#ThewRap: Things you need to know, March 28, 2017

Hello! Here are the stories you shouldn't miss this Tuesday.










Hello Rappler readers,

It's the President's 72nd birthday today, but as he takes a break from the hectic work of the presidency, the news cycle goes on. On the eve of his birthday, in Davao, he met with diplomats – including the US and Chinese envoys – and discussed a range of issues, security among them. Meanwhile, back in the capital, his allies continue working on his political agenda, pushing for the postponement of the October barangay polls.

In other parts of the world, Australia braces for a cyclone, while a political storm over alleged Trump campaign-Russia ties continues brewing in Washington, with Jared Kushner – the US president's son-in-law – set to face a probe over the issue.

These stories and more in today's wRap.

Chinese, US ambassadors discuss security with Duterte

On the eve of his 72nd birthday, President Rodrigo Duterte met with a slew of diplomats in Davao City, with two notable meetings: one with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua, and another with American Ambassador Sung Kim. Bot discussed security concerns, with the Chinese envoy focusing on "proper handling" of the maritime row between the two Asian neighbors. Zhao also emphasized China's "determination to work with ASEAN member states" in finalizing the Framework of the Code of Conduct (COC) on the South China Sea.

House bill filed for barangay polls postponement, as senators voice opposition

The debate over the postponement of the 2017 barangay (village) elections is ramping up. Surigao del Norte 2nd District Representative Robert Ace Barbers filed the first bill seeking to postpone the barangay elections originally set for October 23, 2017, instead moving it to May 25, 2020.

Meanwhile, as Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said they are confident the Local Government Code can be amended so that the polls be postponed and President Duterte appoint OICs instead, senators from both the majority and minority blocs oppose the idea, saying it is "unconstitutional" and "undemocratic."

Cyclone Debbie bears down on Australia's Queensland state

Lashing rain and howling winds battered northeast Australia Tuesday, March 28, as towns went into lockdown ahead of "monster" Cyclone Debbie making landfall, with thousands evacuated amid fears of damage and tidal surges. Residents across the area, who have sandbagged and boarded up homes, have been told to prepare for the worst weather to pummel the state since Cyclone Yasi in 2011, which ripped houses from their foundations and devastated crops.

CA stops court from getting Mary Jane Veloso's deposition

The Court of Appeals (CA) stopped the taking of deposition of convicted drug trafficker Mary Jane Veloso, which would have allowed her to testify against her alleged illegal recruiters. A written deposition would have allowed Veloso to strengthen the charges of illegal recruitment and human trafficking filed against Maria Cristina Sergio and Juluis Lacanilao. Sergio and Lacanilao however asked the CA to stop the deposition, a plea granted by the appeals court.

Cheaper calls as Globe, Smart cut call rates

Globe Telecom Incorporated and Smart Communications Incorporated are set to roll out their lowest all-network call rates, as competition heats up to win subscribers in the growing telecommunications market. Both telecom companies are set to offer promos of P1/minute calls. This comes after the two telcos announced last November that interconnection rates of voice services would no longer be higher than P2.50 per minute.

Malacañang says critical New York Times coverage part of hack job vs Duterte

The New York Times – one of the world's most respected and credible news organizations – has been labeled by Malacañang as part of a "plot" to oust President Rodrigo Duterte. Presidential Spokesman Ernest Abella also described its journalists "hack writers" and its critical coverage of the Duterte administration "obvious demolition work." Malacañang also insinuated that the articles are part of a "well-funded" campaign against the Philippine leader.

Trump son-in-law to face Russia probe

Donald Trump's son-in-law and top aide Jared Kushner will appear before a Senate panel investigating Russian interference in the US election, the White House said Monday, March 27. Kushner, 36, was Trump's main intermediary with foreign governments during the 2016 election campaign and now plays that role in the White House. His contacts with Russian officials that are now coming under the microscope, amid explosive allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Citizens' drawings become town's road map out of poverty

In 2009, the remote town of Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte, was the poorest town in the country, with a poverty incidence of 97.5%. But local leaders and its citizens – mostly Subanens – came together and literally drew their future, using crayons, pencils, and paper. Seven years later, the town's story is a bright spot in local governance, where citizens and elected officials came together to plot a better life for themselves.

First hub never dies: PH AirAsia returns to Clark

When AirAsia flight Z2 100 from Kalibo arrived at the Clark International Airport on Monday, March 27, it marked the carrier's return to its first hub when it launched back in 2012. "We are an airline that started here. We lay low for a while after we bought Zest Airways. But now we are back, and it is here where we will expand. There is no space for expansion in Manila now," Philippines AirAsia CEO Dexter Comendador said. They are also planning to increase their fleet to 70 planes by 2032.

Top photo: President Rodrigo Duterte looks the painting of him and his partner Honeylet Avanceña and their daughter Veronica as it was presented to him at the the Presidential Guest House in Davao City on March 27, 2017. Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua presented the painting to the President as a birthday gift. Malacañang photo

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