Yahoo! PH Year in Review: The top news events of 2012

Kim Arveen Patria and Rio Rose Ribaya
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

From territorial disputes with a neighboring giant to destructive encounters with nature, Filipinos this year faced events that altered their destiny as a people.

But the Philippines stood pat in 2012 to prove it is a nation of survivors, grabbing global attention and earning the respect of other countries.

Here are the top events that made headlines in the past 12 months:

Scarborough standoff

Tension between the Philippines and China started when the Philippine Navy apprehended seven Chinese fishing boats that were poaching off Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal on April 10.

Related story: PH refuses to stamp Chinese passports

The territorial dispute that has since raged tested the country’s diplomatic influence as it tried to convince the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to make a clear stand about it in the same month.

With ASEAN reluctant to take a proactive role, the Philippines turned to other allies primarily the United States, which has vowed to assist the Philippines while maintaining its safe distance.

Also read: View from EU: Dangerous evolution in sea row

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III in June ordered the Philippine Navy to pull out its ship due to increment weather after China previously withdrew two of its own from the disputed territory.

The President has also vowed not to send back Navy ships until today in a bid to deescalate tension despite reported presence of Chinese ships since last month.

'Habagat' floods, supertyphoon 'Pablo'

An eight-day period of intense rain diverted the government’s attention from negotiations with China, causing severe flooding in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces.
The state weather bureau clarified the continuous downpour was not caused by a typhoon but by the southwest monsoon intensified by a lingering typhoon "Gener."

Related story: Philippines among Asian nations worst hit by disasters in 2012
Torrential rains caused the Marikina River to swell on Aug. 7, swamping 80 percent of Metro Manila and killing 62 people while. Some 149 towns near the national capital were also affected

Also read: Heavy rains is the new 'normal' says DENR chief
Weather experts thought the so-called "Habagat floods" would be the worst weather-related disaster in the country this year until Typhoon "Pablo."

The category 5 "super typhoon," reported as the most powerful typhoon to hit Mindanao in 30 years, affected Visayas and Mindanao areas, with a death toll that has yet to be capped.

Looking back: What Pablo is telling Pinoys
Tsunami scare

The country got another kind of scare from Mother Nature after a 7.6-magnitude earthquake shook the eastern coast of Visayas on Aug. 31.
The tremblor prompted the government to issue a tsunami warning, ordering residents to get out of coastal areas before cancelling it three hours after the quake.
The National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council said the tremor did not generate large tsunamis, causing only minor damage following the occurrence of around 140 aftershocks.

A cyber martial law?

A different buzz spread online in October, as Pinoy netizens slammed the rollout of the Cybercrime Prevention Law signed into law by Aquino Sept. 12.

Several online protests have been launched especially on social networking sites to protest the new measure, which Filipinos said is an attempt at curtailing constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.

Recall: Pinoy netizens 'go black' on Facebook to protest Cybercrime Law

A spate of hackings also crippled several government websites, with a group calling itself "Anonymous Philippines" threatening a wider attack.

Related: 'Bloody Monday': Hackers strike gov't websites anew

The new law also caught global attention, with a Forbes article calling it "a mix of ignorance to technology and the desire to exert further control over a population."

Petitions against the cyberlaw meanwhile mounted before the Supreme Court, with one led by lawmaker Teofist Guingona, the only senator who voted against the measure.

Filipinos' reaction to the new law, however, also forced senators who had earlier voted in favor of the measure to withdraw their support, noting that questionable provisions "slipped under their noses."

Re-read story: Senators flip-flop on Cybercrime Law

The Supreme Court in October issued a temporary restraining order against the cybercrime law Oct. 9, a move seen as an opportunity for legislators to introduce amendments.

Bloody demolitions

Skirmishes between illegal settlers and enforcement agencies leading demolitions in private or government-owned lands also made headlines this year.
Scores of residents from a slum area were injured and arrested while 300 hundred families lost their homes in a violent demolition in San Juan City Jan. 11.

Related blog: 'Calvary of the Poor': Slums brace for demolitions
A demolition of a make-shift marketplace turned deadly with at least one dead and 39 others injured to make way for low-cost housing projects in Paranaque City on April 23.

Six policemen and a media practitioner were injured in another violent attempt to dismantle houses along Guatemala Street by the local government in Makati City on Sept. 24.
In Tarlac City, a 14-year old boy was shot and killed in a demolition operation Oct. 3.

Circle of life at LRT

Also grabbing national attention are reports of a passenger of the Light Rail Transit Line 1 who died jumping into the tracks as a train approached.

The woman's alleged suicide raised fears of similar incidents in the usually cramped train stations of the train system.

Looking back: After passenger suicide, LRT vows vigilance

Pinoys were nudged to look to the bright side, however, amid light-hearted reports of "bayanihan" spirit seen alive when passengers gave birth in the LRT.

A baby boy named "Jeb" was born to 37-year-old Anita Paz upon alighting at LRT-1's Central Station in September.

Paz's fellow passenger Amelita Clemenia, a former caregiver in Kuwait, assisted the delivery.

Also read: Passenger gives birth at LRT-1

In June, a baby girl was also born while her mother, 33-year-old Angel Hutba, was on a train between Libertad and Gil Puyat stations.

Registered nurses and passengers Robalyn Hurario and Anna Marie Bugat helped Hutba deliver the baby, who was named "Lilibeth," after the Libertad station.

Gruesome crimes

Crime still proved to be the staple stories of the day, however, with the government noting an increase in incidents in Metro Manila in the past months.

One of the gruesome crimes that caught national attention was the abduction and murder of model and television talent Julie Ann Rodelas in Quezon City on November 12.

Re-read story: Suspect: Model raped twice as her 'lesson'
Rodelas was forcibly taken by her fellow model Althea Altamirano’s boyfriend in Pasay City before being shot dead and pushed from a sport utility vehicle in Cubao several hours later.

Altamirano reported Rodelas’ abduction, admitting she only wanted to teach her friend a lesson for spreading information that she already had two children.

Also read: Boy, 7, left to die in fire
In another incident, the police arrested a couple for chaining seven-year old Angelo Malbas to a post and leaving the boy to die when a fire gutted their house in Las Piñas City on November 23.

PH Most wanted

Also this year, the President raised the reward for information that will lead to the capture of several high-profile fugitives, including real estate tycoon and a retired Army general.

The reward for retired Army general Jovito Palparan Jr.'s whereabouts has been raised to P2 million from P1 million.

Palparan is implicated in the alleged kidnapping and serious illegal detention of two UP student activists missing since 2006.

Look back: Aquino raises reward for high-profile fugitives

Aquino has also offered rewards of P2 million each for information leading to the arrest of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and Coron Mayor Mario Reyes who were declared fugitives in March after figuring in the murder case of broadcaster Gerry Ortega in January 2011.

A reward of P2 million, meanwhile, is being ofered for the arrests  of ex-Dinagat Islands representative Ruben Ecleo Jr., convicted for graft and for killing his wife, is now worth P2 million.

The same amount is to be given to anyone who can give information leading to the arrest of property developer Delfin Lee who is wanted for a P7-billion scam.

A new Pinoy saint

As the year neared its close, however, Pinoy pride was received a boost from good news for the dominantly Catholic nation.

Bells pealed in many areas in the country Oct. 21 to celebrate the promotion into sainthood of Cebu native Pedro Calungsod, a teenage missionary who was martyred in 1672 in Guam.

Recall: A blessed day: Philippines gets second Catholic Saint

Pope Benedict XVI in his homily lauded Calungsod's sacrifice, adding that the Pinoy saint "lived a life of purity and dedication."

The Palace, meanwhile, said the event marks "great spiritual joy" for Filipino Catholics worldwide.

Thumbs up, thumbs down for PH

But Calungsod's canonization was not the only source of joy for Filipinos, as the country in the past 12 months bagged accolades globally.

Its economy's stellar growth amid a global economic slowdown has been highlighted several

An international business website and the Canadian prime minister calling it a new "Rising Tiger" in Asia for its stellar growth amid a global economic slowdown.

Related story: PH is among Southeast Asia's 'New Tigers'

Often cited as proof of its good economic performance is the country's stock market, which hit numerous record highs this year.

Also read: Soaring stock market earns thumbs-up for PH

The Philippines is also at the cusp of investment grade, with the three major debt watchers placing it only a notch below the credit rating.

Recall: Moody's raises PH ratings anew

Good reviews often attributed improvements to deep-seated reforms initiated by the Aquino government, which they said made doing business easier in the Philippines.

Look back: PH among countries with most improvement, says WEF report

The Philippines this year also rose in a global "corruption perception ranking," which means the government is deemed as less corruption-ridden.

Related story: PH rises in 'corruption perception' rankings

Most if not all of the reviews, however, also noted that much needs to be done.

The country slipped in a global tax ranking this year despite ramped up efforts at reforms and the approval of the sin tax reform law, which is seen to hike revenues.

Also read: PH slides down in global tax ranking, says business report

Wages also need to be improved for the government's goal of "inclusive growth" to be attained, a United Nations agency said.

Background: PH fares poorly in global wage report

Also still affecting the Philippines' image is rampant terrorism, with a report naming it as one of the world's most-hit countries.

Re-read story: PH among most terrorism-hit countries

These events have been met with hurrahs and boos from Pinoys, who have also been dubbed as the world's most emotional society by a U.S.-based pollster this year.

Recall: PH named 'most emotional society' in global list

Filipinos remain optimistic about the coming year, however, with the latest Social Weather Stations survey noting that more than nine of 10 Pinoys greet the new year with hope.

The Philippines is, after all, one of the most positive countries in the world.

Story: Pinoys among world's most positive people