Philippine film star-turned-senator pleads not guilty to graft

admin   •   June 26, 2014   •   2679

Ramon ”Bong” Revilla, a Philippine action movie hero-turned senator, gives a thumbs-up sign inside a police van after his voluntary surrender at the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court in Manila June 20, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/AL FALCON

(Reuters) – A popular Philippine action movie hero-turned senator pleaded not guilty to plunder on Thursday in a case seen as landmark test of the government’s ability to tackle entrenched corruption in the poor Southeast Asian nation.

Ramon “Bong” Revilla, known for possessing amulets to defeat his enemies in film, stood quietly with about 20 other co-accused during the arraignment hearing. “Not guilty” one of the three judges said when they did not hear him enter a plea.

The opposition senator faces life imprisonment if found guilty of pocketing 224 million pesos ($5.11 million) from 2007 to 2010 from congressional funds. Revilla is being held at a police camp.

The plunder trial is central to President Benigno Aquino’s effort to shed the country’s image as one of the most corrupt in Asia.

The court set Revilla’s first hearing for July 10.

Two other opposition senators are facing similar plunder charges. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, son of former president and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, will be arraigned next week.

Juan Ponce Enrile, a 90-year-old former senate president and hero of People Power revolt against the dictatorship in 1986, is appealing to avoid detention due to his age and poor health.

Prosecutors, citing government-commissioned reports and witness testimony, said the three senators had siphoned off funds to non-existent non-government organizations for agricultural projects.

($1 = 43.8600 Philippine Pesos)

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Philippines files diplomatic protest against China over confiscation of Filipino fishermen’s gears

Marje Pelayo   •   August 21, 2020

FILE PHOTO: A Philippine fisherman watches a China Coast Guard vessel patrolling the disputed Scarborough Shoal, April 5, 2017. Picture taken April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) lodged on Thursday (August 20) a diplomatic protest against China over the illegal confiscation by the Chinese Coast Guard of fish aggregating devices (payaos) of Filipino fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc in May.

The DFA added that “the Philippines also resolutely objected to China’s continuing illicit issuances of radio challenges Philippine aircraft conducting legitimate regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea.”

In July 2016, the arbitral tribunal in The Hague in the Netherlands ruled in favor of the Philippines to invalidate China’s historical claims on the self-proclaimed ‘nine-dash line’ in the West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea.

The Philippines maintains that Bajo de Masinloc is well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the arbitral ruling declares it as a common fishing ground for Filipino, Vietnamese or even Chinese fishermen.

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Palace unconvinced PH has higher COVID-19 cases than Indonesia

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 7, 2020

Malacañang is not convinced that the Philippines has surpassed Indonesia in the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

During a press briefing on Friday (August 7), Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines is conducting more COVID-19 tests which resulted in more confirmed cases.

Ibig sabihin po dahil mas maigiting ang ating pagte-test hindi totoo na mas marami tayo kaso kaysa sa Indonesia. Hindi lamang nalalaman ng mga Indonesian kung sino-sino ang mga umiikot na mayroong sakit at least tayo alam kung sino po sila (It means we are conducting more tests. It is not true that we have more cases than Indonesia. The Indonesians don’t know who are sick at least, on our case, we know),” he said.

The Department of Health (DOH) has previously explained that the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines cannot be compared to other countries because of the population difference and health care system.

Meanwhile, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said no country can say they have been successful in their fight against COVID-19.

“No country could ever say they are successful. Look at Japan, look at Italy, even Vietnam, and Singapore,” he said. “We focus on what we are doing is appropriate, proper, and practical rather than everyday compare yourself.” -AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)

PHL to allow entry of foreigners with long-term visas starting August

Robie de Guzman   •   July 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign nationals with long-term visas in the Philippines will be allowed entry starting August 1, Malacañang announced Friday.

The government’s task force against COVID-19, however, set conditions prior to the entry of these foreign nationals.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that foreigners entering the country must first have valid and existing visas at the time of entry – this means that no new entry visa shall be accepted.

They are likewise subject to the maximum capacity of inbound passengers at the port and date of entry as returning overseas Filipino will be given priority.

Roque also said that foreigners are also required to secure a pre-booked accredited quarantine facility and a pre-booked COVID-19 testing provider.

He said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) approved the policy on Thursday, July 16.

Previously, only Filipinos, their spouses and children, accredited foreign government and international officials and foreign airline crew were allowed to enter the country amid the community quarantine.

Last week, the government also lifted the ban on non-essential overseas travel by Filipinos subject to conditions such as confirmed roundtrip tickets for those traveling on tourist visas and signing a declaration form acknowledging the risks and possible delays in traveling amid the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Roque also said that the IATF on Thursday also decided to prohibit spectators in all outdoor non-contact sports and exercises in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ), and in indoor and outdoor sports and exercises in modified GCQ areas.

He also announced that the task force has authorized the recategorization of certain industries that will resume operations and the gradual increase of operating capacity of industries that are now open.

The task force likewise allowed the Department of Trade and Industry to issue a list of industries which shall remain closed even in areas under the MGCQ.

Roque said these development aim to revitalize the economy in Metro Manila and Region 4A. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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