Thursday, June 30, 2011
You goofed, Leila
Solita Collas Monsod
Leila de Lima has always held my respect and admiration for her competence and integrity. So I was dumbfounded when she announced in her press conference on Tuesday that information (more accurately, the absence of it) in some magnetic reel data tapes of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) listing down departures and arrivals, “rebut, or negate, or destroy or even shatter” Hubert Webb’s defense of alibi. Why was I dumbfounded? Because as the reader knows, I have been following the Vizconde case ever since the massacre occurred. And it is a fact that Leandro Verceles, then head of the Bureau of Immigrations (BI), had already declared, very early on, that the BI had no record of the departure of Hubert Webb on March 9, 199. One does not know how Verceles made that conclusion, but presumably it must have been on the basis of those tapes -- unless the BI at that time had a duplicate record set or data source. In any case, that the BI had no information on Webb’s departure is nothing new. So how can it rebut, negate, destroy, shatter Hubert’s defense of alibi? (By the way, Webb lawyer Zenaida Ongkiko Acorda, a chip off the old block -- her father is Mario Ongkiko -- points out that the BI tapes record that Webb arrived in the Philippines in October 1992, so if he did not leave on March 9, 1991, when do those tapes say he left?)
De Lima apparently failed to take into account what the trial records will show: that Hubert produced his passport, which showed the immigration stamp of his departure on March 9, 1991, with the signature of the immigration officer (which the latter, a hostile witness, attested was his signature and his stamp), the date of his arrival in the US (March 9, 1991), the date of his departure from the US (Oct. 26, 1992) and the date of his arrival in the Philippines (Oct. 27, 1992). Despite the fact that a passport is an official document, and should be taken at its face value, and that the authenticity of Webb’s passport was attested to by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Webb also produced certifications from the US government (the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the State Department).
De Lima’s failure to take into account such overwhelming evidence (not to mention the testimony of 95 witnesses and more than 350 pieces of other documentary evidence to show that Webb was in the US when the Vizconde massacre occurred) echoes the failure of the trial judge, Amelita Tolentino, who also pronounced that Webb’s defense of alibi was “weak,” and found him (and the et als) guilty of murder.
That decision, by the way, earned Tolentino a seat in the Court of Appeals, which then apparently encouraged her later to to apply for the position of associate justice of the Supreme Court (unsuccessful). But finally, after 10 years of appeals, Tolentino got her comeuppance: a reversal of her decision, and a tongue-lashing that would have made anyone less than thick-skinned shrivel in shame. The reader who is truly interested in the case should read in particular the concurring opinion of Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, although the ponencia of AJ Roberto Abad and the concurring opinion of AJ Conchita Morales also make mincemeat of the prosecution witnesses and highlight the NBI’s less-than-satisfactory role in the case. Justice Martin Villarama’s dissent was an echo of Tolentino’s reversed decision.
Is Leila de Lima on her way to getting a similar tongue-lashing from the Supreme Court? The lawyers of Hubert Webb have announced that they are considering options such as asking the SC to cite her for contempt, and even asking for her disbarment. Along the same lines, is De Lima using this issue as a springboard to the Senate in 2013 (as one of Webb’s lawyers avers), in much the same manner as Judge Tolentino used her decision as a springboard to the Court of Appeals?
Only time will tell. However, I have a feeling that the complete transcript of De Lima’s press conference will show that she will not have left herself wide open to contempt and disbarment charges. She is much too good a lawyer for that. Nor do I believe, at this point, that she is even thinking of 2013. She has too much integrity for that.
On the other hand, there is no question that she has goofed. Big time. Which has to be expected, because no one is perfect. What is important is that so far her performance shows a great deal more positives than negatives. And what is important is to determine why she goofed, so that she can make sure that the recurrence is minimized.
So what made her goof? An at least equally admired lady with whom I talked provides possible answers: It could be that De Lima has been under so much political pressure, at the same time that she has been given so many assignments, that she had not the time or the energy to do the proper homework on this one; or relatedly, that she has had no time to stand back, as it were, and see the forest for the trees; or, still relatedly, that she is beginning to accept without question, or automatically defend, the word of the attached agencies under her -- in this case, the NBI, on whom now the focus shifts.
If I have suggested to the reader to read the SC decisions on the Webb case -- the ponencia, the concurring opinions, the dissenting opinion -- more so should De Lima read them. Had she done so in the first place, the sins of commission and omission of the NBI would have been brought home to her in stark detail. And it would have been clear to her that the so-called “reinvestigation” that the NBI conducted, supposedly in an attempt to find the real killers of the Vizconde ladies, was actually more of an attempt to show that they were correct in the first place. Or rather in the third place, because before they focused on Webb, they had brought up two sets of suspects, whom they were sure had committed the crime.
You goofed, Leila. Admit it. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and learn from this setback. I still have faith in you.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
jafar (voiced by jonathan freeman) in aladdin; chucky (brad dourif) in child's play; bill "the butcher" cutting (daniel day lewis) in gangs of new york; buffalo bill (ted levine) in the silence of the lambs.
anton chigurh (javier bardem) in no country for old men; baby jane hudson (bette davis) in whatever happened to baby jane; col. hans landa (christoph waltz) in inglourious basterds. [all pics courtesy of total film.]
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
By Beth Collins
These 12 lakes go to all the right extremes—highest, deepest, clearest—and showcase nature at its most spectacular. Soak up the views from a boat, a cable car, a trailhead, or a castle tower.
Home to 1,000 species of fish—estimated to be more than anyplace on earth—Lake Malawi (also called Lake Nyasa) is Africa's third largest lake at 363 miles long and up to about 50 miles wide in spots. Located in a depression 2,300 feet below sea level, it's positioned at the crossroads of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, and supports hundreds of local villages with its rich underwater stock (which is, unfortunately, gradually being depleted due to over-fishing). The lake's southern portion—as well as a bordering nub of wildlife-rich land, Cape Maclear—represents the world's first freshwater national park; it was also named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. A star of the waters here is the mbuna, a native freshwater fish known for eating directly from people's hands. Bring your snorkel gear—as beautiful as the scenery is, the best part about Lake Malawi is what's swimming beneath you in the crystal clear water.
Nearby: Cape Maclear, located within Lake Malawi National Park, is a perfect base for exploring the area.
Alberta's Lake Louise is the famous one, on all the postcards and posters. But Louise's sister lake 29 miles north along Icefields Parkway, a two-laner that winds 142 miles through the Canadian Rockies, is even more picturesque. Thanks to glacial rock flour that flows in when the ice and snow melt every summer, the waters of Banff National Park's Peyto Lake are a brilliant turquoise more often associated with warm-weather paradises like Antigua and Bora-Bora. For the most dramatic views of the 1.7-mile-long stunner, encircled with dense forest and craggy mountain peaks, pull into the lot at Bow Summit, the parkway's highest point, and follow the steep hike to the overlook.
Nearby: The town of Banff, the heart of the park, is 62 miles south of Peyto Lake.
Thousands of years ago, the top of a 12,000-foot-high volcano in the Cascade Range exploded. The massive pit left behind became known as Crater Lake, the centerpiece of a national park in southern Oregon that displays nature at its rawest and most powerful. Forests of towering evergreens and 2,000-foot-high cliffs surround the lake, where extraordinarily deep waters—at 1,943 feet, it's the deepest lake in the United States—yield an intense sapphire-blue hue. If winter hiking and cross-country skiing aren't your thing, wait until early July to visit, when the roads have been plowed and the trails cleared. Rim Drive, a 33-mile road that encircles the lake, has picture-perfect views from all sides. For a closer look, follow the mile-long Cleetwood Cove Trail to the shore. Brace yourself before diving in: The water temperature rarely rises above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nearby: The laid-back mountain town of Bend, 112 miles away, makes a nice home base for a Crater Lake day trip.
This dangerous beauty, situated just 37.28 miles south of Manila, has two distinct claims to fame: It is the deepest lake in the Philippines, with a depth of 564 feet. It is also home to one of the world's smallest but most active volcanoes, the Taal Volcano, which sits within its waters on the island of Luzon. The lake itself was formed when a larger volcanic crater here collapsed; now seismologists spend a lot of time monitoring this spot for tremors, and sending out frequent eruption warnings through the country's Department of Tourism. Plenty of tour groups offer trips to the natural wonder—in spite of the fact that it has been declared a permanent danger zone. A safer way to see the volcano is by taking a drive along the Tagaytay-Taal ridge in nearby Tagaytay City.
Nearby: Adjacent Tagaytay City offers some well-priced accommodations, in addition to the best views of the lake.
Nearly a mile up in the highlands of Guatemala, Atitlán (Lago de Atitlán) rests at the foot of three massive conical volcanoes. Small Mayan villages line its shores, which are set off by steep hills draped with oak and pine trees and nearly 800 plant species. There's no single, must-see view of the lake, so try several vantage points: from up high on Highway 1; from the town of Panajachel, the buzzing market hub that juts out into the water; or aboard a lancha, one of the many small boats that ferry visitors from village to village. We're saddened to note that the lake has built up high levels of blue-green algae over the years (in October and November 2009, a film of green scum began briefly marring its surface; since then there have been ambitious efforts to solve the problem).
Nearby: Panajachel is about 2.5 hours by car from Guatemala City.
With a backdrop of windswept rolling hills and medieval castles, Loch Lomond feels like it's straight out of a Victorian romance novel. The 24-mile-long lake is dotted with islands, some so small that they disappear when the water levels are high, and others large enough to be (sparsely) inhabited. Most ferries stop at the largest island, Inchmurrin (population 11), so visitors can get a look at the remains of a 7th-century monastery and the 14th century Lennox Castle, used often as a hunting lodge for kings.
Nearby: The lake is 24 miles north of Glasgow and 66 west of Edinburgh.
If the shape of Italy is a couture boot, think of the imprint of Lake Garda as a design from the funky sister line—long and skinny at the top, opening up toward the bottom. Garda is the country's largest lake and one of the most popular vacation spots among Italians. The southern shore is home to hot springs, resort towns with pastel villas and terra-cotta-roofed hotels, and most of Garda's 28 miles of serene, pebbly beaches. To the north are the jagged peaks of the Dolomites, a magnet for hikers and bicyclists who want to test their endurance. In Malcesine, an adorable speck of a town with cobblestoned streets and a medieval castle, you can board a cable car up to Mount Baldo for one of the best aerial views of the lake.
Nearby: Lake Garda is about halfway between Milan (89 miles away) and Venice (109 miles away), but to get the full, relaxing effect, stay in one of the south shore's many small towns.
This alpine lake in the heart of the French Alps is a looker, but don't expect to spend your visit gazing over the water in quiet reflection. Lake Annecy is all about activity—particularly in August, when Paris shuts down and the French take extended holidays. Sailors, kayakers, and water-skiers crisscross the water; bikers and hikers hit surrounding nature trails; and refugees from the city fill the outdoor tables at the lakeside restaurants and bars. Repeat visitors know to plan their trip for the first Saturday of August, when a staggering, nearly two-hour-long fireworks display illuminates the water.
Nearby: The closest major city is Geneva, 30 miles north, in Switzerland, but most people stay right on the lake.
These 16 blue-green lakes, hidden by thick vegetation and connected by hundreds of waterfalls, could be the set for the next Jurassic Park. For adventure as well as killer views, start at one of the lower lakes and work your way up following the sturdy wooden planks that turn what could be a treacherous trek into a fun hike. Take a detour along the 10-minute loop that leads to the region's tallest fall, 230-foot-high Veliki Slap ("Big Waterfall"), a breadth of streaming white water that collects in turquoise pools. While hiking, keep your eyes peeled for deer, wildcats, boars, wolves, and bears—a more likely sighting than a T. rex.
Nearby: There are four hotels in Plitvice Lakes National Park, but most people drive in for the day from Zagreb, about 2 hours by car.
The water is blue enough, and the backdrop—grasslands and rocky hillsides—has the makings of a nice photo, but neither is what sets this lake in central Kenya apart. The real draw here is the mass of pink on Nakuru's edges. Flamingos are one of the few species that can withstand the lake's hostile conditions—the water has so much sodium carbonate that it burns nearly everything that touches it —and they flock to the lake en masse. There can be as many as a million birds feeding on algae in the shallows at one time, wading side by side.
Nearby: The lake is in the heart of Lake Nakuru National Park, a sanctuary for black-and-white rhinos, three hours by car from Nairobi.
Alternately known as Mirror Lake, this South Island lake is famous for its reflections of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. Visiting just after dawn is ideal, when the water is at its calmest and mirror images are impossibly perfect. The lake itself is well worth exploring, too. Park near the Clearwater River suspension bridge and follow the 1-mile loop past kahikatea and rimu trees, which have extra-tall trunks and fanciful bushy tops and look like something from a Dr. Seuss book.
Nearby: Fox Glacier township, a village that serves as a base camp for trekkers, is three miles east of the lake.
Why not get to the good stuff right away? To take in this Slovenian lake's most breathtaking vista, head immediately to Bled Castle, at the edge of a sheer, 460-foot-high cliff. You'll see mountains in every direction—the Julian Alps and the Karavanke range—and below, the Alpine lake and its main attraction, Bled Island, a tiny forested circle that's home to the 17th-century Church of the Assumption and its prominent baroque clock tower. Down on the lake's shore, board a pletna boat (similar to a gondola) to the island. Be sure to ring the church bell and make a wish before returning to the mainland. Mountains shield the water from icy northern winds, so Lake Bled is warm, relatively speaking (79 degrees Fahrenheit). If that's still too chilly, head to the lake's northern section, where three hotels have built pools around natural thermal springs.
Nearby: The Slovenian capital of Ljubljana is an easy 35 miles away.