Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Saturday, March 16, 2024.

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READ: China: PH using SCS issue to trigger row

CHINA'S foreign ministry has warned the Philippines to stop using the South China Sea issue as an excuse to trigger disputes. In a statement on Thursday, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin also said the Philippines should not mislead the international community and not rely on external forces to undermine peace and stability in the region. Wang was responding to the remarks of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. after his meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on March 12.

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READ: Marcos asks Czech help on free trade deal

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday sought the support of the Czech Republic on the resumption of negotiations for the proposed free trade agreement between the Philippines and the European Union. In his speech during the Czech-Philippine Business Forum in Prague, the President said the proposed free trade agreement would bolster mutual economic development.

READ: Quiboloy justifies defiance to Senate show-cause order

RESPONDING to the show-cause order issued by the Senate Committee on Women, Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KoJC) leader Apollo Quiboloy on Friday presented three legal justifications for why he should not be arrested. In the 19-page "Compliance and Legal Justifications" statement signed by his lawyer, Melanio Elvis Balayan, Quiboloy said the Senate investigation compelling him to testify "over his alleged commission of grave crimes is not in aid of legislation but is tantamount to usurpation of judicial functions beyond the powers of the Senate." The Senate inquiry also "is tantamount to usurpation of judicial functions beyond the powers of the Senate," Quiboloy argued. Lastly, the Proposed Senate Resolution 884 that called for the probe "is brazenly incriminatory," since it "categorically" declared that Quiboloy is guilty for crimes he is accused of, "totally disregarding the constitutional presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." The statement was received by the Office of Senator Ana Theresia "Risa" Hontiveros at 8:40 a.m. Friday, or within the 48 hours given to Quiboloy's camp to submit its response. It was also received by personnel from the Senate Office of Sergeant-at-Arms, and a copy was furnished to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.

READ: RBH 7 to be 'mourned' at Senate – Lagman

EVEN if Resolution of Both Houses 7 is passed by the House of Representatives, a leading opposition congressman believes that it will "die" at the Senate, where it has little support. R.B.H. 7 seeks to amend provisions in the Constitution that restrict foreign ownership of schools, telecommunications utilities, and certain media assets. In a media briefing on Friday, Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said R.B.H. 7 will go through episodes of joy and mourning that characterize Holy Week.

BUSINESS: Govt budget balance in surplus for January

Topping business, the government recorded a budget surplus of 88 billion pesos in January — nearly double the year-earlier 45.7 billion pesos — as revenue collections outpaced spending, Treasury bureau data showed on Friday. For the first month of the year, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) posted a 31.35-percent increase in collections to 308.4 billion pesos from the 234.8 billion pesos posted a year earlier.

SPORTS: Brownlee to play as import in Indonesia

Over to sports, resident Barangay Ginebra import and Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player Justin Brownlee is headed to Indonesia to play as a foreign reinforcement in a professional basketball league. Ginebra coach Tim Cone confirmed this to The Manila Times on Friday, March 15. The American mentor and concurrent Gilas Pilipinas coach said Brownlee's upcoming stint in Indonesia won't run in conflict with the national team's expected training when the Filipinos regroup some time in June to prepare for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament slated in Riga, Latvia from July 2 to 7.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Antonio Contreras and Leonor Briones are today's front page columnists. Contreras looks into the case of Pastor Apollo Quiboloy and Briones talks about music as a language of business.

Today's editorial believes the United States' nuclear plan demands censure. Read the full version in the paper's opinion section or listen to the Voice of the Times.

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