sandiganbayan acquits revilla of plunder

Manila, 8 December—Former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., one of the senators charged with plunder in connection with a multi-billion scam helmed by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, has been cleared of plunder by the Sandiganbayan, while his coaccused Napoles and former aide Richard Cambe were found guilty.

Napoles is the alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, which involved the use of fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs) to channel money from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations of lawmakers to fictitious projects over 10 years.

Of the senators charged with plunder in 2014, Revilla was accused to have amassed the most kickbacks at P224 million. He was also charged with 16 counts of graft by the Office of the Ombudsman under then-Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Revilla’s fellow accused, former senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile, were accused to have pocketed P183 million and P173 million, respectively. Estrada was also charged with 11 counts of graft, while Enrile, 15 counts, for misuse of their PDAF.

Today, only four years later, all of them are out of jail.

Enrile, in his application for bail granted by the Supreme Court in August 2015, cited “advanced age and poor health”.

Estrada, on the other hand, was granted bail in September 2017. He is now saying he is hopeful that he will follow in Revilla’s footsteps as far as his case is concerned.

All of them are running for senator in the May 2019 elections. Yes, even Enrile, who cannot be in jail because of “advanced age and poor health” may run for the Senate despite “advanced age and poor health.” Huh.

Anyway. Morales, also a retired Supreme Court justice, said ahead of the decision that given the evidence gathered, she would convict Revilla. However, Sandiganbayan ponente Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg ruled differently. Econg said she “would have loved to convict” but added that they had to rule based on evidence.

And the evidence was not enough to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Reading list

courage to hope

Manila, 1 December—Sending this out early because UP has done the impossible—after clinching its first Final Four spot in 21 years, it overcame Adamson's twice-to-beat odds to book its first Finals match in 32 years, and against veteran champion team Ateneo no less.

And boy, were those UP-Adamson matches intense and heart-stopping! The do-or-die game went to overtime, thanks to a clutch three-pointer from Adamson's Jerom Lastimosa at the end of the fourth quarter. Overtime began shakily—until UP captain Paul Desiderio took charge.

The rest, as they say, is history. 

There is much celebration not only across Diliman but across the UP System—clips of live viewings in other campuses like UPLB were such a sight. People really trooped to their open spaces to watch the livestream of the game. I bet Game 1 between Ateneo and UP will attract even more viewers to the public streams—I heard it was really hard to get tickets! 

In any case, we'll be streaming wherever we are come game time. Good luck Maroons! :) 

MOVIE REC: Wreck it Ralph 2

Wreck it Ralph 2: You don't need to have watched the first one to find this laugh-out loud, cry-and-pee-slightly funny.

Why did we find this so damn funny? We don't really have the answer. Watch it for the Disney Princesses and the Slaughter Race song that cements Vanellope's rightful slot in the updated roster of Disney Princesses. Also, I hope you stayed through the credits for that fitting post-credit scene. This movie nails my kind of humor. Watch it.

Also this week

do or die

Manila, 25 November—I was out celebrating a girl friend's birthday when the news came: UP won against Adamson in its first playoffs game in TWENTY-ONE YEARS. Adamson, the number 2 team in UAAP basketball, had a twice-to-beat advantage over UP's third seed, so it was absolutely necessary for the Maroons to win their first game, if they wanted to live to fight another day.

They did exactly just that, prevailing over Adamson 73-71, on the back of MVP Bright Akhuetie (UP's first MVP in THIRTY TWO YEARS) and Paul Desiderio's fantastic clutch game in the dying seconds of the final quarter.

You can watch Bright's game winning layup here.

Here's the game winner.

We started tuning in at the final moments, because we were too nervous to really focus on it. We peeked at the score every now and then via Twitter, but found that it was close through and through. Damn. Hanggang dulo, heart attack. What a good game though! I honestly thought it would go into overtime, but this year's roster is clearly something else. 

There's still Wednesday's game to think about—but then Wednesday pa naman yun LOL. Perhaps for now we can celebrate.

GAME REC: TerraGenesis

My latest game obsession is called TerraGenesis, which I play on Android. In this game, your mission is to transform another planet into a habitable one by enhancing temperature, pressure, oxygen, and water levels. It's strangely calming and exciting at the same time. Technically, you're using real science to cultivate planets. How out of this world is that?? Anyway, my world is as good as habitable—but not after I accidentally flooded it after accidentally sleeping on all my water-making facilities. I wiped out two colonies :( Sorry guys. 

in the beginning, there was russia

Manila, 20 November—I’m over a week late to this, but the New York Times’ Opinion section made this amazing video series tracing the beginnings of Russian disinformation, detailing how it once succeeded in spreading fake news using traditional media, and tracking how it has managed to transform its disinformation best practices to suit the social media era.

I love this series because of all the intensive research it did—from tracing old print news, to retrieving old footage of old TV interviews, to actually tracking down and interviewing former FBI detectives and KGB defectors (one of whom, sadly, died before the piece could debut.)

And on top of all that, it has a terrific, easy-to-understand script, and fantastic infographics on the video. It’s a dream, I tell you. I wish I had been part of the team that accomplished it.


It’s a three-part video series, and they are all on Youtube. The first one, titled Meet the KGB Spies Who Invented Fake News, traces the path of one patently false news that was traced to Russian spies: That the US is responsible for the HIV virus.

From an inconspicuously placed news brief in an Indian newspaper in July 1983, to the “scientific” study by two German scientists that claimed to have data that AIDS was made in a US laboratory in 1985, the claim appeared in more than 200 reports in over 80 countries, until it finally landed a prime US TV spot in March 1987.

Mission accomplished.

The next two videos trace how that 1980s playbook managed to survive even the collapse of the USSR in 1989. The answer: Vladimir Putin, who was among former KGB agents trained to spend 25% of their time coming up with disinformation campaigns (and were thereby evaluated on such metrics), managed to climb to the top.

And how is the rest of the world dealing? Miserably, of course.

As a final note, here’s a behind-the-scenes look at this series: Too Much Information about Disinformation, by the Times Insider.

something to see: francisco v. coching at ayala museum

Manila, 19 November—Todd Henry says it’s always good to go on a “stimulus dive” on weekends as a means of recharging one’s creativity, so that’s what we did for the weekend.

We know Makati has always been associated with the hustle and bustle of everyday work + traffic, but on weekends we do suggest dropping by Ayala Museum, which is right smack in the middle of the business district.

Apart from its permanent displays (the Gold of Ancestors exhibit, which showcases over a thousand gold objects dating back to pre-colonial Philippines, is a must-see), Ayala Museum hosts several changing exhibitions throughout the year as well.

We were lucky to catch the current exhibit, Images of a Nation: F.V. Coching, Komiks at Kultura, which features works by National Artist Francisco V. Coching, dean of Philippine illustration and komiks legend.

This was such a delight. On display are hundreds of Coching’s illustrations, Liwayway front pages, comic book covers, movie posters, and first drafts. Many of the works came out in the 50’s and 60’s, and were pretty indicative of what being a ‘hero’ meant at the time—a gun-slinging, horseback-riding Filipino macho man.

As for the depiction of women, they were ‘Amorsolo-like’—dreamy and mestiza. Again, products of their time. There were a lot of illustrated women on display, many of them beautiful, but one stood out for me:

Gabriela Silang. It was refreshing to see a woman on horseback, especially here in the Coching exhibit, where men were usually the ones larger than life.

I mean:

They also built an installation that is a sari-sari store that once sold komiks sa kanto, and it was irresistible.

Bonus rainbow cover! Lovely :)

Images of a Nation: F.V. Coching, Komiks at Kultura, is on the 3rd floor of the Ayala Museum. Opened on Oct. 30, it will run until Feb. 3, 2019.

The Ayala Museum is open, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays. Entrance for all exhibits is at P225 per head for Pinoys :)

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