Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Friday, May 19, 2023.

READ: Australia vows presence in WPS

VISITING Australian Foreign Minister and Sen. Penny Wong said her country is committed to continuing its presence in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea to maintain peace and stability in the region. Wong stressed the commitment on Thursday in a joint press conference with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo.

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READ: Comelec OKs internet voting in 2025

THE Commission on Elections en banc has approved the use of the internet as an alternative mode of voting for overseas Filipino workers starting in the 2025 midterm elections. Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia said on Thursday the agency approved electronic or internet voting for Filipinos abroad during its regular session. Garcia said the move is a less expensive way to increase voter turnout among Filipinos abroad. The commission spent more than 400 million pesos for overseas voting in the 2022 elections but voters' turnout was only 39 percent.

READ: Duterte, Tiglao named APPCU laureates

FORMER president Rodrigo Duterte and The Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao are among the recipients of the 2023 Awards for Promoting Philippines-China Understanding or the APPCU. The Association for Philippines-China Understanding and the embassy of China in Manila made the announcement Wednesday night. This year's APPCU Hall of Fame awardees are Duterte and his former special envoy to China, Carlos Chan. The awardees in the APPCU "Outstanding Contributions" category are Tiglao, who was a former ambassador to Greece and Cyprus, and Dr. Jaime Cruz, also a former special envoy to China.

READ: 'Bistek' pleads not guilty in P32.1-M graft case

FORMER Quezon City mayor Herbert "Bistek" Bautista pleaded not guilty on Thursday during his arraignment before the Sandiganbayan in connection with a 32.1-million peso graft case filed against him and another ex-local official. Bautista and former city administrator Aldrin Cuña both pleaded not guilty before the anti-graft court's Seventh Division led by chairman Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta with stices Zaldy Trespeses and Georgina Hidalgo as members. The case stemmed from the alleged anomalous payment of 32.107 million pesos to Geodata Solutions Inc. for the procurement of the online occupational permitting and tracking system.

READ: New law amends terms of AFP officials

PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday signed into law Republic Act 11939 or the "Act Further Strengthening Professionalism and Promoting the Continuity of Policies and Modernization Initiatives in the Armed Forces of the Philippines." The new law overrides R.A. 11709, which former president Rodrigo Duterte approved in April 2022. R.A. 11709 determines a fixed term for key military positions. Under the new law, the fixed tour of duty in the following key military positions will be changed from the previously approved three years to two which immediately commences upon the signing of the appointment unless terminated earlier by the President: Commanding General, Philippine Army; Commanding General, Philippine Air Force; Flag Officer in Command, Philippine Navy; and Superintendent, Philippine Military Academy.

BUSINESS: BSP halts rate hikes with inflation slowing

Topping business, monetary authorities opted to pause from further interest rate hikes on Thursday with inflation said to be now on a downward trajectory following a tightening cycle that began last year. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas' (BSP) overnight reverse repurchase, deposit and lending rates were maintained at 6.25 percent, 5.75 percent and 6.75 percent, respectively.

SPORTS: Gilas to train in Lithuania

In sports, following the gold medal redemption campaign at the Southeast Asian Games, Gilas Pilipinas is now focusing all its attention and effort in preparing for the FIBA World Cup, which the Philippines will be co-hosting starting this August. Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas deputy director Butch Antonio said the Philippine men's basketball training camp in Lithuania is a sure thing although details will still be discussed with national coach Chot Reyes in the coming days.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Rigoberto Tiglao and Francisco Tatad are today's front page columnists. Tiglao analyzes Vietnam's militarization of the Spratlys, while Tatad weighs in on former Senator Leila de Lima's acquittal last week.

Today's editorial discusses the issues of chatbots. Read the full version in the paper's opinion section or listen to the Voice of the Times.

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