Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Computer Waste Polluting Asia

BBC News reports that old computers are being dumped in Asia where they are releasing toxic materials into the environment. The full text is here.

Piles of computer waste are found in Guiyu, China

BBC cites a report, called Exporting Harm: The Hi-Tech Trashing Of Asia, which details a group of villages in south-eastern China where computers from America are picked apart and strewn along rivers and fields.

In the Philippines, old computers from the US are being resold with warranties at bargain prices by enterprising importers. While there are no reported dumping of old computers as of yet, it cannot be said for sure that the same mass dumping of old computers are not taking place in remote places of the country. Given the rising level of computer use in the Philippines today and the continuing problem regarding the disposal of garbage in general, it will not be long before the these old computers from the first world will find their way in Philippine rivers.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Love struck judge likely to go to jail because of love poem

A Philippine judge accused of sexual harrassment by a court employee is likely to get convicted as the victim presented a love poem given by the judge himself to her. The poem, written in the Philippine national lanuage, contains sexually explicit lines and belies any denials from the beleaguerd judge. A portion of the poem goes,

Poem Translation

Dumating ka sa buhay ko You came into my life
isang araw ng Agosto, One day in August
Ang baon mo ay ang iyong ganda You brought beauty
at talinong abogado. And a lawyer's intelligence
Ang tamis ng iyong ngiti The sweetness of your smile
ay bumihag sa puso ko, Captured my heart
Malakas na pampalubag A strong soother
sa mainit kong ulo. To my anger
Kapalaran ay malupit Fate is harsh
di kita makatalik, I cannot make love to you
Sa ngayon o bukas Today or tomorrow
pagka't di mo ibig. Because you do not love me

The full Inquirer text is here.

I've had a wave of referrals lately regarding sexual harassment but none is as amusing as this one. In a macho society like the Philippines, the enactment of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Law was welcomed by a lot of women. It is good that cases are now being filed and the relatively new legislation is being invoked.
However, the only problem I have with this law is it requires that the offended party should be a subordinate to the offender when in most cases, sexual harassment takes place when both parties are of equal rank. Be that as it may, it's better than nothing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Philippine solons sign resolution to allow Estrada's trip abroad

Former Pres. Estrada's cohorts are at it again. Legislators allied with him passed around a resolution asking the Sandiganbayan, the anti-graft court hearing Estrada's plunder cases, to allow him to have his knee surgery in the US. The resolution, signed by 130 House members, was set to be filed Monday night by its principal author, Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen. Nineteen senators signed a counterpart resolution in the Senate. The Inquirer's full text is here.

These solons, if they know their basic constitutional law, cannot pass this resolution without violating the separation of powers between the legislature and the judiciary. I am sure that the Sandiganbayan will turn down the preposterous resolution, but the mere fact that there is such a resolution shows how despicable these politicians are. These politicians are the same sycophants who led Estrada to believe that he could be President and gave him the political machinery for mounting a political campaign. When they handily won the presidency in 1998, they divided the political spoils among themselves as Estrada busied himself with his women and graft money. Now, they want to give him a reprieve from his hospital jail house and send him partying in the US on the pre-text of a new surgery. Despicable....utterly despicable!

Saturday, February 16, 2002

Did US Law Firm pay plaintiffs to file class action suits?

Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, the top law firm in the US, specializing in shareholder suits, is under a federal grand jury investigation for having allegedly employed improper tactics to recruit plaintiffs, including paying kickbacks to lawyers and brokers for referrals. The full text is here.

Milberg has made its reputation by filing suit on behalf of investors against thousands of corporations, accounting firms and investment bankers, alleging shareholder fraud in connection with precipitous drops in stock prices. The firm is seeking to become the lead plaintiffs' counsel in litigation over the collapse of Enron. It has also filed an enormous number of suits against Wall Street firms over allegations of improper IPO allocations and "laddering" stock prices to give them a false appearance of increasing value. In the world of corporate finance, especially among company management, Milberg is viewed as an opportunistic firm that has made a cottage industry of filing "cookie cutter" lawsuits whenever stocks drop by a certain percentage and growing fat on the settlement fees.

In the Philippines, no class action on the basis of securities fraud has ever been filed. Thus, I've often viewed the Philippine securities business as the arena for snakes with no hope for redemption. Sometime in 1997, a group of international banks gathered to file the first major class action suit against SGV & Company (the Philippine affiliate of Andersen Consulting -- think Enron). SGV is the external auditor of many publicly-listed companies. The basis for the proposed class action was the window dressing that the auditing firm made on the financial statements of Victorias Milling Corp. (a publicliy-listed company). The banks relied upon the financial statements to lend money on the cash strapped sugar miller and it turned out that the corporation did not have enough assets to cover its liabilities and the financial statements did not reflect the discrepancy. There was no sugar to support the quedans -- as it were. Eventually, Victorias declared bankruptcy. The banks tried to look for a major law firm to get the case started, but the major law firms declined engagement because of business affiliations with SGV. When they finally got the law firm to represent them, they got too tired and decided to just forget it -- aware of the backlash that they might face if they filed the case against the giant auditing firm. That is why I will never trust my money on Philippine securities. If nobody can take on an auditing firm such as SGV for a malfeasance such as false financial statements, there is no hope for the Philippine securities market.

Which brings us back to the above story -- it is quite sad that the law firm has been implicated in the scandal. But for the Philippines, I wish they establish a local counterpart here just to teach the snakes in the Philippine securities market a lesson.

Saturday, February 09, 2002


Linking Patent Goes to Court

BT Group Plc, a US company, claims that it has a patent covering hypertext links -- i.e., the wonder of the internet that allows anyone to click on a link and go to another webpage like this. A U.S. federal court will hear preliminary arguments next week to determine if this most elemental of Internet activities is the business property of a lone company, protected in the form of a patent.

This one is for overlawyered.com. It is undisputed that this company obtained a 1989 patent on web linking. The web community, however, has pointed to earlier versions of hypertext linking prior to BT Group's obtaining a patent, the earliest of which is 1968 demonstration from Stanford University.Where do you think it's gonna go? If it goes in favor of BT Group, then it is going to be very expensive for each member of the internet community. I pray it doesn't go that way.
RP now Asia’s darling of fund managers

The Manila Bulletin reported the above story here.

That explains the call we got recently from a headhunter looking for an in-house counsel for "major Wall Street bond trader." I told him sorry. I have decided I hate corporate law years ago. Yet, it is quite interesting that the perception of the Philippine securities market has changed remarkably since the BW Scam. Personally, however, I have never trusted this business on securities. Retained earnings, book value, market value -- these are layers of concepts that govern the securities business that are very much susceptible to "creative accounting". A lot of people have fallen for it and had disastrous results. I am contented in eking out a living with measly appearance fees and helping justice become a reality one case at a time. (yeah right.)

Friday, February 08, 2002

NY Attorney Sues Anti-Virus Software Maker over Restrictive Licensing Agreement

The New York state attorney general on Thursday filed a suit against computer security software provider Network Associates on the ground that the company has attempted to censor criticism of its products The issue pertains to the wording in the company's software license agreement which requires Network Associates' consent before publishing reviews of its products or disclosing with third parties results of "benchmark tests" that compare the effectiveness of Network Associates products and competing software. Full ZDNET text here.

This is going to be an interesting case. Network Associates will likely argue that the clause cannot be said to curtail freedom of speech because the user is always free not to get the software in order not to be bound by the prohibition. Yet, civil libertarians will argue that the product involves public interest and the public has the right to know and discuss their views on the consumer product. It can go on and on. Ultimately, however, the court will have to assess its values: Which one is more important the right to freely enter into contracts or the right to free speech? Knowing Americans, it is very likely to go the way of free speech.

Wednesday, February 06, 2002


US Lawmaker charged with Racketeering Told to Behave in Courtroom

In Cleveland, a lawmaker charged with racketeering was warned by the judge to behave in court. Apparently, the lawmaker, who is not a lawyer but is lawyering for himself (what a cheapskate), is indulging in extended speeches in and outside of court to proclaim his innocence. In the process, he is saying the judge is bias and the justice department is being vindictive. Full text here.

This guy will surely go to jail. Nobody should lawyer for himself -- not even a lawyer and more so a non-lawyer. This US lawmaker is toast.


Rules of game change: From Europe to Pak, suspects guilty without trial

An article from The Indian Express notes "The new willingness to expel Islamic terror suspects with little attention to legal proceedings, is not limited to the European Union." It claims that in Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Bosnia, a growing number of suspects have been whisked abroad in recent months without due process. Full text here. Whoa. I'm in trouble. I look like Osama Bin Laden without the beard.

Tuesday, February 05, 2002


German Satanists to be Sentenced

A German couple who say they killed their friend on the orders of the devil are due to be sentenced on Thursday, concluding a case which has rocked the country. Full text here

Okay, how does the law treat these wierdos? Of course, the defense that Satan ordered them to kill their friend is not likely to stand in any court. But can we say that believing in Satan is a sign of insanity? It does not really follow, does it?I don't know. Let's see how the German court will decide this.

Cyber Courts Go Online in the UK

Click here. OK. So I am a defendant in an online case. What if I just turn off my computer and say to hell with you online judges?

Banker testifies on money trail of Jose Velarde Account

A BANK officer testified Monday how 189.7 million pesos in alleged commissions to jailed ex-president Joseph Estrada was moved from the private accounts of businessman Jaime Dichaves to the "Jose Velarde" account allegedly owned by Estrada. Full Inquirer text here. The commission was for the sale of a publicly listed gaming corporation that was purchased from its owners with the use of pensions funds from the Philippine Social Security System (SSS). The trouble with Estrada was he lacked proper legal advice on how to make those transfers clean --unlike former Pres. Marcos who employed brilliant lawyers in hiding kickbacks that 16 years after he was ousted from power and still not a single penny of the loot has been recovered by the government. So, I don't know if I am mad at Estrada for being so corrupt or for being sloppy at being corrupt or for both. In any case, he really is stupid.
Fingers point to lawyers on Enron Scam

According to the Washington Post, "Attorneys from Vinson & Elkins, one of Houston's largest and most prestigious law firms, played a critical role in helping Enron Corp. structure a series of complex partnership deals that helped drive the company into bankruptcy" as attested to by former senior Enron executives and shown by documents.

The report said, the lawyers worked side-by-side with Enron officials and Arthur Andersen accountants to create several off-balance-sheet investment partnerships that are now at the center of government investigations into possible shareholder fraud. The deals helped Enron conceal hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and gave investors a false picture of the company's financial stability.Full text here.

Okay, I knew it. This is another one of those little proofs to that maxim that behind every major scam in the world is a blood-sucking lawyer.

Monday, February 04, 2002

My firm

US jury awards $3.5m to woman who suffered burns from a Starbucks coffee machine

The full BBC text is here. This is probably one major difference that Philippine courts have with the American courts. Philippine courts do not award enough damages to make one rich. If this woman suffered the accident in a Starbucks branch in Manila, she would have gotten not more than PHP 50,000 (US$1,000++) even if she died. Philippine courts believe that damages are not meant to fully compensate a victim of tort but are just awarded for amusements and diversions.(Oh yeah? How's US$1,000 suppose to amuse you when you're dead? Come to think of it, even a million dollars would not be amusing) No wonder most commercial establishments in Manila are not very conscious about the safety of their customers.


Send lawyers to war front for reality check -- The Inquirer screams

The above reaction is addressed to Philippine lawyers who questioned the constitutionality of the Joint US-Filipino Military Exercises being conducted in Southern Philippines. I'm sure those lawyers will be good for target shooting -- with apples on their heads.

Sunday, February 03, 2002

Arizona couple arrested for not putting down Christmas lights

Angelika Flores and her husband, Tony, last year violated a code requiring Christmas decorations to be removed 19 days after the holiday. They were still on the home in April. Thus, one day police came to arrest them. The Vice Mayor of the town called Peoria said the code is on the books to maintain the integrity of neighborhoods. The full text here.

My mouth is still agape. I can't believe there is such a law somewhere.

It's Cheney's turn to do a Nixon.

US Vice Pres. Dick Cheney refuses to divulge to the US Government Accounting Office the work of his energy task force in connection with the Enron scandal. He told the Today Show that he wants to "protect the ability of the president and the vice president to get unvarnished advice from any source we want." Yeah right, it also helps that they received millions in campaign contributions and probably quid pro quo deals with the Enron Group. It sounds like America really elected a pair of lemons to head their country. More analysis from Findlaw here.There is also an engaging explanation on the Enron scam here.

In U.S. v. Nixon, a constitutional law case that is staple in every Philippine law school, Pres. Nixon refused to release his secret tapes by invoking the same arguments that Cheney is now saying -- i.e., executive privilege blah blah blah. What is curious is Cheney knows how U.S. v. Nixon was decided. What makes him think the courts will reverse its ruling now, especially that we know he and Georgie have gone to bed with Enron officials?

I vaguely remember Mr. Cheney getting involved with US-Philippine relations in the distant past but somehow I can't get the details. Nevertheless, let's see if an impeachment trial will ensue on this fiasco. Impeachment is becoming a field of specialization in law since Kenneth Starr did it to tobacco smokin' Bill Clinton (with cigars made in the Philippines). Ex-Pres. Estrada got impeached too. But like most cases in the Philippines, it never reached a legal conclusion when the prosecutors walked out on Congress after a controversial vote on opening an envelope. Of course, Pres. Estrada was ousted after having "constructively resigned". But going back to Cheney, I am pretty sure he is on his way there and Georgie is waiting to join him.

Saturday, February 02, 2002


Somebody please pull the plug on this Howe lawyer

There is this guy who is writing about a website on how lawyers cheat their clients. Click here. C'mon...are you that rich already?

A Turning Point for MBAceron.com

This lawyerly stuff has become such a drag. Let's loosen up a little with some midi background music and a dancing buddy. Aside from that, we'll try to effect a less formal and more personable style. But focus will still be on things lawyerly -- law, lawyers, lie, liars... har har har... get the drift? We're changing our taglines too. "Law News and Comments"is so boring. Please stay tuned for other changes.



Overlawyered.com explores an American legal system that too often turns litigation into a weapon against guilty and innocent alike, erodes individual responsibility, rewards sharp practice, enriches its participants at the public's expense, and resists even modest efforts at reform and accountability. (Sounds like what one might say about the Philippine legal system as well, but for the fact that it lacks the "C" word -- as in "corrupt") Says Yahoo Internet Life, Aug. 24, 2000: "odes to odious lawyering...(Overlawer.com) chronicles how attorneys clog the drain of American life." Check it out regularly. I like it so much it will be a permanent link here.
Aborigines claim kangaroo copyright

In Australia, a group of Aborigines has lodged a high court writ, seeking to stop the government from using the kangaroo and the emu on the national coat of arms.

The Aboriginal activists say the representation of the animals - which they regard as sacred totems - is a breach of copyright.

The activists are accusing the Commonwealth of Australia of cultural theft, saying it could not prove it had been given written permission to use the images. Full text here.

Friday, February 01, 2002

Worker suspended over lost baby

A hospital in Kent (England) which temporarily lost the remains of a dead baby has revealed it suspended a mortuary worker after the error. Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup said the male worker, who has not been named, had returned to work - under close supervision. The remains of baby James Fernandez were put through a hot wash after he went missing from the hospital. Full text here.

If this thing happened in a Philippine hospital, the worker would surely be terminated from employment (of course, after being beaten to pulp by the father).