Opinion & Community

Rappler takes SEC case to the Court of Appeals

PETITION FOR REVIEW. Rappler's counsel from the firm ACCRALAW files the petition for review before the Court of Appeals on January 29, 2018. Photo by Lian Buan/Rappler 


MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Rappler Inc and Rappler Holdings Corporation filed on Monday, January 29, a petition for review questioning the revocation of their certificates of incorporation before the Court of Appeals (CA).

Rappler's petition was prepared by legal counsel Francis Lim from the firm Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices or ACCRALAW. Lim is a veteran corporate lawyer and the former president of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE).

“We have our own legal position on these issues and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will most likely take the opposite view. Fortunately, there is jurisprudence that can guide the Court of Appeals in deciding the case. We fervently hope that the case will ultimately be decided for the broader interest of the country,” Lim said.

The 68-page petition argues that contrary to the decision of the SEC, the agreement between Rappler and foreign investor Omidyar Network (ON) does not constitute control.

The petition also bares similar agreements between network giants ABS-CBN and GMA News with its foreign investors, which the SEC has not faulted, and which it did not investigate.

PDR and control

The SEC revoked the certificates of incorporation of both Rappler Inc and Rappler Holdings Corporation (RHC) due to a provision in the Philippine Depositary Receipt (PDR) agreement of RHC with Omidyar. 

A PDR is a financial instrument that corporations resort to, to secure foreign investments without violating the nationality restrictions prescribed by the Constitution.

The SEC said that it was unconstitutional for Rappler to commit to Omidyar that it should engage in prior discussion or secure 2/3 of the votes of PDR holders before Rappler can amend its articles of incorporation or by-laws, or take action that would prejudice the rights of ON as a PDR holder.

The questioned provision, or Clause 12.2.2 reads as such:

The Issuer undertakes to cause the Company from the date hereof and while the ON PDRs are outstanding: not to, without prior good faith discussions with ON PDR Holders and without the approval of PDR Holders holding at least two-thirds (2/3s) of all issued and outstanding PDRs, alter, modify or otherwise change the Company’s Articles of Incorporation or By-laws or take any other action where such alteration, modification, change or action will prejudice the rights in relation to theON PDRs.”

The SEC said the provision was equivalent to ceding control to a foreign entity, which means Rappler violated the 100% Filipino control rule.

The SEC’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) define control as something exercised only by the Board of Directors who shall vote, similar to the definition of control under the Corporation Code.

“Clause 12.2.2 of the Omidyar PDR does not grant control over Rappler to Omidyar because it does not make it a stockholder of Rappler or give it the right to vote the Underlying Shares,” the petition said.

Negative covenant

Rappler’s lawyers explained that because Omidyar is only a minority investor (another PDR holder North Base Media has more), the questioned provision existed “as a mechanism to help ensure that the rights of a minority investor would be protected vis-à-vis other PDR Holders.”

The petition argued that the clause is an example of a negative covenant. A negative covenant is a clause in agreements where parties make a promise not to do something.

Rappler’s lawyers said that a close reading of the provision would show that the agreement only kicks in when the amendment is "prejudicial" to Omidyar. It means, the petition said, that Omidyar does not dictate when to amend the by-laws, only that it has to be consulted and it has to agree if the amendment puts them at a disadvantage.

The petition stressed that this has not yet even happened. “Thus, Rappler and RHC cannot be punished in any way for a violation that never occurred,” said the petition.

Rappler’s lawyers cited Article 1158 of the Civil Code in saying that “if an act punishable by law has not been performed, then, the corresponding penalty under the law cannot be applied to one accused of violating it." 


The petition also provides the Court of Appeals examples of PDR undertakings of network giants GMA and ABS-CBN, and said they were similar to Rappler’s PDRs.

See below:

PDRs. Rappler's petition for review before the Court of Appeals says that network giants ABS-CBN and GMA have more 'express' agreements with holders of their Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR) compared to Rappler. Screenshot from Rappler's petition for review

PDRs. Rappler's petition for review before the Court of Appeals says that network giants ABS-CBN and GMA have more 'express' agreements with holders of their Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR) compared to Rappler. Screenshot from Rappler's petition for review 

Rappler’s lawyers made the argument that Rappler’s PDR issued to Omidyar requires good faith discussion and a 2/3 vote, while PDRs of the network giants “absolutely obligated the issuers” not to amend their by-laws in a way that will prejudice the rights of the PDR holders.

There should be no reason for the SEC En Banc to find fault in Clause 12.2.2 of the OMIDYAR PDR, which does not even absolutely prohibit the amendment of the Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws of Rappler,” the petition said.

SEC Chairperson Teresita Herbosa said there’s no need to review the PDRs of the network giants, after their decision on Rappler, saying they were different cases.

In the petition, counsels explained that Rappler did not need to register their PDRs with the SEC because the Securities Regulation Code (SRC) did not require registration for sales of securities to less than 20 persons. (Rappler sold only 3 PDRs.)

Nevertheless, RHC notified the SEC of the existence of the PDRs it had issued not only through SEC Form 10-1 but also through the submission of its Consolidated Financial Statements for 2015 and 2016, which the SEC En Banc (adopting the findings of the Special Panel in toto) took note of,” the petition said.

It added: “Clearly, there was no intention whatsoever to conceal the Omidyar PDR from the SEC.”

No due process

Rappler also claimed that due process was not followed, citing the SEC’s own rules. In the graphic below, the lawyers explained how the SEC cut short the process for Rappler, depriving it of the rightful opportunities to defend itself.

This is the standard procedure as per SEC rules, according to the petition:

STANDARD PROCEDURE. Standard Procedure for an administrative action under SEC rules, according to Rappler's petition for review.

STANDARD PROCEDURE. Standard Procedure for an administrative action under SEC rules, according to Rappler's petition for review. 

And this was the procedure applied to Rappler, also according to the petition:

SHORTCUT? The procedure applied to Rappler in the investigation of the SEC, according to Rappler's petition for review.

SHORTCUT? The procedure applied to Rappler in the investigation of the SEC, according to Rappler's petition for review. 

Moreover, the petition also said that the SEC had prejudged Rappler from the time it issued a show cause order against it.

A special panel was created in July 2017 to conduct an “in depth-examination of Rappler” and after a month, on August 2, Rappler was served a show cause order to explain why it should not be held liable for violation of the Constitution.

“The Special Panel did not have the power, authority or jurisdiction to adjudge Rappler and/or RHC administratively liable and to impose administrative sanctions….(but the show cause order) had already made a finding that RAPPLER and RHC were liable under the various laws cited in that order,” the petition said.

It added: “Rappler and RHC, being respondents in this case, were already found to have violated the law and the Special Panel shifted the burden of proof on them to explain why they are not liable. This is in contravention of the established rule the burden of proof is on the complainant.”

The petition also pointed out that on December 11, 2017, Omidyar waived its rights under the questioned provision. But the SEC did not consider it because only a photocopy was submitted, and therefore not counted as notarized.

The fact that only a photocopy of the Waiver was submitted should not have been made an issue by the SEC En Banc for the following reasons: (a) the SEC En Banc did not take issue with other documents submitted by Rappler and RHC which were only photocopies; (b) the original of the Waiver is available, exists and could have been produced by Rappler and RHC at any time if it was requested by the SEC En Banc or the Special Panel to do so,” the petition said.

The petition also cited the PLDT case, wherein the Supreme Court allowed the corporation to "cure" the deficiencies of their structure. The petition maintained that the revocation of the certificates of incorporation was a “harsh penalty” that would have a disastrous impact on businesses, and would discourage foreign investors.

It will not only substantially bring down the foreign investment market in the Philippines but will also create a domino negative impact on the Philippine economy effectively slowing its progress and worse, stifling the Philippine economy,” the petition said.

And even if the PDR clause were assumed to be unconstitutional, the petition said that there is no law that “grants the SEC the power to revoke the certificate of incorporation of a company for the reason that a clause found in a contract it had entered into is void for being unconstitutional.”

“To argue otherwise would expose countless corporations to possible revocation of their certificates of incorporation if any of their contracts happen to contain a void provision,” the petition said. (READ: FAQs: Rappler SEC case)

Press freedom

Rappler also pointed out that it cannot be held accountable for a law applicable to mass media when it should not be classified as only mass media.

The petition pointed out that both Section 11 (1) of Article XVI of the Constitution andPresidential Decree No. 1018 said that "mass media" only pertains to print and broadcast media. Rappler is fully internet-based. (READ: EXPLAINER: How SEC's Rappler decision is a test case for press freedom)

Nevertheless, the petition said that the “serious procedural and substantive irregularities in the decision” lead to no other conclusion that “its real purpose is to silence Rappler and muzzle free expression.”

It notes the sequence of events of Solicitor General Jose Calida initiating the probe, and the accusations against Rappler by President Rodrigo Duterte in no less than his State of the Nation Address, as a pattern that would prove that its "closure" on corporate grounds has always been about the government’s intent to stop Rappler from publishing.

After the SEC decision, Rappler is now the subject of two separate criminal investigations by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI): the first for possible violation of the Anti-Dummy Law and "other laws", and the second for cyber libel over an article published before the Cybercrime Law was enacted.

“Rappler is being made to pay the ultimate price for exercising the freedom of the press,” said the petition. – Rappler.com


Justice De Castro: Did Sereno ‘deceive’ JBC?

SERENO IMPEACHMENT. Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro testifies before the House committee on justice as it tackles an impeachment case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – “Eh bakit siya sinama sa listahan? Dapat pala disqualified siya eh (Why was she even part of the list? She should have been disqualified).”

Saying that the “evidence” emerged as a result of the impeachment case against the top magistrate, Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro questioned Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s inclusion in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) shortlist for the top judiciary post back in 2012.

“I am just wondering because it’s emerging now through the evidence in this hearing, that she did not file her SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth),” De Castro said during a House committee on justice hearing on Monday, January 29, the 11th hearing to determine probable cause in the impeachment complaint against Sereno.

The Chief Justice is the subject of an impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon. The committee has spent over two months to determine probable cause in the complaint, the last step before it eventually votes on whether to impeach Sereno or dismiss the complaint.

On January 26, Gadon filed a graft complaint against Sereno before the Department of Justice, over the apparent failure to submit SALNs during her stint as University of the Philippines (UP) law professor.

Upon questioning by legislators during the hearing on Monday, De Castro said Sereno’s apparent non-submission of SALNs means she should not have been considered for the Chief Justice post.

She said the act could have resulted in “unwarranted benefit" that "may constitute a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”

Members of the committee tried to cut short De Castro’s answer but she continued: “Yung deception po ba, is that a deception of public trust? Sinabi mo qualified ka, meron kang SALN, tapos lalabas hindi mo mapapakita na meron siyang SALN….Lalabas na nagkaroon ng deception.”

(That deception, is that deception of public trust? You claimed you were qualified, that you have a SALN but it turns out you can’t even show that you have a SALN.....It would turn out there was deception.)

De Castro pointed out that Sereno’s apparent “deception” could have put at a disadvantage other more senior justices, including Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, in vying for the top post.

This would not be the first time for De Castro to publicly question the capacity of Sereno – who is set to retire in 2030 – to head the judiciary. De Castro had earlier complained that Sereno had repeatedly made decisions without consulting the SC en banc.

As Chief Justice, Sereno is considered the “first among equals.”

De Castro had earlier described Sereno as “head strong” when asked why Sereno had a tendency to make decisions without consulting the SC en banc.

Sereno, a former UP law professor, was appointed to the judiciary’s top post in 2012 after impeachment and conviction of the late Renato Corona. Prior to the appointment, Sereno served as SC associate justice for two years. In both posts, she underwent the scrutiny of the JBC, a body tasked to screen applicants for top judiciary posts, from regional and municipal judges to Chief Justice. – Rappler.com


New bribery scheme at BOC bared; Sotto, Drilon linked to ‘illegal request’

WRITTEN REQUEST – Barred from speaking, former Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon holds up a handwritten note asking permission for a bathroom break from an exasperated Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Richard Gordon (right). (Jansen Romero)

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson revealed on Monday the existence of a new mode of bribery at the Bureau of Customs (BOC), replacing the regular “tara” (payola) system that prevailed in past Customs administrations.

Lacson called the new bribery scheme as “demurrage,”defined in Webster dictionary as “the payment made to the ship owner by the charterer for exceeding the time allowed for loading and unloading.”

“Pagna delay ang shipment ang pag-release napipilitan sila mag-shell out ng kung anong amount hinihingi sa kanila para ma-facilitate and dokumentong lumakad para ma-release and shipment(When the release of a shipment is delayed, the importer is forced to fork out the amount they are asking to facilitate the flow of documents for their eventual release),” he explained.

Lacson said this is now the common complaint his office has been receiving from importers.

Some10,000 containers arrive daily at the Manila port, Lacson said.

“Umiiyak ang mga importer (Importers are crying),” he added.

Late last year, Lacson, in a privilege speech, alleged that former BOC Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and his favorites received weekly or monthly tara, an allegation denied by Faeldon and company. Faeldon, who is currently detained at the Senate on contempt charges, eventually resigned his post.

Lacson said he has called the attention of current BOC Commissioner Isidro Lapeña about this new form of bribery “although I know he is busy.”

He said there were times his office sent text messages to Lapeña for him to correct the immoral situation “pero mukhang di pa nako-correct ang common complaint nayan (But it appears that this situation has not been corrected).”

On Monday, Faeldon showed up at the Senate hearing for the first time, but had a heated argument with Sen. Richard Gordon when the former insinuated that the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s investigation into the prevailing corruption at the BOC.

During the hearing, Faeldon said Senators Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Franklin Drilon were among the lawmakers who made “illegal requests” with the agency.

Faeldon was responding to Senator Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV’s question during the continuation of the Senate’s probe into the P6.4-billion shabu shipment and corruption in the BOC, when he dropped the names of Drilon and Sotto.

Before disclosing their identity, Faeldon apologized to the senators after noting that they were not present during the hearing.

“I’ll start with Sen. Drilon. As early as 2016, he requested that I meet with him here at the Senate, twice, to sign a Memorandum of Agreement between the BOC and the office of Maria Serena Diokno, the chairperson of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP),” Faeldon told the committee, chaired by Gordon.

Faeldon said Drilon wanted him to sign a document agreeing to have the BOC office in Iloilo City renovated for the NHCP. After the renovation, he was told that the building will be converted into a museum and the BOC will occupy the third floor of the building.

“Twice, I attended his meeting and said sir, hindi po puwede. On the third meeting, I have forcibly changed the provision of the MOA and signed it.”

“I never acceded, why because meron na tayong karanasan, sir,” Faeldon told Aquino and Gordon.

Faeldon said he doesn’t want a repeat of what happened during former President Gloria MacapagalArroyo’s time when she ordered the restoration of the so-called Malacañang of the South in Cebu.

“And until today, yung Cebu employees namin, are housed in a condemned building. So ayaw po natin na maulit po yun na tatanggalin na naman yung mga Customs (employees) dyan at bawal na po silang pagpapalitan,”

“Sa tingin ko hindi po tama itong request ng senador. Kaya tinanggihan ko po siya diyan,” he pointed out.

Faeldon said that Sotto “illegally requested” the appointment of a Customs official as director for intelligence as early as 2016.

“Idol kita sir, pasensya na Sen. Sotto. But this is illegal as far as I am concerned. As early as 2016 twice, he asked me to appoint one official in the BOC as director of intelligence. Eto kasi yan, dalawang beses niya akong kinausap, sabi ko titingnan natin,” Faeldon said.

When he interviewed the said official, Faeldon said he was surprised that the person was already serving the BOC for 42 years but have not yet apprehended any crooked employee nor reported anybody involved in anomalous transactions.

But Aquino and Gordon said they found nothing erroneous on the requests made by Sotto and Drilon.

Drilon clarified that the budget for the renovation he requested was of the NHCP and not the BOC’s.

“(The NHCP) was asking for my help, because their budget was going to revert if it was not used. In fact P9 million was reverted out of the P20 million that they had allocated (for the project),” Drilon told reporters.

“There was nothing illegal, the MOA is to allow the NHCP to do the repairs of the building. In fact, the building is not being owned by the BOC, the title is in the name of the Republic of the Philippines.”

Sotto, for his part, denied he was insisting on the appointment of a BOC employee, although he admitted there was a request for someone’s promotion.

He said the BOC employee who sought his recommendation has long been working in the agency. “What’s illegal in a request?” he asked.

Sotto, in an unsolicited advice, told Faeldon to stick to the issue and instead address the supposed corruption in his former agency that led to the swift release of the P6.4-billion shabu from China.

Meanwhile, Faeldon asked the Supreme Court (SC) to order his release from detention.

Faeldon was cited in contempt, ordered arrested and detained for refusing to participate in the Senate investigation on the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China.

But even while in detention, President Duterte appointed Faeldon as deputy administrator for operations of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD).

Two weeks ago, he was given a two-week furlough to witness the birth of his child and to be able to take his oath of office as OCD official.

Aside from Gordon, named respondent in his petition was retired Maj. Gen. Jose V. Balajadia Jr., Senate sergeant-at-arms.

Faeldon is expected to be transferred to the Pasay City Jail due to his continued contempt citation.

Gordon said the Senate has agreed to submit Faeldon under the custody of the Pasay City Jail, following the resumption of the probe on alleged corruption at the BOC.

Faeldon may be transferred to the city jail anytime within the day, information reaching Senate reporters said.(With reports from Vanne P. Terrazola and Rey G. Panaligan)


‘Mysterious squares’ proof of poll fraud, says Marcos

Former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday questioned the presence of “mysterious squares” on the soft copies of some of the ballots used in the May 2016 elections, claiming these were proof of massive cheating to ensure the victory of Vice President Leni Robredo.

In a news conference, Marcos accused the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and its technology partner, Smartmatic, of conniving with Robredo in a supposed “Marcos-specific” plot to prevent him from occupying the country’s second highest elective office.

He showed to the media some of the ballot images which the Supreme Court, acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), provided to them as part of his electoral protest questioning Robredo’s win.


“Clearly, these ballot images are not one-to-one representation of the actual ballots,” he said. “This could be the reason why they had been hiding the ballot images from us.”

Vic Rodriguez, Marcos’ lawyer, said the efforts to alter the results of the automated balloting only targeted his client and that the evidence they had discovered was “very telling.”

According to Marcos, “all” of the ballot images provided to them by the PET had squares and that the vote summary revealed “undervote” for the position of vice president even if the ballot showed that he had actually received a vote.

He, however, could not answer how many soft copies of the ballots his camp had already received from the PET.



Palace suspends Deputy Ombudsman Carandang

Melchor Arthur Carandang —INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Malacañang on Monday suspended for 90 days Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang for grave misconduct and other administrative offenses after he disclosed alleged bank records of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Palace said it had the power to discipline Carandang.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Palace was confident that the Supreme Court would “revisit” its decision in 2014 that the Office of the President (OP) had “no power of discipline over the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman.”


“The OP wants to revisit that ruling. OP is confident it can reverse anew,” Roque said in a text message.

He said the Office of the Executive Secretary on Friday found that there was probable cause to charge Carandang with three administrative offenses in the OP and to put him under preventive suspension for 90 days.

“He (Carandang) was now made to answer [within 10 days],” Roque said in a press briefing.

‘Impeachable offense’

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who released the bank records of Mr. Duterte during the presidential campaign in 2016, said Malacañang’s move against Carandang was an “impeachable offense.”

In a statement, Trillanes said the move violated Section 5 of Article XI of the 1987 Constitution, “which clearly states the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman and its Deputies.”

The senator said the Supreme Court had already resolved this matter. “Clearly, this is another Duterte tactic that’s meant to bully democratic institutions into submission so he could go on with his dictatorial and corrupt ways.”

Carandang started an investigation of the Duterte family’s alleged illegal wealth based on a complaint filed by Trillanes.


Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has inhibited herself from the inquiry, as Mr. Duterte’s daughter Sara is married to her nephew.

Alleged offenses

According to Roque, Carandang’s alleged offenses include:

Grave misconduct and grave dishonesty for misuse of confidential information and disclosing false information.

Violation of Section 3-E of Republic Act No. 3019 for causing any undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage of preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial function through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.

Violation of 3-K of (the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) in relation to Section 2 Rule 5 of OMB Administrative Order No. 7 for divulging valuable information of confidential character acquired by his office or by him on account of his official position to unauthorized persons or releasing such information in advance for its authorized release date.

Roque said the charges stemmed from the complaint filed by lawyers Manolito R. Luna and Elijio P. Mallari, who accused Carandang of trying to destabilize the Duterte administration.

Roque rebuts claims

Roque noted that Carandang had claimed that the Office of the Ombudsman received bank transaction records from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) concerning the President’s supposed bank accounts.

He added that Carandang had also claimed that, when the transactions were added up, it could reach over P1 billion.

But the AMLC issued a statement saying Carandang had asked it to investigate Mr. Duterte’s supposed bank accounts but it had yet to evaluate the request or start any investigation.

“It has neither provided the Office of the Ombudsman with any report as a consequence of any investigation of subject accounts for any purpose,” Roque quoted the AMLC as saying.

He said the AMLC also pointed out that the alleged bank transactions representing outflows and inflows were added together, thus the resulting total amounts were wrong and misleading.

Roque also noted that the AMLC had clarified that the documents used by Trillanes in his plunder complaint filed against Mr. Duterte in the Office of the Ombudsman during the 2016 presidential campaign did not come from the council.

Intel-sharing purposes

Carandang said the details in the documents that Trillanes made public during the 2016 campaign were “more or less” the same as the bank transaction history records the Office of the Ombudsman had received from the AMLC.

But Carandang said these records were used by the AMLC and the Ombudsman for intelligence-sharing purposes.

Carandang reiterated that the AMLC had yet to furnish the Ombudsman a copy of its own report on the allegation that Mr. Duterte and members of his family had accumulated unexplained wealth.

He also said the Office of the Ombudsman had always “observed confidentiality” in its investigation of Trillanes’ complaint.

Trillanes’ documents

Documents that Trillanes furnished the media in 2016 showed that from 2006 to 2015, Mr. Duterte held seven joint accounts with his daughter, Sara, at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) branch on Julia Vargas Avenue in Pasig City, nine joint accounts at the BPI Edsa Greenhills branch and one joint account at Banco de Oro Unibank-1 in Davao City.

At BPI Julia Vargas alone, father and daughter received total deposits and transfers of P1.74 billion.

Mr. Duterte, according to Trillanes, did not declare at least P227 million in his 2014 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

In his 2014 SALN, Mr. Duterte reported a net worth of P21.97 million. He also reported cash assets worth P13.84 million.

Mr. Duterte initially denied the existence of the bank account at the BPI branch on Julia Vargas Avenue in Pasig but later admitted that it had less than P200 million.

He also said that he did not declare the big amount in his SALN in 2014 because he had already spent it. —With reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Inquirer Research



Abington man accused of weaponizing fidget spinner

An Abington man is facing assault and weapons charges after he used a fidget spinner -- the popular toy that purports to focus one’s mind -- to concentrate something else: the force of his punches, the Enterprise reported.

Police responded to 332 Woodlands Way, an apartment complex, about 9:40 p.m. on Jan 21 after receiving reports of an unwanted guest, according to the police incident report. The dispatch officer could hear a man and woman yelling at each other and a loud car horn beeping in the background, according to a police report.

When they arrived, police saw a black Acura flee the area and another officer was asked to stop the car, the report stated.

A short time later, an officer found a disheveled-looking Abington resident, David Mcilvene, who was bleeding from the face and ear, where it appeared an earring had been torn out. Mcilvene told officers that he had been assaulted and his attackers left in a black Acura.

Mcilvene told the officer that a man, Jake Sprague, and his own ex-girlfriend, whose name was removed from the report, had shown up at the complex and started shouting for him to come outside. Mcilvene and Sprague had reportedly had an altercation at a local nightclub in the past.

Mcilvene said he had also been receiving text messages from his ex-girlfriend’s cellphone all morning and had discovered Sprague had been the author.

Mcilvene went down to the parking lot to protect his vehicle from being vandalized and a verbal altercation ensued before Sprague pulled Mcilvene through the Acura’s window and began punching him.

During the altercation, Sprague separately told officers, Mcilvene used a black metal fidget spinner toy as “brass knuckles,” a weapon designed to enhance the power of a punch, the police report said. The fidget spinner toy quickly became popular after it was released to market last year.

A search of Mcilvene’s pants pocket produced the device. “The holes (on the device) allowed Mcilvene to place two fingers inside and grip the item in the exact same manner as ‘brass knuckles,’ the report read.

Sprague alleged that the fight occurred after Mcilvene entered the back door of the car, not through the front driver’s side window.

Mcilvene was issued a court summons to face charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, carrying a dangerous weapon, and affray, while Sprague was summonsed on charges of assault and battery and affray.

Fitness tracking app Strava gives away location of secret US army bases

Sensitive information about the location and staffing of military bases and spy outposts around the world has been revealed by a fitness tracking company.

The details were released by Strava in a data visualisation map that shows all the activity tracked by users of its app, which allows people to record their exercise and share it with others.

The map, released in November 2017, shows every single activity ever uploaded to Strava – more than 3 trillion individual GPS data points, according to the company. The app can be used on various devices including smartphones and fitness trackers like Fitbit to see popular running routes in major cities, or spot individuals in more remote areas who have unusual exercise patterns.

However, over the weekend military analysts noticed that the map is also detailed enough that it potentially gives away extremely sensitive information about a subset of Strava users: military personnel on active service.

Nathan Ruser, an analyst with the Institute for United Conflict Analysts, first noted the lapse. The heatmap “looks very pretty” he wrote, but is “not amazing for Op-Sec” – short for operational security. “US Bases are clearly identifiable and mappable.”

“If soldiers use the app like normal people do, by turning it on tracking when they go to do exercise, it could be especially dangerous,” Ruser added, highlighting one particular track that “looks like it logs a regular jogging route.”

“In Syria, known coalition (ie US) bases light up the night,” writes analyst Tobias Schneider. “Some light markers over known Russian positions, no notable colouring for Iranian bases … A lot of people are going to have to sit through lectures come Monday morning.”

In locations like Afghanistan, Djibouti and Syria, the users of Strava seem to be almost exclusively foreign military personnel, meaning that bases stand out brightly. In Helmand province, Afghanistan, for instance, the locations of forward operating bases can be clearly seen, glowing white against the black map. 

Zooming in on one of the larger bases clearly reveals its internal layout, as mapped out by the tracked jogging routes of numerous soldiers. The base itself is not visible on the satellite views of commercial providers such as Google Maps or Apple’s Maps, yet it can be clearly seen through Strava.

Outside direct conflict zones, potentially sensitive information can still be gleaned. For instance, a map of Homey Airport, Nevada – the US Air Force base commonly known as Area 51 – records a lone cyclist taking a ride from the base along the west edge of Groom Lake, marked on the heatmap by a thin red line.

RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands is lit up brightly on the heatmap, reflecting the exercise regimes of the thousand British personnel there – as are nearby Lake Macphee and Gull Island Pond, apparently popular swimming spots.

Heatmap of people exercising at RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands.
 RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands. Photograph: Strava heatmap

When Strava released the heatmap, an updated version of one it had previously published in 2015, it announced that “this update includes six times more data than before – in total 1 billion activities from all Strava data through September 2017. Our global heatmap is the largest, richest, and most beautiful dataset of its kind. It is a direct visualisation of Strava’s global network of athletes.”

Strava demonstrated that the new heatmap was detailed enough to see kiteboarding in Mexico, to track the route of the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain and to see the sea route of the Ironman triathalon in Kona, Hawaii. Perhaps the closest to the current operational security issues that it noted, however, was the layout of the Burning Man festival in the Nevadan desert. “The unique pentagonal pattern of Burning Man’s pop-up city is forever etched into the Heatmap, thanks to all the runners and cyclists who have used Strava to explore it,” the company wrote.


EDITORIAL - Wanted: Decent evacuation sites

Mayon Volcano will remain restive for about three more months, volcanologists have warned. In temporary shelters now housing thousands of evacuees, relief supplies are running out. Problems arising from overcrowding are emerging, including the spread of diseases.

The situation in Albay, where the evacuees from communities around Mayon have been provided shelter, should encourage the government to heed a suggestion from certain quarters: build permanent evacuation facilities.

Evacuees are typically housed in school buildings and gymnasiums. These facilities, obviously, are not built to serve as homes away from home when disaster strikes. Toilets are quickly overwhelmed and water supply is rarely sufficient. Sanitary conditions soon become appalling, promoting the spread of water-borne diseases. Temporary shelters provide little privacy. In the crowded surroundings, infants are at high risk of contracting infections and developing life-threatening sepsis.

As proponents of permanent evacuation facilities have pointed out, putting evacuees in school buildings for prolonged periods also displace the students in the school.

Perhaps government officials want to keep evacuation centers as uncomfortable as possible to ensure that evacuees will not linger one moment longer than needed in the temporary shelters. But poor conditions in evacuation centers, combined with the fear of burglary, make it difficult to persuade residents to abandon their homes even when disaster looms. This contributed to the high death toll when Super Typhoon Yolanda tore through Eastern Visayas.

The Philippine archipelago lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly visited by natural calamities: powerful quakes, volcanic eruptions, super typhoons and consequent torrential flooding and killer landslides. Preparing decent evacuation centers for disaster victims should have been prioritized a long time ago.


LG Electronics earns CES 2018

Best TV product honors for AI OLED TV
LG Electronics (LG) was honored with more than 90 awards at CES 2018, led by the Official CES Best TV Product Award for the fourth consecutive year, this time for the new LG AI OLED TV (model C8). LG also earned numerous best-of-show honors for the LG InstaViewThinQ Refrigerator and LG 4K UHD Projector.

LG’s 2018 innovations unveiled at CES include home appliances and home entertainment products with LG ThinQ AI including the first TVs with the Google Assistant built-in, most notably the LG SIGNATURE AI OLED TV W8 featuring ThinQ which won more than 10 awards at CES. The LG InstaViewThinQ Refrigerator followed in award wins, offering a streamlined food management system through LG’s webOS platform and Amazon Alexa integration that makes shopping for groceries, playing music, checking the weather, managing your calendar and more, simple. LG also debuted the revolutionary new α (Alpha) 9 intelligent processor that further enhances performance of its flagship LG AI OLED TVs and revealed the outstanding LG V30 smartphone in a brilliant new Raspberry Rose color.

Top awards earned by LG at CES 2018 include:

LG 4K UHD Projector: 9 to 5 Toys: Best of CES / Consumer Technology Association: 2018 CES Innovation Awards – Best of Innovation / TWICE: Top Picks Awards
For a complete list of LG’s CES 2018 awards and accolades and additional information visit www.LGnewsroom.com/ces2018.



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