Philippine Dictator’s Son Wins Landslide Presidential Victory

In this photo taken May 9, 2022, Presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., speaks to the members of the media, at his party headquarters in Manila. MIKHAEL FLORES / AFP

 

The son of late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos won a landslide presidential election victory Tuesday, as Filipino voters dismissed warnings his rise could put their fragile democracy at risk.

With more than 90 percent of an initial count concluded, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Junior had secured almost 30 million votes, more than double the tally of his nearest rival, liberal candidate Leni Robredo.

That unassailable lead spells another astonishing turnaround for the fortunes of the Marcos clan, who have gone from the presidential palace to pariahs and back again in the space of half a century.

In 1986, Marcos senior and notoriously kleptocratic first lady Imelda Marcos were chased into exile by the “People Power” revolution.

Marcos junior’s campaign was marked by a relentless online whitewashing of his family’s brutal and corrupt regime, as well as an embrace of current authoritarian president Rodrigo Duterte, who retains widespread popular support.

Rights activists, Catholic leaders and political analysts had all warned Marcos Jr could rule with an even heavier fist if he wins by a large margin.

Delivering a late-night address from his campaign headquarters in Manila, a tired but beaming Marcos thanked volunteers for months of “sacrifices and work”.

But he stopped short of claiming victory, warning that “the count is not yet done”.

“Let’s wait until it’s very clear, until the count reaches a hundred percent then we can celebrate.”

Outside, euphoric supporters set off fireworks, waved the national flag and clambered onto parked cars to chant in victory.

Cleve Arguelles, a political science lecturer at Manila’s De La Salle University said it was already clear that “this will be a historic election” for the Philippines.

 ‘We did not fail’

Robredo, a lawyer and the current vice president, admitted “clear disappointment” about the result.

The 57-year-old had promised to clean up the dirty style of politics that has long plagued the feudal and corrupt democracy, where a handful of surnames hold sway.

In the final weeks before the election, her campaign morphed into a catchall pro-democracy movement that drew almost one million people to a single protest in Manila.

“She has no whiff of corruption allegations,” said 52-year-old Robredo supporter Corazon Bagay. “She’s not a thief. Leni is honest.”

In a televised address in the early hours of Tuesday, Robredo told supporters “nothing has been wasted. We did not fail.”

She indicated that the movement would continue after the final results are announced, a process expected to take weeks.

“We are just getting started,” she said.

Judy Taguiwalo, 72, an anti-Marcos activist who was arrested twice and tortured during the elder Marcos’ regime said the election was “another crossroads” for the country.

“We need to continue to stand up and struggle.”

Analyst Mark Thompson said there should now be soul searching among an opposition that needs to broaden its message beyond “good governance”.

“They need to make clear that they’re going to improve the lives of the average Filipino,” said Thompson, who is director of the Southeast Asia Research Centre at the City University of Hong Kong.

Marcos was able to tap into widespread anger at a string of post-dictatorship governments, which many Filipinos believe had failed to materially improve their lives.

Crucially, he also secured the support of several of the country’s powerful political dynasties, who through networks of patronage can be called on to deliver blocs of votes.

Those alliances were set for a further victory with his running mate Sara Duterte garnering an even bigger lead over rivals in her vice presidential race.

The certified results of both races are not expected for weeks.

Dynastic burden

Election day began before dawn, as mask-clad voters formed long queues to cast their ballots in tens of thousands of polling stations across the archipelago.

Polls officially closed 13 hours later at 7:00 pm (1100 GMT).

At Mariano Marcos Memorial Elementary School in the northern city of Batac, the ancestral home of the Marcoses, voters waved hand fans to cool their faces in the tropical heat.

Bomb sniffer dogs swept the polling station before Marcos Jr, 64, arrived with his younger sister Irene and eldest son Sandro.

They were followed by the family’s flamboyant 92-year-old matriarch Imelda, who was lowered from a van dressed head to toe in red — the clan’s campaign colour.

Sandro, 28, who is running for elected office for the first time in a congressional district in Ilocos Norte province, admitted the family’s history was “a burden”.

But he added: “It’s one that we also try to sustain and protect and better as we serve.”

Marcos Jr and Duterte — both offspring of authoritarian leaders — have insisted they are best qualified to “unify” the country.

Hundreds of thousands of red-clad supporters turned out at Marcos Jr and Duterte’s raucous rally in Manila on Saturday, as they made a last push for votes.

Josephine Llorca said successive governments since the 1986 revolution that ousted the family had failed to improve the lives of the poor.

“We tried it and they were even worse than the Marcoses’ time,” she said.

Other candidates seeking the presidency included boxing legend Manny Pacquiao and former street scavenger turned actor Francisco Domagoso.

Personality rather than policy typically influences many people’s choice of candidate, though vote-buying and intimidation are also perennial problems.

More than 60,000 security personnel were deployed to protect polling stations and election workers.

Police reported at least two deadly shootings at polling stations on the restive southern island of Mindanao that had left four people dead and three wounded.

That followed a grenade attack on Sunday that injured nine people.

AFP

Eight People Killed In Philippines Housing Fire

A general view shows the aftermath of a fire at an informal settlement inside the campus of the University of the Philippines in Quezon City, suburban Manila on May 2, 2022. – Eight people died, including six children, when a fire ripped through a poor community in the Philippines capital of Manila on May 2 and destroyed 80 houses, a fire official said. (Photo by Maria TAN / AFP)

 

Eight people died, including six children, when a fire ripped through a poor community in the Philippines capital of Manila on Monday and destroyed 80 houses, a fire official said.

Another three people were injured in the blaze which started around 5:00 am (2100 GMT) on the second floor of a house in a crowded, informal settlement inside the sprawling campus of the University of the Philippines.

It took nearly two hours to extinguish the inferno, Senior Fire Officer Greg Bichayda told AFP.

An investigation into the cause was under way.

The victims were trapped inside their homes as “the fire spread quickly”, Bichayda said.

Their ages are not yet known, but he said six were minors.

“The houses consist of light materials. When the fire broke out, people were shocked,” Bichayda said.

“Our station was just nearby but they weren’t able to call us immediately.”

More than 13 million people live in the densely populated capital, with tens of thousands in overcrowded slums where fires are common.

Many of the residents have fled rural poverty to live in Manila where there are more jobs.

Death Toll From Philippines Landslides, Floods Rises To 67

Rescue workers carry body bags containing the retrieved bodies of victims of a landslide that slammed the village of Bunga in Baybay town, Leyte province on April 13, 2022, days after heavy rains inundated the town brought about by Tropiical storm Megi. (Photo by BOBBIE ALOTA / AFP)

 

 

 

The death toll from landslides and floods in the Philippines rose to 67 on Wednesday with scores missing and feared dead, officials said, as rescuers dug up more bodies with bare hands and backhoes in crushed villages.

Most of the deaths from tropical storm Megi — the strongest to hit the archipelago this year — were in the central province of Leyte, where a series of landslides devastated communities.

Thirteen people died and around 150 were missing in the coastal village of Pilar, which is part of Abuyog municipality, after a torrent of mud and earth pushed houses into the sea and buried most of the settlement, Abuyog Mayor Lemuel Traya said.

“I have to be honest, we are no longer expecting survivors,” Traya told AFP, adding that emergency personnel were now focused on the difficult task of retrieving bodies.

About 250 people were in evacuation centres after being rescued by boat after roads were cut by landslides, he said.

A number of villagers were also in hospital.

 

Residents mourn next to the body bag containing the dead body of a relative, a victim of a landslide that slammed the village of Pilar in Abuyog town, Leyte province on April 13, 2022, days after heavy rains inundated the town brought about by Tropiical Storm Megi. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)

 

A rumbling sound like “a helicopter” alerted Ara Mae Canuto, 22, to the landslide hurtling towards her family’s home in Pilar.

She said she tried to outrun it, but was swept into the water and nearly drowned.

“I swallowed dirt, and my ears and nose are full of mud,” Canuto told AFP by telephone from her hospital bed. Her father died and her mother has not been found.

Disaster-prone Philippines is regularly ravaged by storms — including a direct hit from Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 — with scientists warning they are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer because of human-driven climate change.

Baybay City is also reeling after waves of sodden soil smashed into farming settlements over the weekend, killing at least 48 people and injuring over 100, local authorities said. Twenty-seven are still missing, they added.

Aerial photos showed a wide stretch of mud that had swept down a hill of coconut trees and engulfed Bunga village, where only a few rooftops poked through the now-transformed landscape.

“We were told to be on alert because a storm was coming, but they did not directly tell us we needed to evacuate,” said Bunga farmworker Loderica Portarcos, 47, who lost 17 relatives and a friend in the landslide.

Portarcos braved heat and humidity as she advised a backhoe operator where to dig for three bodies still embedded in the soft soil which had started to smell of rotting flesh.

“Our dead relatives are all in the morgue, but there will be no time for a wake to mourn them because the mayor told us they smell bad,” she said.

 

This undated handout photo received from 14TH IB (Avenger Battalion) Philippine Army on April 13, 2022 shows an injured Pilar Village resident being evacuated to the town of Abuyog after their village were struck by landslide April 12, due to heavy rains brought about by tropical storm Megi. (Photo by Handout / 14th IB PHILIPPINE ARMY / AFP)

– ‘Many of us died’ –
Three people were also killed in the central province of Negros Oriental and three on the main southern island of Mindanao, according to the national disaster agency.

The death toll from Megi is expected to rise as rescue operations switch to recovering bodies.

Abuyog police chief Captain James Mark Ruiz said more boats were needed for victims in Pilar. But getting access to the shore was difficult.

Photos posted by the Bureau of Fire Protection on Facebook showed buildings crushed or turned over by the force of the landslide and debris in the water.

“We’re using fiber glass boats and there are steel bars exposed in the sea so it’s very difficult,” Abuyog Mayor Traya said, adding that the ground was unstable and “very risky”.

 

Residents mourn next to the body bag containing the dead body of a relative, a victim of a landslide that slammed the village of Pilar in Abuyog town, Leyte province on April 13, 2022, days after heavy rains inundated the town brought about by Tropiical Storm Megi. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)

 

While Pilar survivor Canuto counts herself lucky to be alive, she said “many of us died and a lot are missing too”.

Whipping up seas, Megi forced dozens of ports to temporarily suspend operations, stranding thousands of people at the start of Holy Week, one of the busiest travel periods of the year in the Philippines.

It came four months after super typhoon Rai devastated swathes of the country, killing more than 400 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

The Philippines — ranked among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change — is hit by an average of 20 storms every year.

Death Toll From Philippines Landslides, Floods Rises To 59

Residents and a motorist wade through a flooded street after heavy rains brought about by Tropical storm Agaton in Abuyog town, Leyte province, the southern Philippines on April 11, 2022. (Photo by Bobbie ALOTA / AFP)

 

The death toll from landslides and floods in the Philippines rose to 59 on Wednesday, official figures show, as rescuers dug up more bodies with bare hands and backhoes in villages crushed by rain-induced avalanches.

Most of the deaths from tropical storm Megi — the strongest to hit the archipelago nation this year — were in the central province of Leyte, where a series of landslides devastated communities.

Rescuers used boats to reach survivors in Pilar, a village of about 400 people in Abuyog municipality, where a torrent of mud and earth pushed houses into the sea on Tuesday and police reported five deaths.

A rumbling sound like “a helicopter” alerted Ara Mae Canuto, 22, to the landslide hurtling towards her family’s home. She tried to outrun it but was swept into the water and nearly drowned.

READ ALSO: Nearly 60 Dead In South Africa Floods

“I swallowed dirt, and my ears and nose are full of mud,” Canuto told AFP by telephone from her hospital bed where she is being treated for cuts and bruises. Her father died and her mother has not been found.

The disaster-prone region is regularly ravaged by storms, including a direct hit from Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, and scientists warn they are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer because of human-driven climate change.

Baybay City is also reeling after waves of sodden soil smashed into farming settlements over the weekend, killing at least 48 people and injuring over 100, local authorities said. Twenty-seven are still missing, they added.

Aerial photos showed a wide stretch of mud that had swept down a hill of coconut trees and engulfed Bunga village, where only a few rooftops poked through the now-transformed landscape.

“We were told to be on alert because a storm was coming, but they did not directly tell us we needed to evacuate,” said Bunga farmworker Loderica Portarcos, 47, who lost 17 relatives and a friend in the landslide.

Portarcos braved heat and humidity as she advised a backhoe operator where to dig for three bodies still embedded in the soft soil which had started to smell of rotting flesh.

“Our dead relatives are all in the morgue, but there will be no time for a wake to mourn them because the mayor told us they smell bad,” she said.

 ‘Completely Devastated’ 

This handout photo taken on April 12, 2022, and received from the Philippine Coast Guard shows coast guard personnel evacuating local residents from their flooded homes in the town of Panitan, Capiz province as heavy rains brought on by Tropical Storm Megi inundated the area. (Photo by Handout / Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) / AFP)

 

Three people were also killed in the central province of Negros Oriental and three on the main southern island of Mindanao, according to the national disaster agency.

The military has joined the coast guard, police, and fire protection personnel in the search and rescue efforts, which have been hampered by bad weather.

The death toll from Megi is expected to rise as the focus switches from searching for survivors to retrieving bodies.

Abuyog police chief Captain James Mark Ruiz told AFP more boats were needed for victims in Pilar after landslides cut off road access to the community.

“This has been the catastrophe that broke my heart,” Abuyog Mayor Lemuel Gin Traya wrote on Facebook, saying Pilar had been “completely devastated”.

Around 50 survivors have been ferried from the community, the Bureau of Fire Protection said on Facebook on Tuesday.

Photos posted by the agency showed buildings crushed or turned over by the force of the landslide and debris in the water.

Medical workers rushed to treat victims as they were brought to shore, applying bandages to cuts and providing emergency blankets. One woman had her right arm in a splint.

While Pilar survivor Canuto counts herself lucky to be alive, she said “many of us died and a lot are missing too”.

Whipping up seas, Megi forced dozens of ports to suspend operations and stranded thousands of people at the start of Holy Week, one of the busiest travel periods of the year in the Philippines.

It came four months after super typhoon Rai devastated swathes of the country, killing more than 400 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

The Philippines — ranked among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change — is hit by an average of 20 storms every year.

AFP

Search For Survivors In Philippine Villages Hit By Landslides

This handout photo taken on April 12, 2022 and received from the Philippine Coast Guard shows coast guard personnel evacuating local residents from their flooded homes in the town of Panitan, Capiz province as heavy rains brought on by Tropical Storm Megi inundated the area. (Photo by Handout / Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) / AFP

 

 

Rescuers hampered by mud and rain on Tuesday used their bare hands and shovels to search for survivors of landslides that smashed into villages in the central Philippines, as the death toll from tropical storm Megi reached 28. 

More than 17,000 people fled their homes as the storm pummelled the disaster-prone region in recent days, flooding houses, severing roads and knocking out power.

At least 22 people were dead and 27 missing after landslides slammed into multiple villages around Baybay City in Leyte province — the hardest hit by the storm — local authorities said. Just over 100 people were injured.

Three people were also killed in the central province of Negros Oriental and three on the main southern island of Mindanao, according to the national disaster agency.

Most of the deaths in Leyte were in the mountainous village of Mailhi where 14 bodies were found, Army Captain Kaharudin Cadil told AFP.

“It was a mudflash that buried houses. We recovered most of the bodies embedded in the mud,” said Cadil, spokesman for the 802nd Infantry Brigade.

Search efforts would continue despite the rain “in the hope of finding at least some of them alive”, he added.

Drone footage shared on Facebook and verified by AFP showed a wide stretch of mud that had swept down a hill of coconut trees and engulfed Bunga, another community devastated by the storm.

At least one person had been killed and 21 villagers were missing in Bunga, which had been reduced to a few rooftops poking through the mud.

“It’s supposed to be the dry season but maybe climate change has upended that,” said Marissa Miguel Cano, public information officer for Baybay City, where a total of 10 villages have been affected by landslides.

Cano said the hilly region of corn, rice and coconut farms was prone to landslides, but they were usually small and not fatal.

Apple Sheena Bayno was forced to flee after her house in Baybay City flooded. She said her family was still recovering from a super typhoon in December.

“We’re still fixing our house and yet it’s being hit again so I was getting anxious,” she told AFP.

Rescue efforts were also focused on the nearby village of Kantagnos, which an official said had been hit by two landslides.

“There was a small landslide and some people were able to run to safety, and then a big one followed which covered the entire village,” Baybay City Mayor Jose Carlos Cari told local broadcaster DZMM Teleradyo.

Some residents managed to escape or were pulled out of the mud alive, but many are still feared trapped.

A Philippine Coast Guard video on Facebook showed six rescuers carrying a mud-caked woman on a stretcher.

Other victims have been piggybacked to safety.

Five people have been confirmed dead in Kantagnos, but it is not clear how many are still missing.

“We’re looking for many people, there are 210 households there,” said the Baybay City mayor.

– Direct hit on homes –
The military has joined coast guard, police and fire protection personnel in the search and rescue efforts.

But bad weather has hampered the response.

National disaster agency spokesman Mark Timbal said landslides around Baybay City had reached settlements “outside the danger zone”, catching many residents by surprise.

“There were people in their homes that were hit directly by the landslide,” Timbal told AFP.

Tropical storm Megi — known in the Philippines by its local name Agaton — is the first major storm to hit the country this year.

Whipping up seas, it forced dozens of ports to suspend operations and stranded more than 9,000 people at the start of Holy Week, one of the busiest travel periods of the year in the mostly Catholic country.

The storm comes four months after super typhoon Rai devastated swathes of the archipelago nation, killing more than 400 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

Scientists have long warned typhoons are strengthening more rapidly as the world becomes warmer due to climate change.

The Philippines — ranked among the most vulnerable nations to its impacts — is hit by an average of 20 storms every year.

24 Dead In Philippines Landslides, Flooding

This undated handout photograph received from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on April 11, 2022 shows coast guard and police personnel evacuating a resident from a flooded area in Abuyog town, Leyte province, southern Philippines, following heavy rains brought about by Tropical storm Agaton. (Photo by Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) / AFP)

 

At least 24 people have been killed in landslides and flooding across central and southern Philippines, authorities said Monday, after tropical storm Megi dumped heavy rain and disrupted travel ahead of the Easter holidays.

More than 13,000 people fled to emergency shelters as the storm pounded the region Sunday, the national disaster agency said, flooding houses, inundating fields, cutting off roads and knocking out power.

The central province of Leyte was among the hardest hit, with landslides leaving 21 people dead in four villages, Baybay City disaster officer Rhyse Austero told AFP.

Leyte’s death toll adds to another three people killed on the main southern island of Mindanao, the national disaster agency said.

Photos posted on Facebook and verified by AFP show several houses buried in mud up to the rooftops in Bunga, one of the affected villages in Leyte.

“Yesterday the rain was so hard, it was non-stop for more than 24 hours,” resident Hannah Cala Vitangcol told AFP.

The 26-year-old teacher fled with her family to a hotel Monday after waking to find nearby homes had been covered in an avalanche of mud.

“I was crying because I know the people buried there and I was also scared because there were mountains behind our house,” she said.

Philippine Coast Guard and police personnel rescued people from their homes in the flooded town of Abuyog, carrying residents onto orange stretchers laid on floating boats.

– First major storm in 2022 –

Tropical storm Megi — known in the Philippines by its local name Agaton — is the first major storm to hit the disaster-prone country this year.

Whipping up seas, it forced dozens of ports to suspend operations and stranded nearly 6,000 people at the start of one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

The Philippines re-opened to fully vaccinated tourists from most countries in February after lifting most Covid-19 restrictions, and Easter is a popular holiday for domestic tourists.

The storm comes four months after a super typhoon devastated swathes of the archipelago nation, killing more than 400 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

Rai, the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines last year, intensified faster than expected, officials said previously.

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

The Philippines — ranked among the most vulnerable nations to its impacts — is hit by an average of 20 storms every year.

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

AFP

Philippines Raises Age Of Sexual Consent To 16

File photo of Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte  PHOTO/AFP

 

The Philippines has raised the age of sexual consent to 16 after amending a near century-old law, a move child rights activists said Monday would help protect youngsters from rape and abuse.

The Catholic-majority nation had one of the lowest ages of consent in the world, allowing adults to have sex with children as young as 12 if they agreed.

Under the revised law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday and made public Monday, sex with a person under 16 will be illegal and carry a maximum penalty of 40 years in jail.

Exceptions will be made for teenage couples so long as their age difference does not exceed three years and the sex is consensual.

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“Having this law is a very good protective instrument for our children from sexual violence, whether or not it starts online or whether or not it also starts in a face-to-face encounter,” said Margarita Ardivilla, child protection specialist at the UN children’s fund UNICEF in the Philippines.

“It is very important to have a clear age to determine statutory rape and the below 12 of a 1930 law was just something that was unjustifiable.”

Child rights activists have pushed for decades to increase the age of consent, but stubborn social norms in the deeply religious country where abortion and divorce are illegal had frustrated their efforts.

Both houses of Congress ratified the bill in December.

The poverty-afflicted Philippines has become a global hotspot for online child sex abuse and official data show around 500 girls aged 10-19 give birth every day.

Child rape and sexual abuse are also rampant.

A government-backed nationwide study in 2015 showed one in five children aged 13-17 had experienced sexual violence, while one in 25 were raped during childhood, UNICEF said.

The law “sends a very strong message that child rape is a heinous crime and must be punished accordingly”, said Rowena Legaspi, executive director of the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center.

It offers the same protection to boys and girls, and requires the education department to include “age appropriate” lessons on children’s rights in the basic school curriculum.

However, activists cautioned the law would only work to punish offenders or deter would-be abusers if it was properly enforced.

“I welcome it but I’m cynical about whether it will lead to implementation,” said Junice Melgar, director of Likhaan Center for Women’s Health.

Last year, Duterte declared preventing teenage pregnancies a “national priority”, citing the increased risk of health problems for young mothers and their babies as well as the loss of earnings.

In January, he signed a bill into law banning child marriages in a country where one in six girls enters wedlock before the age of 18.

A separate bill targeting online sexual abuse and exploitation of children is working its way through Congress.

AFP

11 Killed In Philippines Truck Crash

This undated handout photo received from the Balingasag police station on January 13, 2022 shows residents looking at the wreckage of a truck that overturned killing at least eleven people onboard when the driver lost control after the brakes apparently failed on a downhill section of road in Balingasag, on the southern island of Mindanao. (Photo by Handout / BALINGASAG POLICE STATION / AFP)

 

At least 11 people were killed after a small truck packed with partygoers, including children, overturned in the southern Philippines, police said Thursday.

The vehicle was travelling to a beachside resort on Mindanao island for a postponed Christmas party on Wednesday when the driver lost control after the brakes apparently failed on a downhill section of road.

Around 50 people were crammed into the truck, most of them in the open tray, when it veered off the road and into a tree.

The vehicle then flipped over onto a pile of rocks, Balingasag municipal police chief Major Teodoro De Oro said.

Eleven people were killed, including a three-year-old child, De Oro said, adding police were seeking to confirm another three deaths.

Scores of other passengers were injured, including a dozen children. The driver, who was also hurt and tried to hide after receiving medical treatment, was arrested and will face charges.

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The vehicle was part of a convoy of three trucks but the other two were not involved in the accident, De Oro said.

Deadly road mishaps are common in the Philippines, where drivers frequently flout the rules and vehicles are often poorly maintained or overloaded.

In 2019, 19 farmers were killed in the mountainous northern Philippines when a truck carrying them and sacks of rice seeds plunged backwards down a deep ravine.

Philippines Bans Child Marriage

Map of Philippines

 

Child marriage became illegal in the Philippines on Thursday as a law banning the practice took effect in a country where one in six girls enters wedlock before the age of 18.

The impoverished Southeast Asian country has the 12th-highest number of child marriages in the world, according to Britain-based rights group Plan International, with long-held cultural practices and gender inequality hindering change.

But a new law, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte and released to the public on Thursday, lays out prison terms of up to 12 years for marrying or cohabiting with anyone under 18.

People arranging or solemnising underage unions face the same penalty.

“The state… views child marriage as a practice constituting child abuse because it debases, degrades, and demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of children,” the law states.

The government says the law is consistent with international conventions on the rights of women and children.

However, some portions of the legislation have been suspended for one year to allow for a transition period for Muslims and indigenous communities in which child marriage is relatively common.

A report last year by the United Nations Children’s Fund said more than half a billion girls and women worldwide were married in childhood, with the highest rates found in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

But recent data indicates the practice is generally in decline on average across the globe.

Plan International’s country director for the Philippines, Ana Maria Locsin, hailed the ban.

“Child marriage is a harmful practice that can cause lasting impact throughout the lives of both girls and boys. It deprives them of the right to be free from violence, the right to education, and sexual and reproductive health and rights,” Locsin told AFP.

Banning child marriage is unpopular in the southern areas populated by the Catholic nation’s large Islamic minority, where a 1977 law allows marriage by Filipino Muslims at the age of puberty or the onset of first menstruation for girls.

Members of the regional parliament in the Muslim self-ruled area there had tried to convince Duterte to veto the law’s penal provisions, said the body’s deputy speaker Ziaur-Rahman Adiong.

“While we understand that child marriage is not popular amongst various sectors in the country, we also need to consider the varying definitions of ‘puberty’ relative to what (the) law says and what the Islamic perspective is,” he told AFP.

Philippines Typhoon Death Toll Rises To 388

A resident gathers wood as he tries to fix his damaged house in Surigao City, Surigao del Norte province, on December 24, 2021, days after super Typhoon Rai devastated the city. Ferdinandh CABRERA / AFP

 

The death toll from one of the most destructive typhoons to hit the Philippines in recent years rose to 388 on Monday, the government said, as disease outbreaks threatened some of the stricken areas.

Typhoon Rai struck the south and centre of the Asian nation on December 16 and 17, toppling power lines and trees and unleashing deadly floods that also left hundreds of thousands homeless.

The civil defence office in Manila raised the death toll from Rai to 388 with 60 others missing and hundreds injured. Police previously put the death toll at 375.

Civil defence officials said more than four million people were receiving typhoon aid in 430 cities and towns where about 482,000 houses were damaged or destroyed.

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More than 300,000 people remain in evacuation camps, with more than 200,000 others sheltering in the homes of relatives or friends.

Some survivors have likened Typhoon Rai to Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left 7,300 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in 2013 and remains the country’s deadliest on record.

The archipelago gets hit by an average of 20 cyclones each year.

As the government rushed to bring food, water and clothing to devastated areas, a new threat appeared in recent days with at least 140 people falling ill from suspected contaminated water.

Eighty people were taken ill with acute gastroenteritis in the southern province of Dinagat Islands, while 54 people are being treated for diarrhoea in hospital on the neighbouring tourist island of Siargao, health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

The central city of Cebu reported 16 diarrhoea cases, she told reporters.

“We all know these areas suffered water interruption. Some areas still have tap water but pipes have been damaged and so there is a possibility of contamination,” Vergeire said.

Vergeire said the typhoon also spoiled more than 4,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines and damaged 141 hospitals and clinics, only 30 of which have resumed full operations.

AFP

Death Toll In Philippines Typhoon Surges To 375

HANDOUT / OFFICE OF THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES / AFP

 

The death toll from the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year surged to 375 on Monday, as desperate survivors pleaded for urgent supplies of drinking water and food.

The Philippine Red Cross reported “complete carnage” in coastal areas after Super Typhoon Rai left homes, hospitals and schools “ripped to shreds”.

The storm tore off roofs, uprooted trees, toppled concrete power poles, smashed wooden houses to pieces, wiped out crops and flooded villages — sparking comparisons to the damage caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

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“Our situation is so desperate,” said Ferry Asuncion, a street vendor in the hard-hit seaside city of Surigao, which was devastated by the storm.

Residents urgently needed “drinking water and food”, he said.

At least 375 people were killed and 56 are missing in the latest disaster to hit the archipelago, with 500 more injured, the national police said.

More than 380,000 people fled their homes and beachfront resorts as Rai slammed into the country on Thursday.

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.

In Bohol’s coastal town of Ubay, a state of calamity has been declared, with many wooden houses flattened and fishing boats destroyed.

A senior official at the national disaster agency said he had not expected as many deaths.

“I was proven wrong as it appears now coming from the reports,” said Casiano Monilla, deputy administrator for operations.

 

 

– ‘SOS’ –

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 over 7,300 people dead or missing.

The death toll from Rai is not expected to get anywhere close to that number.

The Philippines has an established disaster management system that provides early warnings of approaching storms and moves vulnerable communities into evacuation centres.

But the storm has dealt a savage blow to the tourism sector, which was already struggling after Covid-19 restrictions decimated visitor numbers.

“SOS” has been painted on a road in the tourist town of General Luna on Siargao Island, where surfers and holidaymakers had flocked ahead of Christmas, as people struggled to find water and food.

“There’s no water anymore, there’s a water shortage, on day one there was already looting in our neighbourhood,” Siargao resort owner Marja O’Donnell told CNN Philippines.

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

At least 14 people died on the Dinagat Islands, provincial information officer Jeffrey Crisostomo told broadcaster ABS-CBN, saying the area had been “levelled to the ground”.

But letters written by Dinagat residents, and posted to Facebook, expressed hope.

“We are happy to be alive,” Aimee Antonio-Jimeno wrote to her sister.

“Our houses are roofless but we are not hopeless!”

With electricity knocked out in many areas, there is no signal or internet, hampering efforts to assess the storm’s damage.

Thousands of military, police, coast guard and fire personnel were deployed along with food, water and medical supplies, while heavy machinery — including backhoes and front-end loaders — were sent to clear roads.

President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to “look for another” two billion pesos ($40 million) in aid, which would double his previous pledge.

But some expressed frustration at the government’s response.

“No one showed up — I don’t know where the politicians and (election) candidates are,” said a visibly angry Levi Lisondra, a resident in Surigao, on the northern tip of Mindanao.

“We paid big taxes when we were working and now they can’t help us.”

AFP

Philippines Typhoon: Death Toll Passes 200

An aerial shot showing destroyed houses and fallen coconut trees in Cebu province on December 20, 2021, days after super Typhoon Rai devastated the province. STRINGER / AFP

 

The death toll from the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year surpassed 200 on Monday, as desperate survivors pleaded for urgent supplies of drinking water and food.

The Philippine Red Cross reported “complete carnage” in coastal areas after Typhoon Rai left homes, hospitals and schools “ripped to shreds”.

The storm tore off roofs, uprooted trees, toppled concrete power poles, smashed wooden houses to pieces, wiped out crops and flooded villages — sparking comparisons to the damage caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

“Our situation is so desperate,” said Ferry Asuncion, a street vendor in the hard-hit seaside city of Surigao, which was devastated by the storm.

Residents urgently needed “drinking water and food”, he said.

At least 208 people were killed and 52 were missing in the latest disaster to hit the archipelago, with hundreds more injured after the storm-ravaged southern and central regions, the national police said.

More than 380,000 people fled their homes and beachfront resorts as Rai slammed into the country on Thursday as a super typhoon.

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

Many wooden houses in the coastal town of Ubay were flattened and small fishing boats destroyed on the island, where a state of calamity has been declared.

A senior official at the national disaster agency said he had not expected so many fatalities.

“I was proven wrong as it appears now coming from the reports,” said Casiano Monilla, deputy administrator for operations.

Victims Plea S.O.S

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.

Typhoon Haiyan, called Yolanda in the Philippines, was at the time the strongest storm ever to have made landfall and leftover 7,300 people dead or missing. The death toll from Rai is not expected to get anywhere close to that number.

The Philippines has an established disaster management system that provides early warnings to residents of an approaching storm and moves vulnerable communities into evacuation centres before it hits.

But the storm has dealt a savage blow to the country’s tourism sector, which was already struggling to recover after Covid-19 restrictions decimated visitor numbers.

SOS was painted on a road in the popular tourist town of General Luna on Siargao island, where surfers and holidaymakers had flocked ahead of Christmas, as people struggled to find water and food.

“There’s no water anymore, there’s a water shortage, on day one there was already looting in our neighbourhood,” Siargao resort owner Marja O’Donnell told CNN Philippines.

There has also been widespread destruction on Dinagat and Mindanao islands, which along with Siargao bore the brunt of the storm when it slammed into the country packing wind speeds of 195 kilometres (120 miles) per hour.

At least 14 people died on the Dinagat Islands, provincial information officer Jeffrey Crisostomo told broadcaster ABS-CBN.

“Dinagat Islands has been levelled to the ground,” he said.

Swathes of the affected areas have no communications, hampering efforts by disaster agencies to assess the full extent of the storm’s damage.

Electricity has also been knocked out, affecting water-refilling stations and ATMs.

Thousands of military, police, coast guard and fire personnel have been deployed to hard-hit areas along with food, water and medical supplies, while heavy machinery — like backhoes and front-end loaders — have been sent to clear roads blocked by fallen power poles and trees.

But some victims have expressed frustration at the government’s response.

“No one showed up — I don’t know where the politicians and (election) candidates are,” said a visibly angry Levi Lisondra, an elderly resident in Surigao City, on the northern tip of Mindanao.

“We paid big taxes when we were working and now they can’t help us.”