PHOTO 31Y-ICM1: The aftermath of Typhoon Odette / Photo by AFP Eastern Mindanao Command

PHOTO 31Y-ICM3: The crash site of C-130 military aircraft in Sulu / Photo by Armed Forces of the Philippines

FROM Covid-19 to a politician filing a case against an actor to Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio running for vice presidency in the 2022 elections, here are the stories that made headlines in 2021:

1.) COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Dabawenyos, together with the rest of the global community, continued to face the Covid-19 pandemic for the rest of 2021.

This year was not a straight road towards normalcy as the pandemic response had to face the emergence of the new Covid-19 variants.

Cases surged in Davao Region during the first quarter of 2021 brought about the post-Holiday surge.

However, the arrival of Covid-19 vaccines in the Philippines in late February this year became a symbol of hope for many of us. Davao Region got its first batch of doses in March.

As the vaccination commenced, Covid-19 variants were also being recorded across the country.

In late July, Davao Region recorded its first recorded case of Delta variant, a highly infectious variant.

This had resulted in a surge of cases in the entire region, overwhelming hospitals and temporary treatment and monitoring facilities or TTMF.

However, as local government units (LGUs) implemented strict measures against the disease and the massive vaccination rollout, cases slowly and steadily dropped in November. This led to the easing of restrictions.

But as the entire country celebrates the improving Covid-19 situation, another variant is starting to emerge --- the Omicron variant.

On December 15, two cases of Omicron, mostly from international travelers, were traced. As of December 29, the country has now four Omicron cases.

There is still no sign of a surge for the entire country. This has yet to remain seen as health experts are forecasting a possible surge in the first quarter of 2022.

2.) RUN SARA RUN

Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio was in the lead as among the presidentiables Filipinos want to vote for in the upcoming 2022 National Elections, based on the surveys conducted by various institutions.

However, she made it clear then that she is not seeking a national post. Early this year, she even asked polling bodies to not include her name in the presidential surveys.

On October 2, 2021, Duterte-Carpio filed her certificate of candidacy (COC) for mayor of Davao City before the Commission on Elections-Davao City (Comelec) Davao City. She was supposed to be running for her third and last term.

Many supporters expressed dismay, but at the same time, they were expecting her to withdraw her COC on October 8. But she did not withdraw her COC.

However, in the morning of November 9, 2021, Davao City Vice Mayor Sebastian Z. Duterte arrived at Comelec-Davao City and withdrew his COC for vice mayor. Hours after, Duterte-Carpio arrived at Comelec-Davao to also withdraw her COC.

Despite leading the presidential surveys and strong clamor for her to run for president, Duterte-Carpio settled for the vice-presidential race in the upcoming elections, with former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos as her running mate.

3.) PARTY-RAID

Former media practitioner and Davao City Information Office (CIO) head Jefry Tupas made headlines after he was allegedly involved in a beach party that was raided by authorities. Tupas, in a statement, confirmed that he attended the party but left after dinner.

However, some of the individuals who were arrested claimed during an interview with Newsline Philippines that Tupas was present during the raid and was among the “main targets” who were allegedly allowed to escape.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-Davao Region (PDEA-Davao) Director Aileen Lovitos said Tupas is still part of the investigation.

Tupas resigned and was terminated from his post as CIO head, according to a statement issued by the City Government.

4.) ISLA RETA ISSUE

A resort in the Island Garden City of Samal came under fire on social media for refusing to accommodate transgender guests as it lacked facilities for them.

Isla Reta Beach Resort prevented transgender woman Shannon Remotigue Gonzaga from using their women’s bathroom during her stay at the resort. In a Facebook post on May 10, Gonzaga said one of the resort’s employees asked for proof if she had undergone sex reassignment surgery before allowing her to use the bathroom of her choice.

Gonzaga’s Facebook went viral and sparked debate online.

Isla Reta responded to the incident and said it had “no facility for [transgender guests] to avoid issues of discrimination.”

Later that night, the resort issued a statement, explaining that other female guests have previously said that they were uncomfortable sharing shower rooms with a trans woman.

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community rallied behind Gonzaga and lambasted the resort for allegedly refusing to accommodate transgender guests due to “lack of facilities.”

Mario Reta, resort owner, planned to take legal action against the transgender guest, saying he was disappointed that Gonzaga aired her complaint online before settling it with them privately.

Following the incident, the beach resort management on May 12 said that to avoid similar incidents from happening, they will not accommodate transgender guests because they do not have the facility for them.

Samal Mayor Al David Uy, in a radio interview, said while he respects the resort’s policy, he is appealing to them to build separate restrooms for LGBT. He also encouraged tourism establishments to establish additional amenities for these sectors.

5.) DAVAO-SAMAL BRIDGE

The Samal Island-Davao City Connector (SIDC) Project (Samal-Davao Bridge) is among the big-ticket projects that the Duterte administration has in the pipeline.

The SIDC is a two-way four-lane 3.86-kilometer (km) bridge with the main bridge having a length of 1.62-km long. According to the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines, the SIDC "will be designed in a cable-stayed structure with the twin towers and double cable planes. The construction duration is estimated to last 60 months."

On January 14, 2021, the Philippine and Chinese governments signed a commercial contract for China to finance around $400 million for the SIDC. The two governments began loan agreement negotiations following the signing of the commercial contract.

According to a press statement of the Chinese Embassy in January 2021, "The project is expected to break ground in the first half of 2021.”

However, as the first half of the year drew to a close, no groundbreaking commenced. Based on news reports, the SIDC was expected to have its groundbreaking in July 2020 but did not push through. In September 2020, Uy said based on discussions with Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar, the project was expected to have its groundbreaking in January 2021. However, that did not happen too.

The uncertainty of the project had made Island Garden City of Samal Mayor Al David Uy let out an impassioned statement on the delay of the bridge in a radio interview on June 14. However, he apologized the day after.

National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Davao Director Maria Lourdes Lim said on September 30 that the Davao-Samal Bridge will still push through, but there is still no definite date on its groundbreaking. She added that the loan negotiation is currently being settled by the Department of Finance (DOF).

Lim said the road-right-of-way acquisition is ongoing, while notice of taking had been issued to affected lot owners in Davao City since June this year.

6.) QUIBOLOY ‘SEX TRAFFICKING’ CHARGES

On November 18, Davao-based Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy was charged for allegedly having sex with women and underage girls who faced threats of abuse and “eternal damnation” unless they catered to the self-proclaimed “Appointed Son of God," federal prosecutors announced.

In a report from the Associated Press, Quiboloy and two of his top administrators are among nine people named in a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury. The indictment includes three Los Angeles-based administrators of Quiboloy's church who were charged in 2020. The new indictment also names a church administrator in Hawaii.

The pastor’s camp said the sex trafficking charges are "another vicious attempt" to discredit him.

In a televised worship gathering, Quiboloy said he has “forgiven his detractors” even with the sex trafficking charges thrown against him.

The pastor did not make any further elaborations on the merits of his case. He assured his members that the KJC church will continue despite his ongoing legal battle.

The 71-year-old pastor is head of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church, founded in 1985. The church claims to have six million members in about 200 countries.

7.) VIRAL TEACHER

On October 25, a video posted on Tagumeño Disiplinado 2.0 went viral online wherein a delivery rider was threatened with scissors by the husband of a customer after receiving a parcel containing items they claim they did not order.

Netizens were able to track the identity of the person threatening the rider. Netizens said the person is a principal of a public school in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.

The Department of Education (DepEd)-Panabo City, in a statement, said it is going to investigate the incident.

DepEd-Panabo Spokesperson Raul Gacus confirmed to SunStar Davao in a phone interview that the person in the viral video is one of their personnel. But the principal was recently appointed as supervisor of the DepEd Panabo City Division.

Based on the initial investigation, there was already a settlement between two parties right after the incident.

The spokesperson, however, said a memorandum was already issued ordering the supervisor to explain his side of the incident.

8.) FOODPANDA ISSUE

Davao City-based delivery riders of a prominent online food delivery app trooped along Roxas Avenue on the morning of July 15, to protest the questionable practices of the company following their diminishing take-home pay.

Around 200 Foodpanda riders were estimated to have participated in the protest — appealing to the City Government to intervene with the company's "low and unclear" computation of their commission.

Davao United Delivery Riders Association Incorporated (DUDRAI) President Edmund Carillo said they are asking for the City Government's help after several riders were removed access by the Foodpanda management from catering deliveries.

Carillo said many riders on July 13, were restricted from accessing their accounts after the management suspended them for baseless reasons. Several Foodpanda riders were also slapped with a 10-year suspension after the company heard about their planned silent protest against its payment scheme.

According to a local delivery rider association, their average P55-earning per delivery was slashed to almost half since 2020.

The matter was raised to the Davao City Council, wherein Councilor Pamela Librado-Morata had raised the matter and criticized the management for its action.

In a statement, Foodpanda said that it “made the difficult decision to offboard a small number of riders who have violated their agreement with Foodpanda by calling for disruptions that may affect the ‘wider ecosystem,’” referring to other riders, vendors and customers.

More than a month after their protest, DUDRAI and other suspended riders filed labor complaints before the National Labor Relations Commission against the management.

9.) CHRISTINE DACERA, BREE JONSON DEATH

Two young women whose deaths became the center of media attention.

Twenty-three-year-old flight attendant Christine Dacera was found unconscious on January 1, 2021, in the bathtub in her hotel room at the City Garden Grand Hotel in Makati City, where she had attended a New Year’s Eve party.

Police said the hotel staff tried but failed to revive her through cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). They brought her to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead by doctors.

The Makati Prosecutor’s Office, however, has dismissed charges of rape and homicide against 11 people implicated in the death of Christine April this year.

Davao-based artist Bree Jonson, born as Breanna Patricia Jonson Agunod, was found lifeless in a hotel room in San Juan La Union last September.

Bree’s boyfriend, Julian Ongpin, was named as a person of interest in the former’s death. Ongin was initially arrested after police recovered from his possession 12 grams of cocaine in a hotel room they shared. Ongpin is the son of business tycoon Roberto Ongpin.

However, Ongpin’s drug charges were dismissed by San Fernando Regional Trial Court Branch 27 in La Union on November 15 for lack of probable cause.

This was due to alleged non-compliance of authorities with the Section 21 provisions of Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, on the inventory of confiscated evidence on drug cases.

Bree’s friends and family expressed disappointment following the dismissal and the lifting of the precautionary hold departure order issued against Ongpin.

Sharon Rose Dacera, the mother of the late flight attendant Christine Dacera, sympathized with Sally Jonson, the mother of the late Davao artist Bree Jonson.

On October 22, Sharon commented on a SunStar Davao reuploaded video of Sally expressing her sentiment on the news of the indictment of Julian Ongpin over illegal possession of illegal drugs, a non-bailable case.

"Hugs tight to you mother Sally, am still fighting too for justice as well for my daughter Christine Dacera *fist and prayer emoji*," Sharon said.

Both mothers are seeking justice for the untimely loss of their daughters at a young age.

10.) REPA

Two years after the infamous Kapa scam, another investment scam emerged in 2021, wherein a group of investors filed a complaint against Repa/Repa Paluwagan before the Davao City Anti-Scam Unit (ASU).

ASU chief Simplicio Sagarino, in a recent interview with SunStar Davao, said their office had been receiving complaints against Repa early October this year.

Based on the initial investigation of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), those investing in Repa are promised a "40-percent interest rate of return in just a short period of time of two weeks."

Following the complaints, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an advisory against Repa/Repa Paluwagan on October 12, 2021, saying that it "does not appear as a registered corporation or partnership" in their system.

SEC also declared Repa (Repa Paluwagan) as a "Ponzi scheme" and "does not appear as a registered corporation or partnership."

This after the office had received reports and inquiries from the public asking whether Repa's operations in Bohol, Davao, Bukidnon and Cebu are registered with the Commission and if it can solicit investments from the public.

SEC has advised the public not to invest or stop investing with Repa/Repa Paluwagan.

14. DUTERTE-GO

In what seemed to be a surprising move to some, President Rodrigo Duterte and his longtime aide Senator Christopher "Bong" Go made noise in the certificate of candidacy (COC) filing for the 2022 elections.

In September this year, Duterte accepted the vice-presidential nomination of his party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

But on the second day of the COC filing, it was Go who filed for the vice presidency. The President then announced his retirement from politics after nearly four decades.

But on November 13, Go arrived at the Comelec with the President. The senator has withdrawn his COC for vice president and announced his bid for the presidency.

On November 15, the last day of the substitution of candidates, Duterte, through a representative, made a change of mind and filed for his senatorial bid.

However, before November ended, Go bowed out from the presidential race.

On December 14, Go formally withdrew his candidacy at the Commission on Elections office. Hours later, Duterte also decided not to pursue his candidacy for senator in next year’s elections by personally withdrewing his COC.

15. TYPHOON ODETTE

Typhoon Odette, international name Rai, caused havoc when it made landfall in parts of the Visayas and Mindanao on December 16 and 17.

The typhoon had maximum sustained winds of 185 to 195 kilometers per hour (km/h) and gustiness of up to 230 to 240 km/h when it first hit Dinagat Islands, Siargao Island, and Bucas Grande Islands.

Engineer Lita Vinalay, chief meteorologist of the Philippine Atmospheric,Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) Davao, said Odette is as strong as Typhoon Pablo in 2012.

On December 21, President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Proclamation 1267, placing Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, and Caraga under state of calamity for one year.

As of December 29, 406 people have died, a large portion of which were from the severely affected island of Bohol. At least 1,147 are injured and 83 are missing.

Damages in Bohol is projected to be worth P5 billion, with those in Siargao being estimated to be worth P20 billion and those in Negros Occidental being estimated to be worth P5.9 billion.

According to the United Nations, 13 million people are expected to be affected in the Philippines.

16. EX-PRESIDENT AQUINO’S DEATH

Former president Benigno “Noynoy” Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III died on June 24 at the age of 61.

Aquino was pronounced dead at 6:30 a.m. due to renal disease secondary to diabetes. He was reportedly undergoing dialysis when he had a heart attack.

The former president was cremated the same day and a one-day public viewing was held on June 25 at the Church of the Gesu at the Ateneo de Manila University.

On June 26, a funeral mass presided by Archbishop Socrates Villegas was celebrated at the Church of the Gesu before he was finally laid to rest at Manila Memorial Park beside the tombs of his parents, former president Corazon Aquino and former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.

The City Government of Davao ordered for all Philippine flags in the city to be lowered at half-mast on June 24 in light of the former president’s passing.

Many Davao leaders, including Davao de Oro Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy and Senator Christopher “Bong” Go expressed their condolences.

Aquino was the 15th president of the Philippines. He preceded Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and served a full term from 2010 to 2016 before current President Rodrigo Duterte took office.

During his administration, the Philippines won against China over the West Philippine Sea dispute in 2016 wherein the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague unanimously rejected China’s nine-dash claim within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Aquino faced criminal charges such as graft in relation to the Dengvaxia vaccine, graft and usurpation of authority in connection with the 2015 Mamasapano clash that killed over 60 people including 44 from the Special Action Forces.

He was also charged with 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide which were all cleared by the Supreme Court in 2019.

17. REP. CLAUDINE BAUTISTA vs. ENCHONG DEE

Drivers United for Mass Progress and Equal Rights (Dumper) Partylist Representative Claudine Diana Bautista became a center of controversy after photos of her wedding went viral on social media.

Bautista, daughter of Davao Occidental Governor Claude Bautista, drew flak from netizens after Dubai-based fashion designer Michael Cinco posted a photograph of the wedding gown on social media.

Based on news reports, several known personalities like Agot Isidro, Enchong Dee, Ogie Diaz, and Pokwang also criticized Bautista.

In a statement forwarded to the media on August 19, Bautista had acknowledged “all of the sentiments asserted by everyone.”

However, she said she is saddened over her wedding becoming a “political spectacle.”

She explained that the wedding had been planned for a long time with her husband, Jose French “Tracker” Lim, a businessman. Bautista said she and her husband were hurt "to see how things after our wedding turned out."

In November this year, she confirmed that she has filed a cyberlibel complaint against several personalities who criticized her recent wedding.

The lawmaker revealed that she filed the case against undisclosed individuals in August 2021 without publicizing it.

She said they filed changes upon her husband's "insistence and in response to the malicious allegations made against me at that time."

Admittedly, she had initial reservations in pursuing the case. But she was later on convinced by her husband and his lawyers.

The representative issued the statement after news outlets published an item reporting that Bautista filed cyberlibel charges against actor Enchong Dee.

The actor eventually deleted his tweet and had already issued an apology.

In late December, prosecutors in Davao Occidental indicted Dee over a cyber libel complaint filed by a lawmaker. The actor has not yet issued any statement on the matter.

18. COMMUNITY PANTRY

The community pantry movement started in Maginhawa street in Quezon City by Ana Patricia Non in April amid the modified enhanced community quarantine.

In a matter of time, Non’s initiative inspired many other community pantries nationwide. It made food items such as vegetables, canned goods, and repacked rice free for anyone who needed it.

In Davao City, Mary Ann Medina set up a community pantry in her milk tea shop along Roxas Avenue. It was reported as the first community pantry in the city.

According to Medina, her community pantry catered to trisikad drivers and residents along Roxas Avenue who lost their jobs.

Medina’s initiative was followed by a group of high school friends who opened a pantry in Matina along Quimpo Boulevard fronting SM City Davao.

One of the organizers said they picked a good location to practice social distancing. They also had help from the barangay captain who sent tanods to help with the crowd control and ensure seamless distribution of goods.

The Matina community pantry catered to 200 people on the first day. The next day, it doubled to 550 people, 750 on the third day, 1,150 on the fourth day, and 1,400 on the fifth day.

19. MOUNT APO

On May 29, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Davao Region (DENR-Davao) posted online a video of a trekker in Mt. Apo drinking liquor and showing indecent behavior.

Similarly, DENR-Davao conducted a trail and camp assessment at Mount Apo Natural Park with Regional Director Bagani Evasco and team from February 11 to 14 where they observed improper waste disposal along the trails and campsites, improper sanitation, and violation of health protocols.

They also noticed vandalism along trails, campsites with engravings on the boulders, peaks, and even at the crater of the mountain.

This prompted DENR-Davao to push for stricter trekking rules to prevent indecent behavior from tourists. Evasco said that trekkers should respect the sanctity of Mt. Apo and follow trekking policies such as strict prohibition of nudity, indecent activities, and unnecessary noise.

At the same time, Evasco ordered officials to further intensify the enforcement of environmental laws within the mountain park.

In relation to the issue, the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) passed Resolution No. 6 on July 28, declaring an annual off-season for Mt. Apo Natural Park from July to September beginning in 2022.

DENR-Davao said the off-season will give way for rehabilitation, improvement of public services, disaster risk prevention, biodiversity protection, and strengthening of law enforcement mechanisms.

Aside from rehabilitation, DENR-Davao Regional Public Affairs Office (RPAO) Chief Jayvee Agas said that the off-season will allow an undisturbed breeding or mating period of fauna species.

On December 7, Evasco said that DENR-Davao is working to apply for Mount Apo’s inclusion in the prestigious Unesco Global Geoparks list where it will be recognized as a “landscape of international geological significance” equivalent to the Unesco World Heritage.

Currently, Mount Apo is recognized as an Asean Heritage Park and is listed in the United Nations List of National Parks and Equivalent Reserves.

20. C-130 CRASH IN SULU

A C-130 military aircraft carrying military personnel crashed in Patikul, Sulu on July 4, killing 50 out of 96 passengers.

In a statement from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the ill-fated accident was caused by a combination of multiple factors.

“Material, human, and environmental factors were determined by the Philippine Air Force Aircraft Accident Investigation Board as cause of the ill-fated C-130 crash in Sulu,” the statement read.

AFP Chief of Staff Cirilito Sobejana said the aircraft missed the runway and crashed around 11:30 a.m. in Barangay Bangkal, Patikul.

In a report by Joint Task Force Sulu, 29 bodies were recovered the day of the crash.

One of the victims was a female military nurse First Lieutenant Sheena Alexandria Tato who was a graduate of Brokenshire College in 2011. On July 9, Tato’s remains were flown to Davao City where she was given full military honors upon arrival at the Davao Air Station, Headquarters Tactical Operations Wing Eastern Mindanao.

The other Mindanawon casualties included Private Erwin Canton from Poblacion Sibagat, Agusan del Sur, Private Jhun Capagngan from Poblacion, Mahinog, Camiguin, Private Mansueto Linagtong from Cambuayon, Bacuag, Surigao del Norte, Private Michael Dalore from Barangay Sto Nino, Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur, Corporal Gulam Ismael from Asturias, Jolo, Sulu, Private First Class Benjie Malanog from Tabuan, Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur, Private Mansueto Linagtong from Cambuayon, Bacuag Surigao del Norte, and Corporal Reynel Matundin from Katidtuan Kabacan, North Cotabato.

Meanwhile, four wounded soldiers were brought to Davao City on July 7 for treatment at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) Burn Unit where they will undergo skin grafting operations.

Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and the city government of Davao sent six SPMC volunteer doctors, along with medical supplies, to Zamboanga City to give medical assistance to the other survivors.