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

admin   •   June 26, 2014   •   2433

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)

Italy to block weapon exports to Turkey

Robie de Guzman   •   October 15, 2019

(L-R) Italian Minister of Public Administration Fabiana Dadone, Italian Parliamentary Relations Minister Federico D’Inca and the Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio in parliament during the Government’s urgent information on the military operation undertaken by Turkey in the north-east of Syria, in Rome, Italy, 15 October 2019. EPA-EFE/ALESSANDRO DI MEO

Italy will ban arms export to Turkey, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Tuesday (October 15) after Ankara launched a military attack in the Northern part of Syria against the Kurdish fighters.

“There is no military solution to Syria’s problem, on the contrary, we can find a stable and long-lasting composition only through diplomacy and political dialogue,” said Di Maio.

European Union countries agreed on Monday to limit arms exports to Turkey over its offensive in northern Syria, prompting condemnation from Ankara, even as they stopped short of a bloc-wide embargo against a NATO ally. (Reuters)

Production: (Cristiano Corvino, Alessandro Felici)

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Brexit deal still possible this week, but more and more difficult, Barnier says

Robie de Guzman   •   October 15, 2019

European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (R) at the start of the General Affairs Council on Article 50 in Luxembourg, 15 October 2019. Ministers are preparing for the European Council meeting on 17 and 18 October 2019. EPA-EFE/JULIEN WARNAND

Agreeing to a Brexit divorce deal this week has become “more and more difficult” but is still possible, the European Union’s Brexit negotiator said on Tuesday (October 15).

Michel Barnier was speaking to reporters as EU ministers gathered in Luxembourg for the last preparatory meeting before the Thursday-Friday summit of the bloc’s national leaders takes place in Brussels just a fortnight before Britain is due to leave.

“Even if the agreement will be difficult – more and more difficult, to be frank – it is still possible this week,” he said.

Dutch Foreign minister Stef Blok stressed the importance of protecting the single market in any divorce bill.

He said that British proposal “contained some steps forward” but that the current proposals did not satisfy the bloc’s criteria on customs.

“Of course, the consumers and companies in the Netherlands have to be assured that there will no be byway through the Northern Irish border for products out of the European Union. And it’s up to the UK to come forward with proposals to (ensure) that the integrity of the common market will be respected,” he said.

Should no final resolutions come at the summit later this week, the EU is mulling an extraordinary one in late October to approve any deal or a delay, or give marching orders for a damaging no-deal split. (Reuters)

(Production: Jorrit Donner-Wittkopf)

Russia’s Putin arrives in UAE following visit to Saudi Arabia

Robie de Guzman   •   October 15, 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (R) attend an official welcome ceremony in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 15 October 2019. Russian President Vladimir Putin is on a state visit to UAE.
EPA-EFE/ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday (October 15) for talks that are expected to focus on economic ties and security in the Middle East region.

Upon arrival, Putin was greeted by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at the airport.

Putin’s trip to the region signals Moscow’s growing Middle East clout.

On Monday (October 14) he visited Saudi Arabia for the first time in over a decade, buoyed by Russian military gains in Syria, strong ties with Riyadh’s regional rivals and energy cooperation. (Reuters)

(Production: Roberto Esparza)

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