its contingency plans in areas of 
unrest in the Middle East, particularly Iraq, according to Susan Ople, a 
former labor undersecretary and head of non-profit overseas Filipino workers 
advocate group Blas F. Ople Policy Center. 
"A massive repatriation may not be necessary but it’s also good for the 
crisis committee of the Palace, DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), 
DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) to keep abreast of what’s going on," she 
told ANC's Early Edition. 
"This can be a good opportunity... to update existing contingency plans, 
develop a network of influencers in the community that embassies can tap in 
case a crisis does erupt, and for our crisis managers to touch base with the 
leaders of these host government." 
The Philippine Embassy in Iraq earlier raised the highest crisis alert level 
there, which mandates the evacuation of some 1,600 Filipinos. 
The military said it would send its "biggest aircraft and ships" to help in 
repatriation efforts. 
Sending these, however, may not be necessary as it would not be "efficient" 
because Iraq's airport is still functioning, according to Ople. 
"Second, if it's deemed as military operation, maybe this can also put our 
embassy there in a dilemma of sorts. I would defer to the charge d’affaires 
in Baghdad on how to explain this to the host government," she said. 
"But yes, we do need precision decision planning, invaluable inputs of our 
military in putting together contingency plans. But perhaps on the actual 
repatriation, we would have to rely still on our embassy personnel." 
Authorities will consult Filipinos on whether they want to come home to the 
Philippines or evacuate in neighboring Middle East states as some might have 
families that they cannot uproot or jobs they wish to return to, according 
to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año. 
Ople said this would be "a more convenient way" of keeping OFWs safe but it 
would depend on their skills and the willingness of employers to accept 
"That may be a more attractive option for some of these workers," she said. 


MANILA — Throngs of barefoot devotees carried an image of a black Jesus 
Christ in downtown Manila on Thursday, in what is shaping up to be the 
fastest edition of the annual procession that is among the world's most 
spectacular displays of Catholic zeal, authorities said. 
Police led the "Traslacion" for the first time and as of early Thursday 
morning the 400-year-old Black Nazarene was at Ayala Bridge in 4 hours, when 
last year, it reached a nearby area past noon, said Brig. Gen. Bernard 
Banac, spokesman of the Philippine National Police. 
The Catholic faithful, waving white handkerchiefs and shouting "viva!" (long 
live), lined the streets of Manila from the Quirino Grandstand along Manila 
Bay to Quiapo Church hoping to touch or catch a glimpse of the image. 
Some 2.3 million people were following the procession as of 9:27 a.m., 
according to the office of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno. 
"More than the fastest, we wanted it to be the safest," Moreno told ABS-CBN 
The faster start to the procession was "unprecedented," Banac said in a 
separate interview with ABS-CBN News. 
Many devotees wept in joy as the Black Nazarene left the Quirino Grandstand, 
said Quiapo Church vicar Fr. Douglas Badong. Some devotees, however, shoved 
policemen who barred them from approaching the procession head-on, ABS-CBN 
News footage showed. 
"Ito iyong isang kultura ng pagpapahayag ng pananampalataya ng mga deboto. 
Sa tingin ko, hindi naman iyong maapektuhan... Hindi sukatan iyong bilis 
niya," he said. 
As of 8 a.m., some 300 devotees required blood pressure monitoring, 3 
fainted and 2 were brought to the hospital, said the Philippine Red Cross. 
Organizers hope the Black Nazarene can be brought back to Quiapo Church by 6 
p.m., before more devotees get off work, Badong said. 
"Hopefully, ito na nga ang magiging template sa mga susunod na taon," said 
the PNP's Banac. 
Moreno said there was "order and discipline" in this year's Traslacion. 
"It has to be that way kasi hindi naman kailangan sarili natin ang iisipin 
natin... Sana isipin din natin ang bilin ni Jesus, pagmalasakitan mo ang 
kapwa mo kasi yun naman ay para sa kapakanan ng pangkalahatan," he said. 
Cellphone signals jammed for the event will be restored after a security 
assessment, said Banac. 


MANILA — Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle called on the 
faithful to pray for peace in the Middle East and for the safety of 
Filipinos in the region as tensions escalate between the United States and 
At a midnight mass for this year’s feast of the Black Nazarene, Tagle 
expressed hope that the brewing conflict in the Gulf region would not lead 
to war. 
“Ating alalahanin na sa ilang bahagi ng mundo ay nakaamba ang panganib ng 
karahasan. Harinawa, huwag itong umuwi sa giyera, sa digmaan,” Tagle began 
his homily. 
He added: “Ipanalangin natin na maging ligtas ang ating mga kapwa sa Middle 
East, humupa ang mga pagnanais na sirain ang kapwa, humupa ang mga hangarin 
na maghiganti, at ipanalangin ang mga kapwa Pilipino at kanilang mga pamilya 
dito na nangangamba.” 
Tagle then asked the crowd to observe a moment of silence. 
Over 1.2 million Filipinos work in the Middle East, who are at risk of being 
affected by the escalating conflict. This, after a US airstrike killed top 
Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Iraq. 
Thursday’s mass was seen as Tagle’s last as Manila top prelate, a post he 
has held for eight years. He is set to move to Vatican as prefect of the 
Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. 
The Feast of the Black Nazarene, which culminates in the annual procession 
called Traslacion, is expected to draw millions of Catholic faithful. 


MANILA — President Duterte yesterday swore in Court of Appeals Justice 
Samuel Gaerlan as a member of the Supreme Court (SC). 
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Gaerlan completes the 15-member 
High Tribunal. 
A graduate of San Beda College of Law and a professor at the Pamantasan ng 
Lungsod ng Maynila, Gaerlan replaces Diosdado Peralta who was named Chief 
Justice in October, Malacañang said. 
Gaerlan is the sixth Bedan to be appointed by Duterte to the SC. 
He will turn 70 years old on Dec. 19, 2028. The mandatory retirement age for 
a justice is 70.Duterte, who also finished his law studies in San Beda, 
swore in several other government officials yesterday, where he emphasized 
his policy against corruption. 
“I am not threatening, I am just saying to avoid corruption,” he said, 
adding that he has the wherewithals to know if one is into corrupt 
“My God, do (things) legally,” the President said. “I mean well, I trust 
you. I am thanking you for joining the government, lending your expertise... 
to the people.” 
The Chief Executive said he only wants to do what is best for the Filipino 
people while he still can. 


MANILA — Vice President Leni Robredo shrugged off yesterday President 
Duterte’s remark that she is a “colossal blunder” after she called the 
government’s anti-illegal drug campaign a “massive failure.” 
“Ever since, I don’t respond to insults. I only respond if their facts are 
fake and have no basis. But if it’s about an impression on me, it’s his 
(Duterte’s) right to think of me like that. I won’t defend myself because 
the media that followed me in my 18 days in ICAD will prove that I do my 
work,” she said at the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum. 
Robredo also defended her report and insisted that all the data related to 
the drug war came from government agencies, including the Philippine 
National Police. 
“We didn’t invent our data,” Robredo stressed. 
Robredo said she was not surprised by the barrage of criticisms from 
administration officials and Duterte’s allies following the release of her 
report on the government’s drug war. 
On Wednesday, Duterde said Robredo was a “colossal blunder” and should 
revisit her report. 
“I knew that once I release the report they will gang up on me, and the 
attacks will be personal,” she said. “But I have to report even if they 
don’t want to hear it,” she added. 
The Vice President also disagreed that the country is on the verge of 
becoming a narco state. 
“It’s (illegal drugs) a big problem but not insurmountable. We’re not a 
narco state yet. If you say narco state, the country is run by illegal 
drugs,” she said. 


MANILA — Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año yesterday 
challenged policemen to keep pressing forward in the war on illegal drugs to 
refute Vice President’s Leni Robredo’s assessment that the anti-drug 
campaign is a failure. 
According to Año, police officers should not be affected by Robredo’s 
findings on the drug war, which he said defies logic. 
“I think it’s more of a challenge to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to 
refute that particular comment and statement of Vice President Robredo,” he 
told reporters in Camp Crame, Quezon City. 
He enumerated the accomplishments of the PNP to prove that the anti-drug 
campaign is not a failure, among these are the arrest of 300,000 drug 
pushers and surrender of about 1.5 million peddlers and users since July 
The government said at least 5,552 drug suspects were killed in alleged 
shootouts with lawmen in the past three years. 


MANILA – The Department of Labor and Employment said Thursday it would 
"accelerate" negotiations with countries that could serve as alternative 
destinations for Filipino workers in the Middle East in case they are forced 
to return home. 
Overseas Filipino workers, in case of repatriation, will be profiled to 
match their skills with available jobs in Japan, China, Russia, Canada and 
Israel, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told ANC’s Headstart. 
"We just have to accelerate our negotiations with those countries. In the 
meantime we are profiling the OFWs na marerepatriate natin para alam natin 
kung saan natin sila dadalahin (so that we will know where to send them),” 
Bello said. 
A P100 million budget allotted for food and medicine for OFWs in the Middle 
East was set for the evacuation, Bello said. 
The Department of Labor and Employment is working with the Department of 
Trade and Industry (DTI) in arranging livelihood programs to returning OFWs 
who wish to stay in the country for good, he said. 
There are over 1,000 OFWs in Iran, 2,291 in Iraq and 33,234 in Lebanon, DOLE 
data showed. Some 2,174,000 Filipinos are currently in the Middle East, 
Bello said. 


MANILA — The Department of Foreign Affairs has commissioned a top-notch 
criminal lawyer in Kuwait to pursue a case against the employers of Filipina 
household worker Jeanelyn Villavende. 
"An eye for an eye, a life for a life," the DFA said in a statement. 
The remains of the slain Filipina worker arrived in the country Wednesday 
Villavende's employer and his wife, the alleged killers of the Filipina 
worker, are currently detained in Kuwait. 
Aside from providing aid in the repatriation of the remains of Villavende, 
the DFA has also provided financial assistance worth P100,000 to her 
bereaved family. 
The additional financial assistance would be for funeral expenses. 
"The DFA will continue to provide legal and other appropriate assistance on 
this until justice is served and perpetrators are punished," the agency 
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier summoned Kuwaiti 
Ambassador Saleh Ahmad to convey the Philippines' outrage over the lack of 
protection of Filipino workers in the Gulf nation. 
In a tweet last week, the country's top diplomat said he had asked for the 
life of Villavende's killer. 
"All I asked for is the life of the taker for the life taken. And I don't 
care whose life that is," he said. 


BAYAMBANG, Pangasinan — Farmers in this province’s onion capital are 
benefiting from the high price of the produce due to low supply in the 
Onion farmers here are now “millionaires” because of the price spike, as red 
onions, with a farmgate price of P120 a kilo, are sold in the market at 
P200, Artemio Buezon, municipal agriculturist, told The STAR yesterday. 
Buezon said this has been going on for a month and is expected to extend up 
to next month. 
“They say if you want to get rich, plant onions,” he said, adding those who 
benefit from the high price are the farmers who planted early, or from 
September to October last year. 
Bayambang produces about 23 metric tons of red onions yearly. 
Meanwhile, the farmgate price of white onions is P60 per kilo and sold in 
the market at P120. 
The volume of production for white onions is almost the same as red onions, 
Buezon said. 
About 1,500 hectares of property in the town are planted with red onions and 
80 hectares with white onions. 
One hectare of onion produces 15,000 kilos. 
Among the villages in Bayambang with the highest onion production are 
Manambong Sur, Manambong Norte, Manambong Parte, Amancosiling Sur, 
Amancosiling Norte, San Gabriel and Buayaen. 
The town has about 1,000 onion farmers. 
Buezon said that unlike previous years, this year’s produce was not infested 
with army worms. 
He said the government should not import red onions yet as local supply is 
The government is planning to import about 35,000 metric tons of red onions 
following the price hike of the commodity due to low supply in the market. 
Onion farmers store their extra produce in cold storage when price is low in 
order not to affect their profit. 
The local government provides onion seeds to farmers, especially during pest 
infestation or calamities. It also provides farmers with proper training to 
upgrade theirknowledge on crop production. 


MANILA — As we step into the 2020s, the Philippine passport has moved one 
spot higher but remains in the lower half of the index that measures the 
world’s most travel friendly passports. 
Philippine passport holders can now visit 67 destinations visa-free, making 
the Philippine passport 76th “most powerful” in the world out of 199 
countries on the latest Henley & Partners Passport Index. 
The Philippines shares the spot with Azerbaijan. 
Henley Passport Index ranks world’s passports according to the number of 
destinations their holders can access without prior visa. It ranks passports 
based on data from the International Air Transport Association. 
Behind SEA peers 
While the country moved up one notch, the Philippines still lagged behind 
some of its ASEAN neighbors. 
Singapore placed second in the leaderboard, offering visa-free or 
visa-on-arrival access to 190 destinations around the globe. 
Malaysia (13th), Brunei (23rd), Thailand (65th) and Indonesia (72nd) fared 
better on the rankings. 
Asian countries get top spots 
While the United States and the United Kingdom continued their downward 
trajectory on the passport index in 2020, Asian countries showed their 
dominance when it comes to passport power. 
Japan secured the top spot on the rankings for the third consecutive year. 
Japan passport holders are able to access 191 destinations without having to 
obtain a visa in advance. 
South Korea tied with Germany in third place, giving their passport holders 
visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 189 destinations worldwide. 
“Asian countries’ dominance of the top spots is a clear argument for the 
benefits of open-door policies and the introduction of mutually beneficial 
trade agreements,” Christian Kaenlin, Henley & Partners chair, said. 
Afghanistan remains at the bottom of the index, with its citizens only able 
to visit a mere     26 destinations visa-free. 


MANILA — The 2019 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) grossed nearly a billion 
after its two-week run since Christmas Day, its executive committee 
announced on Wednesday. 
The 45th edition of the annual festival reached P955 million in total ticket 
sales, 4.5% short of the P1-billion target. 
A bulk of the earnings were from four of the eight official entries that led 
the box-office race. 
They are, in no particular order: Viva Films’ “Miracle in Cell No. 7,” Star 
Cinema and Viva Films’ “The Mall, the Merrier,” CCM Productions’ “3pol 
Trobol: Huli Ka Balbon!”, and APT Entertainment’s “Mission Unstapabol: The 
Don Identity.” 
With the exception of “Miracle” lead actor Aga Muhlach, the stars of the 
those four films — Vice Ganda, Coco Martin, and Vic Sotto, respectively — 
are MMFF staples. 
Runaway winner “Mindanao,” starring Judy Ann Santos and directed by 
Brillante Mendoza, was a notable exception from the top four grossers. 
The rankings of the other participating entries — the horror film “Sunod,” 
the romance flick “Write About Love,” and the historical drama “Culion” — 
were also not detailed. 
The 2018 MMFF remains its most successful edition in terms of box-office 
gross with P1.060 billion. 
The committee pointed out the closure of cinemas in Visayas and Mindanao due 
to Typhoon Ursula and the recent earthquake, in explaining the festival 
falling short of reaching the P1-billion mark in 2019. 


    1    2    3    4    T 
team logo Trail Blazers 16-22    15    31    23    32    101 
team logo Raptors 24-13    24    32    22    21    99 
28 PTS, 7 REB, 1 AST 
K. Lowry TOR 
24 PTS, 4 REB, 10 AST 

    1    2    3    4    T 
team logo Pistons 14-24    27    27    30    31    115 
team logo Cavaliers 10-27    29    38    28    18    113 
24 PTS, 3 REB, 7 AST 
K. Love CLE 
30 PTS, 9 REB, 4 AST 

    1    2    3    4    OT    T 
team logo Thunder 21-16    27    22    25    27    10    111 
team logo Nets 16-20    23    25    29    24    2    103 
28 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST 
T. Waller-Prince BKN 
21 PTS, 8 REB, 1 AST 

    1    2    3    4    T 
team logo Timberwolves 14-22    32    24    28    28    112 
team logo Grizzlies 16-22    27    24    31    37    119 
    J. Culver MIN 
24 PTS, 5 REB, 1 AST 
    D. Brooks MEM 
28 PTS, 3 REB, 0 AST 

    1    2    3    4    T 
team logo Kings 15-23    26    27    25    36    114 
team logo Suns 14-23    29    24    34    16    103 
    D. Fox SAC 
27 PTS, 4 REB, 6 AST 
    D. Booker PHO 
34 PTS, 4 REB, 7 AST 

    1    2    3    4    T 
team logo Knicks 10-27    21    24    25    17    87 
team logo Lakers 30-7    26    36    23    32    117 
19 PTS, 5 REB, 0 AST 
L. James LAL 
31 PTS, 5 REB, 5 AST 

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