Loren Legarda: Avenue Of Green Trees, Poetry And Dreams

by: jun asuncion                                                                           



Loren Legarda, Joyce Kilmer and The Sniper – What connects them together? It’s their love or need for trees.

loren1Loren Legarda, a  Filipina senator. Loren’s love for trees is known,  a love which manifested itself early in childhood. She claims to have had a happy childhood “climbing trees and playing jackstones” in that Malabon compound where she grew up. She took this love for the trees with her all her life. Last year,  her “Luntiang Pilipinas” (Green Philippines), the urban forestry program founded by Loren which has already planted millions of trees across the Philippines, celebrated its 10th Anniversary launching at the same time the 10 million trees campaign. It’s a plus for all of us Filipinos, for nature and for  the other species dependent on trees. Indeed, it’s much more pleasant to imagine to have 10 million trees more, than to have 10 million trees less in the few years to come.






kilmer_joyceJoyce Kilmer, an American writer, poet and soldier, a man from another place and time. He was born on December 6, 1886 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Joyce Kilmer wrote the famous poem  “Trees” on February 2, 1913, in the Kilmer home in Mahwah, New Jersey. Every pupil on earth taking up American literature  knows this poem- or has to memorize this poem at one point in his elementary years. Let’s visit this poem again: 


                  –  Trees –

   I think that I shall never see
   A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.




sniperThe Unknown, a German sniper.

He, too, was sent to France probably the same year as Kilmer. The training of a sniper was hard and demanded precision in all kinds of situations. Imperial Germany was the first to use snipers in war and they were dreaded by their enemies for their deadliness and efficiency because of their training and their high-quality manufactured scope lenses mounted on their equally high quality rifles. Yet snipers were taught not only to pick off their targets but above all to respect and be one with the environment that conceals them, with the stones, grass, vines and green trees.


 A Filipina legislator between an American Poet and a German Sniper. Three for the road, three kinds of trade, three nationalities that met in the avenue of green trees, poetry and dreams.

The End. The poet and soldier Kilmer fought for the United States during the First World War against Germany and was killed in France on July 30, 1918 at the age of 31-  by this  unknown German sniper who probably was himself on a tree or beside it when his scope spotted the scouting Kilmer somewhere  on a hill. His bullet pierced through Kilmer’s soft, poetic head, killing him instantly.

“It was a dirty way to die!
To put a bullet through your head
And make a silly woman cry!”

The irony of fate never dies. These lines above were authored also by Kilmer before he went to war, from his poem “To a Young Poet Who Killed Himself”. Time  and space transcending, this German sniper would have  cried out himself:

“It was a dirty way to kill!
To shoot a bullet through your head,
Oh, poor poet Kilmer.
And make a woman senator cry!”

Three events in history, three people doing their duty- and a love that connects them, the love for the tree. The poet Kilmer immortalized the tree with his poem, and if the target in his scope shared his love or need for the trees, that German sniper had no way of knowing it. He was  just doing his duty.

The Beginning. And so is Loren until now, just doing her duty as she keeps on planting trees. For her, it’s a sacred duty, a homage to that old love for the trees in Malabon compound that gave her coolness and shades during those hot summer vacation days, trees that she climbed and in whose bosom she perhaps dreamed of the possibilities that life would offer her once she gets to Manila to study- and to work.

Dreams came true but this was no reason to stop working for long ago she was saddened by the fact that Kilmer’s Trees were disappearing, landslides and floods were taking the lives of farmers and that  the global warming has now come to take its toll.

But now is no time for tears but is high time to act,  to resort to the power of the pen by writing legislation and to take up the shovel and help plant trees. Loren authored a number of legislation including those for our environment which have been passed into laws and her Luntiang Pilipinashas been building urban parks for years already. As she admits, her greening campaign is not aimed at competing the tree planting program by other organizations from other sectors or the annually held Arbor Day but to supplement them by focusing on restoring green in cities and municipalities by developing Forest Parks and planting trees along roadsides.

Sincerity is seen in the constancy of action over long period of time, a moral value that is scarce in a ningas-cogon infested political landscape. We all know that politics is never an easy arena in the Philippines and it is virtually impossible, if not naive, to expect to find a spotless, angelic public servant. For no matter how a politician tries to stay honestly to his belief and good principles, there are just moments in a politician’s life where principles and values collide with each other, where one has to make compromises even between two or more good arguments that seem to contradict each other at a given point in time and situation. But what counts is that the politician stays by his  duty and good intentions for his constituents- which he cannot always please- and that he  is aware that he is sacrificing a good principle for a more higher one. This is not always easy to explain to the conditioned public mind. For man’s perception of things around him is greatly influenced by the past and current events and that man even tends to re-interpret the past differently depending on the current events, also the reason behind why Luntiang Pilipinas is becoming more and more of a necessity than just a style and why Kilmer’s poem- which turned ninety-six years old this month-  is gaining popularity again because of current destruction of trees and the life threatening effects of global warming.

Be that as it may, today’s Filipinos should free their mind from the myriad of trivial things that divert it from the most essential in Philippine politics. Our judgment should never be based upon trivialities that we hear and see that only muddle our mind but on the essence and substance of a political argument or result. Loren’s legislative achievements, the laws and pending  Bills which she authored for us and her staunch engagement to ecological preservation and restoration are solid facts that attest to the essence and substance of this lady senator. These facts should simply guide our judgement when we contemplate about our future.

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 Bulan Observer


Note: Official photos provided to Bulan Observer by Senator Loren  Legarda through her press relations head Jing Magsaysay. / jun asuncion


  For The Record:


Loren seeks Senate probe on relief aid for Bicol folk.

Publication: Manila Bulletin
Date: Sunday, August 12 2007
Senator Loren Legarda said the other day she would call for a Senate investigation into complaints by Bicol victims of last year’s disastrous typhoons and floods that the foreign relief assistance intended for them had not been sufficiently distributed.
Loren was reacting to an interview
over radio DWAR in which she was asked to react to the report of Bicol Bishop Lucilo Quiambao that many victims of the previous year’s typhoons and floods in Bicol had complained that foreign and local relief assistance intended for them did not reach them.
“I think this calls for a Senate investigation,” Loren said.
In the same interview, Loren also urged the government and civil society to step up the program of reforestation and dredging of rivers to prevent floods that cost heavy damage to lives and properties during the rainy season.
Loren said that more trees should be planted in urban and rural areas, as well as in deforested localities, to control floods during the rainy season.
She also declared that the national and local governments, as well as the barangays, should conduct sustained and intensified efforts to clean canals, rivers and other waterways of garbage and other debris so as to enable rainwater to flow smoothly.
Loren said she would intensify the activities of her Luntiang Filipinas (Green Philippines) Foundation which has already planted two million trees throughout the country to improve the environment and prevent floods.
Informed about complaints by Bicolresidents that millions of pesos in foreign and local financial assistance given to them in connection with last year’s disastrous floods have not reached them in adequate amounts, Loren agreed that there is indeed need for a Senate investigation on the matter.
Loren said that the Department of Welfare and Social Development and other government relief agencies should see to it that relief assistance to victims of typhoons, earthquakes and other natural or man-made calamities should be fully and immediately given the victims to accomplish the desired relief.
“I think Congress should pass legislation that would ensure that disaster and emergency relief aid should be totally and properly distributed to calamity victims by providing for penalties for fraud and negligence in the distribution of relief goods,” Loren explained.
Asked to react about the latest survey finding of Pulse Asia that she was the “most trusted” public figure in the Philippines, Loren declared that she was indeed thankful to the people for giving her this distinction. “I consider this a great responsibility and a further obligation to work harder for the good of our people in order to fulfill their expectations,” Loren told radio station DZAR.
Informed that the survey could encourage moves to make her run for president in 2010, Loren said that she is not at present thinking of the presidential elections.


7  of 30 measures passed by Senate penned by Loren                                                                      


Sen. Loren Legarda authored seven of the 30 bills that had been passed on third reading by the Senate, just one year into the 14th Congress.
“I’m inspired and elated considering the number of my colleagues who are all pushing for the passage of their respective pet bills,” said Legarda.

She stressed that the passage of her bills and the veritable adoption by the House of bills for which she had filed counterpart measures at the Senate are motivating her to work doubly hard.

“It’s work, work, work for me, in and out of the Senate session halls. If it’s not physically impossible, I’d like to be a 24/7 senator since there’s no end to what we can do, in and out of the Senate, to fight poverty and improve the quality of life of our people,” Legarda said.

Legarda is also an environmental advocate, being the chair and founder of Luntiang Pilipinas. Likewise, she’s been working to alleviate poverty, improve education, and push women’s health and empowerment through foundations she had established.

Her seven bills that had been passed by the Senate are the Batas Kasambahay Act, the Cheaper Medicines Act, Environmental Awareness through Education Act, Decriminalizing Vagrancy, Strengthening and Expanding the Special Program for the Employment of Students, the Pre-Need Code, and Act Lowering the Amusement Tax on the Film Industry.

Of the 52 bills passed on third reading by the House, seven have Senate counterparts that Legarda also authored.

Theseare House Bill 375 or the Billion Trees Act, HB 3293 on amendments to the Bureau of Food and Drugs Act, HB 4114 amending the Provincial Water Utilities Act, HB 4253 creating the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, HB 3956 or the Career Executive System Act, HB 4193 or the Renewable Energy Act, and HB 1387 creating the Disabilities Affairs Office.


RP’s Sen. Loren Legarda: The first to be appointed “Champion” for disaster risk reduction
December 2, 20086:44 pm by pna
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec. 2 – The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) secretariat has appointed Senator Loren Legarda of the Philippines as the first “champion” for disaster risk reduction.
The is the first time UNISDR, the UN body which promotes disaster prevention, is engaging a high level parliamentarian to champion and support its advocacy work.

UNISDR Director Salvano Bricenoannounced the appointment at a news conference in conjunction with the Third Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction which began here today at the Putra World Trade Centre.

Speaking to reporters, Legarda said, the appointment would inspire her to work harder.

“There is no more fitting time to say that reducing disaster risks is a moral imperative, a social responsibility, than in these times of growing vulnerabilities and persistent poverty and suffering caused by disasters,” she said.

She said now was the time to translate political commitment into concrete actions at national and local government levels, as countries were still far from achieving the goals of the Hyogo Framework for Action.

Legarda, a former broadcast journalist, among other things, founded the “Luntiang Pilipinas” (Green Philippines) in 1998 to promote public awareness on various issues concerning the environment and had also received the Philippines’ Ten Outstanding Young Men and Women Award.

More recently, in October this year, Legarda, together with UNISDR, convened the first consultative meeting with parliamentarians on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in Manila.

The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. (PNA/Bernama)


People urged to remain vigilant on Cha-cha drive

Sen. Loren Legarda called on the people yesterday to be vigilant in discerning the true intentions of those pushing to amend the Constitution.
Legarda said Filipinos have reason to be wary that the government may be floating the idea of Charter change anew to extend the term of the present administration.

She lauded the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines led by its president, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, for taking a stand against tampering with the organic law of the land to serve ulterior motives.

“Charter change per seis not bad, but because of the seeming underhanded intention of the government, people are left wondering why Charter change is being pushed,” Senator Legarda said.

The senator was among the first to question the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on Ancestral Domain between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). She said the Arroyo administration may have seen it as an opportunity to revive the call for Charter change when constitutional issues were raised on certain provisions in the MoA.

“Now that the MoA is scheduled for a thorough review, there is no apparent necessity to revive the call for Charter change at this time” Legarda said.


Manila Bulletin Online

Loren wins Indian environmental award

Former senator Loren Legarda will be conferred the prestigious Global Award in the Field of the Environmentby the Priyadarshni Academy of India during its 20th anniversary celebration at the Hotel Oberoi Towers in Mumbai, India on Sept. 19.
Listed in 2001 in the Global 500 Honor Roll of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), Legarda was recognized by the Indian organization for leading a successful environmental conservation program and helping craft Philippine conservation laws while serving as senator.

“It affords us great pleasure to inform you that the Priyadarshni Academy has decided to confer upon you its prestigious Global Award,” said academy chairman Nanik Rupani and Global Awards advisory committee chairman Dr. Ram Tarneja in their letter to Legarda.

“The Academy�s awards function is an opportunity for us to accord acknowledgment and felicitate outstanding achievements of distinguished individuals in their respective disciplines like literature, fine arts, athletics, environment protection, science and technology and such endeavors that promote social welfare and contribute to national and global development,” they said.

Legarda would be joining the ranks of Priyadarshni honorees like Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri, former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, Sir Adrian Cadbury of Cadbury Schweppes, and Sharp Corp. Japan President Katsuhiko Machida, among others.

The academy is a sociocultural organization founded in 1985 to promote internal relations, national integration and brotherhood, adult and children�s literacy, nutrition, and care for the handicapped and to raise awareness about drug addiction and diseases like AIDS.

Like the UNEP, the Priyadarshni Academy has decided to make Legarda its honoree for the protection of the environment for her highly successful environmental campaign that includes planting over a million trees all over the country through her Luntiang Pilipinas Foundation.

She was also cited for her active participation in the enactment of significant environmental legislation like the Philippine Clean Air Act (RA 8479), Mt. Kitanglad Protected Area Act (RA8978), Batanes Protected Area Act (RA 8991), and the Integrated Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003).

Among her priority measures when she was a senator were the Clean Water Bill, Sustainable Forest Management Act, and the National Landmarks Conservation Act.



Loren tops Pulse Asia survey on RP’s most trusted public figures

Senatorial candidate Loren Legarda, a consistent survey topnotcher, is also the most trusted public figure in the country, according to the latest Pulse Asia nationwide poll conducted from April 21 to 25.
The Genuine Opposition candidate garnered 65 percent of the votes of 1,800 respondents.

Legarda is followed by Senator Manny Villar, 57 percent; Representative Francis Escudero 54 percent; Senator Francis Pangilinan, 52 percent; Representative Noynoy Aquino, 51 percent; Senator Panfilo Lacson, 50 percent; Representative Alan Peter Cayetano, 48 percent; Senator Edgardo Angara, 48 percent; Senator Mar Roxas, 47 percent; and Senator Joker Arroyo, 44 percent.

“I am honored by this survey result as it is not easy to earn someone’s trust, much more the trust of the entire nation,” Legarda said.

Like Legarda, Villar, Escudero, Aquino, Lacson and Cayetano are running under the opposition slate.

The former senator also topped the Pulse Asia survey held on the same dates getting a 59.6 percent acceptance rating.

In the same trust rating survey, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo only got 26 percent while former President Fidel V. Ramos was two points lower with 24 percent.

On the other hand, former Presidents Corazon Aquino and Joseph Estrada got 42 percent, and 38 percent respectively.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) scored 32 percent, but Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. got a measly 18 percent.

The election watchdog National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) got 33%.

Independent senatorial candidate former Senator Gringo Honasan and 1990 bar topnotcher Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III have trust ratings of 43% and 39%, respectivel

For more Facts about Senator Legarda, please click here  for the Archives of Manila Bulletin Online

or here  for the Senate Press Release Archives.

 …………………………………..  End  …………………………..

Arroyo’s AO 255: The Last Insult To The Filipino Mind


Chiz Escudero seems to be reading Bulan Observer for now he just dared President Arroyo to “show sincerity in her moral renewal campaign”, this just after I have posted Strengths And Weaknesses Of  The Filipino Political Character where I used the concept of sincerity as the foundation of a sustainable political culture. Yet,  kidding aside, such a simple concept as sincerity can make a big world of difference to the status of a nation. This is the very reason why the Philippines is not Switzerland – it’s because of the lack of sincerity among our heads of states. Take away sincerity among the Swiss politicians and you’ll get a poor and languishing Switzerland, perhaps poorer than the Philippines because its geography is poor, just piles of gigantic rocks and ice.  No matter how  the Philippines islands abound with natural wealth, poverty is everywhere when leaders are not sincere,  though one thing  is sure to abound: corruption.

But Eduardo Ermita declares that corruption is unknown in Malacanang, suggesting that his president is a very sincere public official when he points out that, “There’s no question whatsoever that President Arroyo has the highest moral standard to make a call on moral recovery” being elected president and head of some 89 million Filipinos.

Again, such statement can only come from the logic of greed – that’s why the distortion of facts. First, Arroyo achieved the highest ascendancy of power by electoral fraud  and vote buying, not by having the highest  ascendancy of moral standard during and after the election. The end does not always justify the means. She partly bought herself to power ( ask Joc-Joc Bolante for details) and partly “called”  herself to power (call Garci also for details). Second, becoming a president by whatever means does not automatically put you into the highest ascendancy of moral standard, you  have to work for it once in office and in case of Mrs. Arroyo she should have instructed her husband Mr. Arroyo to stay away from Broadband and World bank projects and other frauds.  An Abbu Sayyaf rebel, were he to become president would not automatically remove the terrorist in him. Third, she’s head only to those who elected her legally and out of free will and choice but certainly not the head to all the other Filipinos who

  • elected her not by by free choice,
  • did not exist or once existed before 2004 but dead since then ( but whose names appeared on the list of voters)
  • and to those who did not elect her at all.

Ermita is good at reminding us that there are now 89 million Filipinos, but his logic of greed would want us to believe his shallow  trick again with this figure by associating it with  calculated subtlety the pleasant adjectives “elected” and “head of state”, suggesting to our subconscious the  mandate of 89 million Filipinos to Arroyo. What a head is this Ermita. I guess, he attended some lectures in general psychology, if not, a magician school somewhere in Quiapo. Without Arroyo, he might have been a successful executive magician by now. Again, be that as it may, I hope the Ifugaos, Igorots, Tausugs, Samals and all the other national minorities, the MILF including  Abbu Sayaf and his people, the  communist NPA and the opposition sector, the many OFW’s, the missing student and union leaders and journalists, those millions of jobless, those parents and relatives of the victims of extra-judicial killings, the Smoky Mountain people, those  living families housing in cemeteries, those children in prisons or children working in mines and all the sex workers  were also included in this 89 million Filipinos who- as Mr. Ermita claims- consider Mrs. Arroyo as their head. Again, what a head.

In summary, the 2004 election was not an affirmation of Arroyo’s moral ascendancy, as Ermita claims, but a negation thereof.

Do you consider somebody your president even if you did not elect her? Perhaps a good performance would change your mind, but in Arroyo’s case the Philippines plummeted into abysmal depths of corruption scandals and human rights violations, rated very low internationally in all categories, so I don’t think you would change your mind. It’s  not only too late, but your trust is simply not there. And she is not being sincere. And without sincerity, how would she lead a moral renewal program-  and all that  in the last minutes? She reminds me of Jose De Venezia whose logic is familiar to us; he also called for a last minute- moral revolution.

Arroyo implemented last January 30 the Administrative Order 255 (AO 255) “directing the heads of the executive departments to lead moral renewal in their agencies”. Again, a tricky order for if you examine it closely, this is an empty order for the agencies for it doesn’t hit the core of the issue- i.e., the whereabouts of the stolen money or money to be stolen in the future. But this maybe is  substantial for her own interests in connection with the corruption charges facing her husband. Empty for it doesn’t provide solid legal  mechanisms that could help investigators in the corruption hearings  in the senate to-date and in the future. All in all, this AO 255 sounds fairly similar to a Sunday sermon that people listen to but forget the next moment.

Escudero countered and showed more substance when he –  in conjunction with this AO 255- dared Arroyo to “show her sincerity by endorsing the passage of SB No. 1746, which aims to exempt government officials from the Bank Secrecy Act, and SB No. 1242 that seeks to penalize influence peddling or the mere act of representing oneself to another person having a transaction or request with the government.”

That’s what has been lacking in this administration,- substance,  a substance that would have assured each Filipino family three square meals a day and send their children to  school and find employment. We know that Arroyo neglected our educational system, sacrificed national interests for her own private interests, that her administration has practically squeezed out everything that is positive in the Filipino and stripped the country of its remaining decent clothing before the world. Now, she wants to make up for everything by calling for a moral renewal, which is the last-  we hope – of her series of  insults to the Filipino mind. For her dance with Cha-Cha we know that she has no more chance and barely the time that should hold her calculating, capricious mind.

 Hence, it is propitious that we have vigilant young senators like Escudero, Lacson and Legarda that serve as our windbreak from the typhoons that come from Malacañang that have  for years blown the Filipino spirit to apathy and catapulted millions of citizens out of the country. We have to respect these young senators, judge them not according to some trivial issues, but to the substance of their legislative works and political arguments.


 jun asuncion

Bulan Observer


—————-Related News———————————-

Senate Press Release

February 18, 2009

Show sincerity in moral renewal drive
Chiz dares Arroyo to back 2 anti-corruption measures

Senator Chiz Escudero on Wednesday dared President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to show sincerity in her “moral renewal” campaign by backing two anti-corruption bills seeking the exemption of government officials from the Bank Secrecy Law and imposing penalties on influence peddlers in government.

He made the call after Arroyo ordered Cabinet officials to lead a “moral renewal” campaign following the latest allegations of corruption involving the First Gentleman and other former solons and officials of her administration. “A legacy of corruption is the last thing you want the public to remember you by when you step down from office,” he said in a statement.

Escudero said Arroyo can show her sincerity by endorsing the passage of SB No. 1746, which aims to exempt government officials from the Bank Secrecy Act, and SB No. 1242 that seeks to penalize influence peddling or the mere act of representing oneself to another person having a transaction or request with the government.

He pointed out that the allegations of bid-rigging in the World Bank road-building project, as well as the purported payoffs in the case of the “Alabang Boys”, requires immediate, strong corrective responses from government.

“The law should not be a refuge of scoundrels posing as public servants,” said Escudero.

Last January 30, Arroyo issued Administrative Order 225 ordering cabinet officials to launch “moral renewal” campaigns in their respective agencies.

“The public trust in government has been eroded by numerous allegations of wrongdoing by government officials and personalities close to the administration,” the opposition senator said.

As chair of the committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws, Escudero held a hearing last Tuesday on proposed changes to the government procurement act. He filed SB No. 1476 in 2007 in a bid to plug loopholes in the Government Procurement Act.

“Transparency and open governance should be the norm because that’s the only way we can truly clean up the system and restore public trust,” he emphasized.

Escudero said it is the poor who are ultimately the victims of corruption in government, pointing out that it diverts funds intended for crucial social services – such as healthcare, education and housing.


PGMA’s election in 2004 affirmed her moral ascendancy, says Ermita , Press secretary

As an elected leader of the land, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has all the qualifications, particularly the moral ascendancy to lead the nation in the implementation of a moral renewal program for government agencies.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita pointed this out in reply to some administration critics questioning the credibility of the President in the implementation of Administrative Order 255 (AO 255), which she signed on Jan. 30 “directing the heads of the executive departments to lead moral renewal in their agencies.”

“There’s no question whatsoever that President Arroyo has the highest moral standard to make a call on moral recovery,” Ermita said noting that in 2004 she was elected president of the philippines and head of some 89 million Filipinos.

Last week, the President issued AO 255 tasking all her Cabinet officials and agency heads to implement a moral renewal program in their respective agencies in coordination with religious and civic groups that include measures for values formation and zero tolerance for corruption.

Under the AO, the President wants all Cabinet officials and heads of offices to ensure that all attached agencies and bureaus adopt and implement the Integrity Development Action Plan (IDAP), which is part of the National Anti-Corruption Framework for the executive branch.

The President said the department heads should also expand and strengthen the membership of the integrity committee in every department, agency, bureau and office and the moral renewal should also include the conduct of values formation activities with the Presidential Council on Values Formation.

All agencies shall submit their respective action plans for their Moral Renewal Program to the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC), copy furnished the President, within 90 days upon the effectivity of the administrative order.

Agencies were also directed to allocate a portion of their maintenance, operations and overhead expenditures budget to fund values formation and anti-corruption programs.

The President said the PAGC would monitor and evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of the moral renewal program to include surveys of personnel from all levels.

Cactus Of The Week

cactusWho likes Cactus? From afar, no doubt Cacti are beautiful ornamental plants especially when in bloom, but Noli Mi Tangere- Dont’ Touch Me, or Stay Away From Me- is the clear message of this thorny succulent plant that we find everywhere in Bulan. Hence, for security purposes, Cacti are often used by homeowners as fences around their houses to prevent intruding animals or persona non grata (unwelcome or unauthorized person) from entering private properties.

Now, since February 2009 we have a new species of cactus in Bulan called the Fabricae Cactaceae, Fabrican Cactus, for the failure of Mayor Helen de Castro and her PIO-chief Tony Boy Gilana to officially inform the public about the alleged NPA attack on the property of the mayor in Fabrica is a clear message of Noli Me Tangere to the general public. The public is considered unauthorized to know more about the truth of the said NPA raid. However, the mayor cannot contend that it was purely a private affair for the quality and magnitude of that incident in her household warrants public interest and scrutiny- and being the mayor she is- also in such events- accountable to the people anytime and anywhere.

We can only hope that the sharp thorns of this Fabrican Cactus fence around the house of Mayor Helen De Castro will be enough to provide security, to deter and hurt only real intruding persona non grata in the future- but not the concerned and observing people of Bulan.

For all their efforts in evading public information regarding the NPA raid, Bulan Observer awards the Cactus Of The Week to Mayor Helen De Castro and Tony Boy Gilana.

Bulan Observer

/jun asuncion



Dondon De Castro


Submitted on 2009/03/20 at 7:25am

Good day to all, this is the first time I visited your website and this is also the first time I read this article of yours. The NPA raid that occurred in our home was not in Brgy. Fabrica, our home is currently located in Brgy. J.P. Laurel. It occurred on February 3, 2009. At that time, Mayor Helen de Castro and former Mayor Guiming de Castro was not at home. They were both in Manila at that time. I was the only person left in our home and I was the one who encountered the armed men. On that day itself, after the raid I immediately reported the incident to the proper authority and on the same day also some of the members of the media came to our home. This included the ABS-CBN, local radio stations from Sorsogon City, media men from Bulan Sorsogon and on the next day, Bombo radyo of Legaspi City also called and asked about the incident. As I also believe, that my interview on ABS-CBN was also aired on ABS-CBN Legaspi on Feb. 4, 2009.

Mayor Helen de Castro, arrived in Bulan on Feb 12. My parents Ex-Mayor Guiming as being the father of the house and Mayor Helen de Castro as a public official made a press con on February 15, 2009 to talk and react about the incident. Almost all of the media from the province of Sorsogon was there; you can verify it to them. A press release was also made by the NPA that they were responsible for the said raid. The incident was tackled and talked about in the media for almost a week not just here in Bulan but also in the whole province of Sorsogon and Legaspi City. The Bombo Radyo legaspi also published the incident in their website as well as the Philippine Star and the Manila Tonite.

The truth is, we did not hinder the public to be informed about the incident. We were open for interviews because we know that the whole town is concern about the incident. Although we may have short comings of not publishing it on the internet, rest assured that next time an issue should be informed to the public. We will try to ask for your help in informing our other kababayans from abroad knowing that your website is garnering more and more viewers and visitors from different countries each day. I am also willing to further enlighten you of the incident if you are interested.

DIOS mabalos sa ato.





Submitted on 2009/03/20 at 11:26pm

To Mr. Dondon De Castro

It’s good to have you here in Bulan Observer to address your Kabungtos a first-hand report of the NPA raid that happened in your household. I thank you for that and I know that your visit already generated much interest from our Kabungtos and other readers as well who are interested about our town Bulan for as you can see under the Ten Most Viewed Posts Today -which is a site statistics automatically generated (counted) by wordpress.com – this quick post Cactus Of the Week rose quickly to the top.

You know that we meet here in Bulan Observer for only one purpose, and that is to put our views and concerns for our town, there is really nothing personal in intention, though I cannot discount the possibility that people’s feelings are never touched just because I say nothing is personal. I cannot seek protection from this phrase “nothing is personal”for politics is always dealing primarily with people, not with non-living things. But I can only assure you and everybody else that- like you- my purpose is to help put our town forward. If we are aware of the fact that politics- as anything else that points to civilization- begins in the mind, then Bulan Observer has also a role to play in the progress of our town for here one will find the thoughts and emotions of our Kabungtos- as reflected in their views and concerns they post.

Information is extremely important and we all know that distance has been made virtually non-existent with today’s technology. I can be first informed about- let’s say a house fire in Bulan if a friend from there would send me right away an sms (text)- than the neighbor (or even dweller) of that burning house who is watching television, for instance. At the same time I could be instantly mis-informed also by the same technology. What I am driving at is the importance of using this technology to the fullest to one’s advantage.

The LGU-Bulan should use this technology to its advantage now. It’s no more an excuse for today’s young leaders who grew up with this technology to be the last to be informed about what is going on in his constituents’ mind or how the nation or the world is watching his town. Obama’s extensive use of this technology has helped him a lot to become the first black president. Senator Escudero and Senator Legarda are active in Internet beside their full agendas. They even visited Bulan Observer.

For the errors in this post Cactus Of The Week, I take the Cactus back- however only the half of it, the other half should remain by Mayor Helen de Castro and Tony Boy Gilana. For as you said you have informed several media agencies after that NPA raid. This is true for I have read them all. But about that press conference and interviews called by Mr. and Mrs. Mayor De Castro, there was no record of it. All the printed news related to this event were just normal news, written in concise form and addressed to an unknown public. What I was expecting was a clarifying official report of our Mayor addressed specifically and directly to the people of Bulan- for it was no ordinary event, it was a state of emergency for our little town- and for you being held at gun-point. But she might have done this over the local radio station as she used to do in the past- usually Radio Fm1, and Mr. Imbing Asuncion of Radio Patrol may not have uploaded the recordings of this report or maybe he is no longer working as a radio man. But this can be verified easily.

To recapitulate, it was a case of not using actively today’s technology to the advantage of Bulan. I used the technology immediately to condemn that raid (see We Condemn Violence in Bulan) even while at work right after I have read about it. I asked other people about it, some knew about what happened, some didn’t know. It is for this “some didn’t know “- group of people who heard about it only later but who wanted to catch up and know more about the details that we could draw our advantage from today’s technology by using it in time to place any audio or visual (video or printed) documentation that would help this group. In politics, you can secure your position only by helping your people.

Bulan Observer is there to help and support publicly any argument that puts our town forward. Feel free to make use of this platform for future messages.

I thank you for your post – and for your works for our town. For A Brighter Bulan!

jun asuncion

Strengths And Weaknesses Of The Filipino Political Character

by: jun asuncion

Part 1: The Virtue Of Sincerity As The Foundation Of Sustainable Political Culture

Lack or flawed sincerity  underlies our socio-political underdevelopment. What is sincerity? Webster dictionary defines it as honesty of mind and intention. It is therefore closely related to honesty. The political Filipinos have the fondness of making things complicated; they corrupt a simple thought or action habitually and they are now trapped within this system they created themselves. The whole nation seems to have been trapped by this system. Personal interaction is reflected in national politics. For after all, the individual trees define the quality of the forest.  This is implied in the Confucian’s Analects which contain the following statement in Chapter I:

(主忠信。毋友不如己者。過,則勿憚改。)Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles. Then no friends would not be like yourself (all friends would be as loyal as yourself). If you make a mistake, do not be afraid to correct it.”

Simply put, a sincere leader produces sincere followers. A sincere president gathers around him sincere public officials.  Just look at what the insincere presidents in the past and the insincere incumbent president have done: They have ruined the political culture and the national economy. These presidents produced insincere politicians all over the country and an overall primitive and stupor political culture, making all existing political structures dysfunctional. While blessed with abundant natural resources and enough labor force inside and outside (OFW), and while the world organizations are sincerely sending their developmental funds to Manila, the  character-deformed and greed-driven politicians were- and are busy channeling these funds to their own bank accounts under the protective shields of  Bank Secrecy laws  and the constitutional Right Of Privacy.

Lack of sincerity complicates and weakens human transactions of all kinds. Not to support Abbu Sayaf, Al-Qaeda  and any form of terrorist or mafia organisations or rebels like the Tamil Tigers, NPA or MILF, etc., but I guess,  viewed within their organisational and operational context, sincerity is not a rare commodity among these people for the price of insincerity is very high. The result of their success is obvious for until now government forces the world over have failed to destroy them and the truth of their indestructibility is proven with each day. On the other side, our laws paradoxically protect the insincere and erring government servants. It appears therefore that all efforts displayed publicly of fighting poverty, corruption, insurrection and a better political system are helpless for  until now we still do not have a government that’s sincerely addressing these issues.

It’s not that we Filipinos are born thieves but we are not sincere with our ethical-moral standards, leading us easily to transgress them in case of  material insufficiency, opportunity or  power afforded to one by virtue of his office. The Philippines is one of the most plundered nations in the world- by its own civil servants. And when a president, a state prosecutor or an agrarian under-secretary steal public funds, it is definitely  not only a case of character weakness but  an act of treachery. This logic of greed cascades from top to bottom at high speed from the national to the local governments down to the barangays, thus destroying the very foundations of political culture and the socio-economic structures of the nation almost irretrievably.

What is Character?

Again our Webster: 1. Character is the sum of qualities by which a person (or a thing) is distinguished from others ; 2. Charater is the stamp impressed by nature, education or habit.

Filipino Weaknesses: 

1. Utang Na Loob (Debt Of Gratitude). Up to a certain point it is a virtue, but too much is a trap in itself.  We Filipinos exaggerated this trait unwittingly believing this was natural to us, hence, good. In truth, this is a colonial residue. This is not strength but rather a weakness for it is built upon our belief that we Filipinos were of lesser value. This resulted to over-subjugation in order to survive. Filipinos did survive, but heavily damaged from within. This exaggerated Utang Na Loob prevented the Filipinos from developing that Selbst-Bewusstsein or Self -Confidence necessary to get out of our miserable situation. The revolutions freed the Filipinos from the oppressors physically, but the oppressed has remained in their psyche. Applied into  politics, this trait is at the core of corruption for this prevents the mind from siding to the ideals of common good but rather reduces it to side with things or with people whom the political Filipinos are indebted to -or beholden to- in one way or another.

2. Crab-Mentality. This is what divides the Filipinos as one people and therefore prevents the building of a  progressive nation. For instead, we pull each other down out of envy or just plain egotism. We cannot replace  burdensome administration  if each of us chooses rather to solo his fight and achieves nothing. This is the weakness of the opposition against the incumbent administration: Each prominent opposition politician is running for presidency instead of rallying their forces together behind one candidate of their own. The opposition in the Philippines is splittered, kanya-kanya. In politics, nothing great is accomplished by a lone wolf. The administration has the greater command because aside for its  established political machinery, they have the support of local governments who are dependent on them, and so it is  most likey that the administration’s candidate will win the election. And so the stupor of governance remains; our nation doesn’t move forward but rather backwards- like a crab.

3. Ningas-Cogon. This reinforces the crab in us for this means total retreat after taking a few steps to the front. Good politics can achieve something substantial if it is held on a steady course over time. The same way with fighting for a cause. Nothing will happen if the people cannot stay and fight to the end. To come and go as you wish is never a big help to your team. With this, nothing will ever be accomplished.

4. Mañana Habit. This is the reason why everything has been delayed in our country. We push everything for tomorrow, so don’t ask for progress now for with this habit, progress will never be a thing of today but will always be a thing of tomorrow. This habit, combined with ningas-cogon, utang na loob and with the crab on top with bad choice and lacking in sincerity, then you have the perfect picture of the Philippine society of today – and, maybe, of tomorrow. A number of beautiful laws have been created but their implementations are pushed for tomorrow, good bills are made to wait for years before passed into laws therefore allowing crimes  to happen which could have been prevented.

Hiya or Shyness, false modesty, self-deprication are interrelated qualities which are typically overemphasized among Filipinos. Again, depending on the degree of manifestation they could be “strengths” in that they give the Filipino character that distinctive flavor or even attractiveness for other observers. Psychologically, it is an expression of a deep-seated complex of inferiority – being hit by the rod for centuries.

 Filipino Strengths:

1. Strong Family Orientation (Family-ties). After all these years, I still consider this trait as our strongest strength for it is the reason behind why the Philippines is still existing even in the face of high migration, internal conflicts, political and economic crises: The Filipino families just stay together. Filipinos abroad normally go back home even after years of being away simply because of their loyalty to their family and relatives. This is not class-specific for it is indeed a strong trait observed not only among the poor but even among the affluent Filipino families.

2. Utang Na Loob (Debt Of Gratitude). As mentioned, this is a Filipino strength when kept in proper place (private life), hence doesn’t rob us of our objectivity and correct performance of our public duty. This trait shows our thankfulness- or of looking back- to people and situations that have touched our lives positively. This is inherent in all other strengths of the Filipinos.

3. Pakikisama (Social Flexibility).This is the result of long experience and contact with foreign cultures since the beginning of Philippine history. Closely related to Pakikiramdam or Pakikipagkapwa-tao, I translate this as social flexibility for this what is all about being a Filipino in a social setting – that of striving for harmony in our interpersonal relationships. This makes us attractive to other nationalities for we can easily connect with them and give them the feeling that we understand and accept them. To this belongs the habit of subordinating ourselves to others- especially to the white skinned-nationals, which I consider a learned reflex developed during our long history of ambivalence-eliciting colonialism. The rod had for centuries shaped our reflexes that we still have today, conditioned our pattern of responses to certain social ideas and situations. The idea for instance that to be involved in politics is “meddling” with the affairs of others (the politicians) when in fact politics is everybody’s business.

But Filipinos’ early exposure to other languages like Spanish, English, Chinese and Japanese contributes to this flexibility and social competence facilitating social connections even in international settings. The many Oversea Filipino Workers scattered all over the globe has also the effect of contributing to the Philippines’ linguistic know-how for many of these OFW and expatriates bring with them the languages they have learned in their many years of working and living in many countries of the world. I suppose the Philippines is one among the polyglott countries in the world.

4. Endurance. Also a product of our difficult historical struggles. Extreme social, political and economic problems resulting from colonizations, wars and recurring natural catastrophies have moulded the Filipinos into a strong people when it comes to dealing with difficult situations over an extended period of time. This is the foundation of our patience. Patience is never a natural gift but is a result of experience. With this strength, Filipinos survive difficult situations at home or away from home. Resoluteness is very much related to this, a trait we badly need in our political leadership and for us to counter the ningas-cogon tendency.

 As you can see, strengths and weaknesses of character of the people are to some extent interrelated and dependent on the context and to the degree in which they are manifested. Like the trait of Utang na loob, this is inherently a social strength but its presence in political affairs seems to rob the Filipinos of their objectivity and sense of duty. Endurance is in itself a positve attribute but this reinforces the mañana habit in a certain way which in turn prevents the Filipino to develop that attitude of urgency, causing him not to look for solutions to the problems immediately. Strong family orientation is a virtue but it easily slides to clanism, hence builds up political dynasties,  augments expediency, kanya-kanya attitude and crab mentality but diminishes the  perception of common good and  nationalism.

Technically, if character is a collection of habits, and habit  a conditioned behaviour or sets of responses, and character determines our behavior to a particular situation or groups of situations, modifying habits through training can therefore effect a change in character and ultimately our behavior.

This is what the politicians, civic and church leaders mean by moral revolution, which is a term so vague that they end up not really knowing what to do but  to the  false belief  that reciting long litanies and holding hands together in circles  they could already solve this national dilemma.

Of course, nature (genetics) also accounts for the development of character but this is another topic by itself. What interests us is the effect (stamp according to Webster dictionary) of culture and habit (experience)  for this is the more practical way of explaining the Filipino political character and of devising a model of political character building with the habit as the starting point of modification.

 Part II: Is Utang Na Loob- Debt Of Gratitude Or Debt Of Goodwill?

We begin with the language by agreeing that Debt Of Gratitude is the commonly accepted English translation of Utang Na Loob in our Philippine culture. Taken at face value, this English translation suffices to explain what Utang Na Loob means to a non-Tagalog speaker,- and it’s just alright if we Filipinos, not the Americans, have decided to use Debt of Gratitude as the equivalent English translation. The main point now is not to debate about the suitable English translation for there is none, but to describe what Utang Na Loob means in our culture. Utang Na Loob really means more than Debt of Gratitude if one would dig deeper beyond the semantic usage. The source of confusion is surely in its English translation, for as Filipinos we know exactly what is meant by Utang Na Loob. Debt of Gratitude should be shipped back to America where it is rightfully used and understood.
Utang Na Loob is more than just being able to pay back the performance you received and then to have no more obligation thereafter- as in a contractual transaction between you and a plumber whom you hired to fix your drainage. In interpersonal relations the western people will thank you for the favors you have given them- and that’s it, the thing is settled, no other obligations.
In our country favors received are paid back with a moral obligation that is long lasting. It is not merely being indebted to somebody that ceases once repaid, but it is being unquantifiably indebted to somebody be it your parents who nurtured you, your older brother or sister who sent you to college,  your doctor who saved your life- or the politician who gave you the job or your share of the graft.

Translated literally, Loob means within, interior, inside, internal, inward, inner, deep : hence Utang Na Loob could mean by way of:

1. Negative definition- as to be deeply indebted to somebody morally, obliging involved party or parties to a reciprocal responsibility;

2. Positive definition -as the Filipino attitude of Sincere Deeper Thankfulness.

Debt Of  Gratitude-as we understand this English equivalent is more of common ethical condition of being indebted , whereas Utang Na Loob as we practice it is a cultural attitude of sincere deeper thankfulness.

This is my understanding or definition of this traditional Filipino value. Debt of Gratitude is very much similar to Schuld der Dankbarkeit– its German counterpart. At the surface, these two foreign equivalents mean the same as our Utang Na Loob. The difference enters in practical application for then other cultural traits mingle with it and so the resulting different expressions causing observers to a qualitatively different observation and understanding of it, hence the incongruence and inadequateness of the English and even German translation.

Other traits/constructs that may explain the difference:

Personalism vs. Impersonalism:

Personalism emphasizes the rights and centrality of the individual human being in his or her social, political, intellectual, etc. milieu.

Impersonalism is the practice of maintaining impersonal relations with individuals or groups.

To simply illustrate: Filipinos are often heard complaining about the Westerners as cold, lacking human emotion or warmth, lacking in compassion. The Whites or Westerners in turn complain about the emotionality, close to hysterical reactive behaviour and exaggerated friendliness of the Filipinos. The reason for this is the personalistic trait or approach of the Filipinos and the impersonalistic trait or approach of the Whites. This trait explains partly the difference between Utang na Loob and Debt of Gratitude or the German Schuld der Dankbarkeit; personalized approach to life and events are as a rule is emotionally charged. In general, Filipinos put a higher emotional value to his experiences than say a white American or European who take things rather with a business-like, impersonal attitude. In other words, Filipinos tend to sentimentalize experience and cling longer to its effect as opposed to the emotional distance observed among Westerners.

This personalistic approach to life and events has its advantages in areas and situations where “human touch” or feelings are sought for by the recipients, Orientals or Westerners alike. An example to this are our medical and health workers who are in demand abroad for their known compassionate approach in nursing their patients and in their dealing with their patients’ relatives as well as with their co-workers and superiors.

Personalism permeates the Filipinos society- among people in the streets, in business and politics. This is evident in the bondingswe Filipino unconsciously form among ourselves in our social transaction. Men address each other as Pare (Kumpadre) or Brod, Kuya, Kapatid and women call each otherAte, Kumare or Tita even when they are not blood- related at all or even among strangers who just met.

Hence, it can be said that we have an inclusive attitude in our dealing with one another and even with strangers or guests- as opposed to the exclusive, separatistic and individualistic Western attitude. The term Kapwa (fellow, togetherness or own kind)) along with Pakiramdam (one’s estimation of other’s emotions or sensitivities) also play a big role in our social psychology. Our famous Hospitality Trait can only come about because of these elements mentioned.

Circular Thinking:

If our social approach can be characterized as not direct, less offensive and considerating, then we can already infer that our thinking also follows a circular pattern, a pattern which we share with our fellow Asians. This thinking is largely guided by emotional contents and intuitive elements and the centrality of human sensitivities. Our considerate and inclusive approach leads our thinking to take circuitous ways as opposed to the Aristotelian Western logic which is a more linear, hence focused, style of thinking-  goes direct from point A to point B without much regards to feelings and emotions; this thinking is guided primarily by concepts and structures. Asian philosophical, medical and religious traditions- represented in the works of Lao Zu(Taoism) are examples of circular and inclusive thinking; a good outcome of this is the Chinese Traditional Medicine which is primarily based on Chinese old philosophical concept of the interdependence of things and events.

It is in the emotional intelligence that Filipinos excel- a kind of intelligence which Salovey and Mayer (1990) defined as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” On the other side of the globe, conceptual and structured thinking- or cognitive intelligence has produced brilliant minds from Einstein to Beethoven, From Darwin to Karl Marx.

However, this fact should not lead us into wrong conclusion that the West is more intelligent than the East. Intelligence – when we mean by it as the capacity of abstract reasoning- is not a monopoly of the Western people; intelligent- as well as retarded- people are found in any country and an IQ of 160 in a European child has the same quality in a Filipino child when both have taken the same standardized Intelligence Test and scored the same. It is in the different cultural context that the expression of cognitive intelligence differs. A child – Asian or European- with an IQ of 160 raised in a culture where linearity, conceptual and structured thinking is emphasized will have more of his 160 IQ translated into high material performance than if the same child is raised in a culture where circularity, emotionality and intuitive thinking is emphasized.

We are familiar with the idea that Westerners are extroverted type of people, ready to solve the problems and to change the world so it  fits their needs; colonization was (and is) propelled by this type of thinking. While the Easterners are more introverted type of people, concerned with their inner world, ready to adjust their desires to the realities of the world and live with them; hence as a rule no desire to go out and colonize others (except the Imperial Japanese during World War II).

Though we have been exposed to Western mentality, I still consider that our fundamental mindset is still Eastern. Perhaps this explain why we have problem with western concepts as bureaucracy and democracy in our nation: they just do not work as they should. These concepts are products of linear thinking and impersonalism. We all know that we Filipinos are Western in written form, – our Constitution is Western style and is one of the best written body of laws and political concepts in the world, – yet we cannot fullfil the promises of our Constitution because in practice we are simply the Eastern Filipinos, our practical actions being propelled by our very own type of circular thinking and personalistic view of the world.

Democracy and bureaucracy are too abstract for us for they demand equality, rule of law and justice, loyalty not to somebody but to rules and regulations, professionalism, exactness in procedures- concepts that the Western mind adore and put with passion into actions. Whereas we Filipinos also adore them theoretically, but in practice they collide with our passions.

Democracy- as we have taken it over from the West, or forcefully injected in our mind- doesn’t fit with the strengths and weaknesses of our political character. The question that I’ve been carrying a long time already is this: Shall we change ourselves to fit to the concept of Western democracy or shall we slowly adopt a form of government that fits to our strengths and weaknesses? Or, is it easier to change ourselves or the system of government? You may help me wrestle with this question.

Back to Utang Na Loob. From the discourse above, it is implied that the Western mind would see favors as a “problems” to be solved at once, while our mind would see them as “problems” to live with. And all these elements discussed above seem to weave in and out together in our daily social interactions thus giving us a clue to a better understanding of Utang Na Loob and that of typical Filipino social personality profile.

There is more inside our Loob than just Utang Na Loob if we would examine ourselves much deeper.
Loob is a core concept in the psychology of the Filipinos which has been studied in depth by Filipino psychologists. From the very beginning, our culture seemed to have been fascinated with what is inside the Filipino and this word or concept of Loob has been a very useful tool in describing complex internal (emotional, mental and spiritual) events in the Filipino personality leading to the coining of a series of words denoting value contructs with the suffix –loob. I consider this psycho-linguistic phenomenon a very original Filipino achievement and I am even inspired to consider it as a new branch of psychology- the Loob Psychology (or Filipino Depth Psychology), which could easily fit the department of Ethnopsychology.


Here are some of the compilations by Filipino psychologists in their efforts to understand more the Filipino mind:
Nakikingutang ng loob, to seek a favor from someone
Ipagkaloob – to entrust
lagay ng loob – mood, one’sstate of mind or feeling
lakas-loob – courage
tibay ng loob – inner strength
tining ng loob- clarity of thinking, feeling, volition
kababaang loob – humility, literally “lowness of the inside”
kabutihang-loob – good naturedness
kagandahang loob – generosity, noblemindedness
may kusang-loob- one who does his work without prodding
payapang loob – a peaceful, calm person
mapagkaloob – a generous person
mahina ang loob – a coward
malakas ang loob- a daring person
malamig ang loob – an indifferent person
pikit ang loob – one who is blind to injustice
mabigat ang loob- the state of being sad, heavy-hearted
maluwag sa loob – one’sexperience of a state of being willing, cheerfully ready, literally to feel “loose/open on the inside”
wala sa loob- a state of beingunwilling, literally to “not have it in oneself”
tapat na kalooban- the state of havinga sincere inner being
masasamang-loob – criminals, literally, “those with bad inner beings”
kapalagayang loob – confidante, intimate
pampalubag-loob – consolation
kagaanang-loob – something to pacify intense emotion such as anger
The word loob, simply taken as “inside” and not a construct, is also used for “looban,” which means an interior compound, or community; and for the term “manloloob”, which means “robber,” literally “someone who enters.” (source: wikipedia )

You see now that it is worth examining the Filipino soul- or Loob. I just observed that “Walang Utang Na Loob” is not in the list above (or are there some more ?). Now, it is interesting how you would translate this into English- No Debt Of Gratitude or No Debt Of Goodwill?

But I do think that how we understand it  when somebody tells us “Wala Kang Utang Na Loob!”  is the key to understanding now the real meaning of Utang na Loob. It is not only about being indebted, but of possesing- and expecting from others-  the attitude of sincere and deeper (loob) thankfulness.

Part III   From Code Of Kalantiyaw To Mt. Sinai

 This post is not intended as an academic work but just my personal thoughts on this Independence Day and as my reply to a comment on my earlier post Strengths And Weaknesses Of The Filipino Political Character.

 A Hindu-Muslim Archipelago. We know of Datu Puti as one of the Bornean Datus who ruled in the south during the pre-Hispanic period. During the Spanish time Raja Colambu was the King of Limasawa, Rajah Humabon of Cebu, Sultan Kudarat Of Maguinadanao, Datu Lapulapu of Mactan, Rajah Lakandula of Tondo, Datu Macabulos of Pampanga, Datu Urduja of Pangasinan and Rajah Sulaiman III of Manila. There were many other Datus and Rajas all over the archipelago whom the Spanish colonial power called Las Islas Filipinas, the Islands of the Philippines. Hinduism came to the Philippines via traders between 1350 and 1389 from the island of Java during the Majapahit Empire (1293-1500) and exerted great influence on the natives of the archipelago only to be superseded within a short time by the Islamic conquest of Majapahit empire and the coming of Islamic Indonesians and Arab missionaries in the 15th century.

Hence, the archipelago was dominantly a Hindu- Muslim archipelago as Sultans, Datus and Rajahs are all Hindu-Muslim titles of rulers and nobilities. If I identify myself with the pre-Hispanic archipelago, then I’m a Hindu- Muslim; if I identify myself with the time and culture I was born in then, I am a Christian.

Genetically of Malay race, our dominant ancestral, pre-Hispanic civilized society was a Hindu- Muslim society. However, not all people at that time were Hindu-Muslims as there were people who were trapped or isolated themselves up in the mountains who were not islamized when the Muslims came nor catholicized with the coming of the Spaniards. They still exist today as “cultural minorities” (a label I dislike) like the Igorots, Aetas, Ati (Negritos ethnic group) etc. with their own culture, political organisation and system of beliefs.

The very first people who inhabited the archipelago- or some places of it- long before the invention or evolution of today’s dominant religions were animistic in their belief and world view. If I identify myself with those primal ancestors of 20-30 thousand years ago – in the belief that my family and genetic lineage can be traced back to them- then I am an animist, a being who is one with the forces of nature and see spirits in them, or much later a syncretist of Hinduistic origin who believes in Anitos, Diwatas or Bathala.

Hindu-Muslim Social Hierarchy. The independent Hindu-Muslim barangays in the archipelago and the sultanates in the south all attest to existing social communities, communities with hierarchical systems of Ruling class as Sultans, Datus or Rajahs, of Intermediate class as the Freemen or Maharlikas and of the Ruled or Unfree-class as the Alipins or slaves.

There were interbarangay commerce, cultural exchanges, etc., all transactions suggesting a kind of confederative co-existence,yet no common identity, no common laws, no central government that kept them together or a court that settled interbarangay conflicts. The mythical legal code of Kalantiyaw which was supposed to bring order to the folks of Negros was proven to be a forgery.

From Code of Kalantiyaw to Mt. Sinai. This changed with the coming of the Spanish colonizers who already have in them the concept of national government, of a nation or country, of a central powerful monarchy that rules over vast territories and colonies. But before that there was this catholization that took place, the biblization of the Hindu-Muslims, and later the changing of names, like Rajah Humabon becoming Carlos, or Mariano Kagalitan to Mariano Asuncion.

But the social structures remained the same, more or less. Allowed to keep up their lordships over their barangays, the now catholized datus had to subjugate themselves however to the new ruling class, the Spaniards, or to the new omnipotent Catholic King of Spain. In effect, the whole archipelago with all its barangays was reduced to the lower class level, if not to that of oppressed or slaves, the Alipins. In fact the new ruling class introduced a new form of intricate slavery- the polo y servicio which is a system of forced labor within the encomienda throughout the island colony.

From Suppression to Explosion. The suppression of emotions through centuries of encomienda and  hacienda slavery and injustices ultimately led to explosion. This big-bang in the history of the archipelago gave birth to the concept of freedom and nation during this colonial period which culminated by the end of the 19th century; by June 12,1898, 112 years ago, the Spanish dominion (which historically started in 1649 with the Sumoroy uprising in Samar) has ended and the first Philippine Republic was born.

This short historical review is not meant to refresh our knowledge but to remind us that the past explains a lot of things the way that the Filipinos are now, our character strengths and weaknesses and offer us clues as to why reciprocity. “debt” of gratitude, passive-aggressive traits and the like are so intense and complex among the Filipinos for the Western observers.

As one Western commenter has observed about Reciprocity and Utang Na Loob:

“I am guessing that this (Reciprocity) basically a very deep instinctual drive in all cultures, but I am curious as to why it is so exaggerated and complex in Philippines…Philippines has intensely hierarchical family and tribal structures, probably even before the foreign oppressors arrived. Within such a system those beneath perceive themselves to be powerless and lacking in rights. Without rights, any act of support would therefore seem like a gift rather than a duty. I am guessing the intensity of Utang Na Loob is derived from this.”

Utang na Loob is a form of reciprocity which, as the name suggests, a Filipino version or expression of it. The short historical review has shown that for the majority of the Filipinos- before, during and even after colonial times- their history is a history of slavery or servantry, from our tribal past to the alipin sagigilid or mamamahay during our Hindu- Muslim past and to encomienda, hacienda and peonage slaves during the catholization. (It is said that peonage was the employed by the conquistadores wherein the Filipino workers were granted debt to their own slavery afterwards for failure to work off the debt, becoming permanently tied to their Spanish employers). Even up to now, the servantry is still very much a part of our socio-economic culture. Only that now, the government exports this “labor force” to other countries.

With the coming of other colonizers, the Americans and the Japanese, the Filipinos were again forced to assume the slave mode and to suppress aggression in order to survive.

Nature or Nurture?Against this historical backdrop and if we believe that personality is also moulded by external forces, then we can rightly assume that the Filipino collective personality is a product of his total experience which is layered in complex mixtures of genetics and external circumstances over a long time. The resulting product is a distinctly Filipino character. This explains the complexity of our traits when juxtaposed against other Asian people and other cultural groups.

We Have Our Own Identity. Hence, this cry for the search of Filipino identity is a travesty, a political distortion in my view aimed at controlling the masses by sneakily activating their slave mode. We already have our own identity. I’m very cautious when I hear such phrase as “landslide victory” for then I suspect that the old trick has functioned again, that psychology has been politically abused or misused again. Also, it’s not wrong when a Westerner observes that there is exaggeration in our reciprocity trait, wrong maybe in the sense that it collides with their Western concepts of democracy and bureaucracy but in themselves our Filipino traits can never be wrong. It is not the search for identity but it’s about the search for a political system that fits our own character without sacrificing universal virtues as justice, freedom, human rights, etc.

In truth, the past still lingers in us and this is where self-serving politics get their power. Our Western commenter has mentioned that “a number of deep human traits… could potentially be exploited. One of these was called reciprocity”.

Landslide Win.When politics is just about power, then it’s only there to exploit available resources to support that power. This is very visible in our politics especially during elections. The character traits of the people are the number one target of this exploitation, material resources comes next to it. It’s not the vote that’s being bought but that Utang Na Loob of the people. A politician who is good in that will have that landslide win.

Still In Progress. Indeed, the trait of Utang na Loob- as all other Filipino traits- has evolved out of this collective past, of the confluence of events and the need to survive physically, psychologically and socially. All traits had developed and been retained because they have this survival value. And while our social evolution is still in progress, I think that these traits that we have are also undergoing some mutations. Our Filipino traits are not static and final, we are changing or are being changed by events and time. We ourselves are witnesses to how these traits conflict with things new to us or which requires other cultural tools or constructs that are either foreign or less develop in us.

Our Utang Na Loob is easily related to our slave mode than to our noble or lordship mode. This trait can only develop with such intensity and character out of social and economic survival necessity. You cannot experience the attitude of thankfulness with such intensity for things that are natural to you or that you have in abundance. Hence, for those who live in paradise, don’t expect Utang Na Loob; the same with our Tabon man in Palawan, our pre-historic ancestors who inhabited our caves thousands of years ago. I don’t think they knew Utang Na Loob as we know it now- or Hiya, Delicadeza, Freedom, Corruption, Alipin or Injustice. These things came to the archipelago with Islamization and Catholization. With these foreign oppressors, heaven is won but paradise is lost.

You’ll find this Utang Na Loob in abundance for those who experienced hell or deprivation of basic things. For the majority of us our history was a history of deprivation. Those were hellish times under foreign enslavement. There were some Filipino families who profited from these periods of hell, who maintained their feudalistic vast haciendas even until now, who still practise landgrabbing and colonial slavery practices as peonage and force labor and many of them are in the government posing as public servants. But in truth they are masters of exploiting Utang Na Loob, Hiya and Pakikisama.

Passive-Aggression. Certainly, with such a background of slavery where it was not safe to express anger or opinions but rather safer to resort to suppression and pakikisama in order to survive, we can only expect that passive-aggression is a part of colonized Filipinos coping or defense mechanisms. We know in psychology that families who forbid or deny their children the natural need to express feelings of hostilities produce adults who have this disorder. But it’s out of context to say- as our Western commenter has said- that it is a form of national sabotage if he means by it that Filipinos are using passive-aggression actively and consciously to destroy their nation and political development.

A Happy Nation? Though I can confirm the presence of this negative trait in our society, I disagree with its willful or conscious use of national sabotage. Instead, I look at it as post-colonial form of sabotage. Destruction of the people through colonial oppression doesn’t end with the disappearance of the oppressors but it continues, this trauma, this learned helplessness and passivity. Combined together, i.e. Spanish, Americans, Japanese, those were 425 years of trauma, suppression and slavery, of abuse and insult to the Filipino psyche. And add to that those nightmare decades under Marcos and Arroyo. Do you expect a healthy and happy nation by now?

Still, I wish the Philippines a happy Independence day !

(To be continued)

  jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

We Condemn Violence In Bulan

Bula Observer Quick Press

As stated, Bulan Observer condemns any violence or direct threat to the life of any person in Bulan. The attack on the house of Mayor Helen De Castro and her family last February 3, 2009 by several gunmen was not to the favor of any peace-loving and democratic citizen of Bulan. Though we are not in possession of further details related to the incident, and therefore not in the position to give full objectivity on our judgement, we however consider the act itself of using forced entry and armed threat as a clear violation of  Article 3, Bill Of Rights,  Section 2, which states:

” The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable,..”

We ask  this armed group of people who were involved in this unlawfull act of violence to respect the people of Bulan and to leave them secure in their persons and houses.

We  now wish Mayor Helen De Castro full recovery from this traumatic incident.

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer




February 06, 2009 05:21 PM Friday
Rebels rob local chief exec’s house

By: Alfred P. Dalizon

SUSPECTED New People’s Army rebels raided the house of Bulan, Sorsogon Mayor Helen de Castro and took away several valuables, including a 12-gauge shotgun and 12 units of hand-held radios last Tuesday morning.

Police Regional Office 5 director, Chief Supt. Paterno Bangui said the suspects, who were clad in camouflage uniforms, surprised people at the house of De Castro.

At gunpoint, the armed men ordered them to lie down on the ground before ransacking the place.

The suspects then escaped towards Barangay Calomogan, also in Bulan town, where they engaged pursuing policemen in a gunfight.

Bangui said no casualty was reported in the exchange of fire while troops are still tracking down the suspects.

People’s Journal



Source: The Earth Times

Manila –  Communist rebels raided the house of a town mayor in the eastern Philippines, carting away a shotgun and 12 handheld radios, a regional police spokesman said Wednesday. Superintendent Eliazar Bron said no one was injured when about 20 heavily armed guerrillas barged into the house of Mayor Helen de Castro of Bulan town in Sorsogon province, 390 kilometres south-east of Manila, on Tuesday.
Bron said government troops have been dispatched to pursue the rebels who fled to nearby mountains.
Communist rebels have been fighting the Philippine government since the late 1960s, making the movement one of the longest-running leftist insurgencies in Asia.


Or visit R. Gersalia’s Off The Beaten Path


Talking With The Mouse Only


The Mouse says : “The rapacious desire to amass great wealth for own satisfactions. It is a never ending want for more money until the bleeding country falls into catastrophic chaos of pathetic despair and bankruptcy”.

It is a blessing that mice do not need money, that all they need are crumbs of bread (if they are lucky, maybe they’ll find crumbs of cheese) and little shelter to house their families. Mice are unemployed, don’t have salaries, don’t own acres of lands but they don’t  plunder the house where they happen to live, or hide. We know that they also collect in their nests little things they find along the way but we still cannot attribute to them Greed as we know it among us human beings. I was convinced at one point in my life that the Earth would have been better off without the human beings walking on it and making all the mess of wars, pollutions, bankings, ideological and religious extremisms, perverse politics and- according to you Mouse, – greedy and plundering politicians.

As I look  across the clear sky one night, I imagine the planets talking to one another and try to listen what our Mother Earth has to report to her (humans declared the Earth feminine) fellow planets: Is she proud of the humankind that populates her, the bloody wars that occur on her skin, the man-made cities built deep within her surface with all its toxic and pungent refuse, the giant industries, the billions of motorized vehicles, the oppression of man toward man, and man toward animals and plants, rivers and seas. And how about the moralizing Popes, the Jihad-preaching Imams and the brutal types of men in the likes of Marcos, Hitler, Stalin, Polpot, the noises of politics across the globe? And how about social injustice and poverty amidst plenty? Mother Earth finally says, ” It’s heavy with each passing day…”

The other planets pity the Earth, and Mars, being close to the Earth and has witnessed all these events, comes quick with comforting words: ” Well, don’t worry sister, all things shall pass, the human species, too, just a little patience more and soon you’ll have a break “. All the other planets agree and cheer their sister Earth.

The Sun from the other aside has heard the conversation among her children and, being the mother, cannot see any longer how her daughter Earth suffers and so, fair as she is, she comes with the final word: ” My daughter, I think you need a break now, give me right away all these that worry you and I’ll take care of them.” The Moon in between them smiles after he hears everything and shines that night even brighter.

You may wonder Mouse what kind of things will the Earth hand over to her mother Sun before she takes a break. I think you already know that the Earth will never give you away for she’ll keep with her things not greedy and destructive and noisy so that she’ll peacefully enjoy her break. As once a wise man said, “The meek shall inherit the Earth…”.

 Back to our town , I hope that our children above will inherit a brighter smiling Bulan, too, when their elders have grown old after years of hard work. Nothing is given free, everything requires us to exert effort. Even these children have to start fighting for a brighter Bulan now that they are bigger already; fight for their own kind of democracy when they’re old enough to sense the imbalance of events happening around them.

When one of them would someday emerge as their town mayor, I do wish that he would manage the town not with this logic of greed that has destroyed many in the past but wit the logic of compassion and the vision of an eagle. And he should not own vast acres of land to prevent him this feeling that he owns the town and the people are beholden to him, that he is the lord and the rest are his vassals, that only those who can donate land are allowed to lead. Here comes the illusion of power, the illusion of medieval politics, this Feudalism, which was the source of revolutions that changed the face of Europe. In Bulan, this would be the start of his own destruction- as a leader. Great leadership springs only when the mind is free from the burden of material wealth and obsession of one’s security and when the heart is dedicated to serve only.

The world could be so distorted, fractured and broken down that she is, but true models of leadership still exist. Don’t gaze toward Manila to look for it for there you’ll find only countless crooks, but look across the ocean  right into the Capitol Hills, and witness how their new leader who owns nothing leads a big nation which was handed over to him already in the brink of total collapse, and yet manages everything with such a graceful dignity, with Audacity Of  Hope. Yes, it is still possible these days, Mouse. Just never give up hoping.

 jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

Politics and Greed

By Dora The Mouse

Politics is defined as “the process by which groups of people make decisions. The term is generally applied to behavior within civil governments, but politics has been observed in all human group interactions, including corporate, academic and religious institutions. It consists of “social relations involving authority or power” and refers to the regulation of a political unit and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy.”
Some people enter politics because of their desire to serve their country and to make a change for a better tomorrow. I truly believe that some politicians when they enter the world of politics, their intentions were honest, noble, patriotic and have that great sense of duty to serve the people. They have this belief that they could make a big difference in the way the government operates. There is this euphoria that when elected, change can be done. Some of the elected politicians were good to their promises and did the best they can for the country. They were a rare breed of leaders. They have respectability, integrity and value their honor first before material things and they left us a legacy to follow their footsteps. Unfortunately, there were very few of them.

We elect politicians expecting them to act in the public interest. By electing them, we give them access to public resources and the power to make decisions that impact our lives. By giving them these privileged positions, they can immensely inflict great damage if Greed overcomes their good judgment. Majority of the elected officials fell under the claws of greed. Greed is a powerful motivator. Acquisitiveness and envy are the prime reasons for the corruptions that existed today. The desire to acquire a Mansion or mansions, expensive cars, jewelries, power over the people, billions of money, the demi-god feeling of being on top of the world. That is what happened with these so-called leaders of our country. The rapacious desire to amass great wealth for own satisfactions. It is a never ending want for more money until the bleeding country fall into catastrophic chaos of pathetic despair and bankruptcy. Our elected leaders forgot the promises they made to the people to alleviate their sufferings and poverty. They became callous and blind to the fact that a few kilometers from Malacanang Palace were desperate poor people hungry and barely surviving and living literally amongst the dead. The cemetery became their homes and playground for their children.

Again, in the world of politics today, GREED is the driving force why some people engaged in politics and work hard to get elected for public service. Once elected, greed and corruptions begin. According to the late President Kennedy and I quote “Ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” It is a beautiful quotation but do our leaders believe it? Once elected, it is what the elected officials can get out of the government treasury, stash it away to some foreign banks, and put the bank accounts in several pseudonyms protected by our banking systems. It is not because they love the people and they want to serve them, it is the ticket to acquire wealth and power. The ineptness and inadequacy of the responsible government officials who are supposed to be the watchdog also have their hands tarnished and muddied by corruptions. Everywhere you look, there are so many corruptions that people can not trust their elected officials anymore than they will trust a mad dog nearby. This is what Politics and Greed can do to a person. I hope that one day we will have that special person, honest, dignified, respectable with honorable character to lead the Philippines once more into prosperity.

Senator Francis Escudero’s Senate Bill No. 1476



This is so far the most solid Bill filed supporting anti-graft and corruption efforts of the government authored by our  Sorsogon man in the Senate, Senator Chiz Escudero. Banking secrecy laws have always been used to their advantage by criminals be it corrupt public officials and dictators, mafia and drug bosses (money laundering), terrorist organizations and multi-millions tax evasion or tax fraud cases. In my own opinion, if passed into law this Bill would be a milestone in the legal system and criminal justice in the Philippines and a solid tool for investigators. Let’s be simple: Assuming Escudero’s colleagues in Congress had no government money to hide in their private bank accounts, we don’t see any reason for them not to support this Bill if they really are well-meaning public servants. jun asuncion


Read for yourself the original document  and the report reprinted hereunder. Included below are articles about Bank Secrecy and related news articles from other sources:



“No Financial Privacy For Public Servants”


Senator Escudero

Chiz:  Gov’t officials should not hide behind banking secrecy laws
Senator Chiz Escudero on Thursday called on his colleagues in Congress to work for the passage of a bill he filed which, if approved, would enable the government to examine the bank accounts and investments of civil servants

Escudero said that had Senate Bill No. 1476 been passed into law, government officials like State Prosecutor John Resado and former Agriculture Secretary Joc-Joc Bolante may not be able to evade questions in any hearing about their financial standing, especially in congressional inquiries.

The bill, which puts in place a mechanism that allows the government to audit the finances of a civil servant, was among  those filed by the senator during his first year as a member of the Philippine Senate.

“To ensure that the civil servant does not use his position to enrich himself, there must be transparency in the financial standing of the civil servants. Once passed, this bill will serve as deterrent to graft and corruption,” he said.

Escudero explained that once passed into law, the bill requires public officials and employees to submit a written permission or waiver in favor of the anti-graft body, Office of the Ombudsman, to look into all deposits of whatever nature with banks or banking institutions.

This will effectively put a certain class of people, in this case civil servants and high government officials, beyond the protective mantle of banking secrecy laws, which are often times being used as shield in investigations involving corruption.

Escudero said people like Resado and Bolante are emboldened by the cloak of the bank secrecy law, which also leaves lawmakers’ hands tied from further digging into their questionable finances.

“This covers both those within and outside the Philippines including investment bonds issued by the government” Escudero added.

The waiver, he said, should be contained in the SAL (statement of assets and liabilities) of all government officials and employees.

The senator said the passage of this bill is timely as it will not only plug loopholes in the anti-graft and corruption efforts of the government, assuming that they have some, but it will also aid the government to recover ill-gotten funds.”

29 January 2009


On Bank Secrecy (articles from various sources)

1. The  Swiss Bank Secrecy

“If You Are Not A Criminal”

 In Switzerland, once the world champion of banking secrecy, bank secrecy can now be “lifted for matters such as inheritance, divorce and debt and bankruptcy by order of a legal authority“.

  • “Swiss bank accounts are so popular because of political stability, safety stable currency backed by gold, excellent quality of banking services and privacy- if you are not a criminal.
  • “Political stability – Switzerland has not been at war with another country since 1505
  • Safety – Swiss banks are extremely safe. There is only an extremely remote chance of losing money deposited in a Swiss bank.
  • Stable currency backed by gold – the Swiss francs is probably the most stable currency in the world
    Excellent quality of banking services – internet banking, sophisticated investment services, multiple currency accounts and many other high-level services are available in Swiss banks.
  • Privacy – if you are not a criminal, it is almost impossible for anybody to get any information about you out”


“For The Sake Of Public Interest

” Swiss bank secrecy is most often lifted for criminal cases such as narcotics trafficking, extortion, terrorism, etc. The objective of a criminal trial is not to plead in the interest of the parties, but for the sake of public interest, and so the client’s right to bank secrecy gives precedence to the interest of justice. As such, bank secrecy is not an obstacle to criminal prosecution. Both the justice system and the Swiss banks take active part in the fight against money laundering.


 The limits to Swiss bank secrecy

There are a limited number of exceptions to Swiss bank secrecy that are strictly regulated by law.
In theory, bank secrecy can be lifted for matters such as inheritance, divorce and debt and bankruptcy by order of a legal authority.
In practice, Swiss bank secrecy is very difficult to lift, for the plaintiff must first prove before the Swiss court that the account exists in Switzerland, e.g. by producing a bank statement.
Note that tax evasion is not considered sufficient grounds for lifting Swiss bank secrecy.


Bank secrecy
By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 18:05:00 01/27/2009

Filed Under: PDEA-DOJ bribery issue, Banking, Congress, Graft & Corruption
MANILA, Philippines — State Prosecutor John Resado, who is in the center of a scandal involving alleged for government lawyers to dismiss a drugs case against three scions of prominent families has refused to waive his right to the secrecy of his bank account.

“The undersigned expressly manifests to this Honorable Committee that he is not waiving his rights under the Law on Secrecy of Bank Deposits and other related laws, over his bank account with Banco de Oro, SM Bacoor branch, Bacoor, Cavite,” Resado said in a letter to the oversight committee on dangerous drugs, which is conducting an inquiry into the so-called “Alabang Boys” controversy.

Resado said he was also “invoking his constitutional right to privacy which should be respected by everyone.”

Cebu Representative Antonio Cuenco said Resado’s refusal to waive his right to bank secrecy indicated that the prosecutor “is hiding something.”

“This fortifies the suspicion created among members of the committee that, indeed, Prosecutor John Resado is hiding something,” Cuenco, vice chairman of the oversight committee, told reporters at a news conference.

It was, Resado recommended the dismissal of the drug case filed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) against Richard Santos Brodett, Jorge Jordana Joseph and Joseph Ramirez Tecson.

Soon after, the PDEA aired the allegations of bribery.

Both houses of Congress are now undertaking their respective inquiries into the controversy.

Last week, both Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez and the PDEA disclosed an anonymous letter claiming on the day he recommended the dismissal of the drugs case, Resado and his wife each received P800,000 in their respective bank accounts, or a total of P1.6 million.

At least week’s House hearing, Resado acknowledged the P800,000 deposit on December 2 but said this were the earnings from a money lending business he and his wife ran in Tarlac but did not register because they considered it part of the “underground economy.”

However, a number of congressmen were unconvinced by Resado’s claim and dared him to waive his bank secrecy rights.

Cuenco said the committee will resume hearings on January 29.

Invited to appear are Resado’s wife, Rowena, and representatives of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines) and Bureau of Internal Revenue.


INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS; The Philippines Moves Against Bank Secrecy

Published: October 13, 2001
Last month, the United States thrust this Asian country into an awkward spotlight, declaring that Muslim militants in the southern Philippines had financial ties to Osama bin Laden.

The Philippines has pledged to help the United States pursue the flow of money from Mr. bin Laden’s movement, Al Qaeda, to terrorist organizations here. The trouble is that the country’s strict laws on bank secrecy make it nearly impossible to trace the movement of money into local bank accounts.

”We are impeded by the law,” said Juan de Zuniga Jr., the general counsel of the Philippine central bank. ”We are almost sure the banks would not allow us to have access to suspicious accounts.”

Among the many collateral effects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is a heightened scrutiny of cross-border money laundering. For developing countries like the Philippines, it is forcing a recognition that old laws are wholly inadequate against new methods of disguising illicit gains.

The banking law here was passed in 1955, a decade after the Philippines emerged from 400 years of colonial rule. As the country struggled to attract foreign capital, the law’s guarantee of confidentiality reassured potential investors that they could trust local banking institutions with their money.

Now, the Philippines has an established banking system. But the once-salutary law has helped turn the country into a haven for the laundering of proceeds from drug trafficking, kidnapping and gambling.

”Nobody knows the extent of money laundering in the Philippines,” Roberto Romulo, a former foreign minister, said. ”But in the context of transparency, we are hardly role models. We had to change our ways.”

On Sept. 30, the Philippines passed a law against money laundering, intended to address the deficiencies of the banking law. It requires banks to disclose suspicious deposits of more than four million pesos, or $80,000, to the authorities. Previously, banks did not have to disclose deposits of any amount unless investigators obtained a court order as part of a pending legal case.

”These are giant strides,” said Mr. de Zuniga, who helped draft the law. ”We have for the first time criminalized money laundering.”

Mr. de Zuniga said the Philippines was seeking to end a legacy of official corruption that extended from Ferdinand E. Marcos, the dictator accused of looting billions of dollars in the 1970’s and 1980’s, to Joseph Estrada, the former president toppled in a popular revolt last January.

Indeed, the Philippines is bowing to international pressure. The Financial Action Task Force on money laundering, a group convened by the major industrialized nations in 1989, had threatened to impose sanctions on Manila by Sept. 30 if it did not take steps to curb the practice here.

Four months earlier, the task force had put the Philippines, along with Russia and Nauru, on a list of countries making ”inadequate progress” in the global campaign against money laundering. The task force said it would hold off on sanctions while it studied the new law.

Critics say the Philippine Congress watered down the law. They note that the threshold amount for banks to disclose deposits is eight times that in the United States. Under American law, banks must disclose suspicious deposits of more than $10,000 to the Treasury Department.

The committee that drafted the legislation proposed setting the threshold at $20,000, twice the level in the United States. But in a heated debate, the House and Senate quadrupled that number.

Some say the lawmakers are protecting ethnic Chinese tycoons, who like to keep their finances under wraps, in part to reduce their tax bills. Many of these tycoons are generous campaign contributors.

Still, even critics acknowledge that the law will enable investigators to catch the most flagrant cases of money laundering. Mr. Estrada, a movie actor who became president in 1998, is a case in point.

During his impeachment trial in the Senate, prosecutors asserted that Mr. Estrada had laundered more than $8 million in proceeds from illegal gambling rings through various bank accounts.

Published: October 13, 2001
While backed by testimony from people involved in the scheme, the case against the former president was weakened because the banks did not release records of deposits made by Mr. Estrada or his associates.

Only when one bank, Equitable PCI, allowed a clerk to testify about the president’s use of an account under a fictitious name did the extent of his suspected wrongdoing become evident. Officials said that under the new law, the deposits into that account could have been easily traced by the authorities.

”It would have been labeled as a suspicious transaction because the identification on the account was not complete,” Mr. de Zuniga said. ”That would be a red flag under an anti-money-laundering program.”

Mr. Estrada’s impeachment trial was suspended, but his criminal trial on charges of plunder began here Oct. 1.

Despite its origins in domestic corruption, the new law may get its first test in the American-led war against terrorism. On Sept. 24, the Bush administration froze the assets of 27 organizations suspected of terrorism. Among those was a Philippine Muslim rebel group, the Abu Sayyaf.

Officials here acknowledge they have little clue where the group’s assets are. But the law gives them fresh tools. They said it was likely that terrorists would open accounts under aliases, or in the names of spouses. By having access to deposit records, the police have a better chance of tracking that money.

”If it comes through banks, there are several trigger points,” Mr. de Zuniga said. ”From the moment it enters the country, it can be flagged. Even if it is broken down into smaller amounts, it can be flagged.”


2. The Philippine Bank Sercrecy: A Primer

With recent events putting in issue the confidentiality of bank deposits and the identification process by the banks for their depositors, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, in coordination with the Bankers Association of the Philippines, deemed it advisable to come out with the following primer on frequently asked questions.
This primer seeks to clarify any misunderstanding or misapprehension that may have arisen on the subject and, more importantly, emphasizes that the secrecy of bank deposits remains sacrosanct and that their disclosure remains subject to strict safeguards and compliance with legal requirements. Trust accounts and other investments are partly included in the discussion.

A. Secrecy of bank deposits

Q. What guarantees on confidentiality do depositors enjoy under the law?

A. For peso deposits, Republic Act No. 1405 (Bank Deposits’ Secrecy Law) declares all deposits of whatever nature with banks in the Philippines, including investments in government bonds, as of an absolutely confidential nature and prohibits the examination or inquiry into such deposits or investments by any person, government official, bureau or office, as well as the disclosure by any official or employee of a bank of any information concerning said deposits.

There are only four (4) instances under the law where bank deposits or investment in government bonds may be disclosed or looked into, namely: (1) upon written permission of the depositor; or (2) in cases of impeachment; or (3) upon order of a competent court in cases of bribery or dereliction of duty; or (4) in cases where the money deposited or invested is the subject matter of the litigation.

It may be noted that RA 1405 covers not only bank deposits but also investments in government bonds.

For foreign currency deposits, Republic Act No. 6426 (The Foreign Currency Deposit Act) similarly declares that these deposits are of an absolutely confidential nature and cannot be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office whether judicial or administrative or legislative or any other entity whether public or private. There is only one instance for disclosure under said law and, that is, upon the written permission of the depositor. RA 6426 also exempts foreign currency deposits from attachment, garnishment, or any other order or process of any court, legislative body, government agency or any administrative body whatsoever.

For investments in trust accounts or in deposit substitutes, if these are in the form of investments in government bonds or deposits, the protection under RA 1405 and RA 6426 extends thereto accordingly. If these are in other forms of investments, the disclosure of information related thereto is covered by Section 55 of the General Banking Law of 2000 (Republic Act No. 8791) which prohibits, unless there is an order of a court of competent jurisdiction, the disclosure by any director, official, employee or agent of any bank any information relative to the funds or properties in the custody of the bank belonging to private individuals, corporations or any other entity.

Q. How do banks respond to an order of a competent court?

A. For peso deposits, banks comply with orders for disclosure in court cases subject to these requirements: (a) there must be a court order; (b) the order must be issued by a competent court specifically directing the bank concerned to disclose the required information; and (c) the bank should check and satisfy itself that the deposits or investment in government bonds being inquired into are either the subject of a case of bribery or dereliction of duty of public officials, or of a case where the deposit or investment itself is the subject matter of the litigation. If these requirements are not met, there would be basis for the bank to request the court to excuse compliance with the court order.

In impeachment cases, it is necessary that there be an order issued by the impeachment court or by its authorized officer. For foreign currency deposits, the law does not provide an instance for disclosure upon a court order. As mentioned above, there is only a single instance for disclosure under RA 6426 and, that is, upon written permission of the depositor. Thus, for foreign currency deposit accounts subject of a court order, the bank can invoke RA 6426 to excuse compliance.

Q. What is the liability of the banks and/or its officers and employees for violating the laws against disclosure?

A. Violations of the prohibitions against disclosures under RA 1405, RA 6426 and under the General Banking Law of 2000 are subject to stiff criminal penalties.

Under RA 1405, the offender is subject to imprisonment of not more than five years or a fine of not more than P20,000, or both, in the discretion of the court. Under RA 6426, the penalty is imprisonment of not less than one year not more than five years or a fine of not less than P5,000 nor more than P25,000, or both, in the discretion of the court. The violation of Sec. 55 of the General Banking Law of 2000, the penalty is imprisonment of not less than two years nor more than 10 years or a fine of not less than P50,000 nor more than P200,000, or both, in the discretion of the court; and in addition, if the offender is a director or officer of a bank, he is subject to suspension or removal by the Monetary Board.

B. Use of alias or number in opening deposit accounts

Q. Are banks allowed to open accounts using an alias or a number?

A. There is no specific banking law up to the present prohibiting banks from opening deposit accounts using an alias or a number. Prior to July 7, 2000, there is also no banking regulation providing for such prohibition. On July 7, 2000 and in seeking the adoption of anti-money laundering measures, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) issued a regulation, Circular No. 251, providing that, unless otherwise prescribed under existing laws, anonymous accounts or accounts under fictitious names are prohibited.

The exception referred to under Circular No. 251 was RA 6426 (The Foreign Currency Deposit Act) which explicitly allows the keeping of numbered accounts for the recording and servicing of deposits.

For peso accounts, when banks allow the opening of deposit accounts under pseudonyms, it is assumed that: (1) they have exercised due diligence to ascertain the identity of their clients; and (2) they are aware of the legal provisions and requirements on the use of pseudonyms.

The above notwithstanding, it may be pointed out that in the Manual of Regulations issued by BSP, or even before the issuance of Circular 251, there were already regulations requiring the banks to: (a) adopt systems to establish the identity of their depositors; and (b) require to set a minimum of three (3) specimen signatures from each of their depositors subject to regular updating. Even for numbered accounts as authorized under RA 6426, BSP has required banks, under Circular 258, to take necessary measures to establish and record the true identity of their clients, which identification may be based on official or other reliable documents and records.

Q. Are there other laws governing the use of pseudonyms or aliases?

A. Art. 178 of the Revised Penal Code penalizes the: (a) publicly using of a fictitious name for the purpose of concealing a crime, evading the execution of a judgment, or causing damage; and (b) concealment by any person of his true name and other personal circumstances.

On the other hand, there is also Commonwealth Act No. 142, as amended by Republic Act No. 6085 (Regulating the Use of Aliases) which provides that, except only as a pseudonym for literary purposes and athletic events, it is unlawful for any person to use an alias, unless the same is duly recorded in the proper local civil registry. Related thereto, Articles 379 and 380 of the Civil Code provide that no person shall use different names and surnames except the employment of pen and stage names provided it is done in good faith and there is no injury to third persons.

What can be noted is that the above provisions allow the use of aliases under certain circumstances. Conversely stated, the use of aliases is not absolutely disallowed. Moreover, the sanctions for any violation of the above provisions on aliases are mainly directed to the one using the unauthorized alias.

Q. How does Circular No. 251 apply to existing numbered accounts?

A. For peso accounts, the banks should have their respective programs of compliance with the Circular. For foreign currency deposit accounts, they are allowed to continue maintaining numbered accounts opened in accordance with RA 6426 subject to the requirement that the banks shall take necessary measures to establish and record the true identity of their clients.

Q. What penalties/sanctions are applicable for violating the laws/regulations?

A. Article 178 of the Revised Penal Code is directed to the person concealing his identity publicly or using a fictitious name and the penalty would range from one day up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine up to P500,000. For violation of Commonwealth Act 142, which is likewise directed to the person using an unauthorized alias, the penalty is imprisonment from one year to five years and a fine of P5,000 to P10,000. For the violation of Circular 251, it is subject to the administrative sanction on the bank and/or responsible directors/officers of fine up to P30,000 per transaction.

C. Continued confidentiality/secrecy of deposit transactions

Q. Is confidentiality/secrecy of deposit accounts compromised with the issuance of Circular 251?

A. No. Circular 251 merely disallowed the opening of fictitious and anonymous accounts and has not in any way modified nor lessened the safeguards and protection to depositors under RA 1405. This means that, notwithstanding Circular 251, deposit accounts cannot be examined or looked into except under the limited circumstances provided for in RA 1405.

Q. Why are the BSP and the BAP advocating the amendment to bank secrecy laws?

A. The proposal of BSP and BAP is for access to deposit accounts only under exceptional circumstances, such as deposits only above the P50-million level and in relation to the commission of serious offenses like racketeering and illicit drug trade. Except for these instances, depositors and those with legitimate transactions remain protected under RA 1405. The objective of the proposal is to institute this measure as an anti-money laundering campaign so as to delete the Philippines as a non-cooperative country in the list of the Financial Action Task Force against money laundering.


MANILA, Philippines – Former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante admitted on Tuesday that he withdrew a “small” amount from some of his bank accounts which were ordered frozen by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
During the resumption of the Senate investigation into the P728-million fertilizer fund mess, Bolante made the admission but declined to disclose specific details of the transactions.

“Maliit lang (Just a little)… I’m sorry I cannot disclose the specifics,” Bolante said.

When asked if he withdrew the amount from the bank after the account was unfrozen, Bolante said replied in the affirmative.

Bolante’s answer prompted AMLC executive director Vicente Aquino to inform those at the hearing that the bank where Bolante made a withdrawal may face sanctions for allowing the withdrawal, saying the Anti-Money Laundering Act requires official confirmation from the AMLC for any such withdrawal.

“May possible liability ang bank for not getting official confirmation from AMLC (The bank faces a possible liability for not getting an official confirmation from AMLC),” Aquino said.

Aquino admitted that such information is covered under the Bank Secrecy Act, and it is up to Bolante as the account owner to disclose it.

During the hearing, Sen. Panfilo Lacson expressed dismay over the situation, saying: “Talong-talo ang gobyerno rito. Ang bank secrecy act dapat ma-amend (The government is one big loser here. The bank secrecy law needs to be amended).”

This, as he pushed for the exclusion of government officials from the Bank Secrecy Act.

“(I had filed) an amendment to the Bank Secrecy Act, all government officials and employees should have automatically waive their rights once they are in government. That will solve a lot of problems of corruption in this country. Unfortunately wala ni isang hearing sa committee level for three Congresses I have been filing (not even one hearing was held for it in the three Congresses I filed it),” Lacson said.

He asked Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile to include his bill in the list of priority measures, now that they are in the majority bloc.

Lacson also pointed out that when he was being “vilified” in 2001 by then Armed Forces intelligence chief Victor Corpus, he waived his right to bank secrecy.

Enrile, for his part, said it was a “good proposal” but it needs study to make sure it is not used for harassment.

“My bill involves government officials and employees while in government service,” Lacson said. – GMANews.TV

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Senate seeks lifting of Bank Secrecy

Mario B. Casayuran

The Senate led by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile pressed yesterday for the immediate amendment of Republic Act 9160 (Anti-Money Laundering law) to lift secrecy on bank deposits following the controversial P728 million fertilizer fund scam.
The amendment, Enrile said, is needed to arrest criminality in the country, particularly on the unabated illegal drug industry, corruption and other illegal activities.

Yesterday, opposition Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson filed for the third time in three years his bill seeking to amend the law.

Sen. Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, said he is now terminating the committee hearing on the fertilizer scam with various proposed recommendations foremost of which are proposed amendments to the AMLC law.

Lacson complained that, based on the current provisions of the AMLC law, the government is at the losing end in the fight against criminality, terrorism and terrorism financing, trafficking in human beings and migrant smuggling, sexual exploitation of children, corruption and bribery, illicit arms trafficking, currency counterfeiting, forgery and environmental crime.

The filing of the bill came after controversial former Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Jocelyn ‘’Joc Joc” Bolante told senators in yesterday’s public hearing by the Gordon committee that he was able to withdraw a part of his four bank accounts earlier frozen by the Court of Appeals.

The testimony of Bolante, who continues to face senators following allegations that he is the architect of the fertilizer fund scam that preceded the May 2004 presidential elections, surprised Gordon and Vicente S. Aquino, executive director of the AMLC secretariat.

Bolante said he was able to withdraw a small portion of his bank account after the court had lifted its freeze order.

Pressed by Lacson, Bolante refused to disclose the amount he was able to withdraw and the specific bank because of the Bank Secrecy Law.

The former Philippine National Police (PNP) director-general had filed a bill that those entering the government service should waive their right to invoke the Bank Secrecy law but Congress has not acted on it favorably.

Aquino said he is supporting the Lacson bill because the ALMC cannot examine bank accounts that are criminally-tainted because the ALMC law is mandated to give advance notice to depositors on the release of questioned bank deposits based on the Eugenio decision of the Supreme Court.

This led Aquino to blurt out that the unspecified bank that allowed Bolante to withdraw his deposit has violated the law.

He stressed that he had asked the President of a bank association to remind its members to seek the approval of AMLC before allowing withdrawals of questionable bank accounts.

Aquino earlier assured Gordon that Bolante could not withdraw his four bank accounts because the bank needs clearance from the AMLC although the Court of Appeals lifted last Dec. 10 its freeze order on 23 questionable bank accounts. Bolante maintained that he only has four bank account covered by the CA freeze order based on the petition of the AMLC.

He also denied an allegation of a senior official of the Blue Ribbon committee officer as submitted to Gordon that he (Aquino) notified the banks that they could now release the deposits of Bolante after the freeze order had been lifted. ‘’I never misled anyone,” he added.

Aquino said there was never a lapse on the part of the council as he has already recommended the filing of civil forfeiture cases.

He confirmed that he wrote the banks last Jan. 5 that the freeze order has already expired and they should now be guided accordingly.

‘’It means they should be guided by the rule or that they should ask for confirmation from AMLC before releasing the accounts. We complied with the rule,” he added. ‘’The bank account (of Bolante) is still intact,” he added.

Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera assured the senators that her office has, under the law, done its job on bank account preservation.

Enrile, a taxation expert, asked Aquino to specify the weaknesses of the AMLC law, particularly on its operations, to arrest problems in the country.

The law creating the AMLC ‘’is not a real law because it is liable to be breached, than obeyed,” Enrile said.

Enrile said there is a need to revisit the AMLC law ‘’not to oppress people but to arrest criminality in the country such as the (illegal) drug industry, any other illegal activities and corruption.”

He cautioned his colleagues that crafting a policy to lift secrecy on bank accounts should now endanger any sector of society or used to harass people.

Gordon noted that the AMLC law ‘’can be pierced’ ‘by inaction of government agencies such as the Office of the Ombudsman which has not acted upon the recommendations of the Senate agriculture committee then chaired in succession by Senators Ramon B. Magsaysay Jr. and Joker Arroyo 1,020 days ago that Bolante and others should be criminally charged because of the P728 million fertilizer fund scam.

He said the current AMLC law should now be altered because the AMLC cannot reveal its investigation in congressional hearings and that the current six-month freeze on questionable bank deposits should be lengthened.

AMLC, according to Aquino, also lacks manpower and is crippled by a string-bean budget.
Gordon emphasized that government, in furthering its investigation into allegations of money laundering, should be given the power to seize high-profile assets of depositors such as yachts or cars like Bolante’s expensive Porsche sports car.

The Lacson bill stated that the AMLC should be allowed to retain 25 percent of the forfeited assets not only as an incentive to intensify the drive to file more civil forfeiture cases for the State, but also to ameliorate AMLC’s budget.

Early passage of the bill, according to Lacson, would guarantee the Philippines’ recognition to the global efforts against money laundering.


Swine loan scammers cannot hidebehind bank secrecy law: Escudero


OPPOSITION Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero yesterday belied the claim of Malacañang that the Quedan and Rural Credit Corp. (Quedancor) could not publish the names of its borrowers because of the bank secrecy law.

Escudero said the bank secrecy law covers only deposits and not loans.

An anomaly involving the Quedancor was made public by lawyer Harry Roque who said the Commission on Audit has discovered that at least P1.4 billion of the P2.5 billion that Quedancor released for the swine industry remains unliquidated. He said the farmers who supposedly received hogs were paid P200 to P300 to sign papers that indicated they received the livestock.

Escudero has asked Quedancor to publish the names of the borrowers. But Apostol, invoking the bank secrecy law, said Quedancor “would be liable to borrowers if it publishes their names without their permission.”

“Bank secrecy law covers deposits. Quedancor is not a deposit-taking institution. It is a non-bank financing institution. Only banks are allowed to use deposit instruments,” Escudero said.

R.A. 1405 (Bank Deposits Secrecy Law) states that all deposits of whatever nature with banks in the Philippines, including investments in government bonds, are absolutely confidential in nature. It prohibits the examination or inquiry into such deposits or investments.

Escudero said Quedancor could not hide behind the bank secrecy law. “All I’m asking for is to make public the list of borrowers. What was used in this program is public funds and is therefore subject to public accountability. The public has the rightful claim to information on where our taxes go,” he said.

Escudero said the loans are automatically subject to government audit because they are government funds.

He asked what the COA, the primary institution in charge of examining proper use of public funds, is doing. “If they have already audited Quedancor, we also want to see their findings and recommendations,” Escudero said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson earlier called for an investigation.

He said President Arroyo might have a direct hand in it because it coincided with the 2004 presidential elections, the year the supervision of the financing agency was transferred to the Office of the President from the Department of Agriculture.

Escudero also expressed the same apprehension that the swine-raising funds could have been diverted to the administration campaign fund for the 2004 polls.

He said the publication of the list of delinquent borrowers would remove speculations the fund was pocketed by corrupt officials or was diverted to the administration’s campaign chest.


jun asuncion

My warmest greetings to all of you!

jun2I have decided to join the views and concerns and visions of the children above and this I can do only by showing my face with them. Like them I’m mighty proud of our town Bulan and its town people and we will keep on working together for a much more brighter future of Bulan. There is no reason to be incognito to our visitors for we mean it good for our town people. Democracy is not about hiding but of being able to stand for what you say, and the first step to that is to show your face. This is transparency and accountability, things that we’ve been demanding from our leaders about which we also fall short. Now, I ask all our people to unite together in the face of the economic crisis and recession that loom in many countries today, rich or poor countries, no exception. Bulan will survive this crisis for sure as it had survived almost everything before. We just have to forget things that are not necessary for survival like politics and hatred but instead help one another creatively master this economic crisis for we are one people, we love peace and we all want a good life for everyone in Bulan. This is not the right time now to oppose just to obstruct but we should rather  think of ways to help.

I ask Mayor Helen de Castro to be with our people in this difficult time  and I wish her and her team the energy and the wisdom they need as they carry on with their task of helping our people.

Thank you and my warmest greetings to all of you!

  jun asuncion

 Bulan Observer