Good day. Here are the top stories of The Manila Times for Tuesday, June 25, 2024.

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READ: De Lima cleared of all charges

A MUNTINLUPA court dropped all remaining criminal charges against former justice secretary Leila de Lima on Monday, ending years of legal battles for one of the most vocal and powerful critics of former president Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly drug war. The former senator and justice secretary had spent a decade investigating "death squad" killings allegedly orchestrated by Duterte until she was arrested in 2017 and spent more than six years in prison. Her lawyer Filibon Tacardon said the final case was dismissed for insufficient evidence. The court did not immediately release the text of the ruling. The 64-year-old de Lima vowed that Duterte would not go scot-free for the drug war killings as well as her imprisonment. De Lima was a sitting senator when she was arrested in 2017 and spent more than six years in jail while on trial for three drug trafficking charges. She described the cases as payback for her efforts to investigate Duterte's drug war, first as head of the government's independent human rights body, then as justice secretary and during her term as a senator. The last drug case concerned allegations she took money from inmates inside the country's largest prison to allow them to sell drugs while she was justice secretary from 2010–2015. She had maintained that the charges, which carried a maximum penalty of life in prison, were fabricated to silence her from criticizing Duterte's narcotics crackdown that left thousands dead.

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READ: Think tank says US helping to rebuild Sierra Madre

A THINK tank that regularly espouses official Chinese views has accused the US military of helping rebuild the grounded BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal into a forward operating base to add to its Agile Combat Employment of dispersed military assets. Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute President Herman Tiu Laurel made the allegation in reaction to a recent Financial Times article that identified the rusting and dilapidated ship that serves as the detachment of Filipino marines to provide a Philippine military presence at the site as "central to an increasingly dangerous dispute" between Manila and Beijing. Laurel said the Financial Times article omitted the basic fact that America has much to do with improving the Sierra Madre and transforming it into a permanent structure to be possibly manned by combined rotational forces from both the Philippines and the US Marine Corps. He said it should be "perfectly understandable" that the "connivance of some of the Philippine proxies with the US" that attempts to start building a forward operating base in Sierra Madre is a serious concern for China. He noted that since 1999, Manila and Beijing have agreed on allowing only the Philippine rotation of troops and delivery of humanitarian supplies while prohibiting construction materials to the grounded ship, which has been confirmed by numerous statements by Filipino government officials.

READ: Obiena captures 2nd gold in Poland

FILIPINO pole vaulter Ernest John "EJ" Obiena scored back-to-back championships in Poland after ruling the Memorial Czeslawa Cybulskiego in Poznan late Sunday (Manila time). Obiena posted a meet and stadium record of 5.87 m clearance to rule the event and follow up his conquest of the Irena Szewinska Memorial in Bydgoszcz last Friday, when he surpassed 5.97 m. Home bet Piotr Lisek finished second to Obiena with 5.82 m, while Hussain Asim Al Hizam of Saudi Arabia claimed the bronze with 5.62 m clearance. Obiena had no problem clearing the heights as he aced 5.62 m, 5.77, and 5.87 in just one try each before striking out at 6.01 m in three attempts to top his personal and Asian record of 6.0 m. Still, he managed to snatch his third gold medal of the outdoor season, starting with his win at the Los Angeles Grand Prix last month. The 28-year-old Obiena will next compete at the Meeting de Paris leg of the Diamond League on July 7 as he continues to build momentum towards the Paris Olympics. At the moment, he is the lone qualifier from the Philippine athletics team for the Paris Games which unfolds on July 26. Hurdlers John Cabang, Lauren Hoffman and Robyn Brown and sprinter Kristina Knott, however, are on pace to join Obiena in Paris, as they are within the quota rankings of their respective disciplines and will most likely stay there at the end of the Olympic qualification period on June 30.

READ: MDT may already be invoked, law professors say

PROFESSORS at the San Beda University Graduate School of Law said the Philippines should now invoke its Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States after the Chinese coast guard reportedly rammed, boarded, and used machetes and axes to damage two Philippine navy boats in a chaotic faceoff that injured Filipino navy personnel at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. The academicians said they were not calling for the "commencement of armed hostilities" but urging the US to honor its commitment under the MDT and subsequent agreements pursuant to it to counter the aggression of China. They called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to bring the matter to the attention of the United Nations Security Council and to invoke its action in accordance with the MDT. The San Beda law professors said China had intensified its aggression in the West Philippine Sea. They also noted the June 17 incident in Ayungin Shoal recorded in a video clip that showed Chinese armed personnel aboard a Chinese vessel using bladed weapons against the inflatable craft of the Philippines.The government has declared that it has no plan to invoke its MDT with the US over the latest incident.

READ: Loneliness hikes risk of early death – WHO

SOCIAL isolation or loneliness can increase the risk of early death by up to 32 percent, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned Monday. In a video interview posted by WHO on Facebook, Alana Officer, head of Demographic Change and Healthy Aging, underscored the urgent need to address the growing epidemic of social isolation and loneliness worldwide. Officer said the health effects of loneliness are comparable to other well-known risk factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and obesity. Besides increasing the risk of early death, loneliness raises the likelihood of stroke and cardiovascular disease by 30 percent. It also heightens the risk of mental health issues such as dementia by up to 50 percent, alongside anxiety and depression. Loneliness is the disparity between people's social connections and those they desire, both in quantity and quality. Even with a busy social life, one can still feel unfulfilled if these interactions lack depth, significance or enjoyment, Officer said. The effects of social isolation and loneliness extend beyond physical and mental health, affecting educational and employment opportunities.

Topping Business

READ: 11M Jollibee customers affected by data breach

THE National Privacy Commission (NPC) on Monday reported that it had been notified by fast food giant Jollibee Foods Corp. (JFC) of a data breach affecting some 11 million customers. Information such as dates of birth and senior citizen identification card numbers were compromised during a June 22 security incident, the agency said. By law, companies and individuals processing personal data must notify the NPC and individual affected subjects within 72 hours of discovering a breach. JFC was said to have requested 20 days to complete its internal investigation. JFC said that its e-commerce platforms, including those of its subsidiaries' brands, were unaffected by the incident and remained operational. Last week, health care firm Maxicare said the personal data of some 13,000 customers that had used the booking platform of a third-party service provider were compromised in a June 13 incident. The affected customers comprised less than one percent of its members and the leaked data did not include sensitive medical information, Maxicare claimed.

In Sports

READ: Team PH begins training camp in Metz

THE monthlong training camp for Filipino athletes who will compete at the Paris Olympics began on Sunday in Metz, France. Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino and Chef de Mission Jonvic Remulla led the rounds at the all-in facility. This marks the first time that the POC is conducting a training camp for Olympic athletes a month before competition, the Paris Games, which unfolds on July 26. Weightlifters Vanessa Sarno, John Ceniza and Elreen Ando; boxers Aira Villegas, Hergie Bacyadan, Carlo Paalam and Nesthy Petecio; and rower Joanie Delgaco are among the first batch of athletes who arrived in Metz. They are also accompanied by Secretary-General Wharton Chan. The athletes' coaches and trainers, and a lean POC staff who set the facility ahead of the team's arrival, will be in France for the entire duration of the Games that end August 11. Boxer Eumir Felix Marcial, fencer Samantha Catantan, and gymnasts Carlos Yulo, Emma Malabuyo and Levi Ruivivar are expected to arrive in Metz in the next few days.

READ: Scheffler wins protest-hit Travelers

NEW YORK — World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler parred the first playoff hole to beat Tom Kim at the protest-hit Travelers Championship title on Sunday (Monday in Manila), claiming his sixth US PGA Tour title of the year.Scheffler is the first player since Arnold Palmer in 1962 to pile up six wins before July 1 on the PGA Tour, a haul that included his second Masters crown in April. Scheffler, coming off just his second finish outside the top 10 this year at the US Open last week, grabbed the win with a bogey-free five-under-par 65 for 22-under 258, maintaining his composure after Kim birdied the 72nd hole to force the playoff following a spell of confusion as a handful of climate protesters ran onto the 18th green with canisters spraying colored smoke, some of them wearing T-shirts reading "No golf on a dead planet." They were quickly tackled by police and security staff and marched away.

READ: Opinion

The Philippines needs an education overhaul is today's editorial. Read the full version on print or digital or listen to the Voice of the Times. Featured in today's front page are Antonio Contreras, Yen Makabenta and Orlando Mercado. Contreras says China's treachery requires a calibrated but appropriate response; Makabenta on Sara Duterte resignation: A 'teachable moment' in Filipino politics and administration; and Mercado on courage in the face of intimidation.

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