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Philippines could use a new name, President Duterte says

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: distressing numbers around sexual abuse of young people in Canadian amateur sports; Rodrigo Duterte proposes a new name for the Philippines, fronts an anti-measles campaign, and challenges rumours of his demise.

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures at a speech in Manila on Jan. 23. Recently he has, among other things, given the military advice on how to stage a successful government overthrow and addressed rumours of his own death. (Mark R. Cristino/EPA-EFE)

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  • Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has been busy, proposing a new name for the nation, fronting an anti-measles campaign, discussing the overthrow of the government, and dealing with rumours of his demise.
  • A CBC News investigation has discovered distressing numbers around sexual abuse of young people in Canadian amateur sports.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.


Rodrigo Duterte thinks that it might be time to rename the Philippines.

The controversial president endorsed the idea of someday changing the name of his country in one of his trademark, free-form speeches this morning, saying that an old proposal to rename the archipelago "Maharlika" was a good one.

There has long been a desire among some Filipino nationalists to forge a different identity for a country that was named after King Philip of Spain, its original colonial master.

But Maharlika is a name that comes with considerable baggage.

The term, which some contend means "nobly created," was a favourite of ex-dictator Ferdinand Marcos. It was attached to a major highway, a television network and a hall within the presidential palace during his two decades in power.

Former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda Marcos seen on a visit to Los Angeles in September 1982. (The Associated Press)

Marcos had also maintained that Maharlika was his nom du guerre, as well as the name of an anti-Japanese guerrilla unit that he said he led during the Second World War.

However, those claims were debunked in a 1986 New York Times investigation that relied on archived U.S. Army documents. Marcos, who styled himself as a war hero, had applied for recognition and back pay after the liberation of the islands in 1945. But two Army probes concluded that his Ang Mga Maharlika unit — which he variously claimed had between 300 and 8,300 members — never existed, and that his compensation demands were "fraudulent" and "preposterous."

It's not clear if Duterte's proposal is serious, or simply another off-the-cuff remark.

The Philippine president has been on something of a tear over the past week, after he cancelled some engagements and concerns again began to swirl about the state of his health.

First came a series of Facebook live videos — posted by his common-law wife — in which the 73-year-old addressed rumours that he was dead.

"For those who believe in the news that I passed away, then I request of you, please pray for the eternal repose of my soul," Duterte told the camera while enjoying a snack at his dining room table.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has complained about health issues in recent years, mused publicly last week about retiring. (Bullit Marquez/Associated Press)

The president has frequently remarked about his health in recent months, complaining of stomach troubles, back pain and migraines. Duterte publicly mused that he might be suffering from cancer last fall, something that his aides have since said isn't true. He has also spoken about his use of the powerful opioid fentanyl to deal with chronic pain from an old motorcycle crash injury.

This week, Duterte, who is half-way through his six-year term as president, again suggested he might be ready to step down. "I am ripe for retirement, if God wills it," he said in a speech last Thursday.

Although his remarks were overshadowed by another digression in which he offered the Philippine Army some advice on how to carry out a coup d'état.

"Drop all politicians, including me," he said, appearing to endorse a thorough house cleaning, rather than a handing over of power to the opposition.  

"Look for the best 10, 15 bright young leaders," he continued. "[Assure] them of protection … 'You f*** up, we will kill you. You do good, we will increase your salary by the year, one million.'"

But there's little evidence that Duterte is preparing to relinquish his grip on power.

He's about to become the face of a new pro-vaccination campaign that seeks to bring a halt to a galloping measles outbreak that has sickened more than 4,300 and killed 70 people.

Filipino children suffering from measles share a bed inside an overcrowded room at a government hospital in Manila on Feb. 7. There were at least 55 deaths in January, mostly children under the age of four, health secretary Francisco Duque III says. (Francis R. Malasig/EPA-EFE)

And one of his most vocal critics, the crusading journalist Maria Ressa, is facing new charges over a 2012 newspaper article as the government seeks to retroactively apply its controversial law on "cyber libel."

The propaganda machinery is also lurching into action to support his chosen candidates for the upcoming midterm elections. Philippine television is broadcasting a series of movie-of-the week biopics on senate candidates, like Duterte's longtime personal assistant Bong Go and Gen. Ronald Dela Rosa, the leader of his bloody anti-drug crackdown.

The media used to do the same thing during the Marcos years.

In 1971, there was even a feature film about the dictator's supposed wartime exploits, called Maharlika.

It received limited release, however, after one of the stars, actress Dovie Beams, claimed to have enjoyed an affair with the president during filming in Manila.

First lady Imelda Marcos banned the movie from theatres and the filmmakers went bankrupt.

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Tracking sexual abuse in amateur sport

A CBC News investigation has discovered distressing numbers around sexual abuse of young people in Canadian amateur sports, writes producer Lori Ward.

When junior hockey coach Graham James' conviction for sexually abusing several of his young players made national headlines in 1998, it was supposed to be a major wake-up call for amateur sports in Canada. The case prompted demands for organizations to implement safe sport policies, including making it easier for child athletes to report abuse.

When the team from CBC Sports approached me in September of 2018 looking to report on the prevalence of sexual abuse in Canadian amateur sports in response to several recent high-profile cases in the United States, I braced myself for what the statistics would say.

Canadian athletics organizations and police forces don't keep detailed statistics on sexual abuse in amateur sports. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

We started by trying to compile data about the number of young athletes who'd been abused in Canada, but hit an unexpected roadblock – the data did not exist in any consistent manner, and in many cases did not exist at all.

Most sports organizations don't publish the information on their websites. And police departments don't categorize these crimes by "coach" or "sport."  

So we had to build a list ourselves.

We spent months visiting courthouses across the country and searching through thousands of court records and media articles, with often heart-wrenching details that are difficult to read.

After months, what finally emerged was a detailed portrait of criminal sexual offences committed by amateur athletic coaches in positions of authority across Canada.

The analysis found that a total of 222 coaches who were involved in amateur sports in this country have been convicted of sexual offences in the past 20 years. Those crimes involved more than 600 victims under the age of 18.

The charges spanned 36 different sports. They include offences such as sexual assault, sexual exploitation, child luring, and making or possessing child pornography. Most, but not all, of the victims were athletes training with the coach.

And while our research goes back two decades, we found that the problem persists today. There are more than 34 cases currently before the courts.

Sandra Kirby, a former Olympic rower and a sociology professor at the University of Winnipeg, has spent her career studying issues around sexual abuse in sports. She told CBC News that these numbers are "just the tip of the iceberg."

Dr. Sandra Kirby, a former Olympic Rower and now a sociology professor and activist, estimates that there may be thousands of unreported cases of sexual abuse in Canadian amateur sports. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Kirby explains that sexual abuse is a very under-reported crime. She estimates that there could be thousands of other cases out there where no-one has ever come forward, and says there needs to be a "massive reform across the sport system" to ensure every child who participates has a safe experience.

Tonight on The National we look at one sports community which has taken on that challenge. We'll speak with a group of parents determined to get rid of any grey areas around appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, ensuring kids in sport are empowered and informed, and that parents have the tools they need to help spot the danger signs.

- Lori Ward

A few words on ... 

An abuser's power.

Quote of the moment

"We are happy that a German rescue ship will carry the name of our boy. My boy on the beach must never be forgotten. Our grief for the loss of my wife and sons is shared by many, by thousands of families who have so tragically lost sons and daughters this way."

- Abdullah Kurdi reacts to the renaming of a migrant rescue ship that works the Mediterranean in honour of his son Alan Kurdi, who drowned at age three in September 2015.

Abdullah Kurdi and his siter Tima stand in front of a Sea-Eye rescue ship named after his son and her nephew Alan Kurdi, during its inauguration in Palma de Mallorca on Sunday. The former research vessel 'Professor Albrecht Penck' was rebaptised 'Alan Kurdi,' after the Syrian boy who was drowned during a shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea. (Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images)

What The National is reading

  • Ethics commissioner to probe Prime Minister's Office over SNC-Lavalin scandal (CBC)
  • DRC Ebola outbreak death toll surpasses 500 (Africanews)
  • Coast guard's $227 million ships make crews so seasick they can't work (CBC)
  • More leaks amid Trump leak probe (Axios)
  • Withdrawal of U.S. troops in Syria likely to start in 'weeks': general (Reuters)
  • Italy seeks changes to NATO defence spending rules (Politico EU)
  • New insect found in B.C. caves could be a survivor from Ice Age (CBC)
  • Indian minister posts speeded-up footage of new fast train (Guardian)
  • Half-naked woman shuts down airport (Charlotte Observer)

Today in history

Feb. 11, 1985: Northern Lights records Tears Are Not Enough

First there was the U.K.'s Feed the World, then America's We are the World. And then, inevitably, a Canadian all-star fundraising tune for the victims of the famine in Ethiopia. Corey Hart got the screamiest welcome, but the couple of dozen fans lined up outside the studio also seemed excited about Mark Holmes from Platinum Blonde, and even classical guitarist Liona Boyd. Frank Mills signed a rare autograph.

More than 50 Canadian music stars lend their voices to a 1985 song to help Ethiopian famine victims. 5:46

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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.