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Robert Harland

Prison Term for Reporter’s Murder

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MANILA: Media freedom advocates in the Philippines scored a rare victory this week when a court convicted an alleged gunman in the killing of broadcaster Miguel Belen.

Eric Vargas, 38, was given a 40-year prison sentence for the 2010 death of Belen, a field reporter for a radio station in Iriga City, some 400 km south of the capital Manila.

It was Belen himself who identified Vargas as the one driving the motorcycle with a woman pillion rider with a gun. The killer, identified as Gina Bagacina, remains at large.

Pope Francis and the Street Children

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By Robert Harland in Manila

As the historic visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines comes to an end, one of the most emotional moments for the Pontiff must surely have been his encounter with Manila street children.

After the Mass at the Manila Cathedral on Friday, the Pope, who is known to frequently deviate from his official itineraries, slipped out through a side door and went to visit ANAK-Tuloy ng Kabataan (Tnk) Foundation instead of walking to the church’s front entrance as planned.

Philippine Prisons at Breaking Point

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The Philippines judicial system is so slow and inefficient that many detainees awaiting trial spend longer behind bars in detention than the penalties they would receive for their alleged offences.

For this reason and to help unclog the country’s desperately overcrowded detention facilities, the Supreme Court of the Philippines has just ordered the release of some 286 detainees.

Christmas fever in China

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It’s an atheist country but it seems the Chinese cannot get enough of Santa and Christmas trees. China is in the grip of Christmas fever as more and more locals get into the festive spirit.

But this is worrying the authorities. One university in north-western China has even taken the unprecedented step of banning Christmas calling it a foreign celebration unbefitting of the country’s own traditions. Instead of hanging up their stockings, students are being forced to watch propaganda films.

Elite Political System a Barrier to Development

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Prof. Emeritus Leonor Magtolis Briones at the Philippine National College of Public Administration & Governance said elite-dominated political systems is a fundamental barrier to people-centered sustainable development in certain countries in Asia.

The statement was part of her remarks during the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) Expert Group Meeting on Macroeconomic Prospects, Policy Challenges and Sustainable Development in Asia-Pacific on December 2, 2014 in Bangkok, Thailand.

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