Philippines Cancels Russia Helicopter Deal Over US Sanctions

A Russian Mil Mi-17 military helicopter flies by soldiers and military vehicles during a joint Russian-Turkish patrol in the eastern countryside of the town of Darbasiyah near the border with Turkey in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province on December 7, 2020. Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP
(File Photo)A Russian Mil Mi-17 military helicopter flies by soldiers and military vehicles./ AFP

The Philippines has scrapped an order for 16 Russian military helicopters, an official confirmed Wednesday, following reports former president Rodrigo Duterte decided to cancel it due to US sanctions on Moscow.

Manila — a longtime Washington ally — agreed in November to pay 12.7 billion pesos ($228 million) for the Mi-17 helicopters, as it seeks to modernise its military hardware.

The United States and its allies imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Moscow in the wake of its assault on Ukraine in February.

They are aimed at cutting off Russia from the global financial system and choking off funds available to Moscow to finance the war.

The Philippine defence department was “formalizing the termination” of the contract, spokesman Arsenio Andolong said Wednesday.

Without mentioning US sanctions on Moscow, Andolong told AFP “changes in priorities necessitated by global political developments resulted in the cancellation of the project by the previous administration”.

Delfin Lorenzana, who served as defence secretary under Duterte, said in March that the Philippines had paid a deposit for the transport helicopters before war erupted in Ukraine and the deal was “on track”.

But last week Lorenzana, who now heads a different government agency, told local media that Duterte himself decided to cancel the deal in the waning days of his administration over the sanctions threat.

“I don’t know if we can still get back the money since we were the ones who terminated the contract,” Lorenzana told reporters.

Russian embassy officials in Manila could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Philippine ambassador to Washington Jose Romualdez recently told AFP the decision to cancel was triggered by “the Ukrainian war”.

Romualdez said Manila was also wary of falling foul of a US law passed in 2017 that sanctions anyone doing business with Russia’s intelligence or defence sectors.

The United States was offering “alternative helicopters to meet our needs”, he added.

Manila began a modest military modernisation programme in 2012. Until recently, its equipment featured Vietnam War-era helicopters and World War II naval vessels used by the United States.

After President Ferdinand Marcos Jr took power on June 30, the new government reviewed the Russian deal, arriving at the same decision as Duterte.

Philippine Ex-President Fidel ‘Steady Eddie’ Ramos Dies At 94

(FILES) This file photo taken on August 13, 2016, shows the Philippines’ former president Fidel Ramos gesturing during a press conference at Camp Aguinaldo in Manila.  (Photo by NOEL CELIS / AFP)


Former Philippine president Fidel Ramos, who oversaw a rare period of steady growth and peace that won him the reputation as one of the country’s most effective leaders ever, has died aged 94, officials said Sunday.

Known as “Steady Eddie” for his unflappable demeanour during the country’s regular moments of upheaval, he was frequently pictured chewing unlit cigars as he guided the Philippines with a sure hand from 1992-1998.

A career military man who never previously held elected office, his professorial conduct was unlike the bombastic image of many Filipino politicians.

He was also the first Protestant to win the top office in the overwhelmingly Catholic nation, despite opposition from some in the Church. He later made an aggressive push for family planning to rein in rapid population growth.

But like other top officials of his generation, Ramos played a role in the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, which saw thousands killed and thousands more arbitrarily imprisoned.

“It is with great sorrow that we learn of the passing of former President Fidel V. Ramos,” said Trixie Cruz-Angeles, press secretary for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the late dictator, who took office last month.

“He leaves behind a colorful legacy and a secure place in history for his participation in the great changes of our country, both as a military officer and chief executive.”

Ramos’s family is expected to release a statement later Sunday. The cause of death has not been released.

The European Union delegation in the Philippines expressed its condolences, describing Ramos as a “dedicated statesman” and “pillar of democracy”.

A graduate of the prestigious West Point military academy in the United States, Ramos had a lengthy career in the armed forces, including combat against communist guerrillas, and was deployed in the Korean War as part of the Philippine contingent.

He was later commander of the paramilitary Philippine Constabulary — the key institution that enforced the brutal repression of dissent after Marcos declared martial law in 1972.

Ramos’s moment of truth came in February 1986, when popular outrage was hitting its peak over the murder of opposition leader Benigno Aquino and massive regime cheating in a snap election.

Sensing Marcos’s weakness, a group of young military officers and their leader, defence secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, plotted to seize power but were found out.

Facing arrest, Enrile and his allies holed up in the military headquarters in Manila and appealed to the public to protect them from an imminent government attack.

Ramos joined their rebellion, withdrawing his support from Marcos and inspiring many others to rise up as well.

Soon, millions were massing in the streets for the peaceful “People Power” revolt that sent the dictator into exile and ushered in Corazon Aquino as president.

 ‘My atonement was revolt’

Aquino promptly appointed Ramos as military chief and then defence secretary in gratitude.

He would prove to be a crucial ally to Aquino as the military rebels who sought to topple Marcos soon turned their sights on her.

He led the loyalist forces that helped quash the coup attempts against her from 1986 to 1989.

When elections came in 1992, Aquino gave her endorsement to Ramos, which was crucial to him winning the presidency despite the opposition of influential Catholic Church figures.

As president, Ramos solved a crippling power crisis caused by years of under-investment in energy, and broke up cartels in telecommunications, aviation, and shipping — boosting a moribund economy that reaped a period of renewed growth.

He also made peace overtures to communist guerrillas, Muslim separatists and military coup-plotters.

In the end, only the communists refused to sign agreements with his government.

Ramos was also a key, early supporter of Rodrigo Duterte as he waded into national politics with his run at the presidency in 2016.

After Duterte’s landslide victory, Ramos even served as the president’s special envoy to Beijing to ease tensions over the disputed South China Sea.

But the relationship swiftly soured and he publicly criticised Duterte’s expletive-laden speeches, his moves away from the US alliance and his anti-drug campaign that claimed thousands of lives.

Ramos was also aghast at Duterte’s decision to allow Marcos to be buried in the national Heroes’ Cemetery despite the damage his dictatorship caused to the Philippines’ economy and social order.

When a Marcos daughter tried to link Ramos to the abuses of her father’s rule, Ramos said he had already apologised and made amends for his role.

“My atonement was leading the military and the police” in the revolt that toppled Marcos, he said.


Three People Killed In Philippine University Shooting

Suspected gunman Chao Tiao Yumol (L) is escorted by police at Camp Karingal following his arrest after three people were killed in a shooting at Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, suburban Manila, on July 24, 2022. (Photo by AFP)


Three people were killed Sunday in a rare shooting at a university in the Philippine capital Manila, officials said, in what appears to have been a targeted assassination.

The incident happened at Ateneo de Manila University as law students and their families arrived for a graduation ceremony that was to be attended by the Supreme Court chief justice.

Rose Furigay, a former city mayor in the restive southern province of Basilan whose daughter was among the graduates, was killed, authorities said.

Furigay’s executive assistant and a university security guard were also killed.

Her daughter was wounded and is in a “stable condition” in hospital, police said.

“We are quite distraught and bereaved by this occurrence,” Joy Belmonte, the mayor of a local government unit where the shooting happened, told AFP.

The alleged gunman fled the scene by forcing a driver out of their vehicle, before abandoning it and continuing his getaway in a jeepney, police said.

He was eventually detained near a church.

Police recovered two handguns and a silencer allegedly used by the suspect, who they identified as Chao-Tiao Yumol and said had a “long history” of legal disputes with Furigay.

Yumol was on bail for a cyber libel charge.

“This looks to be a determined assassin,” Police Brigadier General Remus Medina told reporters, describing the incident as “isolated”.

Yumol, with abrasions on his face, was presented by police to reporters.

He accused Furigay of being a “drug lord”.

 A political family 

School and university shootings are rare in the Philippines despite its lax gun rules. But targeted killings of politicians are fairly common, particularly during elections.

Furigay, whose family dominates politics in Lamitan City, served three terms as mayor and was prevented by the constitution from seeking re-election in the May 9 polls.

She was succeeded by her husband, who had held the position before her — a common occurrence in the Philippines where powerful clans hand positions from one family member to another to maintain their influence.

Ateneo de Manila University cancelled the graduation ceremony.

In a statement, the university condemned the shooting and said it had “robbed the members of the Law School class of 2022 of what was supposed to be a joyous celebration.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo was the guest speaker for the event, but he was still travelling to the university when the shooting happened, a court spokesperson said.

The incident happened on the eve of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s first State of the Nation address, in which he is expected to present his plan for reviving the economy and tackling inflation.

Marcos Jr expressed shock at the incident and said law enforcement agencies would “thoroughly and swiftly investigate these killings and bring all involved to justice”.


Ferdinand Marcos Jr Sworn In As Philippine President

New Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (L) takes the oath as president of the Philippines as his wife Louise (R) looks on, during the inauguration ceremony at the National Museum in Manila on June 30, 2022.



Ferdinand Marcos Jr was sworn in as Philippine president on Thursday, completing a decades-long effort to restore the clan to the country’s highest office.

Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the country’s late dictator, took his oath in front of hundreds of local and foreign dignitaries as well as journalists and supporters at the National Museum in Manila.

Seven Killed After Fire Engulfs Philippine Ferry

This handout photo taken and released on May 23, 2022, from the Philippine Coastguard shows people throwing buckets of water onto a smouldering ferry which had caught fire near Real town, Quezon province. Handout / Philippine Coastguard / AFP


At least seven people were killed and scores plucked to safety in the Philippines on Monday after a fire ripped through a ferry and forced passengers to jump overboard, the coast guard and witnesses said.

The blaze broke out on the Mercraft 2 at around 6:30 am (2230 GMT Sunday) as it carried 134 passengers and crew from Polillo Island to Real in Quezon province on the main island of Luzon.

Seven people died and 127 were rescued, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Commodore Armando Balilo said after the last missing were found.

The fibreglass fast craft boat, which had a 186-person capacity, was about a kilometre from Real when it caught fire.

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“We heard an explosion,” said Kycel Pineda, 18, who was travelling on another ferry.

“When we saw the boat, it was already engulfed by fire and passengers were already floating in the sea,” the high school student added.

Thick black smoke billowed from the Mercraft as flames tore through the entire vessel, photos shared by the coast guard showed.

People with life rings and life vests were in the water. Some were rescued by other ferries or clambered into inflatable boats.

The fire appears to have started in the engine room, Balilo said. A team of investigators was preparing to look into the cause.

“We were able to rescue 40 survivors,” said Captain Brunette Azagra, whose passenger vessel was 500 metres from the Mercraft when the fire broke out. Two bodies were also pulled from the water, he added.

“They were lucky because we also came from Polillo. They overtook us, but we were just nearby,” Azagra told a local radio station, describing sea conditions as “quite good”.

This handout photo taken and released on May 23, 2022 from the Philippine Coastguard shows people trying to help rescued ferry passengers onboard another ferry, off Real town, Quezon province.  Handout / Philippine Coastguard / AFP


Twenty-four people were injured, including the captain of the ferry, according to the coast guard.

Speaking from the hospital where the injured were being treated, Real town disaster officer Ricky Poblete said the seven dead had drowned.

Photos posted on the coast guard’s Facebook page showed a survivor lying on a stretcher being carried off a ferry.

Another lay on the deck of a boat and appeared to be receiving treatment.

The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, is plagued by poor sea transport, with its badly regulated boats and ships prone to overcrowding and accidents.

The fire on the Mercraft was under control and the burned-out wreckage towed to shore.


Six Inmates Killed In Philippine Jail Brawl

Map of Philippines



Six inmates were killed and 33 wounded during a fight in an overcrowded jail in the Philippines, authorities said Tuesday, in the second such incident in as many weeks.

The deadly brawl happened Monday between rival gangs at Caloocan City Jail in the National Capital Region, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology spokesman Xavier Solda said.

An investigation was underway into the cause of the violence that Solda said started as a fight between two inmates before others joined the fray. It is not clear what weapons were used.

A ban on family visits since the start of the pandemic may have been a factor, Solda said.

“It’s been almost two years that we don’t have physical visitation in our facilities because of the Covid-19, so we can’t set aside the angle that this could be one of the reasons why others joined in the fight between the two PDLs (persons deprived of liberty),” Solda told AFP.

Security has been beefed up to maintain order in the facility, he added.

Violence is common in Philippine jails where inadequate infrastructure and a slow-moving and overburdened judicial system means cells are sometimes filled to five times their capacity.

About 1,900 inmates were squeezed into Caloocan City Jail that is designed for fewer than 200, Solda said.

The latest incident comes after a fight at New Bilibid Prison in the capital on January 2 left three inmates dead and 14 wounded.

Improvised guns and bladed weapons were used in the clash at the nation’s biggest prison.

Troops Race To Deliver Aid To Philippine Typhoon Survivors

Residents, who were not able to take a flight out with a Philippine air force blackhawk helicopter which transported relief goods, leave the landing site at a sports complex in Dapa town, Siargao island on December 21, 2021, days after super Typhoon Rai devastated the island. (Photo by Ferdinandh CABRERA / AFP)


Troops raced Tuesday to deliver food and water to typhoon-ravaged islands of the Philippines as charities appealed for aid to help hundreds of thousands left homeless by the deadly storm.

At least 375 people were killed and hundreds injured when Typhoon Rai pummelled the southern and central regions of the archipelago, wiping out wooden houses, uprooting trees and knocking out power across entire islands.

The United Nations reported “utter devastation” in the areas worst affected by Rai, which slammed into the country on Thursday as a super typhoon.

“Never in my entire life have I encountered such a typhoon,” said Catholic Bishop Antonieto Cabajog in Surigao, on the northern tip of Mindanao island.

“To say ‘super’ is an understatement,” he told a Catholic church-run news agency.


This aerial photo taken on December 17, 2021 shows destroyed houses caused by Super Typhoon Rai after the storm crossed over Surigao City in Surigao del Norte province. Erwin MASCARINAS / AFP


More than 400,000 people were sheltering in evacuation centres or with relatives, the national disaster agency said, after their homes were damaged or destroyed by the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year.

One of the hardest-hit islands was Bohol — known for its beaches, “Chocolate Hills” and tiny tarsier primates — where at least 94 people have died, provincial Governor Arthur Yap said on Facebook.

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A state of calamity has been declared on the island.

There has also been widespread destruction on Siargao, Dinagat and Mindanao islands, which bore the brunt of the storm when it hit, packing winds of 195 kilometres (120 miles) per hour.

– ‘All available assets’ –

Thousands of military, police and coast guard personnel have been deployed to deliver food, drinking water and medical supplies to survivors, who have been struggling to find basic necessities.

“I have directed the (military) to deploy all available assets — ships, boats, aircraft, trucks — to bring relief goods to the stricken areas,” Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday.

Heavy machinery — including backhoes and front-end loaders — also have been sent to clear roads.

The Red Cross is also flying relief to Siargao and Bohol islands — popular tourist destinations that had been struggling to recover after Covid-19 restrictions wiped out visitor numbers.

“The emergency appeal by IFRC helps us to act swiftly and do all we can to help people and families get back on their feet,” said Alberto Bocanegra, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Philippines.

In this photo taken on December 17, 2021, residents stand next to a destroyed market building in General Luna town, Siargao island, Surigao del norte province, a day after super Typhoon Rai devastated the island. (Photo by Kate Hughes / AFP)


The organisation has appealed for $22 million to fund urgent relief and recovery efforts.

The UK has pledged around $1 million to the IFRC effort.

Other non-government organisations are also appealing for donations.

Rai hit the Philippines late in the typhoon season: most cyclones develop between July and October.

Scientists have long warned that typhoons are becoming more powerful and strengthening more rapidly as the world becomes warmer because of human-driven climate change.

The Philippines — ranked among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change — is hit by an average of 20 storms every year, which typically wipe out harvests, homes and infrastructure in already impoverished areas.

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to have made landfall, leaving more than 7,300 people dead or missing.

Death Toll In Philippines Military Plane Crash Rises To 52

Site of the plane crash. Photo: AFP


Philippine security forces searched among coconut trees on a remote southern island Monday for the flight data boxes of an aircraft that crashed and killed 52 people in one of the country’s worst military air disasters.

The C-130 Hercules transport plane was carrying 96 people, most of them recent army graduates, when it overshot the runway on Sunday while trying to land on Jolo island in Sulu province — a haven for Islamist militants.

The plane “skidded” and burst into flames in a village, killing 52 people including 49 military personnel and three civilians, said military spokesman Major General Edgard Arevalo.

Another 51 were injured, most of them soldiers. It was not clear if the pilots were among the survivors.

“This is one of the worst tragic incidents that happened in our armed forces,” Arevalo said.

The three civilians killed were not on the flight and had been working in a quarry, village leader Tanda Hailid told AFP.

They were relatives of Agga Ahaddi, who was lucky to survive the crash. He and his child were outside when the plane ploughed through their house and then a neighbour’s home.

“We ran away, we just left,” Ahaddi told AFP.

Photos of the scene released by the military’s Joint Task Force-Sulu showed the damaged tail and smoking wreckage scattered in a coconut grove.

“We have people on the ground to make sure the integrity of the pieces of the evidence that we will retrieve, most particularly the flight data recorder,” Arevalo said.

“Aside from eyewitness accounts, we are also looking for recordings, radio conversation recordings between the pilot and the control tower.”

Arevalo said the military had secured the crash site and would ensure militants on the island do not disrupt search efforts.

Dental records were being used to help identify the charred remains of victims.

Most of the passengers recently graduated from basic military training and were being deployed to the restive island as part of a counter-insurgency effort in the Muslim-majority region.

The military has a heavy presence in the southern Philippines where militant groups, including the kidnap-for-ransom outfit Abu Sayyaf, operate.

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 ‘Worst crash’ 

Site of the plane crash. Photo: AFP


C-130s have been the workhorses of air forces around the world for decades, used to transport troops, supplies, and vehicles.

The second-hand Hercules that crashed Sunday was acquired from the United States and delivered to the Philippines earlier this year.

It was one of four in the country’s fleet and was in “very good condition”, the military said. Two others are being repaired while the third has been grounded following the crash.

“These are all seasoned and experienced pilots, that’s why we are also unable to immediately say how this… (happened),” said Arevalo.

“Even if these (military assets) are not brand new… these are airworthy.”

“This ranks as the worst crash of a Philippine military aircraft,” Jose Antonio Custodio, a military historian and analyst, told AFP.

It was the latest in a series of recent military air accidents in the Philippines.

Last month, a Black Hawk helicopter went down during a night-time training flight, killing all six onboard. The accident prompted the grounding of the country’s entire Black Hawk fleet.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said Monday the incidents would provide “impetus for further modernisation” of the armed forces.

“The whole country is mourning,” he said.


Philippines President Pardons US Marine In Transgender Killing

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 1, 2015, US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton (C) is escorted by Philippine policemen shortly after arriving at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, from Olongapor city where a court convicted him of homicide for the killing of Jennifer Laude in a motel in October 2014. – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has granted an absolute pardon to a US marine convicted of killing a transgender woman, officials said on September 7, 2020, drawing condemnation from rights groups. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / POOL / AFP)


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has granted an absolute pardon to a US marine convicted of killing a transgender woman, officials said Monday, drawing condemnation from rights groups.

Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton has been in prison since the October 2014 killing of Jennifer Laude, whom he met at a bar while on a break from military exercises in the northern city of Olongapo.

A local court ruled last week that Pemberton qualified for early release due to good behaviour, but was still being held due to an appeal.

Duterte’s pardon clears all legal obstacles to his release, despite him serving just half his 10-year sentence.

Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque, a lawyer who represented the Laude family during the trial, confirmed Duterte’s decision.

“The president has erased the remaining punishment against Pemberton… He can now go home because of the pardon,” Roque told reporters.

The Laude family lawyer condemned the decision, calling it a “mockery” of the country’s justice system.

“This is another injustice — not only to Jennifer Laude and family but a grave injustice to the Filipino people,” Virginia Suarez said in a statement.

“This is a travesty of Philippine sovereignty and democracy.”

The pardon has renewed anti-American sentiment in the Southeast Asian nation, where groups have long called for removal of US military presence.

Edre Olalia, of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, called the pardon “a brazen and shameless sell-out” of country’s sovereignty.

The pardon came despite Duterte shifting away from the US to seek closer relations with China since assuming power in 2016.

He will address the nation on Monday night after meeting his Cabinet and he is expected to speak on the issue, Roque said.


Philippines Suspends Stock Market Trade Over Coronavirus Fears

Vehicles pile up at the boundary of Manila and the North Luzon Expressway Mindanao Avenue exit during rush hour in Manila on March 16, 2020, with temperature and identification checkpoints as part of measures to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. – The virus has upended society around the planet, with governments imposing restrictions rarely seen outside war-time, including the closing of borders, home quarantine orders and the scrapping of public events. Maria TAN / AFP.


The Philippines suspended trade on its local stock exchange Tuesday, becoming the first country to close its financial market over coronavirus fears.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered most of the 55 million people on the main island of Luzon, which includes the capital Manila, to stay at home for the next month after social distancing measures failed to keep people away from one another.

Philippine Stock Exchange President Ramon Monzon told traders in a memo that trading is suspended starting Tuesday “until further notice” to move in step with Duterte’s order.

Monzon said the suspension was also “to ensure the safety of employees and traders in light of the escalating cases of the coronavirus disease”.

Confirmed cases in the Philippines have jumped to 142, with 12 deaths and the government has unveiled a 27.1 billion peso($526.6 million) package to fund hospitals fighting the virus and provide reprieve amid a slowdown in economic activity.

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The benchmark PSE index plunged 7.9 percent during shortened trading on Monday as investors reeled from the virus’ economic impact.

The suspension order came as stock markets and oil prices went into freefall after central banks’ fresh stimulus measures failed to dampen fears of the global pandemic.

Shares in Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index dropped by as much as 3.66 percent at Tuesday’s open before recovering about 70 minutes after the opening bell.

Overnight, Wall Street indices fell in their worst day since 1987, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq dropping about 12 percent and the Dow sinking nearly 13 percent.


One Shot, 30 Taken Hostage In Philippine Mall Attack

Policemen subdue hostage-taker Archir Paray (obscured) after he surrendered outside a mall in Manila on March 2, 2020.  Ted ALJIBE / AFP


A sacked security guard who shot one person and took about 30 others hostage at a Manila shopping mall on Monday surrendered to authorities, ending a day-long standoff that terrified shoppers and drew a massive police response.

The guard walked out of the V-Mall, where he was allowed to speak briefly to the press before heavily armed officers tackled and arrested him.

He complained about being mistreated by his employers.

Hostages were also led out of the building, but police did not say whether any of them had been hurt nor the exact number caught up in the violence.

The drama started when the suspect shot a security guard, who was rushed to hospital in stable condition, said Francis Zamora, mayor of the San Juan City, which includes the mall.

Zamora told reporters the hostage-taker was upset after losing his job.

Authorities worked for hours to convince him to surrender, and later in the day held a press conference where company officers apologised for upsetting the suspect.

“I deeply regret my shortcomings,” one supervisor said.

“Because of this, I will resign from my post… to give way to a solution to our current problem.”

Police were in contact with the suspect for hours via a walkie talkie.

Philippine malls are centres of life that include everything from restaurants and shops, to churches and medical facilities. The building was full when the violence began.

Zamora said authorities believed there were “around 30” people held.


Witness John Paul Buenavista told AFP he saw a wounded person — believed to be a guard at the mall — being put into a wheelchair and whisked away.

“We heard three gunshots. Then we saw people running, saying they saw someone getting shot,” he said.

Manila was the site of a high-profile 2010 hostage-taking that ended with the deaths of eight Hong Kong tourists.

That day-long ordeal started when an ex-police officer, armed with an M-16 assault rifle, hijacked a bus near a popular tourist destination just a few blocks from police headquarters in a desperate bid to get his job back.

Negotiations broke down after nightfall and the ex-officer began shooting passengers, prompting commandos to storm the bus.


Philippine’s President Duterte Admits To Declining Health

This file photo taken on October 18, 2019 shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaking during a joint press conference with his Indian counterpart at the Malacanang Palace in Manila. Ted ALJIBE / AFP
This file photo taken on October 18, 2019 shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaking during a joint press conference with his Indian counterpart at the Malacanang Palace in Manila. Ted ALJIBE / AFP


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted that life is taking its “toll on my health”, as speculation swirls over the 74-year-old’s prolonged absences from the public eye.

Duterte cut short a trip to Japan last month because he was suffering from “unbearable pain” in his spine after a recent motorcycle accident, and has not spoken publicly for two weeks.

The accident came just 10 days after he revealed in early October that he has myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease that causes muscle weakness and can result in drooping eyelids and blurred vision.

“If you ask me… ‘Are you in the best of health?’ Of course not,” Duterte told GMA News television in an interview on Friday.

“All of the ailments, I have them because I am already old… Life has begun to take its toll on my health,” said Duterte.

The recent incidents have intensified speculation about his capacity to lead, although his spokesman Salvador Panelo has repeatedly said there is no need to issue medical bulletins on the president’s health.

Duterte has opted to work from his hometown Davao City, on the southern island of Mindanao, over the past week to get some rest, his spokesman has said.

The oldest Philippine leader elected, Duterte last week passed on the running of his signature anti-narcotics crackdown that has claimed thousands of lives to Vice-President Leni Robredo, an arch-critic.

Duterte has not given public remarks since he attended a regional summit in Thailand that ended on November 4, shortly after he cut short his trip to Japan, having attended the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Naruhito with the aid of a cane.

Duterte had also previously said he suffers from migraines and Buerger’s disease, which is characterised by inflammation of blood vessels, usually due to smoking.

The Philippine constitution requires the handover of power to the vice president if the leader cannot perform his duties due to disability, resignation, or death.