In classic TIME Magazine style, here are, in my opinion, the most notable newsmakers in the Philippines in 2012.
Filipino of the Year:
Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao
The nation was used to seeing Manny Pacquiao knock out opponents and win boxing bouts. For seven years, the eight-division World Champion is chopping down boxing’s greats one after the other. These feats propelled him to stardom, and to a status almost equal to that befitting a hero.
But something happened in 2012. A split-decision result favoring Timothy Bradley and a sixth-round knockout by Juan Manual Marquez stunned a nation who saw the People’s Champion as untouchable. The recent losses got people talking about Pacquiao’s recent shortcomings. Almost every Filipino became “super sleuths”, pointing out every reason they could think of: 16th-bout jinx, lack of and changes in his training, his change of religion, multi-tasking. Heck, even Mitt Romney’s presence at ringside in Pacquiao-Marquez IV.
For all the second-guessing, the most accurate answer might have come from the man himself. After his fight with Marquez, Pacquiao was asked why he lost. His response: “I was overconfident.” His demeanor (and his English accent) did not change; there was no sourgraping heard from him. He did not blame or fire anyone; he willingly put the pressure all on himself. This was evident when, on national TV, he cried for “letting the Filipinos down.”
Did he? Quite the opposite: Filipinos cared for Pacquiao even more. An online meme went, “We were there with him in victory. Let’s also be with him in defeat.” Pacquiao has been synonymous with “good news” for the past seven years; this year, his name became synonymous with “inspirational.”
For emerging the winner even in defeats, for having a high sense of self-awareness, and for staying a humble person despite all the accolades, I chose Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao as the Filipino of the Year.
Newsmaker of the Year:
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona
The first half of 2012 resembled a season of Boston Legal (minus the sexual bits, of course) or any other court-themed TV show. From impassioned speeches to impromptu walk-outs, the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona almost had it all. In the end, it all came down to a 20-3 vote by Senator-judges in one article of the three-part impeachment complaint, enough for his conviction and removal from office.
Funny that his surname translates to “crown”. Nothing might have happened to his last name, but it was not the case for his last public office, the highest post in the judicial branch.
Another funny thing, according to critics, was that he virtually turned himself in. After forty-plus days of legalese between the prosecution and defense panels, and after Corona himself took the witness stand, signed waivers and wished to be excused, Corona somehow admitted to a SALN non-declaration of his dollar accounts and offered evidences against himself. This was, as they say, the reason behind his downfall.
Corona’s impeachment trial (as well as the RH Bill deliberations in the second half of the year) unraveled to Filipinos the system of check-and-balance. Also, it enabled us to “participate” in national discussions, one way or the other. The presence of social media greatly contributed to this. Sure, we did not storm the Senate halls and outright ousted Corona, the same way we toppled Presidents in 1986 and 2001. Instead, we exhibited a tremendous display of democracy, matched with the impeachment court’s display of transparency. It proved that there is no one group of people that controls the nation’s discussions.
Through Facebook, Twitter, blogs and video commentary, it was open season for opinions, a trait guaranteed in a democracy like the Philippines. And this might unlikely be Corona’s (and the P-Noy administration’s) enduring legacy.
It was a whirlwind year for “The Filipino Flash”: four straight boxing wins in the super bantamweight division, with the last one ending with a KO and forcing his opponent to retire. Down the road, when Donaire looks back in his career and picks his break-out year, his finger might point to 2012.
Pres. Benigno Aquino III
Some of P-Noy’s actions in the past year were deemed “un-presidential”, while some were truly unprecedented. From a Chief Justice’s ouster to the passage of a divisive bill, from his brand of diplomacy to his version of governance, Pres. Aquino faced daunting challenges from every corner. Whether he won or not, whether these will leave a positive or negative legacy, only time will tell. Greatness is not always attached to the Presidency, but the third-generation Aquino is determined to leave a mark in history, to be called a great President alongside his mother, Cory.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile
Age is just a number. But 82-year-old Sen. Enrile is not just any other person. He is quite possibly the voice of reason in the Senate. His nominal voting explanations to culminate RH bill debacles and the Corona impeachment trial are fair and balanced pieces, nutritious food for thought even.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago
Pick-up lines, new terms (Wah!), and even her own clothing line. The ability to keep up with the times while retaining her feisty, forceful persona made Sen. Miriam Santiago an exceptional woman. She is a politician from the late 80s and the 90s, but young adults of this generation admire her intelligence, quick wit, and her set of beliefs.
Rep. Niel Tupas and Atty. Serafin Cuevas
Youth vs experience. The heads of the prosecution and defense panels, respectively, traded legal banters during the Corona impeachment trial, but not personal zingers against one another.
Last August 18, a plane crash resembling that of Pres. Ramon Magsaysay’s in 1957 ended the life and career of then-DILG Sec. Jesus “Jesse” Robredo. He is best known for his integrity, hardwork and humility, traits which led to the conferment of a posthumous Quezon Service Cross Award last November 26.
The fiery talent manager was a “feud magnet” in 2012. She was involved in legal battles and war of words with Nadia Montenegro, Amalia Fuentes, Boy Asistio, Bianca Gonzales, and even with a reporter during Dolphy’s wake. In 2013, she enters a whole new arena: that of politics, as she runs for Congresswoman in Cebu province. When she wins, we might as well get ready for an explosive Lower House.
The King of Comedy joined the King of Kings in heaven last July 10. Tributes poured in for Dolphy, a man loved by the masses for his everyman roles in John and Marsha and Home Along da Riles, among others. On TV, his characters portrayed the Filipino’s search for hope, fun and comfort against a gloomy backdrop. Long live Dolphy!
Sen. Tito Sotto
His stubbornness this year during RH Bill and Cybercrime Law debates in the Senate led to a barrage of anti-Sotto sentiments in social media (plus a slew of memes and new words, to boot). Sen. Sotto claims that all of the plagiarism accusations are done to damage his name and image, to downplay his anti-RH arguments and the online libel clause insertion. But his sometimes-illogical responses might have him seek damage control instead.
Former DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno
In 2010, he was accused of bungling the Manila Hostage Crisis. He was even identified as one of Pres. Aquino’s “shooting buddies”. Now, he’s accused of smuggling guns. He resigned from his post soon after, but as long as he would not speak up, he will continue to be hounded by these allegations.
COMELEC Chairman Sixto Brillantes
“Enough is enough, and it’s time for change.” This might be Atty. Brillantes’ battlecry when he assumed office as COMELEC Chairman in January 2011. The election body’s controversial decisions in the past year caused quite a stir, as the agency is set on cleansing the election process in time for the 2013 midterm elections.
Coaches Norman Black and Tim Cone
Ateneo Blue Eagles Coach Norman Black left the basketball team, but not before leading them to an unprecedented five-peat win in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament. In almost the same vein, Coach Tim Cone, after 22 years with the Alaska Aces, led his new team the B-MEG Llamados to a championship victory in the 2012 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Manny V. Pangilinan
Most of 2012 was rife with speculations of a merger between TV networks GMA7 and MVP’s TV5. But like the Pacquiao-Mayweather megafight, it did not see the light of day. MVP’s year was also highlighted by his stands for mining and the RH Bill, and his dispute with, departure from and reconciliation with the Ateneo de Manila University.
The Fugitives: Joel and Mario Reyes, Ruben Ecleo, Jovito Palparan, and Delfin Lee
Wherever they are, they continue to prove that flight is an admission of guilt. It’s the least they could do to evade punishments meted out by laws they once broke, and continue to break.
RH Bill proponents Sen. Pia Cayetano and Rep. Edcel Lagman
Their determination to push the 14-year-old Reproductive Health Bill into law culminated with bicameral victories in one day and the President’s signature last December 21. The RH bill is now known as Republic Act 10354.
Former Pres. Joseph Estrada and Vice Pres. Jejomar Binay
Politics in the Philippines just got more chaotic with the formation of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), a merger of sorts between Estrada’s PMP and Binay’s PDP-LABAN parties. They offer themselves as the “constructive opposition”, both supportive and critical of the P-Noy administration. Question is, can they maintain this status in a country with a good-or-evil dichotomy?
The Philippine Azkals
The nation’s multi-cultural football team reached the semi-finals of the AFP Suzuki Cup for the second year in a row, but bowed out to Singapore, 1-0. For the team that continues to strive for that defining victory, every opportunity is golden.
Hacienda Luisita farmers
After 27 years, the farm lands of Hacienda Luisita will finally be distributed to its hardworking farmers at 1989 land valuation prices, after a landmark Supreme Court decision last April.