National

Faces of the News: Oct. 25, 2020

Faces of the News: Oct. 25, 2020

Celine Pialago

As public sympathy poured out for detained activist Reina Mae Nasino over the death of her 3-month-old child, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) spokesperson Celine Pialago took to social media to call out the press coverage of baby River’s burial on Oct. 18, dissing it as “dramaserye sa hapon (an afternoon drama series).”

“Not all mothers who are jailed can go to the burial of [their] child,” Pialago posted on Facebook. “So those sympathizing with [Nasino], study well first the reason why she was jailed and know her well who she is in the society.”

Nasino, an urban poor community organizer, is facing charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Netizens lashed back at Pialago for being insensitive to grieving mothers. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque and MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia lost no time in distancing the agency from Pialago’s “personal opinion.”

Her remarks did not prevent human rights lawyer Edre Olalia from offering Pialago the same assistance his legal group is giving Nasino should the MMDA spokesperson find herself in a similar situation.

A day later, Pialago apologized to Nasino, but refused to take back her “dramaserye” comment.

—Mariejo S. Ramos

Antonio Parlade Jr.

The Philippine Army general caused a stir when he cautioned a popular celebrity against associating with the progressive women’s group Gabriela.

In a statement, National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict spokesperson and Southern Luzon military commander Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. called out actress and model Liza Soberano, after she spoke at a Gabriela Youth-sponsored webinar.

“Liza Soberano, there’s still a chance to abdicate that group. If you don’t, you will suffer the same fate as Josephine Anne Lapira,” Parlade said, referring to a 22-year-old University of the Philippines Manila student reportedly killed in an encounter between soldiers and communist rebels in 2017.

Parlade, known for his hard-line stance against the Left, also warned celebrities Catriona Gray and Angel Locsin against associating with “aboveground” organizations of the New People’s Army.

Parlade made headlines in November 2019 for crashing a forum organized by local progressive groups, including the Movement Against Tyranny and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers. Parlade later said that he “came in good faith.”

—Patricia Denise M. Chiu

Liza Soberano

Actress Liza Soberano only participated in a webinar organized by Gabriela Youth; she is not a member of Gabriela or any party list group.

This was the assertion of Liza’s talent manager, Ogie Diaz, who added that the 22-year-old actress merely spoke about her experiences as a woman and as part of the youth sector.

Diaz’s explanation came after a statement made on social media by Lt. Gen. An­to­nio Par­lade Jr., head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines South­ern Lu­zon Com­mand, took note of the actress’ support for the progressive women’s group.

Parlade drew flak for saying Soberano (and “other celebrity targets” supposedly being eyed by Gabriela) should be “educated” while she is “not yet” a member of the New People’s Army.

A statement posted by Soberano’s legal counsel Juanito Lim Jr. in some social media platforms denounced the “Red-tagging” of Soberano “in the strongest terms.” Lim insisted Soberano remains apolitical and “does not support or antagonize any person’s political views.”

Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana of the Commission on Human Rights agreed that Parlade’s remarks “are tantamount to harassment.” —Marinel Cruz

Jacinda Ardern

The landslide victory of New Zealand’s Labour Party is widely perceived as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s reward for her decisive actions against COVID-19.

The election was delayed by a month because of new infections detected in Auckland that led to a second lockdown in the country’s largest city.

But Ardern’s “go hard, go early” approach to the coronavirus in early 2020 saw the country seeing much fewer cases compared to the rest of the world.

Young Labour candidates defeated National stalwarts in their bailiwicks by highlighting the dominant party’s success in beating the coronavirus and sticking to progressive and democratic messages.

Ardern’s victory, described as “a historic shift” in New Zealand’s elections, means she could form the first single-party government in decades.

Even before the campaign, Ardern already won admiration for her response to last year’s mass shooting by a white supremacist in Christchurch and swift action to ban guns.

While opponents warn about her plan for more taxes, Ardern promised to limit it only to top earners. Economists are waiting for how she would handle an expected recession after the strict lockdowns.

Chinese billionaires

As the pandemic rages, the World Bank expects up to 115 million people to be pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020.

China’s Hurun Report, which tracks the fortunes of the wealthy, is counting new billionaires — 257 to be exact as of August, thanks to a boom in e-commerce and gaming. The number brings the country’s billionaires to 878, surpassing their American counterparts who numbered 626 at the start of the year.

Hurun said that despite the coronavirus lockdowns, China’s super rich — billionaires and those with a net worth of at least $300 million — had already raked in $1.5 trillion in the first eight months of the year.

Still leading the rich list is Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba. His online shopping business kicked up his earnings by 45 percent, pushing his wealth to $58.8 billion.

Pony Ma, owner of gaming titan Tencent, is a close second with $57.4 billion. They are trailed by Hurun list first-timer Zhong Shanshan, who counts his riches at $53.7 billion. Having been able to control the pandemic, China is also turning out to be a winner with an economic growth of 4.9 percent, the only major economy seen to expand in 2020.