Top news searches in PH - Year in Review 2013

In what may very well be one of the most turbulent years in the country’s modern history, Filipinos faced a series of challenges and issues that ran the gamut of problems.

Here, Yahoo Philippines Search gives you the news topics that generated the most attention from users in 2013.

1. Typhoon Yolanda

One of the most powerful storms to make landfall ever, Yolanda cut through central Philippines on November 8 with a ferocity never before felt by typhoon-hardened Filipinos.

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda’s international name) packed winds of up to 315 kmh, causing storm surges in many coastal towns and cities in the Visayas.

Leyte was the hardest hit, with Tacloban City suffering the most fatalities. Over 5,700 people were confirmed dead, many from the storm surge, with another 2,000 missing. Property damage was pegged at over 2 billion USD.

The government’s initial response faced a slew of criticism as being too slow and disorganized, many coming from international media. Aid efforts however picked up as more roads were cleared of debris; in some areas airdrops were made to get relief goods to survivors.

Countries like the US, Japan, and UK sent in ships and personnel to help the Aquino administration, while others donated money and relief goods. Help and support from around the world, including from NGOs and private businesses and individuals, continue to pour in, as the United Nations launched an appeal for aid in rehabilitating affected communities.

Throughout their ordeal, Filipinos were praised for their resilience and optimism in the face of severe hardship. CNN’s Anderson Cooper, for one, said, “The Filipino people…they're strong not just to survive the storm; but they are strong to have survived the aftermath of the storm.”

Searches for ‘typhoon yolanda’ spiked 4.6 million percent in November; ‘tacloban after yolanda’ (696,000%); ‘storm surge’ (49,500%); ‘anderson cooper’ (55,600%) and; ‘resilience meaning’ (14,000%).

2. Pork Barrel Scam

Over P10 billion in government money was believed stolen through fake NGOs allegedly set up by businesswoman Janet Napoles.

Napoles and over 30 government officials including Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla were charged with plunder in September, two months after the scandal was exposed in July.

Whistleblower Benhur Luy, Napoles’ personal assistant, divulged details of the scam to the police after they rescued him from Napoles’ condo where he had been “illegally detained.”

The money was taken from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel that congressmen and senators receive from the government for pet projects. Other sources allegedly include the fertilizer fund of the Department of Agriculture and royalties from the Malampaya gas field project in Palawan.

The scam led to public outrage over the misuse of the PDAF, heightened by reports of Napoles’s daughter, Jeane, living the good life in the US and flaunting it on social media.

In November, the Supreme Court abolished the PDAF, earning the support of Filipinos in the country and abroad.

Searches for janet napoles surged 150,400% in July when the scandal came to light; jeane napoles (335,100%) and; ‘benhur luy’ (30,700%).

When charges were filed in September against Napoles and the senators involved, search spikes included ‘jinggoy estrada privilege speech’ (24,400%); ‘gigi reyes enrile’ (17,200%) and; ‘bong revilla pork barrel’ (240%). 

3. 2013 Elections

Some 40 million of the country’s 52.7 million voters turned out for the 2013 midterm elections in May, widely seen as a referendum on President Aquino’s administration.

Twelve of the 24 Senate seats, all 229 Congressional positions including party-list, and all local posts were up for grabs in the Philippines’ second automated polls.

The administration coalition Team PNoy won 9 of the 12 Senate seats, with newcomer Grace Poe winning the most votes (20.1 million). One of the most talked about candidates, the vice president’s daughter Nancy Binay, landed fifth. 

The usual problems hounded the elections, including violence and PCOS machine errors.  Providing a bit of relief to the hard issues voters faced were funny memes that made their rounds in social media.

Searches for ‘election results’ surged 808,000% in May; ‘top 12 senators 2013’ (42,100%); ‘nancy binay jokes’ (274,000%) and ‘pcos machines news’ (11,000%).

4. Visayas Earthquake

An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 occurred in Sagbayan, Bohol at 8:12 a.m. on October 15, resulting in widespread destruction in the province as well as neighboring Cebu.

Over 220 died, eight were missing, and about a thousand injured in the temblor. Government reported 73,000 structures were damaged, of which more than 14,500 were totally destroyed. Among the most saddening images for devout Filipinos were centuries-old Catholic Churches lying in ruins.

The earthquake was one of the strongest to hit Philippines in more than two decades, according to Phivolcs. Hampering relief operations were reports of candidates in the barangay elections hoarding goods to selectively hand out to supporters, leading the Comelec to ban them from participating in aid efforts.

Searches for ‘bohol earthquake 2013’ increased 829,000% in October; ‘bohol rock wall’ (96,800%); ‘loboc church’ (203,500%) and; ‘help visayas earthquake victims’ (88,200%). 

5. Manny Pacquiao

After falling to Juan Manuel Marquez a year ago, not a few doubted that the “Pambansang Kamao” (National Fist) would ever triumph in the ring again and called for his retirement.

However, Manny Pacquiao is not the first and only eight-division world champion for nothing. Dedicating his fight on November 23 to victims of Typhoon Yolanda, which battered the country two weeks earlier, Manny subdued Brandon Rios and claimed the WBO international welterweight title via unanimous decision.

Pacquiao’s next battle was not on the canvass though. The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) issued on November 26 a freeze order on the multi-millionaire’s bank deposits and properties in the Philipppines for allegedly failing to pay P2.2 billion in taxes for earnings from Manny’s fights in the US from 2008-2009.

Critics hit at the government, accusing the President of using the BIR to discredit Pacquiao, who is also a congressman and member of the opposition party. BIR chief Kim Henares insists Pacquiao was given more than enough time to comply but didn’t.

Searches for ‘pacquiao vs rios 2013’ rose 692,000% in November; ‘pacquiao vs bir’ (23,300%) and; ‘kim henares biography’ (7,700%).

6. Zamboanga Crisis

Over a hundred thousand residents were displaced when a rogue faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) laid siege on Zamboanga City on September 9 to proclaim a Bangsamoro Republik under their leader Nur Misuari.

For the next three weeks, government forces and rebels led by Ustadz Habier Malik engaged in armed combat, destroying more than 10,000 homes in the city and nearby Basilan.

The United Nations declared a humanitarian crisis in Zamboanga City as the local and national government struggled to cope with taking care of refugees.

By the time the crisis drew to a close in late September, some 300 MNLF fighters have been captured, and over 200 people killed, mostly rebels.  Damage to property was pegged at over P200 million.

Misuari, who is on the run, is currently facing cases of rebellion and violation of international humanitarian law.

Searches for ‘zamboanga crisis’ spiked 795,000% in September; ‘zamboanga mnlf’ (35,000%); ‘ustadz habier malik’ (114,000%) and; ‘mnlf misuari’ (18,400%).

7. Spratlys

No permanent resolution was reached this year in the country’s territorial disputes with other nations, most notably over the Spratly Islands.

The chain of islands. believed to be rich in oil and mineral deposits, is being claimed by the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.

In early 2013, the Philippines filed a case with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in an attempt to settle the disagreement.

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz, bought from the US Coast Guard, arrived in August to boost maritime defenses. It joined the first Hamilton class cutter, BRP Gregorio del Pilar. The government is planning to buy more ships.

The Aquino administration has said it would buy fighter jets from Korea and Israel to augment the air force.  In November, the Philippine Army disclosed plans to upgrade a naval detachment in Palawan, facing the Spratlys, as part of efforts to modernize the military.

Meanwhile, the country is gearing up for another round of military exercises with the United States, its most important ally, next year.

Searches for ‘ramon alcaraz’ spiked 2,800% in August as did ‘spratlys’ (727%).

8. Sabah Standoff

In February, over 200 followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, a claimant of Sabah, engaged Malaysian forces in a running gun battle lasting over a month in Lahad Datu.

President Aquino backed Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in denouncing the intrusion, claiming Kiram’s family could not have orchestrated such a movement by themselves. The standoff ended with over 80 people dead, including six civilians.

Over 120 members of Kiram’s Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu were arrested and are now facing charges in Malaysia. Kiram died of multiple organ failure in October.

Searches for ‘sabah standoff’ rose 35,900% in February; ‘sultan kiram’ (24,400%) and; ‘lahad datu’ (5,900%).

9. MV Thomas Aquinas Sinking

On August 16, passenger vessel MV Thomas Aquinas of 2GO Shipping was heading to port just outside Cebu City when it collided with MV Sulpicio Express Siete, a cargo ship of Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corporation.

MV Aquinas quickly took on water, forcing the skipper to order the vessel abandoned. The ship sank within 30 minutes. As of September 1, the toll stood at 107 dead and 30 missing.

To make matters worse, oil spilled from the ship and tainted the waters surrounding the collision site, affecting the livelihood of fishermen for months as the government scrambled to clean up the mess.

Searches for ‘mv thomas aquinas sinking’ increased 77,400 in August; ‘2go accident’ (27,100%) and; ‘sulpicio tragedy’ (32,200%).

10. Violent Crime

The deaths of ad executive Kae Davantes and former model Aiko Baniqued Moore occurred in different circumstances but nevertheless grabbed headlines due to their brutal nature.

Davantes' body was found in Silang, Cavite on September 7, hours after she was last seen alive the night before. Her mouth was covered with a handkerchief while her hands were tied with a car seatbelt. Her neck bore several wounds.

Two weeks later, six men, at least three of whom have been caught, were identified as Davantes’ killers. The suspects had tried to sell Davantes’ car after killing her, but couldn’t find a buyer so they burned it.

Moore, on the other hand, was allegedly beaten by her husband during a fight at their Taguig condo on November 13. She died before reaching the hospital.

Her American spouse of two years, James Edward Moore II, tried to kill himself but was arrested by security personnel.

Searches for ‘kae davantes’ spiked 1.4 million percent in September while those for ‘aiko baniqued moore’ rose 241,000% in November.