Philippine court defers Marcos arrest after her graft conviction

A protester holds a poster of former first lady Imelda Marcos calling for her arrest during a rally on Tuesday, November 13. (AP)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Philippine court defers Marcos arrest after her graft conviction

  • The possibility of her arrest has captured domestic attention
  • Opponents have complained about what they see as special treatment for a politically influential family that has done no jail time

MANILA: Former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos was granted bail on Friday after convincing a court to defer her arrest following her conviction a week ago for massive graft.
The move leaves Marcos free to prepare what could be a lengthy legal challenge, but will further fuel criticism of special treatment for a politically influential family.
Marcos, 89, famous for hoarding shoes, gems and valuable paintings, posted bail of 150,000 pesos ($2,846) a week after a being found guilty in absentia for seven counts of corruption involving use of Swiss bank accounts, collectively worth up to 77 years in prison.
The possibility of her arrest has captured domestic attention but the anti-graft court has given no explanation as to why it did not issue a warrant for her arrest in the week since the verdict.
Lawyers for the three-term sitting congresswoman have argued that Marcos was unable to attend because she was suffering from “multiple organ infirmities.”
On Friday she told the court that she was unaware the November 9 verdict was even being delivered and first learned of her jail sentence on television news that afternoon.
She confirmed that she then attended a birthday party that evening, images of which appeared on social media and on news websites.
Her late husband Ferdinand Marcos ruled the Philippines for two decades, mostly under martial law during which thousands of opponents were persecuted, and billions of dollars were allegedly looted and funneled into real estate, artworks, offshore banks, and disbursed among a vast network of cronies.
The family was chased out in a 1986 popular uprising but returned from exile after Ferdinand’s death and re-entered politics in the 1990s.
Marcos intends to appeal the decision and if denied, she can challenge it at the Supreme Court.
Opponents have complained about what they see as special treatment for a politically influential family that has done no jail time, despite scores of graft cases and the recovery of tens of millions of dollars of assets ruled to be ill-gotten.
President Rodrigo Duterte enjoys good ties with the family and has often praised the late strongman and expressed a preference for his son and namesake, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos to be his vice president.
Duterte’s spokesman last week said the guilty verdict was proof that the executive does not interfere with the judicial branch.


Potential privacy lapse found in Americans’ 2010 census data

This March 23, 2018, file photo shows an envelope containing a 2018 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident as part of the nation's only test run of the 2020 Census. (AP)
Updated 32 min 40 sec ago
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Potential privacy lapse found in Americans’ 2010 census data

  • The 8 billion pieces of statistics in census data are supposed to jumbled in a way so what is released publicly for research cannot identify individuals for more than seven decades

WASHINGTON: An internal team at the Census Bureau found that basic personal information collected from more than 100 million Americans during the 2010 head count could be reconstructed from obscured data, but with lots of mistakes, a top agency official disclosed Saturday.
The age, gender, location, race and ethnicity for 138 million people were potentially vulnerable. So far, however, only internal hacking teams have discovered such details at possible risk, and no outside groups are known to have grabbed data intended to remain private for 72 years, chief scientist John Abowd told a scientific conference.
The Census Bureau is now scrapping its old data shielding technique for a state-of-the-art method that Abowd claimed is far better than Google’s or Apple’s.
Some former agency chiefs fear the potential privacy problem will add to the worries that people will avoid answering or lie on the once-every-10-year survey because of the Trump administration’s attempt to add a much-debated citizenship question.
The Supreme Court on Friday announced that it would rule on that proposed question, which has been criticized for being political and not properly tested in the field. The census count is hugely important, helping with the allocation of seats in the House of Representatives and distribution of billions of dollars in federal money.
The 8 billion pieces of statistics in census data are supposed to jumbled in a way so what is released publicly for research cannot identify individuals for more than seven decades. In 2010, the Census Bureau did this by swapping similar household information from one city to another, according to Duke University statistics professor Jerome Reiter.
In the internal tests, Abowd said, officials were able to match of 45 percent of the people who answered the 2010 census with information from public and commercial data sets such as Facebook. But errors in this technique meant that only data for 52 million people would be completely correct — little more than 1-in-6 of the US population.
He said the 2010 census used the best possible privacy protection available, but hackers since then have become more skilled in reconstructing data. To counter their growing abilities, the agency has completely changed the system for 2020 and will offer the “gold standard” of privacy regardless of the fate of the citizenship question, Abowd said.
People “want to know that statistical tables aren’t going to come back and haunt them,” Abowd said at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting. “I promise the American people they will have the privacy that they deserve.”
Georgetown University provost Robert Groves, who headed the 2010 census, said the count had the proper privacy and that every census improves. He lauded the new steps.
Former agency chief Kenneth Prewitt, a professor of policy at Columbia University, said the basic information such as age and ethnicity, even if publicly revealed, isn’t as big a deal as other data breaches.
“There is a widespread privacy anxiety out there that is very much related to Facebook and Google and so forth,” Prewitt said. “I’m much more worried about the fact that my iPhone follows me around every day.”
In a statement, Apple’s Fred Sainz took issue with such privacy concerns: “The iPhone doesn’t follow you around all day long — Apple has no idea where you are nor do we care. And Apple does not sell information to companies.” He noted, however, that consumers can choose apps that know their location.
Abowd said “the 2020 census will be the safest and best protected ever. And this is not as easy as it sounds.”
The new system involves complex mathematical algorithms that inject “noise” into the data, making it harder to get accurate information and providing “a very strong guarantee” of privacy, said Duke University computer sciences professor Ashwin Machanavajjhala.
This increases privacy while lowering the accuracy for researchers who use the statistics. Think of it as one set of knobs being dialed up while a second is dialed down at the same time.
The decision on the official privacy/accuracy setting for 2020 hasn’t been set. Abowd said policy officials, not engineers or scientists, will make that call.
The Census Bureau tried this system in a 2018 survey using an ultra-strict privacy setting that, while not directly comparable to Google or Apple, is hundreds if not thousands of times more secure for privacy than what’s now being used on data from searches using Google Chrome or Apple’s iPhone, Duke’s Reiter said.
Prewitt suggested the public might not understand the extra efforts underway for the 2020 count but would be spooked by the disclosure about the privacy vulnerability, making people more reluctant to comply with the next census.
If the administration succeeds in adding the citizenship question, “there will be a huge evasion of it (the census) and some selective misuse of it,” Prewitt said.
Whether some avoid the survey because of it or lie, neither is a good outcome, making the data less usable, Prewitt said.
Groves said technical experts have serious problems with the citizenship question because it hasn’t been tested in the field, as all census questions usually are. He compared it to putting a new drug on the market before the necessary testing.
“Very subtle wording and positional changes in a thing like the Census can have enormous impact way beyond what we as humans can predict,” Groves said