ANG MGA EPAL AT KSP NG CAPITOLYO – PART 1

A Privilege Speech of SPM VLADIMIR RAMON B. FRIVALDO

February 20, 2012

Thank you fellow colleagues for allowing this representation to avail of this Privilege Hour.

Let us discuss anu po ang EPAL (in street slang MAPAPEL) or KSP (KULANG SA PANSIN).

Not all attention seekers possess a personal disorder. But if a person starts to sacrifice some of his/her moral values for the sake of getting attention without logic then it’s probably the result of an underlying disorder.

Sometimes adults seek attention because of jealousy or envy. When someone feels threatened by another person who may be drawing all the attention or admiration of the public, that someone may retaliate to steal or destroy such attention or admiration. Kulang sa Pansin (KSP) or lack of self confidence are other causes for acquiring that kind behavior. Some people feel that they are just overlooked and so the only solution to restore their balance is to bring back the lost attention.

Dahil hindi ako mapatigil sa mga pagpuna sa mga kamalian at pangaabuso ng isang mataas na provincial official at ang kanyang mga alila, dahil walang maibatong isyu na may basehan laban sa akin, pinipilit na naman ng abusadong lider na ito na gamitin ang Ethics Committee ng Sangguniang Panlalawigan para sa kanyang sariling kapakanan. Huwag po natin payagan ang kalokohang ito.

Last December 19, 2011, many were surprised when SPMs Arnulfo Perete, Angel Escandor, Ferdinand Dave Duran and Franco Eric Ravanilla complained to the Provincial Board and insisted that this representation be sanctioned by the Ethics Committee. The allegation of the four (4) SPM is “that SPM Vladi Frivaldo “maligned” the entire Sangguniang Panlalawigan when the Bicol Today came out with a news article which claimed I was offered money by two (2) unnamed colleagues to abandon my firm stand lambasting Gov. Raul Lee.”

The objective of this Provincial Governor is getting very clear that is to remove me as a duly elected Board Member by hook or by crook by using again the Sangguniang Panlalawigan members. Good luck sa inyo.

My fellow colleagues, there are only four elements in the crime of libel and these are simple to remember. Just remember the acronym “D.I.M.P.”

“D” stands for DEFAMATION, or a word or a group of words that put one person in shame before those who happen to read or heard of the publication of such word or group of word.

“I” stands for IDENTIFICATION. This means that the person put to shame was named in the published item.

“M” stands for MALICE. This means that the author or the publisher of the published item had the intention to put to shame the person named in the publication.

“P” stands for PUBLICATION. This means that the word or the group of words that put another person to shame was published. By “publication,” it means that the word or the group of words was read by at least one person who is other than the person who was put to shame by this word or group of words.

If ANY of these four elements is not proven or is absent, there is no libel.

Many are asking, where is the proof of actual malice in the alleged news article written by Bicol Today or even I was privy to that? Unless you can show evidence of actual malice then file a libel case. If not, you may raise other issues just to appease your political benefactor. Ask any listeners of RADYO NATIN Station Manager Doods Marianito, “isa lang an sinasabi nila, “nagpapa EPAL lang ang mga bokal sa kanilang amo.”

Wake up guys, wake up! Let us have a reality check. Bakit hindi tayo magtanong sa mga taga barrio para makita natin na ang taongbayan mismo ang magsasabi na karamihan sa atin dito ay BULAG-PIPI-BINGI sa sandamakmak na katiwalian na nangyayari dito sa Probinsya ng Sorsogon?

I am your fellow board member. I have done you no wrong. Instead of harassing this lone vocal fiscalizer, why don’t we unite and stop this very abusive governor? Why don’t we investigate the motives of some concerned board members to determine who in particular, initiated the voting allowing the anomalous transfer of the budget of SP Legislative to the Office of the Governor? Until now, the salary of our lowly paid contractual employees in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan is still pegged at P185.00 per day only instead of P240.00 per day?

Did anybody from this August body join me in fighting for our employees’ welfare? O natatakot lang kayo sa abusadong gobernador? Tayong mga Bokal ang dapat manguna para ipaglaban ang karapatan ng ating pobreng empleyado. Ang sinasabi ng mga MAGAGALING LANG SA SALITA na mga bokal na nagtulak ilipat sa Governor’s Office and pondo ng SP ay dahil “majority decision naman eh.” Ang galing ng rason niyo, huh? Nandito ang ating mga contractual employees – makakatingin pa ba kayo ng diretso sa kanilang mga mata at may lakas loob sabihin ang tunay na dahilan kung bakit kailangan pa nila magdusa sa kalokohang gawa ninyo? Kung hindi ito KALOKOHAN, ambot sa inyo kung anu ang tawag niyo – KASABWAT SA KALOKOHAN?

Why don’t we investigate why this humble representation does not have a regular staff for more than one (1) year now? Why are you blind in this glittering indirect interference of this abusive governor? Did anybody initiate an investigation? Wala! Wala! Dahil mga bahag ang mga buntot niyo baka maalisan din kayo ng staff o talagang KASABWAT KAYO SA KALOKOHANG ITO?

Why don’t we investigate the controversial Mining Contract issued by ex-Gov. Sally Lee?

Why don’t we investigate this “SHORT LADY” who told us last January 10, 2011 executive session na nagsabing “magkakapera tayo basta lang pumayag tayo na madaliin ang pagutang ng P350 million loan ni Gov. Raul Lee?”

Why don’t we investigate what the hell really happened to the P260 million LBP loan of ex-Gov. Sally Lee?

Why don’t we investigate the irresponsible claim of a fellow board member na may utang pa sa kanyang minamahal na mentor (ex-board member) ng halagang P300,000.00? Balanse daw ito sa “SHARE” na pinangako ng administration ni ex-Gov. Sally Lee patungkol sa nakaraang P260 million LBP loan. Ang gusto nitong kasamahan natin ay bayaran na muna ang balanse ng kanyang mentor bago siya pumayag sa bagong uutangin na P350 million loan? The nerve of this guy. Nakakahiya!

Sabagay totoo ang kasabihan ng matatanda, hindi naman magbubunga ang RAmbutan ng boungainVILLA.

Why don’t we investigate some of our colleagues together with this “SMALL LADY” during the executive session last January 10, 2011 na sinabihan ako na huwag ako pumalag sa gusto daw ni Gov. Raul Lee na umutang ng P350 million dahil nag-iisa lang ako na kokontra. Tutal malayo pa ang election at sigurado malilimutan din ng mga botante ang mga ganitong issues. Ito ang binalita ng isang local na diyaryo ang dahilan daw kung bakit ako nag walk-out dahil imbes kapakanan ng Sorsogon ang ating paguusapan na kung nasaan at napakinabangan ba ang dati P260.0 million loan ni ex-Gov. Sally Lee, ay gusto ng ilan natin kasamahan ay malaman agad kung anu ang makukuha nila.

Why don’t we investigate and review further the P350 million LBP Loan Contract and other related documents recently signed by Gov. Raul Lee? You will see the pernicious consequences and ramifications of this problem that I had been trying to tell you. After almost 6 months of tedious research and data gathering evidences with the help of volunteer lawyers and paralegal team, the time is almost ripe for the small potato to initiate a top to bottom reform against rampant graft and corruption in the provincial government.

To the poor people of Sorsogon, I appeal to all of you to please join me in my crusade against this abusive governor, LBP officials, Finance Managers, BAC, PGSO, PEO and the hard headed majority SP members who supported and connived with each other in causing the hasty approval of this gargantuan P350 million LBP loan. Remember, plunder is a non-bailable offense.

Last June 2, 2011, my old and rusty borrowed van was vandalized right inside the capitol compound. Hindi lang ginasgasan ng todo. Niluwagan para matangal ang lahat ng bolt sa dalawang harapan na gulong. Ang obheto nila ay masaktan o mapatay ako at lumabas na parang aksidente. Mabuti nalang may awa ang mahal na Diyos at nakita agad itong banta sa buhay ko. Ito ay aking pina blotter sa Sorsogon City Police Station. Did anybody even care or initiate an investigation to identify the culprit?

Why don’t we investigate a fellow board member who gave irreparable damage to the image of Sorsogon with his shameless performance in handling the 2011 Kasanggayahan Festival? Pinahiya lang niya ang sarili niya, pinahiya din ang organization na kabilang siya at higit sa lahat pinahiya ang buong imahe ng Sorsogon! Para tumino ang taong ito, ano bang parusa ang dapat igawad sa kanya?

The only way to save Sangguniang Panlalawigan and our province from further shame and controversies is for that board member to file a leave of absence in all public positions. If he has delicadeza he should RESIGN immediately;

Sorsogon’s credibility to host another Kasanggayahan Festival or any future competitions will always be in doubt if we allow this fellow member to continue his public functions. Huwag natin palabasin sa mga tao na kinokonsinti natin siya.

Why don’t we investigate all these valid issues that I have been raising long ago? Sabagay tama ang sabi ng taong bayan na karamihan dito ay hindi lang BULAG-PIPI-BINGI kundi pinag-lihi pa sa anesthesia – MANHID sa katotohanan!

Now you want me to be crucified by the Ethics Committee? My God, why am I being surrounded by hypocrites? Shame on you guys!

To all my colleagues, can you still look straight in the eyes of your loved ones (your child, your wife, your parents, your siblings and your relatives including those who had already departed us) at sabihin ninyo buwa o hindi totoo, maski isa lang sa mga issues binangit ko?

Last February 6, 2012 when the Regular Session had just ended, many were surprised at the immature and babyish actuation of SPM Franco Eric Ravanilla when he started yelling my family name names. He made fun of my mother’s maiden name Boayes by repeatedly shouting “Vladimir Ramon Boayes Buwaon Frivaldo.”

Ginoong Ravanilla, bakit mo ginawa ito?

For your information of the so called educated legislator from the first district, my mother happens to be the eldest daughter of Col. Francisco “Turko” Boayes, my lolo.

Col. Francisco “Turko” Boayes, was the 2nd in Command of Gov. Wenceslao Vinzons Guerilla Command in Camarines Norte. When the Japanese forces killed Gov. Vinzons, my lolo took the Command and renamed it Vinzons Division – Turko Command. This Division was the most powerful and most armed in the whole Bicolandia. The name “Commander Turko Boayes” reverberated in the whole Bicol region. He liberated Daet from the Japanese forces. He is also the first mayor of Daet, Camarines Norte after WWII.

On June 13,1968, in a ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo, Col. Boayes was awarded the Gold Medal – the highest award given to a war veteran of World War II. This was personally conferred by then Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos, the crowning glory of his bravery and gallantry.

Visit the Provincial Capitol of Camarines Norte and see the statue of the famous Bicol War Hero, Col. Francisco “Turko” Boayes as an expression of gratitude of the people of the province to the name Boayes – the name that Mr. Ravanilla have insulted and despised for no reason at all. Col. Francisco “Turko” Boayes and 8th term Gov. Juan Frivaldo both died a poor man but left a good name to his family, relatives and friends.

Nakikiusap po ako na wag mo naman yurakan ang aking pangalan at ang magandang pangalan ng aking angkan – motherside and fatherside. Maski pobre lang ang familia namin, iniingatan naming ang kanilang malinis na pangalan.

Alam mo Ginoong Ravanilla, malaki ang respeto namin sayo kundi pati sa iyong mga magulang na si former SPM Butch Ravanilla at DOT Dir. Nini Ravanilla. Pero bakit ibang iba ang iyong pinapakitang ugali sa publiko? Ginoong Ravanilla, wala tayong personalan. You are an elected official. Grow up and act like a man!

Pero mas marami miyembro ng third sex gaya ni Epong ay may gustong itanong sayo – “marami naman sa ating kasamahan ang laging naka-Official Travel pero bakit ako lang ang lagi mong hinahanap at may halong lambing ka na inannounce sa Session Hall na “MISS NA MISS MO NA AKO.” Kaya ang tanong nina Epong ay ito “Bakit, bakit si Vladi lang ba ang laman ng isipan mo Ginoong Ravanilla?” Epong added, “don’t tell a lie – aminin.”

Pakiusap ko sa mga kasamahan ko dito sa Sangguniang Panlalawigan, dapat puro isyu lang ang ating pag-ukulan at tigilan na ang personalan. Alam niyo, ang totoo hindi po ako ang lalabas na katawa-tawa sa tao kundi – KAYO! Kaya ang tanong sa inyo ng taong bayan, “Kayo ba talaga ang tunay na alila ng abusadong gobernador ng Sorsogon?

My friends, I am thankful to all difficult people I’ve met in the Capitol. They have shown me exactly who I don’t want to be.

Dahil sa suporta at pagmamahal binigay ng Sorsogon sa aming familia magmula kay Tata Owan Frivaldo, sa akin tatay former OIC Vice Gov. Eddie Frivaldo at sa aming dalawa ni Bokal Frank, makakaasa kayo na tuloy ang aming pakikibaka sa malinis na pagogobyerno at hustisya para sa kasaradayan. Ang mithiin ko ay sana magkasama-sama na tayo ngayon para buhayin ang nalugmok sa napakalaking utang ang probinsya ng Sorsogon.

Sa pagtatapos ng aking Privilege Speech, mahulaan kaya ng aking mabait na kaibigan, the gentleman from Prieto Diaz SPM Benito Doma, kung sinu-sino ang maguunahan na magpapa EPAL o KSP dito. . . . . . . . oo nga pala, ingat lang po kayo sa pagakyat mamaya sa Capitolyo at baka madapa kayo sa pagsumbong sa amo ninyo, kawawa naman kayo. . . . . .

My friends, maraming, maraming salamat po.

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Impeachment As A Rite Of Passage

by jun asuncion

Cleaning government  institutions of corrupt officials  through legal measure such as impeachment is like cremating old habits in our political culture that hinder the progress of the Philippines. Impeachment is only possible in a democracy since it is an inherent tool in a genuine democracy. During the time of Mrs. Arroyo, impeachment complains against her did not prosper because she was in control of everything, not only of elections. Hence, it’s stupid for Mr. Corona to accuse President Aquino of dictatorship. The  impeachment process against the Arroyo Ombudsman Mrs. Gutierrez  in the first year of the Aquino administration, though aborted through the issuance of TRO by her ally,- the Chief Justice Mr. Corona,- was still a success for it culminated  in her resignation.

Now, it really interests me whether the Supreme Court still has the power to issue a TRO on the ongoing impeachment trial against the Chief Justice himself, when, according to Senator Santiago, the SC had no  jurisdiction over the impeachment court. My observation is that some people in the judiciary have become very arrogant and have been misusing  their knowledge of law and rules for their own vested interests. This must have been the reason behind this corruption mess in the judiciary. Court administrator Midas claimed recently that the Sandiganbayan (People’s Advocate) court couldn’t touch him-   for he knows the rules. Again, he might be legally right but that doesn’t spare him the public’s suspicion of him being entangled  in the judiciary’s mess that’s now being revealed to the public and ultimately his knowledge of law doesn’t protect him from the higher principle of justice. It’s just a matter of time, I think, when the Sword of Damocles would fall and pierce through this arrogant head.

In this ongoing  impeachment, I expect a conviction not because I can prove it but because the figure of Mr. Corona is for me not beyond reasonable doubt. Public knowledge is not to be underestimated. The public knows in one way or another, sooner or later and it builds on this knowledge  its impressions about a certain public official.

So, ideally, only those who enjoy public trust are qualified to stay at their public posts. Those who do not should actually voluntarily resign and refrain from hiring an army of top lawyers for defense for it only proves their guilt and their lack of respect to the people. Just recently, after a week of controversy, the President of the Swiss National Bank resigned from his position voluntarily after being suspected of engaging in currency speculation equipped with insider’s knowledge. Though the details of his transactions happened within legal frames, he resigned because  he said he couldn’t prove his innocence before the people. This shows us that in a genuine democracy, public officials rely heavily on public perception. Impeachment (except for the Bundesrichter or Chief Justice) of a  public servant also doesn’t exist in Swiss constitution because in practice, a grossly erring public servant usually resigns when the pressure gets strong.

Democratization is a painful process and requires sacrifices. If the people are the victims of an undemocratic regime, the victims or sacrifices in real democracy are unclean public officials. Mr. Corona failed to see this  within a greater context, hence his suspicion of dictatorship and conspiracy against him and the judiciary. It’s indeed lamentable for a Chief Justice, a lawyer with a doctorate, not to use his education for a greater purpose and  to continue clinging  to a culture of impunity. Equally lamentable are his supporters – mostly lawyers themselves who follow blindly their Chief Justice and go to the streets like feral black cats. Before, maybe some of these lawyers were one of those street-and netcitizens decrying corruption and this culture of impunity. Now that for the first time a  President has vowed to end these two evils among many, they accuse him of dictatorship.

If Mr. Corona is really convinced that  he is fit for his post because he had done nothing unconstitutional, then he should actually help the prosecution arrive at the truth as quickly as possible. But by being aggressively defensive, the  message he is sending to the Filipino people is that of being guilty of the charges levied against him.  Why employ delaying tactics when there is nothing to be afraid of? Why block the presentation of BIR witnesses and issue- relevant body of  evidence when according to him he was not stupid enough to commit such charges as ill-gotten wealth and corruption? (Was his accepting of midnight-appointment not a sign of stupidity then?) Well, his chief defense counsel Mr. Cuevas argues that the “issue of ill-gotten wealth is not covered by Article 2 of the articles of impeachment on Corona”. But what if proven to be true basing on his income tax returns? Would this not be considered a criminal act and would this not lay any weight on the impeachment process or scratch Mr. Corona’s reputation as Chief Justice just because it’s not covered by article 2? With due respect to this seasoned litigator, Mr. Cueva’s argumentation and his lecturing on technicalities is not the truth but academic and philosophical attempts to evade the ultimate end of justice which is the truth. He should rather lecture Mr. Corona  to appreciate justice and to face the truth.

What makes it so hard to buy Mr. Corona’s defense arguments? I think it’s the tradition where he came from, – the Arroyo tradition which was famous the world over for its corruption. Within that administration, one could only survive and even win favors if one would only play by the rules consistently. And I think Mr. Corona was one of the major consistent  players in that  kleptomaniac Arroyo administration that’s why he survived well and even got awarded as Chief justice the night before Arroyo’s end.

An international study published last year known as ” The Puppet Masters: How the Corrupt Use Legal Structures To Hide Stolen Assets And What to do About it”  reported that “large-scale corruption through bribes, embezzled state assets and other “official” criminal proceeds is being kept under wraps via legal entities such as foundations, trust funds and others”… and how ” providers of legal, financial and administrative (management) services – including banks, financial institutions, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals known as trust and company service providers (TCSPs) – can be employed to facilitate corruption.” So the study.

The Supreme Court of any country is the highest court for it has the final decision on legal matters, hence, it embodies truth and justice. Supreme court justices, therefore, are expected to have the highest standards of moral integrity, sense of judgment, objectivity and impartiality. But experience shows that they are also corruptible. Midas’ adamant defense of “his judiciary and Chief Justice” became suspicious to me as this impeachment battle goes on. Is he afraid of something to come out more when his Chief Justice falls? This World Bank loan anomaly has robbed him of his sleep the last weeks, I guess. For this time, I think Justitia, the blindfolded Lady carrying scales and double-edged sword, should temporarily remove her blindfold for her to see for herself what’s really happening with our Supreme Court officials and if this study mentioned above applies to our Supreme Court.

This over-a -cup-of-coffee- argument of mine would have no chance before this impeachment court because I cannot give “hand carry”  evidence. But concerned citizens (or the public) are not obliged to prove whether they trust or don’t trust a certain public official. On the contrary, it is the public official that must prove to the public that he or she can be trusted. It is right that a senator-judge now hearing the impeachment trial with other senators is not obliged to explain why he or she is  for Mr. Corona’s conviction or acquittal for a senator is a people’s representative. If the senator has doubts on Mr. Corona’s person, he or she would convict him even if Mr. Coron’s team outwits the prosecution team for this is not about which team can deliver better arguments but whether the people’s representative can send back Mr. Corona to his post as Chief justice beyond reasonable doubt after this trial.

 Impeachment, as I see it, is one kind of rite of passage for a coming of age democracy. I don’t know how Mr. Corona sees it.

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CREMATION AS A RITE OF PASSAGE

JGL Eye

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2012 Journal Group Link International)

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.”   Genesis 3:19

CHICAGO (jGLi) – The recent death of my first cousin (on my maternal side), Milagros “Yangos” or “Young Goose” Garra Chua, of Matnog, Sorsogon in the Philippines of lung cancer left some of my relatives scratching their heads when she decided before she died that she wanted to be cremated.

Like a typical closely-knit Roman Catholics, our extended family has never considered cremation as an option until Young Goose’s decision. Cremation is a dreaded word that is better left unspoken.

Among its main objections is its perceived denial of the resurrection of one’s body as shown by Jesus, who was given a traditional burial, not cremation, after the Crucifixion before He could rise from the dead.

Young Goose’s only child, Dave Simon G. Chua, told me in an email that it was his Mom’s decision to be cremated. But Dave did not tell me the reason or reasons for his Mom’s decision.

But I got an idea from Chicago, Illinois’ Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim: it is cheaper.

The top Chicago Filipino diplomat told me the cost of shipping human remains from Chicago to the Philippines alone comes in the range of US$4,000 to US$6,000 while shipping cremated ashes could be less than US$1,000. (Note: You can lose an arm and a leg if you try to smuggle an urn containing cremated remains by stuffing it in an airline baggage or in Balikbayan boxes and get caught!) That’s why more Filipino Americans prefer to be buried in the U.S. than in the Philippines because it is costly for their loved ones to ship their remains unless they bought life or burial insurance!

I emailed the customer service of Loyola Plans Consolidated, Inc. in Makati City in the Philippines, requesting for the comparative rates for cremation and traditional burial after it provided cremation service to Yangos. But I did not get an answer.

The National Funeral Directors Association in the United States says the average funeral cost in the U.S. is about US$6,500 and the average associated cost for buying a burial plot, funeral flowers and services can add up to US$10,000.

 CREMATION 80 % CHEAPER

 On the other hand, the Cremation Association of North America says the average cost of cremation is $1,600 but could reach $5,000. But cremation is usually 80 percent less expensive than a traditional burial. But if cremation services such as coffin, complete funeral, an ornate urn and visitation hours may cost as much as burial.

One of my second cousins, Ramon “Tamoy” Garra, also of Matnog who is now an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) in Saudi Arabia and close to Young Goose family, asked me in an email, if the “(cremation) was orally willed by Yangos?  

“’Tho cremation has become prevalent, I cringe at the thought of burning the dead body especially of my dear ones as Manay Yangos.  Wonder if the Roman Catholic Church do recommend disposing a dead body in this fashion?”

According to Wikipedia, the Roman Catholic Church discourages cremation because, aside from denying the resurrection of the holy body, the body, as the instrument through which the sacraments are received, is itself a sacramental, holy object; and that as an integral part of the human person,it should be disposed of in a way that honors and reverences it, and many early practices involved with disposal of dead bodies were viewed as pagan in origin or an insult to the body.

But cremation was, in fact, never forbidden in and of itself; even in Medieval Europe, where there were multitudes of corpses simultaneously present, such as after a battle, after pestilence or famine, and there was an imminent fear of diseases spreading from the corpses, since individual burials with digging graves would take too long and body decomposition would begin before all the corpses had been interred.

But cremation is now permitted as long as it is not done to express a refusal to believe in the resurrection of the body.

 INURNMENT ON THE 40TH DAY

 Current Catholic liturgical regulations requires that, if requested by the family of the deceased, the cremation must not take place until after the funeral Mass. This way the body may be present for the Mass so that it, symbolizing the person, may receive blessings, be the subject of prayers in which it is mentioned, and since the body’s presence “better expresses the values which the Church affirms in those (funeral) rites (or Mass).” 
Once the Mass itself is concluded, the body could be cremated and a second service could be held at the crematorium or cemetery where the cremated remains are to be interred just as for a body burial.

Dave told me he brought the ashes of his Mom home. Inurnment at the columbary will be on the 40th day also at the Loyola Commonwealth. Inurnment is the process of placing cremated remains in an urn. The urn is placed either above the ground in a niche, or below ground in a grave.

As early as Dec. 30, Dave emailed me, saying, “My mother is still fighting the happy battle together with God. She’s slowly regaining her appetite and physical strength but unfortunately we cannot prevent other complications to arise because of her illness. Her feet are beginning to swell “nagmamanas” possibly due to kidney failure. We put our trust in God with everything my mother is going through that He will continue to give her that fighting courage and spirit to fight the happy battle.

“Thank you very much for all your prayers and concern! Keep in touch!

Happy Holidays! God Bless!

“Dave”

By Monday (Manila time), Jan. 2, my other first cousin (Rosario “Sayong” Garra Burgos) emailed me, “Kaninang 6 a.m. iniwan na tayo ni” Yangos. (At 6 a.m., Yangos left us.) “Hindi me makatulog kaya pala. (That’s why I could not sleep.) (At) 7 a.m., tumawag c Manoy Uyi at nag text daw c Dave na wala na Ma2 n’ya.” (At 7 a.m., Jorge (elder brother of Yangos) called me, telling me Dave texted him his Mom is gone.).

Yangos is survived by Dave, Dave’s wife, Jackie, their two-year-old son, Danny, Yangos’ elder sisters, Panching and Belen and elder brother, Jorge. Her husband, Danny Chua, died five years ago. Yangos was the youngest daughter of the late Dominador G. Garra, a retired treasurer of Matnog and elder brother of my late mother, Consolacion Garra Lariosa.

Yangos studied education at University of Santo Tomas and celebrated her 62nd birthday last Dec. 21st. She worked at the real estate department of the Social Security System in Quezon City for a long time.
In my last phone conversation late last year with Yangos whom I had not seen in more than 50 years, she blamed her smoking habit and her lifestyle for her lung cancer.

We will miss you, Yangos. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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DPWH engineers in Bicol scored poorly in promotional test

BusinessMirror.com.ph

Sunday, 01 January 2012 20:29

by  Manly M. Ugalde / Correspondent

LEGAZPI CITY—Public works and highways engineers in Bicol scored dismally in the most recent Civil Service Promotional Test conducted by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The agency said not a single district engineer and assistant district engineer in the region’s 16 districts passed the test.

A source who requested anonymity said of the more than 60 engineers who took the Oct. 1 promotional test, only 17 passed it.

The test was held at the New Era University in Quezon City for Luzon-based engineers, Tacloban City for Visayas-based engineers, and Davao City for Mindanao-based engineers.

The source, however, said he has no idea as to the passing percentage for all the examinees.

The DPWH-CSC promotional test was first introduced during the stewardship of Secretary Gregorio Vigilar in 1997. It was a difficult test compared to the recently held test which had only 200 questions and multiple-choice answers that deals on management decision-making and technical aspect.

DPWH regional maintenance engineer Antonio Saguinsin who also took the test confirmed that only seven engineers from Bicol had passed the test, saying Fermin Peteza who was the overall topnotcher in the 1997 promotional test was among the seven passers. Peteza is the current chief of the region’s Quality Assurance Unit holding a rank of Engineer V. Only those with the rank of Engineer III upward were qualified to take the test.

The test is the basis for promotion to a higher rank similar to the criteria of the promotional test in 1997.

But retired district engineer Manuel Saret who was among the passers during the 1997 test said that many DPWH engineers in Bicol who flunked the 1997 test were promoted for unknown reasons.

A source from the Civil Service Commission said the 1997 test flunkers should have never been promoted.

Saret said among the flunkers who was an engineer III at that time was promoted to district engineer in 2000 and is now among the division chiefs at the regional office holding an item of Engineer V.

Those who passed the recently held promotional test were Fermin Peteza, Benjamin Buitre, Eleanor Areola, Rebecca Roces, Marilou Sariba all from the regional office; Nilda Doloiras from Sorsogon Distrrict Engineering; and one from Camarines Sur District Engineering whose name has not been provided.

DPWH regional director Danilo Dequito had earlier said that flunkers occupying the positions of district engineers, assistant district engineers, division chiefs, and section chiefs in an acting capacity and holding a rank lower than what is required will be replaced by qualified engineers.

He said the criteria for promotion will be strictly followed, saying passing the Oct. 1 promo test is the first step.

Dequito and his assistant regional director Jesus Salmo are reportedly Career Executive Service Officers (Ceso). But according to Mike Aguilar of the private construction industry, Dequito was not a Ceso when designated in Bicol in October when the Aquino administration was determined in terminating non-Ceso holders appointed by the Arroyo administration.

Aguilar said Dequito became a full-pledged Ceso officer only last Sept. 30.

The appointment of Dequito and Salmo in Bicol had caused the termination of regional director Danilo Manalang and assistant regional directors Oscar Cristobal and Jaime Martinez.

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Happy New Year, Bulan!

Bulan Observer wishes the town of Bulan as well as its readers, authors and contributors a Happy New year!

We have unspoiled twelve months before us, hence, this first day of the year  is  the right time to be optimistic. After all those festive moments and weeks of rest and reflection, we prepare ourselves now for the things to come in our town and in our nation.

We will continue with our own little ways of making known to a greater public what is happening in Bulan even as we also share our opinions on things that are happening on the national level.

We have seen some goals achieved with the latest developments on the national level. For this, we thank President Aquino for realizing our goal of making corrupt public officials accountable. Some of these big crocodiles are now behind bars. Now, we expect the smaller provincial crocodiles to be held accountable also to the mess they have done to our town and province. But of course the President has his priorities. I’m thinking about the Sendong- ravaged villages in the south as top on his list of finding those perpetrators of illegal logging and mining and poor local planning  that degraded the environment and endangered the lives of many inhabitants there. Remember that these illegal activities are also happening in Bulan, Matnog, etc. So we’ll keep our eyes on these things and hope that corrupt officials in our province also be put to justice.

I’m following closely Chief Justice Corona’s case. Personally, I think he already lost his office for he no longer enjoys public trust. His fight which is reduced to legal technicalities will never win him that  integrity and moral ascendancy expected of a Chief Justice. Mr. Miguel Zubiri went home early to take off his Arroyo clothes before the public could do it for him, and this makes him wiser than Mr. Corona who never realizes that his Arroyo wardrobe is too weak to protect him from the winds of change that’s  now in our country. Soon, the senate impeachment court will be his dressing room where he will be undressed cloth for cloth-  eight Arroyo clothings, I guess,-  till the bare truth comes out.

May this year 2012 be an interesting and brilliant year for Bulan. Bulan Observer hopes for more interesting articles written by people from Bulan themselves.

My special thanks this year goes to Mr. Joseph Lariosa for his reports and for introducing Bulan Observer to our Kababayans in Chicago. May he writes more political commentaries and opinion articles.

jun asuncion

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Fil Am Family Visits Santa Claus in North Pole

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)

CHICAGO (jGLi) – The children of Ronnie L. Rey do not really need to call United States First Lady Michelle Obama to track Santa Claus thru the North American Aerospace Defense Command. They can actually visit Father Christmas in the North Pole as shown in the photo that Ronnie, my nephew, sent me.

We are are talking, of course, about the town of North Pole, Alaska, which is 15 miles from Fairbanks, Alaska, where Mr. Rey’s family lives. We are not talking about the geographic North Pole, which is 1,122 nautical miles (2,078 km) from Point Barrow, Alaska (the northernmost point of land in the United States), where the average temperature is -30 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mr. Rey, a Technical Sergeant at the Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, said they went to the town of North Pole last Dec. 22 when the weather was “tolerable,” which was minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 19 degrees Centigrade or Celsius.

On Christmas Day, which was also his 34th birthday, Tech. Sgt. Rey just stayed at home with his family, including his wife, Contessa, 34, and their children, Angel Haven, 9, Ashley, 7, and Aiden, seven months old, although he has invitation to have nochebuena (good night), a traditional family dinner, from other Filipino Americans in the city. He said the temperature was minus 16 degrees Fahrenheit, which is minus 19 degrees Centigrade or Celsius.

With population of 30,224 in 2010, Fairbanks has a racial makeup of 66.67% White, 13.10% Black or African American, 9.91% Native American, 2.72% Asian, 0.54% Pacific Islander, 2.45% from other races, and 6.57% from two or more races.

The biggest attraction of Fairbank’s suburban town of North Pole is a gift shop named Santa Claus House, the modern-day incarnation of a trading post established in the town’s early days. The Santa Claus House is known for the world’s largest fiberglass statue of Santa Claus outside.

FILIPINOS ALSO CELEBRATE SIMBANG GABI IN ALASKA

 Prior to Christmas each year, the United States Postal Service post office in North Pole receives hundreds of thousands of letters to Santa Claus, and thousands more from people wanting the town’s postmark on their Christmas greeting cards to their families. It advertises the ZIP code 99705 as the ZIP code of Santa Claus.

Despite its cold weather, Filipinos in Fairbanks still celebrate Simbang Gabi, a novena celebrated in the Philippines nine days before Christmas.

In Ronnie Rey’s case, he attends the mass in the chapel inside the Eielson Air Force Base, home of the 354th Fighter Wing, with some Filipinos but the mass is in English since there is no Filipino priest.

The tradition of Simbang Gabi dates to the 1600s in the Philippines. It traces its origins to Mexico, to a monastic monk by the name of Fray Diego de Soria. He is said to have received Vatican permission to hold an outdoor Mass at dawn for Christmas, to accommodate all the people. It evolved into the novena tradition of holding an early morning Mass on each of the nine days before Christmas.

These Masses were called the “Misa de Gallo,” Spanish for “Mass at the rooster call.” Having Mass at such an early time in the morning helped people embrace the penitential spirit of Advent.

Because dawn comes so late in the day in Alaska, Filipinos and other Catholics in the state celebrate Simbang Gabi in the evening.

Simbang Gabi is also a time for the faithful to pray for their special intentions. In Ronnie’s case, because he will be transferring for six months from his Logistics, Readiness Squadron in Eielson Air Force Base to Qatar Al Udeid Air Base west of Doha starting on Jan 7, he had prayed for his safety and his family he will be leaving behind.

His family first relocated at the Eielson Air Force Base last July 2010. His tour of duty in that base will be up until June 2014, when he will be relocated elsewhere.

During their nochebuena, Ronnie’s family treated themselves at home to spaghetti pasta and dinuguan (pork blood stew). “Meron din nag-iimbita sa amin sa isang handaan ng mga Filipino. Pero dahil sa lamig, dito na lang kami sa bahay namin nag-dinner.” (We got some invitation to attend a party with some Filipino friends but the cold weather prevented us from going out of our house. So, we just had our dinner in our house), Ronnie told this reporter and his relatives over the phone while his relatives were also celebrating Christmas dinner and reunion in the house of his cousin, George L. Hernandez, in Chicago, Illinois.

Born in Manila and raised in Sorsogon City in the Philippines, Ronnie is a son of the former Antonia Garra Lariosa and Rolando Rey, both of Sorsogon City.

The average winter low temperatures in Fairbanks range from −15 °F (−26 °C) to −25 °F (−32 °C), but extremes can range from 50 °F (10 °C) to −60 °F (−51 °C). (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

 

FILIPINO FAMILY WITH SANTA CLAUS IN NORTH POLE:

Technical Sgt. Ronnie L. Rey of the Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, Alaska restrains his youngest son, Aiden, seven months old, being held by his wife, Contessa, 34, as they pose in front of Santa Claus in North Pole, Alaska, cradling their two daughters, Angel Haven (left), 9, and Ashley, 7, last Dec. 22 inside the gift shop named Santa Claus House in North Pole. (jGLiPhoto courtesy of Ronnie L. Rey)

 

 

 

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Chicago Church Bucks Trend; Holds Misa de Gallo At Dawn!

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2011 Journal Group Link International) 

CHICAGO (jGLi) – In the run-up of Dec. 16, the start of “Simbang Gabi” (evening mass) in Chicago and around the world, Father Alfredo Salera, Pastor of Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish in Chicago’s northside, sent out word that his parish was going to hold the Simbang Gabi at early dawn at 5:30 in the morning, which is the closest as it is observed in the Philippines.

In the Philippines, Simbang Gabi is held at 4 a.m. because of the tolerable weather.

The timing of the mass must have sent a chilling message to the parishioners, mostly Filipinos, because of the dip in temperature around the event in Chicago.

Feeling that there seems to be no takers to his plans, Father Salera, a native of Meycauyan, Bulacan in the Philippines, sent out another word that even if only one will attend the Dawn Mass, he would still hold a mass.

When his church parishioner and pianist, Amor Saenz, a native of Sorsogon City in the Philippines, told this reporter about this startling schedule at the Simbang Gabi community celebration in nearby St. Gregory the Great Church last Dec. 16, my first impression was that Miss Saenz must be joking.

So, at 5 in the morning on Sunday, Dec. 18, when radio newscast was telling me that the temperature was 29 degree Fahrenheit, I went to the Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish Church, at 2609 West Carmen in Chicago, some five miles away from my home in Jefferson Park in Chicago’s northside, just to satisfy my curiosity.

(For those in the Philippines, the freezing temperature is like the temperature inside the freezer of your refrigerator. At 33 degrees Fahrenheit when rain falls, it turns into snow. The 33-degree temperature stings when it is windy.)

So, when I got inside the church at about 5:40 a.m., the Dawn Mass presided over by Father Salera had started in earnest with Miss Saenz smiling at me while playing the piano.

It turned out there were not only one but about 30 parishioners, who braved the very cold weather just to attend the mass that they missed attending in the Philippines. They were the same number of parishioners, when the Dawn Mass started last Dec. 16.

One of the parishioners, Marc Aguja, told this reporter, “I used to sleep at 11 in the evening and got up at 5 in the morning. During these nine days until Christmas, I advanced my sleeping habit at 10 p.m., so I can get up at 4 a.m. just enough time for me to prepare and attend this 5:30 a.m. Misa de Gallo (Spanish for rooster’s mass, when the roosters or cocks crow).”

FIRST CHURCH TO HOLD DAWN MASS OUTSIDE PH?

 If Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish Church will be able to hold a 5:30 a.m. for the nine-day Novena, ushering the Christmas Day celebration, it is believed to the first church located in a cold weather area outside the Philippines to hold a Dawn Mass anywhere in the world.

All the 75 different Catholic churches under the Asian Archdiocese of Chicago are holding the Simbang Gabi daily from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at its 26th anniversary celebration this year.

“I hope to keep up this same Dawn Mass while I am the pastor of this parish,” Father Salera, 65, told this reporter. “I hope my successor will continue with what I have started and other churches will follow suit” as he looks toward his retirement in five years.

He said, “Rising early in the morning with children is a form of discipline to keep up with Misa de Gallo as festive as Christmas is celebrated the longest in the Philippines. It still has penitential color in it, to reflect the life of Jesus to be like us, except for the sin, the sharing and His saving act. The act of all saints in Heaven, the sharing of our local food. The Filipino delicacies in the Philippines, where you buy them outside the church while some parishioners take the food with them in coming to church and partake of them in the basement of the church after the mass.”

When asked if he was going to pray for the 652 victims, who perished from the flash floods in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities in Mindanao during the last two days, the priest, who grew up in Cebu and Bohol, said he was not aware of it, saying he “doesn’t watch TV but I have not opened the news online. I will pray for them just as we have for so many intentions for many people.”

CARDINAL GEORGE TO CELEBRATE SIMBANG GABI

 Father Salera was pastor for seven years of St. Catherine Laboure in suburban Glenview, Illinois, where His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George, the Archbishop of Chicago, will be celebrating the Simbang Gabi at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 23. On Monday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m., Chicago Bishop Francis Kane will be celebrating Simbang Gabi at Transfiguration of Our Lord church at 7 p.m.

Last Friday, Dec. 16, St. Gregory The Great Church in Chicago’s northside was one of the 11 Chicago churches which celebrated Simbang Gabi at 6 p.m. Fr. Paul Wachdorf, pastor of St. Gregory The Great Church, celebrated the mass in front of majority members, relatives and friends of The Filipinos of St. Gregory, a lay and voluntary organization headed by Dr. Dona L. Hernandez of Sorsogon City in the Philippines. St. Gregory The Great Church is one of the Chicago churches, which have been observing Simbang Gabi during the last 24 years.

In a note to her fellow parishioners, Dr. Hernandez explained that, the Simbang Gabi “masses refer to the practice of performing nine days of private or public devotion to obtain special graces.”

Like the rest of other churches celebrating Simbang Gabi, a light dinner for the parishioners follows after the mass. The nine-day Novena during Simbang Gabi culminates with the Midnight Mass on Dec. 24.

Father Salera said there are 1,000 Filipino priests around the United States headed by the first Filipino American bishop, Bishop Oscar A. Solis of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. There are 100 priests from Tagbilaran and Bohol; there are about 65 or 66 Filipino priests each in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York and less than 10 in Chicago. He urged parishioners to be generous in their donations and asked families to encourage their children to join priesthood. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

Photos:

TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD CHURCH:

Announcement of the 5:30 a.m. Misa de Gallo is shown outside the Transfiguration Of Our Lord Church at 2609 West Carmen Avenue, Chicago, Illinois last Sunday, Dec. 18. (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)

HOMILY BY FR. SALERA:

Fr. Alfredo Salera encouraged parishioners during the Misa de Gallo (Dawn Mass) at 5:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 18, to pray often as part of the covenant with Virgin Mary, the Spiritual Mother of God, and who responded to the message of an angel when she answered “yes” to be the Mother of God, the most momentous and profound event in human history and the Christmas story full of beauty. Listening is Atty. Manny Aguja, lector during the mass. (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)

LIGHT BREAKFAST:

Parishioners take a light breakfast in the basement of the Transfiguration Of Our Lord Church after the 5:30 a.m. Misa de Gallo (Dawn Mass). (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)

TSAMPORADO:

Parishioners await their turn to have their tsamporado (chocolate porridge), one of the light offerings during a light breakfast in the basement of Transfiguration Or Our Lord Church in Chicago’s northside after the 5:30 a.m. Dawn Mass last Sunday, Dec. 18, the first such early sunrise mass in Chicagoland area with cooler climates outside the Philippines. (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)

FILIPINOS OF ST. GREGORY:

Rev. Paul Wachdorf (ninth from right, back row), Pastor of St. Gregory The Great Parish Church in Chicago’s northside, and Dr. Dona L. Hernandez (fourth from right, seated), president of The Filipinos of St. Gregory join the officers, members and friends of The Filipinos of St. Gregory after the Simbang Gabi mass celebration at St. Gregory The Great Parish Church last Friday, Dec. 16 in the church cafeteria. To Dr. Hernandez’ right is Gina Ibardaloza, executive vice president of The Filipinos of St. Gregory, Angie G. Lariosa (second from left, seated), incumbent vice president; Mandy Ibardaloza (to Angie’s right), Alex Siapno (third from left, back row) and Mr. Vic Tibudan (fifth from left back row with cap), past presidents. (jGLiPhoto)

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Bikol U.S.A of the Midwest Holds Christmas Party, Keeps Tradition Alive

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)

CHICAGO (jGLi) – “Mommy” Irene Emperado, an employee of Unimart on 5845 North Clark Street in the northside of Chicago, Illinois, was scratching her head when I placed an order over the phone for 22 pounds of Galunggong (mackerel) to be fried for the Christmas party of the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest last Sunday, Dec. 11.

But it was another director of our club, Dr. Dona L. Hernandez, who would be paying for the order. And yet there were two other members, Ben and Chit Ner, who were going to pick up the seafood.

I told Irene she should just keep still. We were not pulling a trick on her. It is just how teamwork and transparency work in a socio-civic organization. Everybody has to get involved no matter how trivial the part, including cleaning-up the place after the party, if you are the host of the party.

Nobody should be prima donna in any organization if they want to make it strong.
 If there are burden sharing, everything becomes even lighter, especially the checkbook.

In fact, even if members were no-shows for the event, they even volunteer to contribute.

Take for instance, my province mate, John Claridad, a Philippine lawyer of Bulan, Sorsogon. For the second time, John could not attend our party because our Christmas party coincided with the birthday party of his daughter. So, he told another, director, Miss Amor Saenz, from Sorsogon, Sorsogon that he will be contributing just the same for the expenses of members from Sorsogon of the club.

Even Nita Payos from Gubat, Sorsogon was able to convince Salvacion ”Sally” Expectation and Sally’s sister, Lourdes Coloma, to chip in too, even if they were no shows.

COOPERATION AND CAMARADERIE

This story of cooperation and camaraderie in an organization was in full display during the annual Christmas party of Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest headed by Ms. Evelyn R. Tolledo of Pandan, Catanduanes, as her whole family was involved in almost all facets during the party that was shared with Juzz Dance Club headed by Mr. Ed Cabanayan.

Evelyn’s better half, Robert “Bob” Tolledo, a doctor of medicine (orthopedic surgeon) in the Philippines, who decided to run his own medical code billing company, Alert Solutions, LLC, in Chicago area, for a living, did not want to eclipse the role of his wife. But he bought $500 worth hard drinks for the guests and parted with $250 cash as gifts to children, during the gift-giving.

While Rocky Tolledo, one of the three children of Evelyn and Bob, was the photographer, Rocky’s brother, Royce, donned Sta. Claus, complementing his Mom, who was dressed up as Mrs. Santa Claus also. Ronnel, the youngest, was busy giving away goodies to children, who were the envy of adults, for having lots of gifts, mostly cash.

But the officers of Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest made sure that the kids, who were to get gifts had to take the hands of Lolo Norberto and Lola Irene Pagatpatan, parents-in-law of past president, Ayres Pagatpatan, and plant them on their foreheads. It is some trait that is running out of style, especially for overseas Filipino kids, who may not have ninongs (male sponsors) or ninangs (female sponsors) to turn to.”

The John Ajena family seemed to take the cake when Jau and Jannae Ajena turned the party into a virtual “American Idol” contest while the Christopher Jones Family performed Michael Jackson footwork to the tune of Billy Jean.

But the adults led by Ed Cabanayan, disk jockey and master dance instructor, and Lilibeth Castagna, representing Masbate province, did not take it sitting down by giving “Dancing With The Stars” performers a run for their money with their fancy steps.

DANCING KEEPS THEM FROM FREEZING

If the party was a non-stop dancing, it had to because the social hall of St. Henry Church at 6335 North Hoyne in Chicago’s northside had no heater. If one were stationery, one could freeze.

The non-stop dancing was interrupted only when Evelyn Tolledo told the crowd of over a hundred that the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest had donated $1,000 for victims of Typhoon “Juaning” in Bato, Bula, Buhi and Nabua, Camarines Sur; $300 for the completion of Divine Mercy Shrine and Carmelite Monastery of the Carmelite Nuns of the Holy Trinity (CNHT) in Kawakawa, Ligao City in Albay province; and another $320 for a package of three kilos of rice with six pieces of Nissin Ramen and canned goods in each of the packages to about 150 indigent families last month in Bagamanoc and Pandan, Catanduanes brought by club secretary Alice Llames plus additional contribution of $100 from Ray Galicia.

As PRO of the club, I was also tasked to announce some of its upcoming events for 2012. They are the Post-Valentine Party Fund Raising for Calamansi (Citrofortunella microcarpa) Tree Planting Project at $35 per donation at Lone Tree Manor at 7730 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Niles, IL on Feb. 24; a trip to Our Lady of Snow in Belleville, IL from May 26-28; Hawaiian Luau Party on July 14 for $10 donation; BNAA National Convention, Hyatt Regency, Dearborn, Michigan from July 20-22; Annual picnic on Aug 12 at Proesel Park at 7001 N. Kostner Ave., Lincolnwoold, IL; Novena of Our Lady of Penafrancia and Feast Day at St. Mathias Catholic Church at 2310 W. Ainsle St., Chicago, IL, Sept. 7-14; Golf Tournament Fund Raising at Big Oaks Golf Club & Country Club in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, Sept. 23; Halloween Party and Masquerade Ball, Oct. 17; and Bikol U.S.A of the Midwest Christmas Party and Election of Officers, Dec. 16.

As PRO also of The Filipinos of St. Gregory headed by Dr. Dona L. Hernandez, I also announced the Simbang Gabi on Friday, Dec. 16, at 6 p.m. at St. Gregory The Great Parish Church at 5545 N. Paulina, Chicago.

Among the donors (mostly cash) to the Christmas party aside from Evelyn Tolledo, who also donated red and white wine, decorations and six bags of bread, were the Bikol USA of the Midwest, which spent $500 for the food; the Stanley’s Fruits which donated fruits; Alice Llames, Toy Mancenido (cash), Dennis Alban (water/ice soda) and Ayres Pagatpatan (hotdogs) (past club presidents), Rosalle del Valle, Rick & Aida Joseph (chicken), Letty Costales, Gil Buena (vice president), Jess and Lilet Mante (Arroz caldo), Julie Buenafe, Julie Chavez, Naty Atienza and friends Sally Kagingin , Julia Estrada and Lisa Soriano (Sotanghon), Ben and Yoly Zoleta (balloons), Rico del Rosario (chicken curry), Lilibeth and Sam Castagna (gifts), the Tolledo children – Rocky (gift/photography), Royce and Ronnel; Mila Emocling (cash); Lura & Darlo Gonzales (cash); Pipo & Frances D. (lechon kawali), Romy Sarcilla (dessert), Cecile Manlapaz and Joel Basilio (pancit). (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

MANO PO LOLO:

A young boy takes the hand of Lolo Norberto Pagatpatan and plants the back of the hand in his forehead to ask for a blessing as Lola Irene Pagatpatan is about to hand him the bills at the joint Christmas party celebration of the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest and the Juzz Dance Club at the Social Gym of St. Henry Church at 6335 North Hoyne in Chicago’s northside last Sunday, Dec. 11. (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)

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GROUP PHOTO:

Ms. Evelyn R. Tolledo (sixth from left, third row wearing red with black hat) smiles as she joins the officers and members and friends of Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest in this souvenir photo during the Christmas party last Sunday, Dec. 11, at St. Henry Church at 6335 North Hoyne in Chicago’s northside. Also in photo are Bikol U.S.A. past presidents Toy Mancenido (behind, President Tolledo) and Dennis Alban (second from left front row) with Bob Tolledo to Dennis’ right, Joseph G. Lariosa (third from right, front row) with Marlon Pecson to his left and Dr. Dona L. Hernandez (sixth from right front row). (jGLiPhoto by Ernie Antonio, Jr.)

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PAROLEE INDICTED FOR 14-COUNT MURDER OF FIL AM NURSE

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)

CHICAGO (jGLi) – A 36-year-old parolee was indicted Wednesday (Dec. 7) with 14-count murder in the brutal attack last October of Filipino American nurse Virginia Perillo before the Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago’s south side.

A Clerk of Court source said that although, there was only one victim in the attack, the 14-count murder considers “different ways and intents” that contributed to the brutal killing.

Raymond Harris, a resident of 7100 Block of South Yale in Chicago, was not granted bail.

He will be up for arraignment on Dec. 28 at 9 a.m. at Room 101 at the Criminal Courts building on 2650 South California Avenue in the south side of Chicago.

Harris, who is on parole for an attempted murder conviction, was arrested after stealing the wedding and engagement rings of the victim, Perillo, 73, and used them to propose to his girlfriend.

If found guilty of murder, Harris could be sentenced to a maximum life in prison without parole. There is no death penalty in Illinois.

Prosecutors said Harris, who was paroled in May, attacked Perillo as she was getting out of her car in her garage in the 3300 block of South Parnell Avenue. He stole her purse and wedding and engagement rings. 

Perillo, a native of Cagayan de Oro City in the Philippines, sustained serious head wounds and was found lying unconscious by a neighbor, who was trying to close her garage door that was open. 

An intensive critical care nurse of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago’s southside for 40 years, Mrs. Perillo died on Oct. 24, two days after she was rushed to the hospital.

Prosecutors say on the night of the attack, Harris went to a party, wearing “brand new clothes” and showed the rings to a witness, asking which of them he should use to propose to his girlfriend. Harris later used both rings.

 DNA TRACED TO SUSPECT

It was the DNA collected from a blood-stained men’s watch found inside Perillo’s car that matched Harris. A resident of suburban Carpentersville, Harris was arrested Tuesday afternoon in suburban Elgin, police said. 

When police contacted Harris’ fiancé, she turned the rings over to the detectives and Perillo’s family identified them as hers. 

Harris was paroled in May after serving 13 years of a 30-year sentence for his 1997 attempted murder and aggravated arson convictions, according Assistant State’s Attorney Melissa Howlett. 

In that case, Harris broke into a woman’s home, raped and beat her for several hours, Howlett said. He also threatened that victim at knifepoint, cut her neck and set three separate fires in the woman’s home, Howlett said. The woman woke up with her legs on fire and suffered third-degree burns. 

Just three weeks before that attack, Harris had been released from prison for a 1993 armed robbery, vehicular invasion and burglary. In that case, Harris brandished a gun at a woman getting outside of her car outside her home, Howlett said. 

Perillo’s son, Michael Perillo, 32, the youngest of Perillo’s three children, all boys, told this reporter in an interview that Chicago police found his mom lying unconscious Saturday (Oct. 22) between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. by a neighbor, who tried to close her garage after seeing it open.

M rs. Perillo’s husband, Mauro Perillo, 75, is a native of Polangui, Albay in the Philippines. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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Obstruction Of Justice – In Good Times And Bad Times

by jun asuncion

It was like a chess championship match with the brave sacrificing act of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima leading to the checkmate of GMA. The thrill reached its peak as GMA attempted to flee from her impending checkmate – using  her ailment as cover up and with her team of lawyers exhausting her cornucopia of legal means so she could  escape prosecution – these in dizzying alacrity. Not to be dismissed as boring were the acrimony between the lawyers of each camp, political observers and netizens and  the diverging  opinions of the senators and constitutional experts on the legal imbroglio and pandemonium that transpired the last days.

Beside offering a cerebral entertainment, this match was a crossing of the Rubicon for Aquino’s administration with its determined fight against the culture of impunity – the catalyst and stabilizer of corruption engines – and its entrance into a culture of accountability with the arrest of GMA last Friday.

Big change shakes the foundations, brings with it conflicting situations and demands sacrifices and strong will. Though it was GMA’s histrionics that dictated the tempo of events, it was the seemingly collision of  the fundamental right to travel and the right of the state to prosecute high crimes and the contumacious actions of  Justice Secretary De Lima vis-à-vis  the Supreme court that interested keen observers the most. On top of that one questions: How absolute are human rights, the Constitution and the orders of the Supreme court? And how powerful is the judiciary against the executive? Was there a constitutional crisis? Opinions differed on these questions among lawyers and constitutionalists.

Everything appeared paradoxical and dramatic. Secretary De Lima was unfazed, controlled,  tough and very quick on the trigger. She had her angle  all the time and she’s proven her worth as Justice Secretary. For her justice must be served by all means – even to the point of disobeying a Supreme Court order- this Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).  Senator Escudero was among the antagonists who espoused blind obedience to the law and was quick to praise the Court’s decision.  Were he in command, GMA would have escaped prosecution.

Justice vs. the right to travel?  It was another instance of two good things colliding at a given space and time. Had Senator Escudero viewed the whole situation not as a lawyer but as visionary politician, he would have been part of the entourage that crossed the Rubicon. Hence, he was left behind with his myopic, legalistic view of the world. He cut a pathetic figure last week. The constitutional right to travel should not be used to obstruct justice and crimes committed should not be blinded out or relegated to the background as lawyers engage themselves in textbook debates on law. Accused persons must be tried by all means.

Crossing the Rubicon is disobedience yet groundbreaking. President Noy Aquino and his team have crossed the Rubicon in order that justice be served in the Philippines. This is reflective equilibrium, visionary politics, epoch-making leadership.

Democracy is not only about rights and individualism but also about duties and collectivism. GMA’s insistence on her human and constitutional right to travel (since when did she insist on human and constitutional rights?) must be viewed not in isolation or purely as an article in the 1987 Constitution but within the context of the crimes imputed to her. That’s why it was a piece of impudence and out of context  for her legal advisers to equate GMA’s deprivation of her right to travel as endangering all Filipinos’ right to travel. Not all Filipinos are Gloria Arroyo.

If Democracy is a balance of rights, duties, individualism (personal welfare) and collectivism (common good), then decisions involving conflicting rights or principles must also be balanced. Secretary De Lima was right when she mentioned the balancing of the situation before arriving at a decision. Some members of the Supreme Court seemed to have problem with balancing last week, hence, this TRO was far from being democratic because it was decided without this greater sense for justice, sense of social responsibility and in sheer disregard for the accountability of public officials and suspected criminals.  The  state’s decision for justice, accountability and to end impunity outweighs GMA’s personal right to travel. Naturally, GMA was in a hurry to leave for she knew that without the case being formally filed before a court-and with her one -way TRO ticket in her suitcase – she could still defy the Watchlist Order of the Justice Department. A fleeing suspect in prestissimo has no right to blame Judge Mupas and the Southern Police District  if they’re catching up with her tempo. Railroading a woman suspect on wheelchair? Had she not displayed the intention to follow the example of Ramona Bautista, everything would have been settled in adagio manner. So GMA was in command of the metronome last week – but to her disadvantage.

If the government represents democracy and if sovereignty emanates from the people, then the people who voted for Pres. Aquino and his promise to fight corruption surely supported all actions taken by Pres. Aquino’s team in preventing Arroyo from leaving the country until her arrest last Friday. That TRO could hardly be taken as representing the interest of the sovereignty. An ordinary Filipino doesn’t need the service of a  lawyer to decide not to entrust his child to somebody with records of stealing, violence and pedophiliac activities or send his housemaid he  highly suspects of stealing his  money for a vacation in her province before he has confronted her about the situation. Using the same common sense he would likewise not allow GMA to leave and escape prosecution.

GMA is famous for her inconsistencies, very poor credibility rating,  betraying Public Trust and for being accused of committing a dozen of crimes, among these being electoral sabotage and plunder. So why let her go before her cases are cleared? The Supreme Court’s voting for TRO was  legally right but did it respect or consider the people’s covenant with the President? The Supreme Court justices – including the Chief Justice – who voted for TRO, all being appointees of GMA when she was still president, decided in favor of their ex-boss, a situation we could easily link with Utang Na Loob. Lawyers interpret a legal situation differently. The fact that the Supreme Court justices  were divided in their judgement on TRO issuance, supports this argument. Hence, the TRO was a personal gift for Arroyo, a one way ticket for  a world tour.

Gloria Arroyo’s theatrical performance at the airport was aimed to tickle that Filipino traits of Awa and Utang na Loob. But  she has been unmasked by the people and so it was a flop for no Awa came to her rescue. “Persecution, cruelty”, according to her husband. It’s amazing how justice can change someone’s vocabularies. This much heard promise of returning home may have been true but has anybody thought of asking them (Arroyos) when? Two weeks could also be stretched to twenty years. Or maybe forever – like their promise when they were wedded, to be together in good times and bad  times.

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Bikol U.S.A of the Midwest Joins in Raising Funds 
For Building of Shrine & Monastery in Ligao City

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2011 Journal Group Link International

Joseph Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – The Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest led by its President Evelyn R. Tolledo joined Friday (Nov. 11) a dinner-dance fundraiser for the victims of typhoons and floods in Bikol region and Laguna province in the Philippines at Elk’s Club at 495 Lee St. in suburban Des Plaines, Illinois.

Money raised will also be used for the completion of the Divine Mercy Shrine and Carmelite Monastery of the Carmelite Nuns of the Holy Trinity (CNHT) in Kawakawa, Ligao City in Albay province.

Rev. Mother Maria Trinidad P. Bunac, CNHT Prioress General, said that part of the proceeds would also go to scholarship program of some poor and deserving students. She said so far the program has graduated two nurses, one of whom had just passed the nursing board at first attempt while another other is reviewing for the board.

Part of the proceeds will also be earmarked for treatment of some children with hydrocephalous medical condition.

Ligao native Romy Badiola, CEO of RC Trading and charter president of the Ligawenos of the Midwest which became Bikol U.S.A. in Chicago, appealed to the guests and his fellow Bikolanos to help CNHT in its fundraising.

Rev. Fr. Peter Caposo, associate pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Skokie, Illinois, led the invocation during the event.

Mother Trinidad Bunac thanked donors, who went out of their way, to buy dinner tickets while others sent in their donations.

John Arcilla and the Trio Carmelite Nuns also serenaded the guests while Anita Rosa, Ronald Zapata and Sister Maryjohn L. Mendones, CNHT, performed exhibition numbers.

Ria and Josephine Bonjoc played violin and guitar while Espie Nguyen and Danny Garcia acted as the masters of ceremony. Boy Bonjoc and Company provided the music and the band.

Those invited by Evelyn Tolledo chipped in half of the $50.00 dinner ticket to fund-raising event.

Among those invited by Ms. Tolledo to the fund-raiser were her husband Roberto Tolledo, Joseph G. Lariosa, G. Jun Delfin, President/Director of the Unlimited Agency, Inc. based in Naperville, Illinois, Bob Sioson, Hyde Sombilla, Tom Held and his wife, Letty “Nene” Servino-Held, first President of Bikol U.S.A. Romy Badiola and his friend, Heidi Lim.

The Bikol USA of the Midwest also donated $300.00 from its own fund. Those who did not attend but still sent in their donations are as follows: Aida and Rick Joseph and Virginia Ordonez in the amount of $50.00; Alice Llames, $50.00; Dulce Oreta and Efren Sarmiento, $50.00; Teresita Catorce and Lettecia Cope Costales, $50.00; Emelita and Jess Mante, $50.00; Alegria and Jay Bacerdo, $50.00; for a grand total of $600.00.

“Sister Trinidad will be sending us the letter of acknowledgement and the receipt of these donations.” Ms. Tolledo added.

Ms. Tolledo also invited Bikolanos and other guests at the event to join the Christmas party of the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest on Sunday, Dec. 11, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Social Gym of St. Henry Catholic Church at 6335 N. Hoyne Avenue in Chicago’s northside. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

TURNOVER OF DONATION:

Rev. Mother Ma. Trinidad P. Bunac (third from left) of the Carmelite Nuns of the Holy Trinity (CNHT) in Kawakawa, Ligao City, Albay Province in the Philippines holds the $600.00 check turned over by Evelyn R. Tolledo (second from left), President of the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest, during the fund-raising of the CNHT at the dinner-dance at Elk’s Club at 495 Lee St. in suburban Des Plaines, Illinois last Friday, Nov. 11. Looking on from left are Bikol U.S.A. Charter President Romy Badiola, Sister Maryjohn L. Mendones of CNHT, Heidi Lim, Evelyn’s husband, Roberto Tolledo, and Joseph G. Lariosa, PRO of the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest. (jGLiPhoto by Dante de Guzman)

DANCING NUN:

Rev. Mother Ma. Trinidad P. Bunac of the Carmelite Nuns of the Holy Trinity (CNHT) of Kawakawa, Ligao City in Albay province in the Philippines obliges Ligao City native and charter Bikol U.S.A. President Romy Badiola to a dance after Mr. Badiola pinned dollar bills on her habit during the fund-raising at the Elk’s Club at 495 Lee St. in suburban Des Plaines, Illinois last Friday, Nov. 11. At left are Sister Maryjohn L. Mendones, CNHT, Josephine Bonjoc and other members of the Boy Bonjoc band. Part of the money raised will go to the completion of the Divine Mercy Shrine, Carmelite Monastery, victims of typhoons and floods in Bikol region and Laguna province. Evelyn Tolledo, president of the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest donated $300.00 from the fund of the club and invited other members of the club and friends to donate to round out a total donation of $600.00.

(jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)

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The Devil is in the Details

by jun asuncion

The MILF’s walloping of the AFP last October that killed 19 marines and wounded many  has sent a shockwave to global Filipinos. It was such a lamentable loss should not really  happen in modern warfare. This carnage showed us again the loopholes in our armed forces and government and that modernization is badly needed in the whole country – not only in the armed forces.

Peace talks and law enforcement? That’s music to our ears.  But if two notes collide at a given space and time in this music, for which note would you decide? I would opt for  law enforcement. Peace talks can be very broken-sounding.

This dilemma has exposed a certain weakness  in President Aquino and his political, security and communication advisers. No doubt, P-Noy is performing well in his anti- corruption campaign but he appears to be sailing on stormy waters when it comes to armed conflicts. The Luneta hostage crisis has already given us an inkling in this direction.

Appearing before the media after the Al-Barka massacre, he stressed  that he would continue with the peace talk and that he was against the idea  of an all- out war  against the MILF. He sounded broken and ill-advised and so was his adviser Mr. Leonen who described the massacre as “isolated” case, hence, negligible. It seems that too much diplomacy has robbed these two men of their manhood.

This all-out justice method should have been Pres, Aquino’s very first word.

Thus, his reputation suffered a blow, for he projected weakness and  more of saving his political face and of siding with the MILF than with his fallen soldiers and their aggrieved  families. He appeared in the first place as to be more concerned about  defending his politics and of begging the MILF peace panel not to walk out and start attacking villages again.

In times of crisis and real pains, the people need to feel the sympathy of the leader –  and real action. It was such a great loss and a heavy insult to the AFP, hence the people  and the military expected some hardness to come out from his mouth. But P- Noy missed that moment.

But a day or two after came out his concept of all-out justice and  the government forces started with counter attacks against the devious MILF.

This  all-out justice was a compromise with a face-saving value for P-Noy. He then learned that the people wanted vengeance. Employing the strength and touch of strong retaliation contained in the phrase “all- out” and replacing  the word “war” with the more civilized word “justice”,  this seems to have  appeased the people and the MILF peace panel. But this is in theory, in practice, it’s the same more or less- that of pounding the  MILF’s position with minimal civilian damage and of capturing or killing their leaders.

But the Aquino administration was wounded already.  The rumor of destabilization – true or just a product of fertile minds – was  born out of Aquino and Co.’s “amateurish” and “bookish” – according to Escudero-  handling of this entire peace negotiation and business with the MILF.  As if it were not enough, the public has learned  that Aquino had authorized the giving of PH 5- Million aid to the MILF and about Ph30-M  to another break away leftist group. This added more fuel to public dissatisfaction and demoralization… And what about the MILF’s  ATS? (Area of Temporary Stay)? This is a big disappointment for  Filipinos who recognize the territorial and political integrity and sovereignty of the Philippine nation as defined in its constitution, that there is only one Philippine government, one constitution, one territory,  one armed forces and one commander-in-chief. Those militant subgroups (such as the MILF, Abu Sayyaf  and even the NPA) who don’t call themselves Filipinos and don’t obey the laws of the land and use violence against the state and its  citizens are simply criminals and enemies of the state, their acts of violence be suppressed and their secessionist political agenda be given no support whatsoever.

But listening to the ongoing discussions one gets the impression that some Malacañang officials seem to be treating the MILF as a separate and recognized government already, nurturing it and even giving it a cash advance of PH5 million for the education of its future leaders. By definition, the MILF is a militant group, a “Liberation Front”, hence, leadership training is  understood in the first place as  military training, of training their fighters to fight in front to liberate themselves and parts of the southern Philippine territory. Government aid of any kind should take place only when the MILF (or any terrorist group) has surrendered its arms and has vowed to cooperate. Used or not used for ammunitions that killed our marines in Al-Barka, the truth is that the government will never get this money back, and if the MILF doesn’t get what it wants from these peace talks and leaves the table disgruntled, then you know already what it will do with this money and with our soldiers in Mindanao.

Giving money to a rebel group before or during the peace talks is a sign of weakness and political incorrectness. I’ve heard of critics accusing P-Noy of buying peace- or of bribing the MILF-  with that money. But how can you buy something from MILF which it doesn’t sell or is not in its assortment, namely PEACE?  The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was the first to separate from the MNLF and for reasons other than peace:   “(1) Bangsamoro Land should be an Independent Islamic State, and (2) the Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters should not negotiate with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines”.

With this in mind, one wonders about the outcome of these peace talks. Peace negotiation is genuine only when the rebel group of any type would surrender its arms to the government and renounces war and all forms of violence  as means to its ends. Without this being done, any peace talk is a calculated talk and  a cover only to build up their fire power and resume violence. In the case of the MILF, its leaders should realize the impossibility of attaining their goal of separating Mindanao or regions of it from the rest of the Philippines and the futility of war for these only  subject their “own” people to indefinite period of  poverty and isolation. Impossible because this is not supported by the majority of the Filipinos who are Christians (80 percent being Catholics). It is true that in a multi-ethnic, multicultural nation like the Philippines, the government must always negotiate in a position of integrity and of strength to prevent the total disintegration of the nation when each minority group would start building  its own armed forces and demanding autonomy or separation.

There are  legitimate grievances and  justifiable historical grounds to demand for autonomy but these should be within the right framework. A unitary form of government like the Philippines is not the right framework for the MILF’s demand for autonomy or independent sub-state. Several sound compromises could be supported in a Federal form of government but even then this demand for an independent Islamic State for the Bangsamoro could not be accommodated in a Federation. And at present, I think the Philippines is ready for everything except for Federalism.

How can a government give such a  dole out using the tax payers’ money to these state enemies who not only terrorize the people but don’t even pay their taxes to the government? President Aquino must be experimenting here with something new  but I doubt if he’s on the right direction. Peace talks and ceasefire with active militant groups have never culminated in a harmonious way as examples in other countries show us- the IRA in Ireland, ETA in Spain, Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, etc.,  as long as they continue to hang on to their secessionist plan and choose to load and sharpen their arms in the midst of peace talks.

The Philippines need peace but peace must be won sometimes and be enforced all the time. Peace, not war, is won in battlefields. It’s not a sign of peace when marines were and are being beheaded inside their own country. It’s not a sign of one country when the armed forces of the Philippines are not allowed to move in some regions to  fight for peace and order. I read PNP chief  Director General Nicanor Bartolome saying  “I think the best way to win a war is through peace,” ….  Well, it’s a wise sounding statement but it needs relativization. Active armed confrontation can indeed be prevented through peaceful means but it depends on the enemies and what’s at stake. The MILF would readily shake hands with us and kiss our cheeks if we  would just acquiese in their demands, if we would just give them the whole Mindanao and wash our hands of it. Giving is holier but one cannot give everything away. From the past till today, peace has been and is being won through wars. It was  only when Japan surrendered and Hitler defeated that peace came to Asia and Europe. A revolution ended recently Gadhafi’s reign of terror in Libya. Government should not trust armed rebel groups for they are devious and treacherous –  and it’s a natural strategy because they are weaker and in the minority, hence, their series of ambuscade, dry-gulching, bombings, kidnappings and other tricks such as peace talks and ceasefire.

Pres. Aquino’s desire to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao is good but it’s an illusion for the devil is in the details. There is a family background to Pres. Aquino’s ardent zeal of taming the MILF when we will recall that her mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, also tamed Nur Misuari- the MNLF commander who caused too much headaches to Marcos- when she talked peace with  him in Sulu which resulted in the passing of the  Republic Act No. 6734 known as the ARMM (Autonomous Region Of Muslim Mindanao) Organic Act  in 1989 as mandated in the 1987 Constitution. But even this, as we can see, did not bring lasting peace in Mindanao. So, President Noy Aquino should rather focus on law enforcement, education and economic programs to end extreme poverty in our nation. Extreme poverty and perceived social injustice are among the major details that make up the devil.

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OPPOSING THE RATIFICATION OF MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT OF THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT OF SORSOGON AND LAND BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES

By VLADIMIR RAMON B. FRIVALDO

October 19, 2011

THE HONORABLE MEMBERS
OF THE SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN
Sorsogon City

Attention: HON. ANTONIO H. ESCUDERO, JR., MNSA
Vice Governor/Presiding Officer

Subject: OPPOSING THE RATIFICATION OF MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT OF THE
PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT OF SORSOGON AND LAND BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES

Dear Vice Governor Escudero,

Please register my opposition in the strongest terms against the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between Sorsogon Gov. Raul R. Lee and Land Bank of the Philippines (Legazpi Branch) relative to the P350.0 M Loan which was signed today October 19, 2011, witnessed by majority members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.  This MOA is scheduled to be ratified, confirmed and approved in a resolution form by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on Friday, October 21, 2011.

An irregularity can be easily traced on the sequence of events prior to signing of the aforesaid MOA.  On October 5, 2011, Gov. Raul Lee wrote a letter to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Members enjoining specially its Presiding Officer, the Chairs and Members of the Committee on Budget and Appropriations and the Committee on Public Works, Infrastructure and Highways to be present in the signing of the MOA relative to the Loan of the Provincial Government of Sorsogon with the Land Bank of the Philippines.  That signing will be held on October 19, 2011, 9:00 am at the LBP Legazpi City Office.  Now, why did Gov. Raul Lee dated his letter to Sangguniang Panlalawigan on October 5, 2011?  Obviously, the approval of this controversial loan was pre-arranged by Gov. Raul Lee with the officials of the LBP Legazpi City Office as cohorts.

Please note that the letter of Mr. Hil Benedict G. Manzanadez, Dept. Manager and Head LBP Legazpi City Office is dated October 17, 2011 when he notified Gov. Raul R. Lee about the LBP approval of the P350.00 M loan.  This letter was received by the Office of the Governor only yesterday, October 18, 2011.

My opposition against the ratification, confirmation and approval of this gargantuan LBP Loan, among others, are as follows:

1. The people of Sorsogon will remember October 19, 2011 as a black day our poor province will be sunk deeper to the oblivion by the gargantuan P350.0 million loan by Gov. Raul R. Lee.  Many believe that our province will never move forward in the proper direction, ACCOUNTABILITY and TRANSPARENCY to the Filipino people is not upheld by most of our provincial officials.  Without this basic tenet of good governance, the culture of impunity and shameless corruption will continue to pervade throughout our provincial government, leading to more poverty for our poor people.

2. Up to now, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan including the undersigned has not yet received any copy of the auditing and accounting report on the previous P260.0 M LBP Loan obtained by former Gov. Sally A. Lee.  We, the present SP Members and the public as well, have the right to know the status or what the hell happened to the previous Administration’s loan, to determine whether or not said loan was really needed and was properly utilized or spent for the very purpose for which it was applied for.

3. The pending election protest against Gov. Lee docketed as Comelec Case No. SPA 09-187 (DC) entitled, Jose G. Solis versus Raul R. Lee filed last December 19, 2009 around 11:45 AM which is a Petition for Disqualification and Cancellation of Certificate of Candidacy.  Case status – ACTIVE.

4. A civil case filed against Gov. Raul Lee led by Matnog Parish Priest Fr. Alexander Jerus, the Alyansa Laban sa Mina sa Matnog (ALMMA), Bayan Sorsogon and private individuals residing in the Municipality of Matnog opposed the iron ore mining operation in Barangay Bolacawe, in Matnog town for total violation of R.A. 7076 otherwise known as the People’s Small Scale Mining Act, R.A. 7942, the Philippine Mining Act, R.A. 7160, Local Government Code.  Now pending before the Regional Trial Court in Sorsogon City.

5. A Graft and Corrupt Practices case against Gov. Raul Lee is now pending before the Sandiganbayan involving the alleged anomalous implementation eight years ago of the province’s Distance Learning Center Program (DLCP) involving P22 million pesos in funds sourced thru LBP and PNB loans.

6. And the most popular of all is the graft case of Gov. Raul Lee’s alleged direct involvement in the controversial P728.00 M fertilizer fund scam. Both graft charges have been elevated to the Sandiganbayan by the Ombudsman.

7. The LBP Notice of Loan Approval states that it is a violation under its General Terms and Conditions, Item No. 1 which provides that the LBP reserves the right to withhold loan releases should there be a case filed against the LGU or its officials involving the project to be financed.  But Governor Lee is the top Sorsogon official who signed this MOA and who will also administer and handle all fund releases of all projects under this P350.0 M loan.  We all know that Mr. Lee is already saddled by several criminal, anti-graft and corrupt practices cases pending before the Sandiganbayan and other courts.  What kind of evaluation was conducted by LBP and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan? Where is logic here?  Hindi ba ito ang nauuso sa buong mundo na corporate greed.  O ang tinatawag na bureaucratic capitalism?

Instead of condemning and sanctioning the questionable actions of the provincial governor, will it not appear that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and Land Bank of the Philippines (Legazpi Office) have conveniently colluded with each other in tolerating the wrongdoings of Gov. Raul Lee by granting this mind boggling P350.0 million loan which shall be paid by the people’s money?  This P350.0 M loan is the biggest loan in the history of Sorsogon. The justification and the necessity of this loan is practically nil.  If no one from my distinguished colleagues in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan do not see anything wrong about this huge P350.0 M LBP loan and other previous loans, something must be very wrong somewhere.  Shall LBP and SP allow themselves to be like the three monkeys? SEE NO EVIL, TALK NO EVIL AND HEAR NO EVIL.

In sum, ratifying this Memorandum of Agreement by a majority vote of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Members, such measure will only further inflame the peoples distrust to the Sorsogon provincial officials.  Sangguniang Panlalawigan will appear endorsing the people’s hard-earned money to a governor beseted by several anti-graft and corrupt practices cases and whose integrity is already in serious doubt.

My dear colleagues, let us all unite and protect the people’s money.  Let us denounce the Land Bank of the Philippines (Legazpi Office) and identify those people responsible for the approval of the loan passage for NOT exercising due diligence, prudence and sound judgment in evaluating the Sorsogon loan application for purposes of transparency and accountability at all times.  LBP corporate decision is also NOT in consonance with President Aquino’s “MATUWID NA LANDAS.”

God bless us.  Thank you.

Very truly yours,

VLADIMIR RAMON B. FRIVALDO

Cc:
Ms. Gilda Pico, LBP President
Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., Chair Senate Committee on Local Government
Cong. George P. Arnaiz, Chair, Congressional Committee on Local Government
Cong. Deogracias B. Ramos, Jr., Member, Congressional Committee on Local Government
All Sorsogon Mayors and Barangay Chairmen

——————-Bulan Observer————————–

Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest Holds Masquerade Ball Oct. 29 To Raise Funds for Destitute

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)

Joseph Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – A lot of times when you see kids jumping on the street as they make their way to and from schools on school days, they are not really dancing nor are they having fun.

They are actually grimacing in pain as they struggle to avoid the sun-baked concrete or asphalt road when they are walking with their bare feet.

On the other hand, if there is low turnout of students in the school, it’s not because they are sick or having errands. It’s because they are too hungry to go to school because they have nothing to eat.

Zayda O. Baron, former president of Bikol U.S.A. of Chicago and former president of Bikol National Association of America (BNAA), appealed to the officers and members of Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest during a meeting last Oct. 7 at 3839 N. Kedzie in Chicago, Illinois to send in contributions so that she can buy sleepers for students, who are walking barefoot.

Ms. Baron was referring to very poor students in the far-flung areas in Bikol region, whose parents cannot even afford to buy sandals for their school-age children.

On the other hand, she also noticed that there is a preponderance of absentee students because many students have no food to eat during breakfast nor do they have any food to wrap up in their brown bags for their lunch.

However, it was not discussed if parents are being educated to stop having children if they don’t have jobs and if they have no money to raise a family.

DOCUMENTATION REPORT

In response to the appeal, Evelyn R. Tolledo, president of Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest, has encouraged members and friends of the club to donate money during the club’s Masquerade Ball starting at 5 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2011 at 3839 North Kedzie in Chicago.

During her brief remarks, Ms. Baron said the $1,000 check donated by the club to victims of Typhoon “Juaning” last July 30 was given to many families, who each received one kilo of rice and six dried fishes. These were mostly for families in Bato, Bula, Buhi and Nabua, Camarines Sur. She brought albums of photos that documented the distributions.

She was assisted in the distributions by her husband, Senen, her brother, the late Engr. Joe Ordonez, former President of Bikol U.S.A. and Ordonez’s wife, Virginia or Jenny and other volunteers.

She also bought a big container of bread and ice cream for very poor school children. Parents of these children even begged to also have ice cream.

Ms. Baron also reported that the BNAA, of which the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest is a member, has so far 38 scholars in Bikol.

Because of the unceasing presence of typhoons in the region, there were discussions on the fruit-bearing plants that should be encouraged to grow in Bikol. The most popular suggestion is the lemon because of its very short stature at maturity – it bears fruit even if it is very short and will not be swaying with the punishing wind. Honorable mention is the dwarf coconut that is also indigenous in the region, like the lemon, and can avoid the whipping of the typhoons.

During the meeting, there was also a treasurer’s report of the annual golf tournament dedicated to the late Bikol U.S.A. President Joe Ordonez. The tournament was held last Sept. 25 at Big Oaks Golf Club & Country Club in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.

The club is also slated to hold its Christmas Party on Dec. 9, when new set of officers will be elected.

Photos:

HAPPY  RECIPIENTS:

The Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest brought cheers to victims of Typhoon “Juaning” last July  after they received one kilo of rice and six dried fish in Bikol region.

VOLUNTEERS:

Former Bikol U.S.A. of Chicago and BNAA President Zayda O. Baron (fourth from right, back  row) joins a group of volunteers in one of the lulls of the distribution of rice to disaster typhoon victims inside the Sto. Domingo Church in Nabua, Camarines Sur. Also in photo are from left (back row) are Larry Casero, Senen Baron, Virginia “Jenny” Ordonez, Fr. Jess Berdol, Julie Briguel, Don Darondon, Danilo Briguel and Jose Vinson and other volunteers. (jGLi Photos courtesy of Zayda Baron)  (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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PH SENATORS’ PYRRHIC VICTORY

JGL Eye

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© Journal Group Link International)

Joseph Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – Two weeks ago, 12 Philippine senators, including my friend former President Joseph Estrada, got together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their 12-11 vote, rejecting the U.S. Military Bases in the Philippines.

While I applaud them for their nationalism, I feel that they were like the Monkey in the fable Jose Rizal wrote about the Monkey and the Turtle.

As you know, in the fable, the Monkey gave the Turtle the choice of the manner of death he would deal on the Turtle — the Turtle would either be pounded into pieces in a mortar (lusong) or he would be tossed to the river. Of course, the Turtle tricked the stupid Monkey by choosing the mortar because the Turtle did not want to drown in the river.

When the 12 senators padlocked the U.S. bases, they did not tack a rider on the rejection – the termination of the agreement would be contingent on the U.S. clean-up of the bases of their toxic wastes.

It was like telling the renter of your apartment to take with him all the unsightly furniture before the renter turns in the key to the apartment owner.
Because our jolly senators forgot or overlooked this expensive environmental hazardous clean-up, it will now be the responsibility of the present Philippine Congress to appropriate $102-Billion to survivors of deceased victims of toxic contamination caused by hazardous substances stored and used in Clark and Subic military bases.
A similar demand was also served on the Philippine government in the amount of 52-billion pesos (US$1.2-billion) for neglect and refusal to deal with incidents of deaths and illness of the victims, who worked and lived in the two U.S. military bases in a class suit pending before the Regional Trial Court in Pampanga.

LEUKEMIA AND CANCER FROM TOXIC WASTE

There have been reports of leukemia and cancer being caused by toxic contamination of drinking water. At least 80 deaths were reported, resulting from drinking contaminated water at the Clark “motorpool.”

The United States cannot be compelled to pay up because it is not a signatory to the 1989 Basel Convention that penalizes countries that are responsible for risk of damage to human health and environment caused by hazardous wastes while the Philippines is a signatory.

So, the “Magnificent 12” actually let the U.S. go like the Monkey did to the wily Turtle.

If the Philippine Congress wants to go on a damage control mode, it better adopt a U.S. law called Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA), requiring companies to provide information about their potentially toxic chemicals, if it has not yet done so.

EPCRA was the result of the U.S. Congressional hearings triggered by the leak of a cloud of lethal methyl isocyanate in a 1984 Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India that caused the death of 2,000 people while they were sleeping and another 8,000, who died later. The Union Carbide paid $470-M in damages.

Among the features of EPCRA is a requirement for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish hazardous materials placard system to help emergency responders to know what they are dealing with.

Rail cars and trucks carrying toxic or dangerous materials must display a diamond-shaped sign having on it a material identification number, which can be looked up to determine what hazardous materials are on board, and a hazardous class number and symbol that tells whether the contents are flammable, explosive, corrosive, etc. Color codes also convey instant information: blue (health), red (flammability), yellow (reactivity) and white (special notice).

The placard system is as follows: Hazard class 1, explosives; Hazard class 2, gases (nonflammable, flammable, toxic gas, oxygen, inhalation hazard); Hazard class 3, Flammable liquids; Hazard class 4, Flammable solids (spontaneous combustible, dangerous when wet); Hazard class 5, oxidizer and organic peroxide; Hazard class 6, toxic/poisonous and infectious substances; Hazard class 7, radioactive; Hazard 8, corrosive; and Hazard class 9, miscellaneous dangerous goods.

GUESSING GAME

 The absence of these placards from a chemical tanker that split into three in Barangay Pange, Matnog, Sorsogon in the Philippines at about 2 p.m. on Sept. 24, 2011 is giving authorities a hard time on how to deal with the accident.

It took Pange Barangay Chairman Fernando Genavia and Barangay Kagawad Ruel Genavia two weeks on Oct. 6 to report to Dr. Rossana Galeria, municipal health officer of Matnog and Matnog Mayor Emilio G. Ubaldo after telling the Matnog Sanitary Inspector that many cases of diarrhea and epigastric pain had occurred following the tanker explosion.

According to accounts, the tanker broke down along the highway of Barangay Pange and split three ways and its unknown liquid contents spilling into nearby trees and ground. Without knowing what the content was, the residents collected the liquid as fuel for cooking and lamps.

Typhoon “Pedring” washed the chemicals on Sept. 25 and 26 to the inner part of the forest and into the river. The trees and grass on the path of the liquid had died and turned brown, including the algae in the riverbed. Fishes died.

Residents had complained of caustic smell from the river and some had diarrhea. Although decontamination is being conducted among residents, the residents do not want to cooperate.

With a population of 520, the barangay residents are mostly indigents, depending on farming for their livelihood. 
Because hundreds of vehicles, including chemical tankers, are passing by the barangay everyday on the way to and from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, more hazardous materials are likely to be spilled in the area.

If the Philippines has EPCRA in place and there is hazardous materials placard system, a rapid response team in the municipality created by the law would have been notified by the residents to report the accident, mentioning the number of the placard and extent of the spill as there is threshold of spills to report (say 1,000 pounds of Sulfuric Acid are spilled) as test results of the contents would be taking weeks to find out.

It is just like calling police during emergency.

 (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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Faces Of My Fathers

by  jun asuncion

Early in life I have learned to accept that some things shall just remain as dreams, as persistent longings  that I’ll be carrying around. Since the start of  this search for my  Asuncion roots, my longings to know more about my fathers (and mothers) and to find any related information have intensified.  And how my great grandfathers may have looked like have greatly  preoccupied my imagination but came to terms with the fact that this was all to it and nothing more since even the known self-portrait of Justiniano Asuncion was lost. I thought that was all, lost forever. I thought, but I did not know. I did not know that a certain family by the name of  Quintos – Guirzon has been keeping my dream in their photo collection and that one day I’ll be receiving a copy of it from my cousin Ding Asuncion.

Unbelievable but this time it was true. I admit that in my age,  even a lightning strike wouldn’t make my eyes bluesy and wet. But that moment when the image unfolds itself  by the click of the mouse,  I lost  almost a river of tears from this great joy and this feeling of reunion with my ancestral roots. I was speechless when I saw the faces of Justiniano, Zacarias, Benita and Jacobo! Zacarias is my great-grandfather.  What I remember to have seen in my childhood was just a piece of  Zacarias’ gravestone in our compound in Canipaan which unluckily I didn’t find anymore when I came home a few years ago. When times were getting rough for the Asuncions in Binondo, Zacarias left for Bicol in search for new possibilities. A different time, indeed, for who would think today of going to a distant town of Bulan in search for better opportunities? Whatever his true motivation was, Zacarias’ travel established the Asuncions’ connection with this town.

This photo  has closed those gaps in my mind and fulfilled those deepest longings of seeing the faces of my fathers.

It was  my younger relative Christopher Yatco who first  drew my attention to the existence of a new book about Damian Domingo with the photo of Justiniano and his children. My excitement soared even beyond the moon. However, being out-of-town, I couldn’t get this book. Luckily though Ding Asuncion, grandson of Kenerino Asuncion and Lola Leny, sent me this copy of the photo together with some excerpts of this book.

Usually, I share such document to my relatives immediately but this time I kept this photo for a while, viewing it many times a day in the intimacy of solitude, immersing myself deeply in my own part of the story, staring at their eyes being my only possibility of communication as I try to imagine many things about them, their pains of living as second class citizens in their own country (a situation I cannot accept) during the Spanish time,  their thoughts about the future…

Here, you see the master painter himself, Justiniano Asuncion, the creator of those art pieces we’ve been talking about, those portraits of the Asuncion women, those watercolor paintings at the New York Public Library, etc. He was the first Filipino painter  who allowed himself to be ” drawn with light”. i.e., to be photographed. Luckily he posed before a camera, a kind of high-tech gadget  in the early 19th century which, to my view,  seemed to have been invented  to ultimately challenge Justiniano’s  perfect eyes for capturing details of the subject when all other painters had given up the fight.

 In 1816 Johann Heinrich Schultz discovered that a mixture of  silver and chalk darkens when exposed to light. But for our case, a star was born that brightened the world of 19th Century Filipino art when  the baby Justiniano was exposed to light also in 1816. Justiniano possessed a pair of highly photographic eyes that perfectly fitted to the miniaturist, realism painting style of his time.

To this perceptual acuity, Prof. Santiago wrote: “In the state of boredom, he often used his skills to amuse and confuse his guests and admirers alike. He is remembered to have painted on the downstairs wall of his newly built house, right under the window balustrade, a life-size infant falling in midair. The picture never failed to startle or evoke shrieks from passersby who at first glance thought the child was real. Once he also painted on the top of the chest, a scattering of very realistic coins, causing embarrassment to guests who stopped to pick them up”.

It was ca. 1894 when Schultz’s mixture went off into action which today – 117 years later – would have a profound effect on many of us, up to this very moment as I try to write while poring over this photo which seems to me a gift fallen from heaven. I’m highly indebted to the prime mover of this event, Hilarion Asuncion, the man behind the camera, my great grand-uncle and to  all those good things and chain of events that worked together – in obedience to the inner logic of Asuncion’s fate –  that ultimately preserved this image over a century, over these rough and repressive times.

Like his father before him who served as cabeza de barangay of Sta. Cruz in 1805, Justiniano became cabeza de barangay in this community of mestizos in February 25, 1853. By this time Justiniano  was already established as a master painter. Thirty years after, his son Zacarias, in search for more better business opportunities, set out for Bulan, Sorsogon in 1886. Hence, this year was a milestone in the history of Asuncions  of Bulan. There, twelve years later, at the turn of the century –  and of  the nation’s colonial  history – Zacarias became Jefe del Pueblo (old name for Municipal Mayor) of Bulan from 1898 – 1900.

If artistic genius was in the Family of  Justiniano Asuncion and so was community leadership, I think. It was due to Zacarias’ successful Bulan’s adventure that brought Justiniano Asuncion to Bulan, already old and grey, a man behind the sparkle of past success, within the silhouette of death. Bulan became his refuge, the sanctuary of his tired body and soul and the gate to his eternal rest. If the biographer Manuel Artigas called him “modelo de honradez, an exemplar of tacto y prudencia”, then it was an honor for Bulan to have such  qualities be buried in its grounds. For these qualities had to come out again forty-five years later after his death in the person of Adonis Asuncion, my grandfather, who became Mayor of Bulan in 1941.

My grandfather Adonis Asuncion had led Bulan not in times of political Padrenos, vote buying,  plundering and pork barrel but in times of foreign aggression where one must have to defend the basic rights of  Bulaneños. So my fathers were community leaders when three superior nations ruled our land: Mariano and Justiniano in Sta. Cruz during the Spanish time, Zacarias in Bulan just at the beginning of the American rule and Adonis, also in Bulan, during the Japanese occupation. All three men had their share of what I call the roughness of times but all came out hardened in their character, in their convictions. From their stories I learned the lesson that political leadership is about self-respect in the first place. Methinks that  the political, civil and military leaders of today who are now facing corruption and plunder charges had failed to respect themselves and their very own families in the first place. Hence, how could they ever  respect the town people they don’t personally know?

The three foreign aggressors may have ruined the Filipinos by introducing to us the culture of corruption, aggression and militarism but it seems that the families of Mariano Kagalitan- Asuncion were among those Filipino families blessed with the immunity from these foreign viruses that they were able to keep their name clean and their being “modelo de honradez, tacto y prudencia” while serving the people –  in those times of conspiracies, opportunism and collaboration with the aggressors (survival of the “fittest”).

Their thoughts about the future? That future is here with me in this very  moment as I search for my past and found it here in my room where I have spent hours of thinking about  my fathers,  bending my six strings to soaring bluesy heights as I figure out their faces, how they had  lived, to what degree had they suffered from the roughness of times, from the yoke of colonialism and how much they had longed for freedom and dreamt for a better future.  I was born 59 years,  my father, Andres, Sr., 19 years after Justiniano’s death. Indeed, it seems not too long ago but if I add to it my own life where memories fade out already after a short moment of recollection then everything about  my fathers becomes an abyssal zone except for some  floating traces they had left which serve only to tickle my inquisitive mind and my longing to know more, thus eventually blowing my mind away every time I was trapped in some of these black holes of imagination.

The first couple, Mariano and Maria de La Paz Molo Asuncion

Faces Of My Fathers

Mariano Kagalitan Asuncion

Justiniano Asuncion (1816 – 1901)

 Zacarias Asuncion

 Adonis Asuncion (June 14, 1889 – January 8, 1976)

 Andres Asuncion, Sr. ( November 9, 1920 –  November 3, 2005)

Seeing the faces of my fathers and my roots this way has finally given me that solid ground, sense of continuity and peace of mind, a privilege that I know not everybody has in this world. So I’m thankful to my relatives for all their help in our search for our lineage as I hope for contributions in any form to come more.

Remembering My Father, Andres Asuncion, Sr.  (older post added)

The Primordial Pain

The demise of our father last November 3, 2005 was certainly a big blow to all of us. Now three years after, we all seem to have accepted the reality of our beloved father no longer physically with us. There are moments though when I am caught unaware and seem not to realize this fact. Then I feel instantly transported back to these moments of grief last November. It is surely not easy to lose a father and I think I will never get over it. There are absolute privileges that you get only once in your life time and that if you lose them you can not replace them. A father is one of these privileges. The pain that you experience tells you how much you love somebody who has been taken away from you. There is nothing on earth can equal that pain. There are no words to describe it. You can only try to express it in some other ways except in words. And you can not describe it in real-time with words. For it is an experience beyond our language. It is a primordial event and that is why it is just purely pain that comes out of our innermost being. It’s like when a newly born cries responding to a sensed change and discomfort , and yet it’s more than that for a newly born is not weeping, – you are weeping.

I don’t know how my mother and my brothers and sisters deal with such moment of despair and pain. We all experienced our father differently, we all have a different image of him that each of us has carried throughout those years. But there is one thing in common that I am sure of, and that is, that we all love him. The way that each of us remember him in his/her own way that sums up the whole image of our father. I am not referring only to the images arising from incidental experience of him as other people had of him but this exclusive experience of inner connectedness to him as his children. This blood connection that goes all the way to the spiritual sphere of our existence.

I have been deprived of my father physically, for instance, for many years. But not a day had passed that I did not think of him. If not in dreams then just in my waking hours are these flashings of his images in my mind, and his voice was and is just there; vivid scenes of my childhood days with him in Ilawod and Canipaan, in Manila and here in Zürich when he came with my mother. In all those years of being away from him there was always this desire in me to have a coffee with him and talk with him about the world, yes, just about anything else. With my father I had always enjoyed sharing thoughts or just sitting together in silence. I felt this freedom, this feeling of fullness as a human being whenever I was with him.

Smoke gets in your eyes

I was about to go to work when I got a call from my sister Menchu bringing me the sad news. My world literally fell apart. As I look back to this moment, I wonder how I could have reacted if I did not know how to use these six strings and a piece of wood that has always accompanied my life ever since. That evening I just bended the strings as high as I could to express what I could not with words. My father played piano not a guitar but he did love its sound. I particularly remember that moment when he was humming the song  Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, saying this was one of his favorite tunes. In the meantime I have finally arranged this tune for solo guitar after a long time of wishing to be able to do it. I dedicate this song to my father and when I play it, it’s solely for him for when he left smoke really got in my eyes…

A man of peace

A man of peace that he was and very dignified in his ways, his presence was always a source of joy to those who love him and perhaps an irritation to those who believe in approaching things and issues the more aggressive way.Yes, he remained true to himself to the very last moment of his existence. That’s the measure of being a man. His quiet countenance radiated an inner strength that came from deep insights and wisdom about life and situations. His courage was never an issue of alcohol content in the blood (he never drunk) , but in his refined ways of dealing with things due to his education and his unending patience, sharp intellect, broad knowledge and humility.

My father and the Japanese officer

My father experienced the cruelty of the Japanese invasion in 1945. He was then a young man of 25. He related his stories for the last time last August 2006 to me and my sons Cyril and Samuel, and I feel really privileged to have experienced this. This answered the question I’ve been carrying at the back of my mind for many years, a question that I always failed to ask him whenever I was with him: Why did you not take up your arms and fight side by side with your brother Agusto Asuncion ? (who at that time was the head of the Lapuz Guerilla movement in Bulan). His recounting of his war story last August finally revealed the answer to me.  He said, his brother Agusto advised him not to shoot but rather to take charge of the logistics. My father had a very sharp memory and he could remember the details he experienced at that time, names of people and places, to the astonishment of my boys. I noticed his fair judgements of people and events involved. So Papa knew his own role in this war right at the outset. People like me would have instantly joined the front line at that time. But in the long run, justice and history is at the side of the wise and peace-loving people. One should know that my father came from a different tradition, from a tradition of love and compassion to all God’s creation. He came out right from a theological seminary in Paco, Manila when the war broke out.

The Japanese bombed Manila and that seminary where he was one of the three candidates for ordination. They had to separate ways and Pa went home to Bulan to his family where his father Adonis Asuncion was  the town mayor. He walked from Manila to Bulan, Sorsogon for around three weeks using the railways as his guide and survived the hazards in the streets, especially that critical moment when from under the tree trunk suddenly came out a handful of  Japanese soldiers, stopped him, asked questions and inspected his backpack. “I remained quiet, and the officer caught an eye at the shaving blade (Labaha) I had  and took it in his hands…(now the officer could have just swung this blade to his neck, if he wanted to.) He seemed to be interested in it so I just nodded my head and they let me go!”  Wow, Papa would have flown like a bird if he could at this moment. Kidding aside, I thank this officer so much for letting my father go and, in retrospect, I respect this Japanese officer for his intuition. He must have felt that Pa was not an enemy. And, indeed, Pa did not kill a single Japanese soldier! Now the thing is, if you are proud that your father killed hundreds of  Japanese soldiers at that time, I support that for it was wartime, and your father was destined to kill. That my father came out alive without harming anybody’s life, I’m certainly proud of this; he was simply not destined to kill. He was true to his convictions and fate was true to him whole life long. That unknown gentle Japanese officer was right.

The Family Man

I can imagine Pa in his prime: neatly dressed with hair soaked in pomade, misplacing probably his eyeglasses but never his smile. Beside him my mother, excited, and around them the eight of us.The flash went off and here is the picture on my table in front of me, taken about 40 years ago. I treasure this only family picture where we are complete. Those were memories to keep and live by, when my world was young and innocent in the true sense of the word. The family was my ground and I felt safe and fear was foreign to me. I was just happy being embedded in the family and that was everything that mattered most, not the hardships or the lack of other things. A boy who is happy has everything he needs to master the challenges and hardships that are normal concomitants to life. Deprived of this, you can not expect a better course of life.

So, I thank you Pa and Ma for laying down a solid foundation which was a mixture of fine ingredients, – of love, trust and compassion, coupled with patience and loyalty. This was how I perceived my parents and understand their role even up to now. How the rest of us had experienced my parents in our growing years, only they can tell. Throughout those years, there was one trait of my father that impressed me most, and that was his unassuming character. I’d never experienced him boasting around about anything. In fact there was always this permanent aura of understatement accompanying him throughout his life. Simple in his ways and in his daily needs, he would always put you first before him, giving you space and making you feel comfortable in the modest means available. He did not desire for more. For an opportunistic in character, a chance to attempt a coup’d’etat, for a sensitive in spirit a feeling of meeting with a teacher.

Unassuming and reticent that he was, the most profound insights and comments that I heard in life came from him. Being modest in his ways and putting others first, he showed them how to respect themselves. No wonder why he got respected in return by people around him. This was my first lesson about authority, not a coerced one nor based on a false assumption of something but a natural process of growth from within that manifests itself as a result quite naturally in your essence . So harmless that he was before you, you got no choice but to respect him and show the best in you. This was exactly this respect that we learned from him that kept us together in our long journey as a family.

The Hanging Bridge of Magsaysay

With my father, I learned to cross a hanging bridge for the first time in my life in the barrio of Magsaysay where he used to teach. For Papa that was a daily routine, for me an adventure and a source of anxiety. I nearly got sick when I looked down for it was deep and the river beneath was wild and the bridge swinging to its sides, step was not stable and there were holes on the floor. I was then 9 or 10. Pa did not say anything at that moment that I could remember. He just looked at me, stepped on it and I followed him. It was an incredible act of balancing and I became dizzy. I was alarmed, gathered myself together to make it to the other end. He was already at the other end and was watching me, smiling. Reaching the end a feeling of relief and I felt proud as I looked back at the now empty hanging bridge that was still undulating like a long snake. My tension was transformed instantly to fascination when I saw the wonderful garden all around the school buildings and the school children also about my age. Flowers of all kinds. I especially remember the red roses.

Barrio Magsaysay, a world so beautiful abounding with floras and faunas and friendly people. A piece of paradise, just nature as she is. Looking back now, I just realized that Papa spent almost his entire teaching career in places like Magsaysay. I knew that he was also assigned in Sta. Remedios and in other remote places I don’t even know the names anymore. Those years had cultivated in my father the love for simple people, for farmers and nature. I went back to Magsaysay a few times with Papa, most of the times carrying ballot boxes hanged on my shoulders. During election day the teachers were busy and so was Pa. I was always with him to carry those boxes. Crossing the hanging bridge became an enjoyable experience then. I began to love it and in fact now it keeps me wondering if it still exists. That was many years ago but the memories remain. That hanging bridge connected me to my father ever more. I wish to visit that bridge someday for on that bridge were those nice moments left hanging in time.

A schoolbag with guavas- and sometimes a bird.

As a young child it was always a highlight in my life when the day was about to close for then my father would arrive from school. I used to wait for him in the street in front of our house while I played with other children. Then I would run to him the moment I recognized his silhouette at the horizon moving in front of the setting sun that was about to disappear behind the China sea. I would literally dive into his bag to find out what was in there. I remember well the smell of guava fruits of his bag. Indeed, he always brought home fruits of all kinds everyday but it was always the smell of a guava that dominated inside his bag, even without guavas in there. And I loved that smell always. But it was not the guava fruit that I was excited to find, rather it was a bird or two! Pa used to bring home birds he received along the way from his pupils in Magsaysay and he would just put the cage in his schoolbag together with his pens and notebooks. At that time I came to know the most lovely local birds in Bulan through Papa. One time I discovered in that bag a Kingfisher and it was the joy of my childhood to have such a noble bird as a house pet for sometime. I thank my father now for all those nice little surprises every afternoon.

Dinner for the mind by candlelight

Everyday after dinner the same routine: Help wash the dishes and restore order on the table for then comes the next dinner,- the dinner for the mind by candlelight. I would empty my schoolbag on the table and I would begin to work on my homework while Pa on his lesson plan. This went on during my entire elementary years. I also remember my sister Malou being on this scene. I did my homework religiously at that time. But one evening I was so tired that I think I just left my notebooks open on the table, leaving my homework haf-done only as I scrambled for bed. I was then in grade three.

The next morning at school my teacher Miss Chavenia ordered us to open the assignments for checking. So, as usual, she went from one desk to another scanning with her sharp eyes every pupil’s work and with a look which tells you “with me you can’t bargain”, or  “you better run for your life”. I was nervous then for I was not sure if my work was finished or not, for I never bothered at all to check my things before going to school. So you can imagine how I’d wished to disappear, to be invisible before she could come to my desk. As I opened my notebook, my eyes nearly fell out on the floor out of disbelief that my homework was done! I instantly remembered Pa and marveled if he finished my homework when I deserted the war zone and went already half-sleeping to bed. Until now this remains a mystery to me and, as usual, I never came to the point of asking Pa about it. In any case I was spared from standing still for an hour in a schoolroom’s corner, a punishment for lazy pupils in my time. Thank you Pa for saving my life –  and for all those dinners for the mind by candlelight!

A song Fields Of Gold.

 (to be continued)

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Our Lady of Penafrancia Assured of a Shrine In Chicago

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)

Joseph Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – The celebration of the miraculous Our Lady of Penafrancia has been observed in the Chicago, Illinois for the last 22 years. Last Saturday, Sept. 17, the Rev. John J. Sanaghan, pastor of St. Matthias Church at 2310 W. Ainslie in Chicago’s north side, assured devotees that they could call St. Matthias Church as the home of Our Lady of Penafrancia “for the next 301 years.”

In brief welcome remarks after the translacion (transfer of the image of the Virgin of Penafrancia from one church to the other), Father Sanaghan, impressed with the big crowd that packed his parish church, has offered his parish church to be shrine of “Ina,” the revered Bikol name of Our Lady of Penafrancia.

The Penafrancia festivities have been observed annually in the home city of Ina in Naga in the Philippines for the last 301 years from the second Friday up to the third Saturday of September. Other parts of the world where there are preponderance of Bikolano devotees have also observed the same festivities simultaneously.

After a 30-minute fluvial procession from Belmont Harbor to Burnham Harbor in Lake Michigan in Chicago Saturday, the image of Penafrancia was returned to St. Matthias church on board a school bus along with the devotees.

BOAT BUFFETED BY WAVES

Medyo ma-alon ang Lake. Pero hindi naman ako natatakot dahil kasama ko ang Virgen ng Penafrancia,” (The boat was buffeted by big waves of Lake Michigan. But I was not afraid because I was with the Virgin of Penafrancia.), according to Avelino “Ben” Ner, one of the devotees, who joined the fluvial procession.

But Daniel Hernandez, the three-year-old son of Larry Hernandez, who joined the fluvial procession, was dead tired, when the bus returned to St. Matthias church. His lola (grandmother), Dr. Dona L. Hernandez, who was also on board the boat, said Daniel might have felt dizzy during the trip on board the boat.

The fluvial procession was the culmination of the nine-day novena to usher the feast of the patroness of Bikolnons from the Philippines.

As in the eight previous nights, a chaplet, Rosary and Novena were held starting at 7 p.m. since Sept. 9 in St. Matthias Church.

When the fluvial devotees arrived in front of the St. Matthias Church, like a similar refrain in Naga City, welcoming devotees shouted “Viva La Virgin De Penafrancia !!! Vila El Divino Rostro! (Long Live Virgin of Penafrancia! Long Live the Holy Face!)

In Naga City, the fluvial procession is held at the Naga River.

To sustain attendance of devotees, residents who hailed from different six provinces and three cities of the Bikol region took turns alternately in hosting the nightly vigil.

President Roger “Boy” R. Odiamar of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Penafrancia said observance of the Penafrancia festivities in Chicago is growing each year because of the support of the Filipino American community. “We even got support from a boat owner, who provided us the boat for free during the fluvial procession for the last 22 years. I cannot just thank enough our supporters, including the flower and cape donors, voyadores (devotees), etc..”

But he is also thankful for the support of the Bikolanos notably the group called Bikol U.S.A., which was later renamed Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest now headed by Ms. Evelyn R. Tolledo of Catanduanes in the Philippines but is now a resident at suburban Schiller Park, Illinois. Ms. Tolledo is this year’s ad hoc committee co-chair.

PENAFRANCIA RETURNED TO ORIGINAL HOME

At the mass during the Fiesta, Fr. John Era was the main celebrant assisted by Rev. Fr. Nelson Garcia and Deacon Roland Merced.

The nightly liturgy ministers included Fathers Nelson Garcia, John Era, Andre Beltran, Danilo Soriano, Leoncio Santiago, Tirso Villaverde, Joel Lopez and Noel Reyes.

Members of this year’s ad hoc committee included Jimmy Alto, Monette Calderon, Amor Saenz, Delia Silva, Aida Joseph, Lura Gonzales, Dona Hernandez, Romy Sarcilla, Alice Llames, Lilia Untalan, Danny Auro and Fely Odiamar.

In Naga City, on the second Friday of September, that is, September 9 this year, the image of the virgin and the Divino Rostro (Holy Face) are transferred, hence the term traslacion, from the Penafrancia Church to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral by barefoot male voyadores or devotees. While at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, the faithful start the Novenario. 
In previous years, the image of the Our Lady of Penafrancia was kept at the Basilica. But last year, the 300th year or tercenary of celebration, it was brought back to its original home, Penafrancia Church.

The festivities feature a fluvial procession on the ninth day of the novena bringing back the image to the Basilica for the Pontifical Mass. While only men can participate in the traslacion and fluvial procession, women devotees on the other hand have their own procession around the Basilica.

Photos:

OUR LADY OF PENAFRANCIA AFTER TRANSLACION IN CHICAGO:

The image of the Virgin of Penafrancia is moved from the school bus after the fluvial procession towards the St. Matthias Church in the north side of Chicago, Illinois as it is met by female devotees last Saturday, Sept. 17. Photo shows foreground at left Roger “Boy” R. Odiamar, president of Confraternity of Our Lady of Penafrancia, talking to a devotee.

OUR LADY OF PENAFRANCIA ENTERS THE CHURCH:

The image of the Virgin of Penafrancia is surrounded by devotees as it is being brought inside the St. Matthias Church in the north side of Chicago, Illinois last Saturday, Sept. 17, after the fluvial procession.

OUR LADY OF PENAFRANCIA INSIDE THE CHURCH:

The image of the Virgin of Penafrancia is ushered inside the St. Matthias Church at the north side of Chicago, Illinois last Saturday, Sept. 17, after the fluvial procession, led by Fr. John Sanaghan (from left), Fr. John Era, and Fr. Nelson Garcia while devotees look on.

(Photos by jGLi Joseph G. Lariosa)

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Golf Tourney Honors Bikol U.S.A. Ex-President Sunday

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2011 Journal Group Link International

Joseph Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – The Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest is going to host a golf tournament on Sunday, Sept. 25, at Big Oaks Golf Club & Country Club (262) 694-4200) at 6117 123rd Place, Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin 53158-3635.

Jimmy Azul, former Bikol U.S.A. President, said tee time will start at 10 a.m., shotgun and the format, stroke play.

There will be first, second and third place trophies to be awarded separately under the U.S.G.A. (United States Golf Association) Handicapping System and the Peoria scoring system.

One low gross prize will be awarded under both scoring systems for men and women.

Competition for the longest drive, closest to the pin and the longest putt will be available on designated holes.

Various golf and household merchandise will be raffled off after the game.

There will be two divisions for men: One for players with current (within the calendar year) and verifiable official USGA handicap index and another for players with no official USGA handicap index, where the Peoria scoring will apply.

Each player will donate $55, which covers Green fees, Cart, Snacks and Dinner Buffet, while each sponsor will have to fork out $100.

Parties, who are interested to join the tournament, may call Mr. Azul at 847.308.0410; incumbent Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest President Evelyn Tolledo at 773.946.9668 and club member, Tony Blando at 832.603.7167.

This year’s golf tournament is dedicated to the memory of Engr. Jose “Joe” Ordonez, the third president of Bikol U.S.A.. Ordonez, a former dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Nueva Caceres in Naga City in the Philippines, died last month at the age of 76 of stroke at the Aquinas University Hospital in Legazpi City also in the Philippines. He retired in Tiwi, Albay in the Philippines and is survived by his wife, Jenny, and four children. He worked in the U.S. Federal government for many years prior to his retirement.

The golf tournament is one of the annual activities of Bikol U.S.A. based in Chicago, Illinois area. The group is now renamed Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest.

Photo of the late Engr. Jose “Joe”
Ordonez. (jGLi)

(lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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Open Government Partnership: The Winds Have Changed In Our Country

The launching of  Open Government Policy as initiated by Pres. Obama  and Brazil President Dilma Rousseff a couple of days ago wherein the Philippines is a member of the Steering Committee is a clear signal of Pres. Aquino’s unquestionable commitment to steering our country to higher standards of governance. “We have created a roadmap called the 2012 Philippine Government Action Plan to ensure that our government institutions are at par with international transparency standards,”  President Aquino said.

This is good music to the ears. Finally, I think I can proudly identify  myself with our government for now I feel that my clamor for reforms in our politics is being realized. Hence, the winds have changed in the Philippines. When before we were just being insulted by the President and the people around her, when before we were almost worn out reading and writing about  all the scams  of the syndicate Arroyo administration,  their plundering of the national and local treasuries, the rigging of elections, etc., when in the past we have lost our trust to our national government, now it seems that these are being blown away by the winds, that now we feel good when reading about the developments in our country. It’s hard times and harsh winds now for those who enriched themselves in the past  at the expense of the people. Again, crime  against the people doesn’t pay.

If President Obama can applaud our President Aquino for his reforms, then why shouldn’t I? Hence, I have found it necessary to reprint here the articles below on Open Govenment Partneship, specifically our government’s  draft of its Action Plan 2012.

Regarding our town Bulan, I specifically highlight 2 points, the one under Starting the Tradition of Transparency which reads:

  • Transparency in Local Governance. The Department of Interior and Local Government department has required in August 2010 all Local Government Units (LGUs) to post in local bulletin boards, newspapers and websites information on their utilization of funds and implementation of projects. As of August 26, 2011, 70 provinces, 130 cities and 1,305 municipalities have complied with this policy.ix

For those interested in examining in details the  THE ANNUAL BUDGET OF THE LOCAl GOVERNMENT UNIT OF BULAN FOR FISCAL YEAR 2011 please click here.

The other point is to be found under Institutionalizing Public Accountability which reads:

  • Performance Challenge for Local Governments – The Interior and Local Government department launched the LGU Performance Challenge Fund program in 2010 as an effort to institutionalize transparency, accountability, participation and performance in LGUs. Under this program, LGUs that exhibited strong performance in key areas of governance earned a Seal of Good Housekeeping and a chance to avail of additional budgetary support from the Fund. As of 2011, 44 provinces, 60 cities and 758 municipalities have obtained a Seal of Good Housekeeping.xxiv

May we know from the Mayor of Bulan Helen de Castro if our town has obtained this Seal Of Good Housekeeping?

jun asuncion

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Country Commitments

Philippines

20 September 2011
Commitments Delivered
  • Introduction
  • Efforts to Date
  • Commitments

Philippine Government Action Plan 2012
for the Open Government Partnership
1 January to 31 December 2012.

A Discussion Document

—DRAFT—

Note on Status (as of 15 September 2011): this is a working draft of the Philippine Government Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership (OGP). This was crafted after soliciting inputs from Cabinet officials1 and after conducting initial consultations with stakeholders. 
During the preparatory period of October to December 2011, this Philippine OGP Action Plan will be subject to further refinements as well as to broader public consultations with stakeholders. After a final plan has been approved by the President, implementation will commence in January 2012. 
* * *

Institutionalizing People Power in Governance To Ensure Direct, Immediate and Substantial Benefits to the Poor

On February 25, 1986, the Filipino People toppled a dictatorship after four days of nonviolent protest. Crying out “tama na, sobra na!”ii  the people poured out into the streets after heeding the call of religious and civic leaders to protect rebel soldiers and thereby end the decades-long dictatorship of Ferdinand E. Marcos, with its corruption, human rights violations and worsening poverty. The EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986 culminated in the inauguration of Corazon C. Aquino—housewife of a martyriii of Martial Law—as President of the Philippines.
Twenty-five years after this historical milestone, the Philippines has a new opportunity to put the aspirations of People Power for reform back on track. With a resounding mandateiv, President Benigno S. Aquino III won in the last May 2010 elections to replace an administration plagued with allegations of massive corruption, a lack of political legitimacy and an inability to address the widening gap between rich and poor. His campaign message, “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap,v resonated with an electorate yearning for change.
President Aquino made a Social Contract with the Filipino People, where he committed to be the nation’s first and most determined fighter of corruption, and where he envisions the rebuilding of public institutions that operate under the highest standards of integrity and on solidarity with the people. The Philippine Development Plan,vi which fleshes-out this Social Contract, is anchored on fighting corruption and establishing transparent, accountable and participatory governance as necessary preconditions to achieving poverty reduction, inclusive growth, enhanced peace and ecological integrity.
The motive force for these reforms is People Power: a paradigm for achieving the nation’s progress by ensuring the active and meaningful participation of citizens in public policy and programs. The Philippine Government aims to transform People Power from a nonviolent form of street protest to a means for citizens and workers in government to collaborate in the halls of government to ensure that the benefits of governance reaches the poor in a direct, immediate and substantial way. In contrast to the secrecy, impunity and collusion among selfish factions in the past, People Power seeks to widen the democratic space for citizens in their very own government.
The Philippine Government sees open government as a means to operationalize and institutionalize People Power. It will take on the vital challenges of improving public services, increasing public integrity and more effectively managing public resources: so that the Aquino administration’s vision of kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap can be fulfilled.
In crafting this Action Plan, the Philippine Government consulted with national networks of civil society organizations (CSOs)vii. This Action Plan is for implementation starting January 1, 2012; and the period of October to December 2011 will serve as the preparatory phase.
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Footnotes:

i Agency submissions so far: DBM, DepEd, DoE, DENR, DoF, DILG, DoJ, DoLE, DoST, DPWH, DND, NEDA, PCDSPO, PCOO, DSWD, DoT, DTI, NSA, OPAPP, PLLO, DAP. CSO Submissions so far: PinoyME, Right to Know, Right Now! Consultations with CSOs have been conducted on 26 August and 10 September, 2011.
ii Roughly translated as “enough is enough!”
iii Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., a staunch critic of the Marcos regime, was assassinated on August 21, 1983 upon returning from exile from the United States.
iv Candidate Benigno S. Aquino III won as president with 15.2 million votes or 42% of all votes cast; with a lead of 5.7 million from the next contender (there were eight other candidates).
v Roughly translated as “No Corruption, No Poverty.”
vi The Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, as operationalized by Executive Order No. 43.
vii Namely: CodeNGO, BAG, SWP/ABI, TAN, ANSA-EAP, ATIN/Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition, PPVR, PinoyME, MBC, CAC, Integrity Initiative and NCC.

Open Government Efforts to Date

Since the new Aquino administration took the helm on June 30, 2010, the Philippine Government has embarked on several initiatives to institute transparency, accountability and participation in governance, with the help of information technology.

Starting the Tradition of Transparency

  • Mandatory Disclosure of Budget Information. The Government has embedded provisions in the 2011 National Budget—its first financial blueprint—that mandate the publication of major information on budgets, finance and performance indicators in the websites of national departments and agencies.viii
  • Transparency in Local Governance. The Department of Interior and Local Government department has required in August 2010 all Local Government Units (LGUs) to post in local bulletin boards, newspapers and websites information on their utilization of funds and implementation of projects. As of August 26, 2011, 70 provinces, 130 cities and 1,305 municipalities have complied with this policy.ix
  • Official Gazette Online. The Government has embarked on placing the entire corpus of Laws and Supreme Court decisionsx and Presidential issuancesxi online for the first time,xii as well as daily updates from agencies.

Jumpstarting Citizen Participation

  • Participatory Budget Process. In crafting the 2012 National Budget, six departments and three government corporations piloted a consultative budget preparation process with CSOs.xiii To support citizen engagement, the Budget department has begun publishing the People’s Budget, a summarized and layman’s version of the annual National Budget.
  • Participatory Development Planning. The Government, through the National Economic and Development Authority, has conducted a series of public consultations in the crafting of the Philippine Development Plan for 2011 to 2016xiv. Citizen participation was also tapped for sector development planning; for instance, the Labor department has conducted consultations with labor, business, youth, academe and other stakeholders in crafting the Labor and Employment Plan for 2011-2016.
  • Partnerships for Effective Service Delivery. Agencies have entered into partnerships with stakeholders in monitoring program and project implementation. For instance, the Public Works department has partnered with a broad coalition of CSOs and other groups in monitoring public works projects.xv The Social Welfare department has entered into partnerships with 222 national and local CSOs and other groups for the monitoring of social protection programs including the conditional cash transfer program.xvi The Interior and Local Government department has also partnered with 28 national and 124 regional CSOs to help monitor transparency and accountability of LGUs.xvii

Institutionalizing Public Accountability

  • Results-Oriented Fiscal Management. Fiscal reform in the Aquino administration began with the reintroduction of the Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB) approach in 2010. ZBB enables the government to review and terminate programs and projects that no longer deliver on intended outcomes, and to realign funding to other priorities especially in education and healthcare.xviii ZBB, together with the Medium-Term Expenditure Frameworkxix and the Organizational Performance Indicator Frameworkxx, paves the way for results-oriented fiscal management.
  • Accountability of Government Corporations. The Government-Owned or Controlled Corporations (GOCC) Governance Act of 2011 to address past abuses and patronage that made GOCCs virtual cash cows of previous government officials; promote their financial viability and fiscal discipline; and make GOCCs truly accountable to the people.
  • Citizen’s Charters and Citizen’s Report Cards. The Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 requires all agencies to craft a Citizen’s Charter to simplify procedures and facilitate transactions. To date, 71% of agenciesxxi have issued a Citizen’s Charter. It also provides that all government agencies providing frontline services shall be subjected to a Report Card Survey to obtain feedback regarding their implementation of the Citizen’s Charter.
  • Revenue Integrity. The Finance department has intensified its revenue integrity campaignsxxii, and has filed 184 tax evasion cases, 39 cases against suspected smugglers and 86 cases against suspected corrupt collection employees as of July 2011.xxiii
  • Performance Challenge for Local Governments – The Interior and Local Government department launched the LGU Performance Challenge Fund program in 2010 as an effort to institutionalize transparency, accountability, participation and performance in LGUs. Under this program, LGUs that exhibited strong performance in key areas of governance earned a Seal of Good Housekeeping and a chance to avail of additional budgetary support from the Fund. As of 2011, 44 provinces, 60 cities and 758 municipalities have obtained a Seal of Good Housekeeping.xxiv

Leveraging Technology and Innovation

  • Electronic Procurement. The Philippine Government E-Procurement System (PhilGEPS), which started in 2000, is mandated by law as the central electronic portal for government procurement. Key features at present include an electronic bulletin board for posting of bid notices and awards; a registry of more than 47,000 suppliers; automatic bid matching of opportunities with suppliers; and a virtual store of common-use supplies available from the Procurement Service, the government’s bulk buyer.
  • Targeting Social Protection Beneficiaries with Precision. The Government has an existing National Household Targeting System (NHTS) which identifies the poorest of the poor and aims to improve the service delivery systems to them. Such system, which is being used in identifying beneficiaries of national social protection programs, is expected to reduce the rate of leakage of resources and lessen exclusion of beneficiaries.
  • Digitizing Releases from Congressional Allocations – The Budget department has launched on June 2011 the Electronic Transparency and Accountability Initiative for Lump Sum Funds System (eTAILS), an information system that digitizes the processing of releases for Congressional Allocations and supports their timely online disclosure.xxv
  • Online Avenues for Public Feedback and Communication – The Finance department has launched its Pera ng Bayanxxvi  website where citizens can file anonymous reports or leads on possible tax evasion, smuggling and government collusion cases. Various other government agencies have tapped their websites and social media (Facebook and Twitter) in disseminating key information and soliciting public feedback.
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Footnotes:

viii Section 97 of the General Provisions of the 2011 General Appropriations Act (Republic Act No. 10147) requires agencies to post the following information on their official websites: approved budgets, performance measures and targets, major programs and projects to be implemented, annual procurement plan, contracts awarded and names of contractors, targeted and actual beneficiaries, utilization of funds, status of implementation, program/project evaluation reports.
ix State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2011 Technical Report, page 4, with updates from DILG
From 1901
xi From 1935
xii Memorandum approved by the President on editorial policies of the Official Gazette, 7 September, 2010; Budgetary Requirement for Fiscal Year 2012, submitted to the House of Representatives by the PCDSPO, August 10, 2011.
xiii SONA 2011 Technical Report, page 9-10. Departments which piloted the consultative process were those in the social and economic services sectors with the biggest budgetary allocation, namely: Education, Health, Social Welfare, Public Works, Agriculture and Agrarian Reform. Pilot government corporations were those with large government subsidies, particularly the National Food Authority, National Housing Authority and National Home Mortgage and Finance Corporation.
xiv NEDA input
xv SONA 2011 Technical Report
xvi Ibid.
xvii DILG Inputs
xviii SONA 2011 Technical Report, page 2
xix MTEF is a planning-budgeting framework which provides a three-year perspective to budget preparation.
xx OPIF is an approach to expenditure management that directs resources towards results or major final outputs and measures agency performance by key quality and quantity indicators.
xxi Of 2,266 national departments and agencies nationwide
xxii In particular, the Run After Tax Evaders of the Bureau of Internal Revenue; the Run After The Smugglers of the Bureau of Customs; and the Revenue Integrity Protection Service of the Finance department.
xxiii SONA 2011 Technical Report, pages 11-12
xxiv SONA 2011 Technical Report, page 4, with updates from DILG.
xxv SONA 2011 Technical Report, page 3
xxvi Translated as “People’s Money”

New Commitments for Open Governance

Every gain, including the gains mentioned above, paves the way for increasing transparency, accountability and citizen’s participation. The Philippine Government believes that open government will curtail the ability for corrupt officials and those interested in political patronage at public expense, to operate with impunity. Open government also plays a key role in empowering the poor and strengthening the constituency for reform. The Government will embark on the following beginning January 1, 2012:

Improve Transparency of Government Agencies

Escalate Fiscal Transparency.
By the end of June 2012, the government will improve the compliance rate of departments in the Executive branch in the disclosure their approved budgets, utilization of funds, awarded bids and annual procurement plans to 100 percentxxvii. Agency compliance will be measured by an index, to be developed and published online within 90 days, and to be co-managed with CSOs.
Promote Access to Government Information.
Throughout 2012, the Government will move towards adopting a policy for citizens to freely access government information in a timely, relevant and meaningful way, subject to certain limitations such as national security, foreign diplomacy and privacy concerns. It will work with CSOs and the private sector in broadening the scope of access to official information through all possible means; as well as in improving the compliance of government agencies to existing standards of information disclosure.

Deepen Citizen Participation

Organize a Philippine Open Governance Partnership.
During the preparatory phase of this Action Plan, the Government will organize a Philippine Open Governance Partnership that will be tapped in plotting open government reforms in the medium-term, in monitoring performance and in surfacing broader areas where interventions need to be escalated. Government will engage a broad spectrum of national and local CSOs, business groups, academe and other stakeholders; as well as reach out to the Legislature, the Judiciary, Constitutional Bodies and Local Governments for them to take part in open government endeavors.
Expand Participatory Budgeting.
By the end of June 2012, in time for the preparations for the 2013 National Budget, the Government will expand the coverage of participatory budget preparation to at least 12 departments and 6 government corporations, and enhance the process to address issues experienced during the pilot consultations for the 2012 Budget. Before end-2012, the Government, in consultation with CSOs, will craft a roadmap to expand and institutionalize participatory budgeting to the other phases of the budget cyclexxviii and to the national, regional and local levels.
Forge Partnerships for the Development of Local Government-Level Poverty Reduction and Empowerment Plans.
The government will push for stronger collaboration between national agencies, local government units (LGUs) and community organizations in localizing poverty through LGU-level poverty reduction and empowerment plans. During the preparatory phase of this Action Plan, 600 qualified LGUs and partner-CSOs will be identified; community facilitators will be recruited and trained; and manuals for the training the community organizers. From January to July 2012, community workshops will be conducted in drafting community poverty reduction plans that will be incorporated into the proposed National Budget for 2013.
Establish an Empowerment Fund.
To support the bottom-up approach in development planning and budgeting, the Government will establish a facility to support CSOs in organizing citizens and communities to engage government in the implementation and audit of poverty reduction programs. A mechanism will be developed to safeguard the independence of CSOs from the agencies they engage. Such facility will be established during the fourth quarter of 2011. Screening, selection and provision of funding to qualified CSOs will be undertaken throughout 2012.
Institutionalizing Social Audit for Public Infrastructure Projects.
The A partnership between the Audit commission, Executive departmentsxxix and CSOs will craft a roadmap for institutionalizing social audit for general public works and agriculture infrastructure projects by end-2011, for implementation throughout 2012.

Escalate Accountability to Ethical and Performance Standards

Harmonizing Performance Measurement Systems in Government.
To ensure a single approach in measuring government performance—at the institutional, financial or individual level—the government will design and begin cascading a harmonized performance measurement system from the disparate systems at present. A Task Force will be constituted before end-2011 to formulate such a consolidated and harmonized performance measurement system by March 2012. Implementation of this system will begin in April 2012, for review by December 2012.
Install Results-Oriented Budgeting in More Agencies.
The Organizational Performance Indicator Framework (OPIF) will be further mainstreamed into the budget and planning processes of all agencies and harmonized with existing performance measurement systems in government. By end-2012, 10 Departmentsxxx will have fully-developed OPIF systems, with clearly defined agency outputs and performance indicators that are linked to the Philippine Development Plan.
Meanwhile, the Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB) will again be used, and in an expanded manner, in crafting the proposed National Budget for 2013. From January to June 2013, at least seven additional programs and projects would have been subjected to ZBB.
Increase Compliance with Citizen’s Charters.
By the end of 2012, Government will ensure that 100% of national government agencies have published a Citizen’s Charter. Agencies shall also strive to improve their Citizen’s Charters—as well as their processes for frontline and other services, and response mechanisms to complaints and reports—in consultation with CSOs.
Roll-out Internal Audit and Internal Control Manuals.
Before the end of 2011, the Government will issue a Philippine Government Internal Audit Manual (PGIAM). From January to December 2012, the PGIAM and the National Guidelines on Internal Control System (NGICS) will be rolled-out in nine critical departmentsxxxi. This is in line with the target of all agencies adopting the PGIAM and NGICS by 2016.
Embedding Accountability in Local Governance.
In line with the goal of making all lower-income municipalities and citiesxxxii pass the Seal of Good Housekeeping by 2016, the Interior and Local Government department will increase the compliance rate to existing standards from 50% to 70% before the end of 2012. Furthermore, new standards that link performance in social development areas to the awarding of Seal of Good Housekeeping and Performance Challenge Fund grants would have been developed.

Maximize Technology and Innovation

Establish a Single Portal for Government Information.
The proposed Single Portal for Government Information is envisioned to be a central government website where citizens can access government information as well as provide feedback on government performance. Throughout 2012, the Government, in consultation with stakeholders, will craft a roadmap and develop a Single Portal for Government Information which complies with basic open data standards.
Install a Government Integrated Financial Information Management System.
To ensure the efficiency of government financial management procedures, the Government will develop a complete Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) by 2016. By August 2012, the first track of GIFMIS, which will serve as the single data sharing platform of government’s oversight agenciesxxxiii, will be developed.
Pursue Electronic Bidding and Procurement.
In line with the medium-term goal of digitizing the bidding process, the Government will develop additional features of PhilGEPS by December 2012. These new features include a facility to enable the online submission of bid documents; a module for CSOs to monitor tenders online; an electronic fee payment system; an expanded supplier registry and a module for agency posting of their annual procurement plans. The Government will also develop and pilot a system of procurement cards, in lieu of the often-abused system of cash advances, by June 2012.
Establish a National Justice Information System.
In line with addressing the slow pace of justice that has compromised poor victims and poor suspects, the Government will develop a National Justice Information System (NJIS), an integrated criminal justice database system that will facilitate the efficient recording, monitoring, tracking and reporting of crimes, cases, offenders and victims. By December 2012, the Justice department will develop and implement an online registry of opinions, issuances and other legal documents that will easily be accessible to judicial agents. The first phase of NJIS, which will integrate the systems of law enforcement, prosecution and corrections agencies, is envisioned for completion by the end of 2014.xxxiv
Establish a Manpower Information System and Central Payroll System.
To better manage government manpower requirements and improve accountability in the disbursement of funds for personal services, the Government will enhance its Government Manpower Information System (GMIS) as a comprehensive database of government manpower by the end of 2014. By December 2012, a National Payroll System that is linked to GMIS will be developed and pilotedxxxv.
Develop a Registry of Farmers and Fisherfolk.
The Government envisions a full database-registry of farmers and fisherfolk that will more accurately identify and reach beneficiaries of government interventions for agricultural and fisheries development, and to reduce the past massive leakage of government funds for this purpose. In the first quarter of 2012, a pilot registry will be developed covering 20 provinces with the high poverty incidence and high vulnerability to natural calamities.
Electronic Transparency for Congressional Allocations and Lump Sum Funds.
By the end of 2012, the Government will expand the eTAILS so that 1) other often-politicized lump-sum fundsxxxvi are processed through it; and 2) where citizen reportage on the implementation of projects funded by Congressional Allocations is enabled.
Interactive Fiscal Transparency.
The Government will develop and launch a Budget ng Bayanxxxvii website, which will serve as an interactive platform for citizens to learn about and find information on the National Budget as well as to file citizen reports on its implementation. Such a website will be activated by March 2012 and it will be fully operational by December 2012.
During the period of October to December 2011, prior to the commencement of the implementation year, the Philippine Government shall continue looking into further improving this 2012 OGP Action Plan. More importantly, it shall broaden public consultations and cooperation with other branches of Government in ensuring the sustainability of open government reforms over the medium-term.
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Footnotes:

xxvii Of 22 Departments of the executive branch, 6 have posted their approved budgets on their websites (DBM, DoH, DILG, DND, DPWH, DoTC), 3 have posted their fund utilization reports (DBM, DILG, DSWD), 13 have posted their awarded bids (DBM, DepEd, DENR, DoF, DFA, DoH, DILG, DoLE, DND, DPWH, DSWD, DoTC, NEDA) and 10 have posted their annual procurement plans (DBM, DoH, DILG, DoLE, DND, DPWH, DSWD, DoTC, NEDA, PCOO).
xxviii In particular, in the budget legislation, execution and accountability phases.
xix In particular, the Budget, Public Works and Agriculture departments.
xxx The OPIF has already been cascaded in 10 Departments: DA, DAR, DENR, DSWD, DoT, DPWH, DBM, DoF, DoH, DepEd.
xxxi In particular, the Public Works, Education, Finance, Justice, Health, Social Welfare, Budget, Labor and Environment departments.
xxxii Lower-income municipalities are those belonging to the 4th-6th classes. There are a total of 619 municipalities under these classes. Lower-income cities are those belonging to the 4th to 5th classes. There are a total of 28 cities under these.
xxxiii Particularly, the Finance and Budget departments and the Commission on Audit.
xxxiv DoJ Inputs
xxxvIn accordance with Executive Order No. 31 series of 2011
xxxvi Modules for the School Building Fund and the Internal Revenue Allotment of Local Governments are slated for development.

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Obama lauds Phl reforms
By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) Updated September 22, 2011 12:00 AM  View comments
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US President Barack Obama shakes hands with President Aquino following the Open Government Partnership forum at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. AP
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NEW YORK (via PLDT) – US President Barack Obama congratulated President Aquino on Tuesday for the reforms he has set in motion in the Philippines, and expressed hope that they could talk longer next time around.

The two heads of state met at the launch of the Open Governance Partnership (OGP) here. They sat next to each other during the event, which was attended by representatives of 46 other nations. The new partnership aims to promote transparency and accountability in government service.

“When the session was over, he congratulated us for our achievements in our first year. He (Obama) said, ‘I understand there have been those that have been pushing you back,’ ” Aquino told Manila-based reporters.

He said Obama was apparently referring to officials of the previous administration who are under investigation for corruption and who are blocking the administration’s reform efforts.

“He gave a compliment on the achievements that we’ve brought the first year. I guess Honolulu would be a smaller group and we’ll have more time to talk there,” Aquino said, referring to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Hawaii in November.

Aquino said he invited Obama to visit Manila but the US president, pressed for time, made no commitment. Aquino said the matter was best left to the foreign affairs departments of the Philippines and the US.

“I understand he talked before the UN here and everybody wanted to have two minutes with him,” Aquino said.

To prove that his administration means business in its fight against corruption, President Aquino declared here at the OGP forum that he has formulated an action plan to be unveiled in January next year.

In his speech, Aquino said heads of state that included US President Barack Obama, Aquino said government institutions would eventually comply with international standards regarding transparency in transactions.

“We have created a roadmap called the 2012 Philippine Government Action Plan to ensure that our government institutions are at par with international transparency standards,” he said.

Obama and Aquino sat next to each other during the OGP forum.

The Philippines is one of eight countries that are members of OGP Steering Committee. The OGP forum is co-headed by Obama and Brazil President Dilma Rousseff.

The other members are: Indonesia, Mexico, United Kingdom, Norway and South Africa. Members of the steering committee were selected based on fiscal transparency, access to information, and disclosure of officials.

An advocate of good governance that underscores anti-corruption agenda for countries, the OGP is a new multilateral initiative to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.

Aquino said the action plan is a product of consultations made by his officials with civil society organizations and business groups that promote open and good governance, and acknowledged that “this action plan is a work-in-progress.”

“The long-standing culture of corruption and concealment that had taken root will take time to change. But rest assured, before its implementation in January 2012, the plan will have gone through even deeper consultations,” he said.

From the time he started a so-called house cleaning in June 2010 since he assumed office, Aquino disclosed that his government intends to correct the mistakes of the past and prevent them from happening again in the future all in the name of accountability.

“We have taken a two-pronged approach, focusing on the curative and the preventive. As we vigorously pursue our campaign against those who abused power in the past, we are also strengthening institutions through Open Government,” Aquino explained.

He said that these efforts are indicators of how serious the Philippines is in transforming the system from one that operates through secrecy, impunity, and collusion, into a government that embodies transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement – a government that truly exists for its people.

“If our citizens could engage in this way, then I am certain that we will achieve our collective goals sooner rather than later. I believe that if any citizenry can be actively engaged by its government, then it can only have positive effects on the people,” said Aquino.

Aquino also told guests at another forum dubbed as “The Power of Open: A Global Discussion” that was held at the Google headquarters in New York, that allowing constituents to engage in a feedback mechanism among government programs would remove doubts about misfeasance and create an environment where trust is established.

“A continuing conversation between government and its citizens builds a positive, powerful connection between individual leaders and citizens, fostering the reintegration of government with society as a whole,” he pointed out.

He said a policy for transparency, like what he is doing in his administration, prevents temptation among those in power to engage in crimes.

Aquino said technology, particularly the Internet, could be an avenue to give the people updates on government’s affairs, and allow citizens to give feedback.

“This sense of partnership makes us better equipped to navigate the turbulent waters in our age of flux. We have seen the manner in which social media can expose corruption and other abuses, and arouse public opinion to mobilize and reclaim their government.”

Aquino enumerated several programs that his government undertook to keep the citizens informed, among them a website where people can report public officials’ misuse of funds, a Palace portal and another one that details government allocations.

He cited the case of National Hero Jose Rizal who warned of the consequences of government being “blind and deaf to the grievances of the people.”

“His (Rizal) exposing the injustices in Philippine society ignited the Philippine Revolution

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‘Let us not forget the mistakes of the past’
(The Philippine Star) Updated September 22, 2011 12:00 AM  View comments


NEW YORK (via PLDT) – Those who forget the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them.

President Aquino paraphrased the writer George Santayana here Tuesday, saying that martial law imposed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos 39 years ago should be instilled in the Filipino memory, the better to learn the lessons of history.

The President said the dark days of authoritarian rule should never be ignored much less forgotten, since that was the time that military officers committed human rights violations with impunity, sanctioned by the commander-in-chief.

Aquino’s father, former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., an opposition stalwart who was a vocal critic of the Marcos administration, was imprisoned on trumped-up charges and later lived in exile in the United States. He was assassinated when he returned home in 1983.

The President said the person who declared martial law had been allowed by the Constitution to do so and stayed well beyond his term of office.

“He was supposed to be a Bar topnotcher but he trampled human rights by sending civilians to be tried in military courts,” he said, referring to Marcos, whose son, Ferdinand II, is now a senator and Aquino’s former colleague in the Senate.

The President also hit the former strongman and the people around him during that time for his decisions that according to him resulted to the country’s external debt that reached $25 billion since 1974 and the futility of having to establish the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant whose loans were paid by Filipino taxpayers for several years, among others.

“There was a study that came out before martial law that we almost have no external debt. I believe I saw a record that we started in 1974, that is when they started talking about the $25 billion,” the President said in Filipino.

He, however, reiterated that there were suggestions that Asian nations should have a paternalistic system and a strong leader.

In Manila, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda defended the Aquino administration’s human rights record and emphasized that the compensation bill that would give monetary assistance to martial law victims is still being worked out.

The human rights compensation bill seeks to provide assistance to some 10,000 victims during the martial law years.

Lacierda said there was a discussion on the bill prior to the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council but the terms and provisions were so broad that those present were not able to determine who exactly should be considered a rights victim.

Different points of view

Meanwhile, militant groups commemorated the 39th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by holding a rally at the foot of Mendiola Bridge in Manila, the site of many demonstrations during the Marcos regime.

“Justice remains elusive for the thousands of victims of the Marcos dictatorship and the fascist regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Martial law’s anniversary reminds us not just of the atrocities committed in the past, but also of the difficult struggle for justice being waged by victims of the past and present,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr.

Bayan lamented that while the compensation of Marcos victims was mentioned during the President’s State of the Nation Address, there has lately been no pronouncement or update on the matter.

The group also said the Aquino government has been slow to release more than 350 political prisoners, most of them arrested on trumped-up charges during the Arroyo regime.

“The AFP continues to deny the existence of political prisoners in the Philippines. The government doesn’t even have a working definition of who these prisoners are. It’s as if the 350 prisoners do not exist at all,” Reyes said.

Akbayan party-list, on the other hand, filed a resolution yesterday urging the House of Representatives to officially declare the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos an “enemy of democracy.”

In filing House Resolution 1756, Representatives Walden Bello and Arlene Bag-ao called on Congress to condemn the atrocities committed by Marcos. It also called on Congress to “strongly oppose” the revival of any proposal that would portray him as a hero.

The lawmakers said the Marcos dictatorship “was perhaps one of the darkest parts in the country’s political history.”

They said the Marcos dictatorship, through the utilization of a brutal military establishment, was responsible for 3,257 murders, 35,000 torture cases and 70,000 incarcerations.

But Marcos loyalists disagreed.

Lawyer Oliver Lozano, a staunch supporter of the fallen dictator, justified the implementation of martial law, saying Proclamation 1081 brought peace and development and made the country among the leading economies in the Asian region.

“It was an act of self defense against mob rule. There was no dictatorship only constitutional authoritarian rule against the enemies of the state that were on the verge of taking over the government. Crime rate went down, progress and development began reaching the countryside,” Lozano told The STAR.

He said aside from the restoration of law and order, martial law also sped up implementation of infrastructure projects and instilled discipline among the citizenry.

Lozano, whose son and driver were killed by carjackers early this year, said he would support the declaration of a modified “martial law” provided it is within the bounds of the Constitution, to address the worsening crime situation.

 Martial law documents

In a related development, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin turned over yesterday to civilians previously confidential martial law documents in a simple ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Gazmin said the documents, enough to fill up a room, will be preserved to allow Filipinos to learn from the past.

“Your defense and military establishment fully commit to turn over all declassified martial law documents in our possession to our Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for preservation and for the sake of posterity,” he said.

The Department of National Defense (DND) and the CHR would coordinate with the National Archives and the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) to preserve and digitize the documents.

The two feet thick documents include news clippings about former Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, a key figure of the popular revolt that ousted Marcos and reports on former senator Ninoy Aquino.

Other declassified documents include various security assessments, political leaflets of Aquino, feasibility studies on lifting martial law, a briefing manuscript about detainees dated 1980, a compilation of media accounts of the assassination of Aquino in 1983, news clippings on student activists dated September 1969, and various presidential decrees.

The documents covered the period from 1972 to 1986. – Delon Porcalla, Rhodina Villanueva, Perseus Echeminada, Michelle Zoleta, Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero, Aurea Calica

BIGGER CROCODILES STILL ON THE LOOSE

JGL Eye

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)

Joseph Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – I applaud the residents of Agusan del Sur in the Philippines for snaring and trapping alive last week a huge prehistoric crocodile touted as the longest and heaviest of its kind in captivity. While the reptile might have consumed humans, who might have crossed his path, this crocodile should not be faulted for attacking humans because he was doing it only for survival. Now that the reptile which took its nickname “Lolong” after one of its ill-fated hunters, we should now turn on capturing the two-legged crocodiles that roam the Philippine Congress and the government, who never tire on stealing the pork barrels.

Many politicians have been raiding the national treasury for nearly a decade and stashed those ill-gotten wealth secretly in big investment houses. But still, they would insist on holding onto some elective positions, pretending to be serving the people. But what these very few rich people want to accomplish is to preserve their wealth so that more people will seek their help and be indebted to them. This insatiable desire to amass more wealth is a throwback to the feudal times when nobility would thrive by exploiting illiterates and turning them into beasts of burden. So they would be untouchable like drug lords, these rich people would have to put up private security agencies or private armies.They don’t realize it that the more they linger in government service, the more they are liable to committing more mistakes.
 
LAWYERS THRIVE ON MISTAKES OF POLITICIANS
 
 But like the black hole in the outer space, where nothing escapes, these crocodiles in the government will be ceding a great part of their wealth to the lawyers, who will be representing them in various courts of law. If they are unlucky with their choice, these lawyers will prolong the litigation of the case so they earn more attorneys’ fees.
 
 In the case of my native Sorsogon province, it is pity that my province mates have been governed alternately by husband-and-wife tandems, who are not even natives of Sorsogon. Incumbent Gov. Raul R. Lee is said to be originally surnamed “Rodrigueza” from Albay while his wife, former Gov. Sally Lee, is from Vigan, Ilocus Sur, who does not even speak Sorsogon Bikol. Since both of them are carpetbaggers, how sincere are they really in helping Sorsoguenos?
 

When she was governor of the southern most province of Luzon, Governor Sally Lee obtained a 260-million pesos (U$6-M) loan for the province. When Sorsogon’s provincial board member Vladimir Frivaldo sought for an accounting of the loan, Frivaldo did not get any response. I told Vladi to direct his inquiry to the Commission on Audit so it can conduct an accounting of the loan money. Despite the refusal of Governor Sally Lee to explain the whereabouts of the 260-million pesos, her successor and husband, Gov. Raul R. Lee, had the gall to secure another loan, this time, a bigger 350-M peso (US$8.3-M) loan.

 Vladi Frivaldo opposed the P350-M loan but the rest of the members of the Sorsogon provincial board approved the loan request. Vladi wrote a letter to the two banks – Philippine National Bank and Land Bank of the Philippines – to reject the Governor Raul Lee’s loan application by virtue of two criminal graft information filed against Lee by the Ombudsman. Vladi also wrote Congress to investigate the loan request. Vladi is still waiting for the response of his letters.

  LIQUIDATE FIRST THE P260-M LOAN BEFORE P350-M LOAN IS APPROVED

If COA finds out that Gov. Sally Lee cannot liquidate the P260-M, Sally Lee should be charged with malversation of public funds before the Ombudsman. If Sally Lee could not even account for the P260-M loan, why would PNB or the LBP even entertain granting the P350-M loan to her husband?

Court Information furnished to me by Mr. Fulton Baylon, an anti-graft fighter in Sorsogon, shows that Gov. Raul R. Lee, Raul G. Hernandez, Sorsogon Provincial Chief Accountant, and Ofelia D. Velasco, Sorsogon Provincial Treasurer, have been charged with violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (R.A. 3019) by Ombudsman Orlando C. Casimiro after a preliminary investigation for buying P2,640,000.00 (US$62,857.00) Bio Nature Liquid Fertilizer from Feshan Phil. Inc. without public bidding.

The overpriced liquid fertilizer, according to former DA (Dept. of Agriculture) Regional Executive Director Fe Laysa, is “not appropriate for rice and corn, the principal crops in the region” but it is good for “hanging plants like orchids and other ornamental plants, which however, are not among the priority commodities for development and support.”

In another case supplied to me by Mr. Baylon, the Ombudsman also charged Gov. Raul R. Lee, Atty. Cesar J. Balmaceda, Provincial Legal Officer Atty. Antonio R. Huab, Provincial Engineer’s Office Engr. Arnie de Vera, Assistant Provincial Budget Officer Rosie D. Agnis, Provincial Assessor Florenco C. Dino II, Provincial General Services Officer Teresita D. Paladin, Accounting Clerk III Felicisimo D. Brondial, Inspection Officer Manuel S. Laurora and Enrico T. Velasco, Presidential and CEO of First Education & Training Ventures, Inc. of San Juan City, Metro Manila with accepting P12, 000,000.00 (US$285,714.00) satellite and office equipments and a recurrent fee of US$24,000 on March 29, 2004 from FETVI before FETVI was awarded the contract on March 30, 2004 without public bidding.

The same respondents are also accused of obtaining 300 sets of computer hardware and software in the amount P10,000,000.00 (US$238,095) from a loan with the Philippine National Bank. The only problem with these computers is that they are all “reconditioned/slightly used” instead of the “brand new fresh commercial stock supplies or property” required by the COA Circular.

Oh, well the accused in Sorsogon are not as large as the crocodiles in the Philippine Congress and Malacanang but they can grow as big if they will be left in the wild (or go unpunished).With these charging information, Secretary Jesse Robredo has now every reason to ask Governor Lee to cede his office to the Vice Governor, unless Mr. Lee can quash the information.

(lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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PH TOURISM COUNCIL VICE CHAIR RECALLS “SURVIVING” 9/11

JGL Eye

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

Joseph Lariosa

(© 2011 Journal Group Link International) 

CHICAGO (jGLi) – A small group of Filipinos from my home province of Sorsogon in the Philippines was looking forward to a hearty breakfast in the Twin Towers in New York City, New York 10 years ago.

But the jetlag of the late arriving party and the long drawn-out conversations of the others waiting for them at Beacon Hotel on 72nd Avenue in New York City spilled into the small hours of the morning, prompting the group to move their meeting from breakfast to “brunch” (breakfast-lunch) between 10:30 and 11 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001.

My friend, Joesan Gabarda, of Troy, Michigan and Sorsogon City, recalled that he was about to leave their Beacon Hotel and hail a taxi that would take him and some of his companions to the Twin Towers on Sept. 11 when he saw live on television that day that the Twin Towers were burning.

“If the late arriving party did not complain of being tired from the trip and if the others did not extend their conversations well into early in the morning, we would have rushed to the Twin Towers at 8 a.m., the exact time when the two planes hit the buildings. I am very sure we would have been among the victims of that tragic event.” Gabarda, a Filipino American anti-graft advocate, now muses.

“Perhaps, we were just lucky to “survive” 9/11,” Gabarda deadpans.

As vice chair of the Sorsogon Tourism Council, Gabarda’s presence was a must so he drove all the way from Troy to New York City to make it to the presentation of artifacts of Sorsogon Tourism Council in the Philippine Trade Center on 5th Avenue in New York City.

OTHER MEMBERS OF SORSOGON TOURISM COUNCIL

 Among the officers and members of the Council were Sorsogon’s Filipino American Attorney Loida Nicolas Lewis (chair) and her brother, Francis Nicolas, Wilfredo “Buboy” Duana and his wife, Cherry, and his mother, Milagros Duana, Cecilia Duran of Sorsogon City’s Fernando Hotel, Cecilia Capinpin and Eddie Chua.

“I made a reservation earlier at Twin Towers so our group can have a breakfast at 8 a.m. but we could not make it that early. So, I delayed our meeting to 10:30 or 11:00 a.m.” he recalls.

Gabarda said Eddie Chua, Buboy and Cherry arrived from the Philippines in the morning of Sept. 10. So, he and Fernando Laban of New Jersey picked up the three at the Newark, New Jersey airport. They brought the three new arrivals straight from the airport to Philippine Trade Center to catch the presentations of artifacts.

In the afternoon, some in the group took the stuff of the new arrivals to Beacon’s Hotel and together with rest of about 30 to 50 guests, they proceeded to the two-floor Central Park condominium of Atty. Lewis, who hosted a dinner party.

While most of the guests took cabs to go to the hotel after the dinner party, others, like Joesan, Cherry, Buboy and Francis, decided to walk from the Central Park condominium on 5th Avenue to Beacon Hotel at 72nd Avenue. It must have been a long walk, he remembered it was almost 3 a.m. in his watch and he was dead tired when they reached the hotel.

Coupled with the lack of sleep of the new arrivals and the late morning sleep of the rest, it was easy to delay the breakfast meeting from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sept. 11.

“When I saw TV footages with the jets hitting the Twin Towers, I thanked God and congratulated our group, telling them, ‘we were survivors.” Gabarda said.

He said that while everybody were scampering from the Towers, he and Eddie Chua were curious so they tried to take a cab going to the Towers. But they could not flag down a cab. They went to catch a train at the subway but there was no train to catch either.

TRAPPED FOR TWO DAYS IN NY

 Since nobody can get out, “we were trapped for two days in New York.” Everyone was being inspected and was properly identified. Atty. Lewis later invited the group to her home at South Hampton, Long Island for a get-together.

Atty. Lewis was so nervous she did not ride her car but decided to “join me and Eddie Chua in my small run-down P.T. Cruiser” to her South Hampton home.

Eddie Chua later joined him in his trip back to Michigan and Eddie flew to California after three days.

Among the artifacts presented on the eve of 9/11 were paintings that were being exhibited in the Sorsogon Tourism Council now being run by Ms. Sylvia Perdigon, a coordinator of Sorsogon’s governor’s office.

Gabarda said when he noticed that the Sorsogon provincial government was taking an active hand in running the affairs of the Sorsogon Tourism Council, he resigned from the position. “After my resignation, Atty. Lewis followed suit,” Gabarda said.

He believes the Sorsogon Tourism Council is better left to the non-government organizations (NGO’s), with the government “just supporting role.”

It is unfortunate that the government is always interested in raising sponsorship money on behalf of the council. But the money is not flowed back to the projects of the council. The money lines the pockets of those running the council, Gabarda rues.

Gabarda said his original group, who “survived” the 9/11, had a reunion a year later in the condominium of Atty. Lewis at Rockwell in Makati City. But they might reminisce again about “our second life” in another reunion, maybe sometime in the future.

“Meanwhile, let’s pose for a moment to pray for those, who were not as lucky like us, who survived,” he said.

 

9/11 “SURVIVOR”

Joesan Gabarda (extreme right), a 9/11 “survivor,” is shown in this photo with this columnist (extreme left), when they met at Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center in Michigan last Aug. 10. Others in photo from left are Brooke Camp, a CNN recruiter, Curtis Lee Jay, news anchor of “Action News” of NBC in Kansas City, Missouri, a grandson of Felino Lee of Magallanes, Sorsogon and Bobby M. Reyes of Sorsogon City and Mabuhay Radio based in Los Angeles, California. (© 2011 jGLiPhoto) //

JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
Correspondent
Journal Group Link International
P. O. BOX 805072
CHICAGO IL 60680-4112 U.S.A.
Tel. 312.772.5454
Fax No. 773.283.5986
Email: lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net

(Watch out for the upcoming media-outlet oriented, subscription-based website of Journal Group Link International that guarantees originally sourced stories, features, photos, audios and videos and multi-media contents.)

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An Asuncion Riding On The Crest Of A Wave

My cousin Eduardo Rojas just informed me about Amado Gabriel Esteban, a cousin who is now President of Seton Hall University in the United States Of America, the first Filipino so far to hold this prestigious position. Bulan Observer congratulates Amado for his excellent achievement!  jun asuncion

Here is Eduardo’s info about the family roots of Amado:

// We have an Asuncion relative who will be the first (and non priest) Filipino president of the well known Seton Hall University . His name is Amado Gabriel Esteban. He is an Asuncion through his mom, Isabel “Lita” Munson Esteban. Lita’s mom is Paz Maria Asuncion Intengan (married to Amado Munson). Paz Maria Asuncion Intengan’s mom is Consuelo Asuncion (married to Dr Gabriel Intengan). Consuelo and sister Guia Asuncion came from Zacharias Asuncion, son of Justiniano and grand son of Mariano Kagalitan Asuncion. //

Filipino Amado Gabriel Esteban Seton Hall University President

BY INQUIRER.NETON  January 24, 2011 CATEGORIZED UNDER OUTSTANDING FILIPINOS, UNITED STATES

“Other than the food, I miss the sights and sounds of Manila—the packed Sunday Masses, big family gatherings and going out with the ‘barkada,’” he said in an e-mail interview with the Inquirer.

“I have to admit though that the Manila of my youth only exists in my mind. You know you are getting old when I was looking for a CD of Basil, I was asked to go to the oldies section!”

Putting the Filipino brand of leadership on the international spotlight once again, 49-year-old Esteban was recently appointed president of Seton Hall University (SHU) in New Jersey.

Esteban had been serving as interim president of the oldest diocesan university in America and New Jersey’s largest Catholic university with more than 10,000 students before he was named to the post last December.

Two priests in the running withdrew during the search proceedings, according to a New York Times online report.

“As a Filipino, I hope I can serve as a reminder, along with all the other kababayan who have been able to advance themselves, of our potential wherever we are in the world,” Esteban said.

His mother, Lita Munson Esteban, and his late Tarlaqueño father, Jose Esteban, were both educators.

Building consensus

Esteban credits his upbringing for a leadership style that listens and nurtures.

“Growing up in a Filipino-Catholic environment, I learned early on the value of building consensus, learning from past mistakes and failures, and most importantly treating everyone with respect and dignity,” he said.

 “In leading Seton Hall University, I hope to never forget something my late father used to say, ‘A great university is not made up of bricks and mortar, but people of great minds with good intentions,’” he added.

Serving a term of five and a half years, Esteban aims to pursue a strategic development plan that would entail “strengthening our Catholic identity, strengthening and increasing our investment in key academic programs, increasing our student selectivity, and developing the financial resources to fund our shared vision.”

Exception to rule

Esteban’s appointment broke tradition based on SHU’s 25-year-old by-laws, where only Catholic priests were qualified to head the university. The university’s board of trustees adopted an exception to the by-laws a week before his appointment.

Two other laymen had assumed the SHU presidency before Esteban, but his appointment was the first for a nonpriest since the university adopted its priests-only selection criteria in the 1980s.

Esteban received praise from the university for his calming presence after the tragic shooting of 19-year-old sophomore student Jessica Moore near SHU in September last year, when he was still interim head.

SHU officials called him the right fit for the job.

In a broadcast e-mail announcing Esteban’s appointment, Patrick Murray, chair of the SHU board of regents, said: “Dr. Esteban has successfully navigated through many challenges during his interim presidency; we are extremely fortunate to have such a proven, compassionate leader at the helm of our University. He is ideally positioned to carry on Seton Hall’s Catholic mission and its tradition of academic excellence.”

UP studies

Esteban finished a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a master’s degree in Business Administration at the University of the Philippines before taking up master of science in Japanese Business Studies at Chaminade University in Honolulu.

He and his wife Josephine, a UP Economics graduate, came back to the Philippines in 1986, just as the country returned to democracy after 14 years of martial rule. He landed a job at San Miguel Corp. while his wife worked for the then Center for Research and Communications (now University of Asia and the Pacific).

The couple later went back to the United States for further studies.

“We had every intention of returning to the Philippines. In fact in the late nineties, I interviewed for and was offered a couple of faculty positions in the Philippines. As we were making preliminary plans to return, the Asian financial crisis hit,” Esteban said.

“Upon deliberation and reflection, we realized that over the short to medium term we had better opportunities in the United States,” he added.

Connecting home

But life seems to have come full circle for Esteban, as his connection to home has become even stronger with the position he holds.

SHU’s College of Arts and Sciences is studying student demand for the Filipino language, which it previously offered. At the university, Esteban has also met several Filipino seminarians and students.

“Seton Hall has a very active student group called FLASH (Filipino League at Seton Hall). We even have Simbang Gabi!” he said.

As an SHU official, Esteban has also established institutional relations with UP, De La Salle University and its College of St. Benilde and Health Sciences Institute.

“Since the establishment of relationships with sister institutions in the Philippines, I have been fortunate to be able to go to Manila almost every year for the past few years,” Esteban said.

The Internet has also made touching base with the Philippines easier, he said. “Connecting to home and friends in Manila was more difficult until the widespread use of technology, including YahooGroups and more recently Facebook.”

Esteban and his family came home for Christmas last year, their first since 1987. With Josephine and his daughter Ysabella, an SHU junior, he traveled to Boracay and Cagayan de Oro City and “spent almost all our time with family.”   /

Visit Amado at Seton Hall University.

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Moved To Tears

by jun asuncion

My cousin Sonny Rayos has just done  a magnificent job by taking photos of our great ancestor  Justiniano Asuncion’s Watercolor Paintings at the New York Public Libraray. He said he was moved almost to tears to hold and see for the first time these known works of Justiniano. It also deeply moved me that at the other side of the globe, I  have this cousin who is also actively searching for the roots and sharing his findings.

I highly appreciate Sonny’s efforts for he makes it possible for all other  Asuncions to view these works without going to New York. I was very excited that I immediately worked on the photos for publication. Sonny was allowed by the NYPL to take photos of Justiniano’s original watercolor paintings.

Sonny’s great great grandfather was Leoncio Asuncion, Justiniano’s brother. Here is Sonny’s photo holding an original painting by the master. Below is his e-mail to me this morning:

To all:

I was in New York City during the first week of August and rather than go to the Guggenheim, MoMA or Met museums, I decided to check out the NYPL’s (Schwarzman Building on 42th St. in midtown Manhattan) Justiniano Asuncion watercolor collections. These watercolor painting were digitalized several years ago. Y’all are probably familiar with these collection by doing an internet search on: “NYPL Justiniano Asuncion.” To see the paintings (which, at the time. I didn’t even know that I could view them), I was shuffled from the main lobby librarian, to Room 300, to Room 308, then had to apply for a NYC libary card, and then back to Rm 300 which is actually a secure room – you have to be buzzed in. FYI – the librarians were very excited when I told them that these were my ancestors paintings.

So finally here I am looking at my great, great, great uncle Justiano’s watercolor paintings. I was moved, almost to tears – to finally hold in my hand the paintings of Justiniano – looking and perusing each and every one closely (thank goodness, I even brought with me a magnifying glass!) I cannot help but think, every art critic is right: Justiniano Asuncion is THE MASTER!

Sonny Rayos

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Fil Ams Make Waves at AAJA Convention

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)

DETROIT, Michigan (jGLi)– Some Filipino Americans are getting some attention during the ongoing three-day 22nd annual convention of the Asian American Journalists Association that ends on Saturday, Aug. 13, in Detroit, Michigan.

Three of them are panelists in different workshops in the organization that is also marking its 30th anniversary this year. They are Rene Astudillo, executive director, Lupus Foundation of Northern California, who is in the panel of “Fighting To Protect Immigrant Rights”; Maria Hechanova, morning reporter, WLNS-TV, Yuma, Arizona, panelist in “Surviving Small Markets”; and Emil Guillermo, award-winning journalist and TV/radio host/commentator, panelist in “Authors’ Showcase: In Conversation with Grace Lee Boggs.”

Among Filipino American journalists attending this event are Curtis Lee Jay, news anchor “Action News” of NBC in Kansas City, Missouri; Justin Mendoza, TV news reporter/video journalist/producer; and Joseph G. Lariosa, correspondent Journal Group Link International and AAJA Chicago Chapter member. While those covering the event are former Manila Bulletin Provincial Editor Tony Antonio, editor of Fil Star Michigan, and Bobby Reyes of Mabuhay Radio of Los Angeles, California. Another Fil Am attending is Michigan active community leader, Willie Dichavez.

Mr. Curtiz Lee Jay met at the convention with Messrs. Reyes and Joesan Gabarda of Troy, Michigan. Gabarda is a friend of Jay’s grandfather, Felino Lee of Magallanes, Sorsogon in the Philippines.

Astudillo is AAJA’s National Treasurer and was AAJA’s executive director from 1999 to 2008. Hechanova worked her way up from producer/reporter and has worn many hats in her two-year tenure, including administrative assistant! She’s also the co-chair of AASMBJ (Asian American Small Market Broadcast Journalists), a group dedicated to supporting AAJA members who are just starting their careers. For nearly 15 years, Guillermo wrote the most widely read opinion column on Asian America in the U.S. An award-winning veteran broadcast and print journalist, talk host and commentator, Guillermo was the first Asian American to regularly host a national news radio program on NPR’s “All Things Considered” from 1989-1991.

During the panel discussion, Maria Hechanova, said working in a small market station is tough as she felt alienated from her relatives when her job application was accepted and she left her friendly confines in Phoenix, Arizona.

“You have to face two-step battle as you transition to your new job,” Ms. Hechanova, whose parents are from Iloilo in the Philippines, said. “First, losing people and finding that second job.”

It took her two years to prepare her taped resume, taking live shots. While she put things together, she was and is always having an open mind to criticisms of her job and demeanor by listening intently to her missteps.

While her contract expires in three years, she developed some anxiety two years into her job as she starts to make plans to jump into a “bigger” market. Her anxiety becomes acute as she gained the “the people’s trust and you create from them their respect.”

Ms. Hechanova turned emotional when she said her Mom called her a week after she got a new job, telling her that her Dad was very sick. Her father died last July 22nd.

She thanked the Asian American Journalists Association, which helped her cope up with her problems.

But what cheers her up in Yuma is a group Filipino Americans, who always invite her to their event, serving her up with her favorite Filipino delicacies.

She always feels that career is a marathon, where you develop your skills as you linger on your job. But she is still keeping her options open if she wants to pick up the anchor job of her dream. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

PANELISTS:

Fil Am Maria Hechanova (extreme right), morning reporter, WLNS-TV, of Yuma, Arizona, joins members of the panel after they presented “Surviving Small Markets” workshop Thursday, Aug. 11, at the St. Louis Convention Center in Detroit (COBO), Michigan. Others in photo to her right are Jam Sardar, TV News Director WLNS-TV, and Priscilla Luong, a reporter for Fox25 and CW34 of Oklahoma City. Back row at right is George Kiriyama, news reporter, NBC Bay Area News and an unidentified AAJA member or guest. (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)

REUNION:

Former Manila Bulletin Provincial Editor Tony Antonio (extreme right), editor of Fil Am Star News in Michigan, is reunited with former Manila Bulletin police reporter Joseph G. Lariosa (extreme left), correspondent of Journal Group Link International, at the 22nd annual convention of the Asian American Journalists Association Thursday, Aug. 11, at the St. Louis Convention Center (COBO) in Detroit, Michigan while Bobby Reyes of Mabuhay Radio looks on. At the background is the Detroit River overlooking Canada on the other side of the river. (jGLiPhoto)

SORSOGANONS AT THE CONFAB:

Curtis Lee Jay (third from left), news anchor “Action News” of NBC in Kansas City, Missouri, introduced himself as a grandson of Felino Lee of Magallanes, Sorsogon, while Sorsoganons Joseph G. Lariosa (extreme left), Bobby M. Reyes and Joesan Gabarda (extreme right) were conversing in Bikol. Lookin on is Jay’s friend, Brooke Camp, CNN recruiter, at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center in Michigan Wednesday, Aug. 10. (jGLiPhoto)

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