At least four people have died and nearly 350,000 are in evacuation centers as a super typhoon hits the Philippines. Goni, the world’s strongest storm so far this year, made landfall in the southern Bicol region, with sustained winds of 140mph and gusts of 174mph. The victims included one person who was reportedly hit by a tree and a five-year-old who was washed away after a river overflowed in Albay province.
Embattled Philippines journalist Maria Ressa was found guilty of “cyber libel” Monday, in a case she and press freedom groups have described as a politically motivated prosecution by the Duterte government. Ressa was arrested early last year in the Manila offices of Rappler, the online news outlet she founded in 2012 and which has gained prominence for its unflinching coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte and his brutal war on drugs.
A Philippine government agency on Tuesday ordered the country’s leading broadcast network, which the president has targeted for its critical news coverage, to halt operations after its congressional franchise expired, sparking shock over the loss of a major news provider during the coronavirus pandemic. The National Telecommunications Commission ordered ABS-CBN Corp. to stop operating after its 25-year congressional franchise ended Monday.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has warned violators of coronavirus lockdown measures they could be shot for causing trouble and said abuse of medical workers was a serious crime that would not be tolerated. The Philippines has recorded 96 coronavirus deaths and 2,311 confirmed cases, all but three in the past three weeks, with infections now being reported in the hundreds every day.
Authorities in the Philippines have declared an outbreak of the highly contagious measles virus in several areas including the capital, Manila. As of 26 January there have been 1,813 measles cases and 26 deaths, according to the Department of Health Epidemiology Bureau. That is a 74% increase from 2018. Parents have been reluctant to have their children immunized at government health centers, after complications related to a dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia. There is now increasing concern for the 2.4 million unvaccinated children.
Tropical Storm Usman, which entered the Philippines on Christmas Day, emerged as the deadliest weather disaster for the country this year following Typhoon Mangkhut in September. Usman, a slow-moving storm with winds of up to 55 kilometers (34 miles) an hour, killed at least 61 people as it triggered floods and landslides and forced thousands to flee to safer grounds. More than 6,600 people were stranded in various ports, while Cebu Air Inc. and Philippine Airlines Inc. canceled more than a dozen flights from Dec. 27 to Dec. 30.
Maria Ressa, the co-founder of an online news start-up critical of President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, has been arrested a second time as the Duterte administration steps up its campaign against a news outlet that has been sharply critical of his government. The latest charges against Ms. Ressa accuse her and members of her news outlet, Rappler, of violating laws regarding foreign ownership of the company. She was released around noon after posting bail, about five hours after she was arrested.
Two bombs tore through a Roman Catholic cathedral in southern Philippines on Sunday, killing at least 20 people and leaving dozens wounded, authorities said. ISIS on Sunday claimed responsibility for the bombings via its Amaq News Agency. In a statement, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana condemned the bombing and said he has directed troops to “heighten their alert level” and secure places of worship and public spaces.
The Philippines is preparing for the anticipated Saturday arrival of Typhoon Mangkhut with thousands evacuating from coastal areas. As farmers rush to save their crops, schools and offices are closing as the typhoon approaches. Typhoon Mangkhut is projected to be the strongest typhoon in the Philippines in 2018 with ten million people in its path.
President Rodrigo Duterte announced, Wednesday, the withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute, the treaty which established the International Criminal Court (ICC), following the ICC’s investigation into Duterte and deaths linked to his campaign against drug users and dealers. Duterte defended his campaign saying the acts committed ‘are neither genocide nor war crimes.’