A review of year 2019

A whirlwind of events, disasters, political controversies, drug war issues, deaths of prominent personalities, and earth-shattering news swept the country.
2019 SEA Games. The country successfully hosted the 30th Southeast Asian Games despite last-minute issues and glitches at the start of its preparations. The Philippines also won the most medals – 140 golds, 117 silvers and 121 bronzes – among other Southeast Asian countries.

Superstar Athletes

  • Nineteen-year-old Carlos Yulo made waves after winning the World Artistic Gymnastics Championship. He is the first Filipino and first Southeast Asian male gymnast to win the World Artistic Gymnastics. He also won gold and silver medals in the recent SEA Games.
  • Weightlifter Hidilyn Francisco Diaz won her first gold medal in the SEA Games. She again won bronze in the 2019 International Weightlifting Federation World Championships and silver in the 2019 Asian Championship.
  • Manny Pacquiao returned to glory by defeating Keith Thurman in Las Vegas on July 20 for the welterweight world championship title. His win made him the oldest welterweight champion in the history of boxing. He was crowned the 2019 WBN Fighter of the Year.


  • April 22: A major earthquake with magnitude 6.1 rocked Luzon, including Metro Manila, killing 16 people.
  • April 23: A magnitude 6.5 hit the Visayas, with its epicenter in Eastern Samar.
  • July 27: A magnitude 5.9 struck Batanes, preceded by a magnitude 5.4 foreshock that killed nine people.
  • In Cotabato, a series of earthquakes began: Oct. 16: Magnitude 6.3 killed five and injured 53; Oct. 29: Magnitude 6.6 killed nine and injured 200; Oct. 31: Magnitude 6.5 killed six and injured 20. All three epicenters in Tulunan, Cotabato.
  • Nov. 18: Magnitude 5.9 struck Kibawe, Bukidnon.
  • Dec. 15: Magnitude 6.9 struck Matanao, Davao del Sur, killed seven and injured 100. Fifth earthquake to hit Mindanao in three months.

Swine Fever. The first case of African Swine Flu officially hit the Philippines on Sep. 9, affecting local poultry and demand for pork products.
Polio Resurfaces. Polio resurfaced on Sept. 14 when a young girl from the southern Philippines tested positive. The country was polio-free for 19 years previously.

Dengue Outbreak. The Department of Health declared a national dengue epidemic on Aug. 6, because of the rising number of dengue cases.


  • Oct. 6: Eight-Digit Telephone Numbers. Local telecom companies Globe, PLDT and Bayantel implemented 8-digit landline numbers to accommodate their growing customer bases.
  • July 8: Duterte awarded a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Dito Telecommunity, the consortium of Davao City businessman Dennis Uy, allowing it to operate as the country’s third telco.

International News

  • March 17: The Philippines formally withdrew from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
  • Sept. 27: The US approved an amendment to deny entry to any Philippine official involved in the two-year detention of Senator Leila de Lima.
  • Dec. 27: Duterte banned US senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy from entering the Philippines, and proposed that Americans should secure visas before entering the country.

Local Politics

  • May 13: National elections were held. No opposition candidate won a senatorial seat.
  • Oct. 13: Philippine National Police chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde resigned due to his alleged involvement in the “ninja cops” controversy and his alleged intervention in the prosecution of officers selling seized drugs.
  • March 15: Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario filed a case at the ICC against Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese government officials for alleged crimes against humanity.
  • May 21: Morales was detained in Hong Kong as she was considered a “security threat.”
  • Jun. 21: Del Rosario was also barred from entering Hong Kong despite holding a valid diplomatic passport.

BARMM. The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was formally established on Feb. 26 following the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

Rappler CEO. Rappler journalist and chief executive officer Maria Ressa was arrested on Feb. 13 by the National Bureau of Investigation for cyber libel. She posted bail the next day but was arrested again on March 29 for allegedly violating the Anti-Dummy Law, which prevents foreign ownership of local media.

Mayor Augusto Sanchez. Former Calauan Mayor Augusto Sanchez was set to be released from jail based on a release order signed by Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon. But due to public outcry, he stayed in prison and his release order was investigated. The Good Conduct Time Allowance Law released 1,914 convicts of heinous crimes. President Duterte called for prisoners to surrender. Faeldon was fired.

Drugs and Human Rights. A resolution initiated by Iceland was adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council on July 11 to investigate the human rights situation in the Philippines, in the light of extra-judicial killings related to the drug war of President Duterte.

West Philippine Sea Tension: Fishing boat F/B Gem-Ver sank on June 8 at Reed Bank after a Chinese vessel rammed the boat. Filipino fishermen were rescued by Vietnamese fishing vessel hours later. The Chinese shipowner, through Guangdong Fishery Mutual Insurance Association, sent a letter of apology to the Philippines in August.

VP Leni Robredo

  • July 18: The PNP filed a sedition complaint against Vice President Leni Robredo, several opposition senators and personalities in connection with videos related to “Bikoy.”
  • Nov. 5: Duterte appointed Robredo as co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs and fired her 18 days later.

Marcos Cases

  • Aug. 5: Sandiganbayan dismissed a P102 billion civil case filed by the PCGG in 1987 against the Marcos family, in connection with former ambassador Roberto Benedicto on the use of dummy companies and government corporations to acquire assets.
  • Sep. 25: Sandiganbayan dismissed another civil case filed by the PCGG against the Marcos family on the involvement of former ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco and others related to hidden wealth, as well as another civil case on Oct. 14 against Fe and Ignacio Gimenez related to hidden wealth.

Other News/Developments

  • Dec. 8: Pope Francis named Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle as the new prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in the Vatican.
  • Dec. 19: Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes served judgment on the Maguindanao massacre case. The Ampatuan brothers and 28 co-accused were convicted of 57 counts of murder while 55 others were acquitted.
  • Apr. 10: A new species of ancient human was found in the Philippines with the discovery of fossil fragments in Callao Cave. The species, designated Homo luzonensis, was named after Luzon.
(From left) Tsinoy businessmen Henry Sy Sr. and John Gokongwei Jr. and multi-awarded actor Eddie Garcia.

Prominent Deaths

  • January: Taipan Henry Sy Sr., 94; Philippine rock icon Pepe Smith, 71
  • February: Comedian Bentong, 55; singer and actress Armida Siguion Reyna, 88; National Artist for Architecture Francisco Manosa, 88; Central Bank governor Nestor Espenilla Jr., 60
  • March: Comedian Chokoleit, 48; veteran actor Augusto Victa, 87
  • April: Actress and beauty queen Josephine Estrada, 75; actor and politician Jose Mari Gonzalez, 80
  • May: Former House Speaker Prospero Nograles, 71
  • June: Comedian Gary Lising, 78; multi-award winning actor Eddie Garcia, 90; jazz icon Jacqui Magno, 65
  • July: “Chicks to Chicks” sitcom actor Chito Arceo, 70
  • August: Fashion designer Eddie Baddeo, 57; environmentalist and philanthropist Gina Lopez, 65; actress Mona Lisa, 97
  • September: Actor Lito Legaspi, 77; singer Jojit Paredes, 68
  • October: Theater veteran Tony Mabesa, 84; actress Amalia Fuentes, 79; artist Carlos Celdran, 46; former senator Aquilino Nene Pimentel, 85
  • November: John Gokongwei Jr., 93; JGJ wife Elizabeth, 85; Philippine Airlines president Lucio “Bong” Tan Jr., 53; actor Teejay Cruz, 37
  • December: Actor Miko Palanca, 41; reporter Cesar Apolinario, 46; cartoonist/artist/illustrator Gerry Alanguilan, 61; engineer and internet pioneer Benjamin Benjie Tan; writer Sylvia Mayuga, 77