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

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.

Vaccine development speeds up to counter COVID-19 threat

Updated 09 April 2020

Vaccine development speeds up to counter COVID-19 threat

LONDON: The coronavirus pandemic has crashed stock markets, ground economies to a halt, and led to unprecedented numbers of people and businesses seeking government assistance, especially in the West.

But in one area, perhaps understandably, it has led to something of an explosion in terms of progress. 

That area is vaccine development, where the discovery, testing and mass production of a solution to the pandemic have become both an essential solution to the crisis and something of a medical gold rush.

Under normal circumstances, vaccines can take 10 years to produce. It is a difficult, lengthy process, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, which is usually dependent on demand for the vaccine in question. 

There are all manner of factors to be taken into account — everything from relative effectiveness to side effects and production costs. 

An ailment that affects more people, or that has a greater chance of having a vaccine found, is more likely to receive the funding it needs because it is more profitable. 

Meanwhile, a vaccine that protects against a certain ailment but carries the risk of significant negative side effects is not exactly a cure.  But COVID-19 is a different beast — the sheer scale of the economic damage it has wrought makes finding a vaccine of the utmost importance.

Elissa Prichep, the precision medicine lead at the World Economic Forum, said given the pressing need, a vaccine for COVID-19 could be developed in 12-18 months — a vast tract of time for those living under lockdown, but lightening quick in the medical world.

The international community has, according to her, been working together “like never before” on producing a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Around Jan. 10, Chinese scientists developed and shared a full genetic sequence of SARS-Cov2, the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Prichep. 

“Several companies are using this information to develop vaccines that will contain a small amount of genetic code. Certain cells in the body will take up this genetic information and produce elements of the virus, not infecting the person but triggering the immune system to respond,” she added.

“DNA- or RNA-based vaccines are not made with a weakened or deactivated virus, nor elements of the virus, so they can be produced in the lab. This approach is faster and more reliable than traditional vaccine processing, which uses virus grown in eggs or cell cultures. 

“For example, Moderna, in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in the US, developed the first COVID-19 vaccine in clinical trials using a genetic platform called messenger RNA (mRNA). It took only 42 days to move from vaccine design to human testing — an industry record.”

However, we remain some way off developing a safe human vaccine. That said, the precedent set by the international community in tackling COVID-19 could be the blueprint for expediting vaccine development in future. 

“A rush to market without appropriate testing could put healthy people at risk. One area of risk is vaccine enhancement, meaning the disease is more harmful to a vaccinated person,” said Prichep.

“The clinical trial process typically involves several phases, including randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled studies, and takes approximately 10 years, but governments and industry are making efforts to expedite the process. If manufacturing begins during trials, then a vaccine will be available to the public upon approval,” she added.

“To mitigate this risk and encourage manufacturing, governments, industry and international organizations are working together. The innovative and cooperative approach taken for this vaccine could change how scientists develop future ones. This could make discovery faster, production more reliable, and vaccines potentially more cost effective.”