Friday, February 29, 2008

Roxas To GMA: Truth Or Consequence; Makati Rally Today Only A Sign Of Country Breaking Apart

29 February 2008

Senator Mar Roxas warned President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that her government's continued stonewalling of the truth and obstruction of justice will soon break the nation apart.

The Liberal Party President said the Chief Executive should view today's Makati rally as a fair consequence of her administration's failure to come clean on the ZTE-National Broadband Network (NBN) controversy.

"Ang hamon ngayon, Ginang Pangulo: ‘truth or consequence.' Huwag maging balakid sa katotohanan, kung hindi, patuloy na aapaw ang galit ng tao sa lansangan," he said.

"In case you haven't noticed, Mrs. President, the people are angry. They are very, very angry. And if you continue to turn a blind eye to this and sing your chorus that everything's above board, then your so-called ‘Strong Republic' will just break apart into 86 million pieces," he added.

The co-chairman of the Joint Senate Committees investigating the NBN deal said the President must act to "save the Republic" by facing the situation squarely and by taking concrete steps to reveal the truth. The first step is ordering her officials to appear before the Senate, to submit all documents in relation to the ZTE-NBN deal, to testify and reveal all that needs to be revealed.

Roxas warned the administration that by continuing to be detached from the pent-up feelings of the people, this detachment will return a hundredfold: A nation of people whose anger has transformed into apathy.

"Our country is already broken. Ang tiwala ng ating mga kababayan sa pamahalaan, sa ating mga institusyon, sa ating mag opisyales, ay mababang-mababa na o kaya wala na talaga," he said.

"Ang rally ngayon ay patikim lang ng inis at galit ng taumbayan sa paggapos ng administrasyon sa katotohanan, sa asta nilang sila lamang ang may monopolyo sa bayan. The administration's disastrous stance will lead the people to their wit's end, to do what they can do to escape a country which they couldn't call their own anymore," he said.

(Copy of Executive Order No. 464, a controversial executive order issued in the Philippines on September 26, 2005 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that prevents cabinet members, police and military generals, senior national security officials, and "such other officers as may be determined by the President" to attend senate and/or congressional hearings unless the President gives permission to those who will attend the said proceedings.)

He urged the administration to stop its defensive chorus and take the following steps to help put closure to the ZTE mess: Revoke Executive Order 464; order officials to attend the inquiries into the deal not only by the Senate, but also the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice; order them to submit to the Senate all documents of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) relative to the decision-making process on the NBN; and suspend those who do not follow.

Student arrested for carrying weapon to school

PASADENA, Calif. - Police arrested a student on suspicion of carrying a weapon Friday after a daylong lockdown and search of a high school and students.

The male student, whose name was not released, was taken into custody for investigation of being a minor possessing a firearm, police said in a statement.

No weapon has been found, but there was probable cause to arrest the student, including witness accounts that the youth was carrying one, Lt. Jari Faukner said.

Police said the investigation was ongoing and another search could be conducted later.

SWAT teams were sent to Blair International Baccalaureate School shortly before 9:30 a.m. after a student reported seeing someone walking on campus with a gun in his waistband.

As a precaution, all 1,200 students were confined to classrooms for hours as police searched the campus, formerly called Blair High School, "looking room by room, hallway by hallway, bush by bush," police Lt. Tom Pederson said.

Anxious parents waited outside for hours until their children began being released after 5 p.m.

Blair East, an adjoining middle school, also was locked down; those students were released at midafternoon. Officials did not search off the campus.

Students were individually searched, then taken in small groups to a gymnasium, walking with hands on their heads. Some parents watching from afar wondered why it was necessary or said they were frustrated by a lack of information.

"Nobody knows what's going on," said Tami Waters, mother of an eighth-grader at the middle school. "I think it's causing a lot more stress than necessary."

Pasadena is about 15 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. AP

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Filipino Students hold nationwide Action Day

February 28, 2008
League of Filipino Students (LFS)

Today is Youth Action Day nationwide! Students declare schools ‘Truth Zones/GMA-Free Zones’
Simultaneous school actions to culminate at Ayala rally tomorrow

YOUTH ACT NOW! (Youth for Truth and Accountability Now!) launched simultaneous youth actions in 10 key cities nationwide today in preparation for the Interfaith Assembly at Ayala tomorrow.

Students unveiled streamers declaring their schools as ‘Truth Zones’ or ‘GMA-Free Zones.’

In Metro Manila, students from UST, UE, UP Diliman and Manila, Ateneo, Miriam, Lyceum, De La Salle Taft, TIP, PSBA, JRU, CCP and GAUF held simultaneous in-campus programs and assemblies before unveiling their declaration. (attached is the complete schedule of activities)

Participants of the Youth Action Day around Metro Manila capped the day with a mini-concert entitled, ‘Sa Totoo Tayo! A Unity Gathering for Youth Fighting for Truth’ held at the Xaymaca Bar in Timog at 6:00 pm.

In other parts of the country, students from the University of Negros Occidental Recoletos held a torch parade while students from UP Baguio, University of Cordillera and Baguio College of Technology Student Council held a noise barrage at Session Road.

Students from UP Los Banos, Lipa Cathedral and PUP-Maragondon Cavite also organized a candle-lighting protest.

Similar actions were also staged in Naga City, Albay, Cagayan de Oro Ciy, Davao and Iloilo.

“We fully expect these simultaneous displays of youth outrage against corruption to snowball towards the Ayala rally tomorrow. Students will attend, represent their schools, and stand proud that their schools are ‘Truth Zones,’ said YOUTH ACT NOW! Spokesperson Alvin Peters.

YOUTH ACT NOW! is a coalition of student councils, campus publications, organizations and individuals representing more than 50 schools nationwide. ###


University of the Philippines-Manila
10am – press conference with teachers and non-teaching faculty
11am – assembly at the College of Arts and Sciences
11:30am – unveiling of ‘GMA-Free Zone’ declaration

Lyceum of the Philippines
11am – noise barrage vs. GMA’s 7 years
12noon – unveiling of ‘GMA-Free Zone’

Polytechnic University of the Philippines
12noon – assembly and program with Mr. Jun Lozada,1pm – unveiling of ‘GMA-Free Zone’ declaration

University of the Philippines-Diliman
12noon – assembly and program, CASAA Steps, Palma Hall
5:30pm – letter installation, Sunken Garden

University of Sto. Tomas, Jubilee Gate-Espana, 3pm, unveiling of ‘GMA-Free Zone’ declaration

University of the East, Recto Gate, 3:30pm, unveiling of ‘GMA-Free Zone’

De La Salle University-Taft, 3-5pm forum with Mr. Jun Lozada

Ateneo de Manila/Miriam College, Gate 2.5 Katipunan, 5pm, quilt-signing (with JRU, PSBA, TIP, CCP)

Caloocan, Monumento, noise barrage, 5pm (with UE Caloocan and GAUF)

Sa Totoo Tayo! A Concert Gathering of Youth Fighting for Truth, 6-9pm, Xaymaca Bar, Timog, QC

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

To All Filipinos Everywhere

Gemma Santos Dimaculangan
02/18/2008 09:38 AM

I used to think that corruption and criminality in the Philippines were caused by poverty. But recent events tell me this isn't true. It is one thing to see people turn into drug addicts, prostitutes, thieves and murderers because of hunger and poverty, but what excuse do these rich, educated people have that could possibly explain their bizarre behavior? And to think I was always so relieved when petty snatchers got caught and locked away in jail because I never fully realized that the big time thieves were out there, making the laws and running our country. Can it get any worse than this?

Every night, I come home and am compelled to turn on my tv to watch the latest turn of events. I am mesmerized by these characters. They are not men. They are caricatures of men - too unreal to be believable and too bad to be real. To see these "honorable" crooks lambast each other, call each one names, look each other in the eye and accuse the other of committing the very same crimes that they themselves are guilty of, is so comical and appalling that I don't know whether to laugh or cry. It is entertainment at its worst!

I have never seen so many criminals roaming around unfettered and looking smug until now. These criminals wear suits and barongs, strut around with the confidence of the rich and famous, inspire fear and awe from the very citizens who voted them to power, bear titles like "Honorable", "Senator", "Justice", "General" and worse, "President". Ironically, these lawless individuals practice law, make our laws, enforce the law. And we wonder why our policemen act the way they do! These are their leaders, and the leaders of this nation – Robin Hoodlum and his band of moneymen. Their motto? "Rob the poor, moderate the greed of the rich."

It makes me wonder where on earth these people came from, and what kind of upbringing they had to make them act the way they do for all the world to see. It makes me wonder what kind of schools they went to, what kind of teachers they had, what kind of environment would produce such creatures who can lie, cheat and steal from an already indebted country and from the impoverished people they had vowed to serve. It makes me wonder what their children and grandchildren think of them, and if they are breeding a whole new generation of improved Filipino crooks and liars with maybe a tad more style but equally negligible conscience. Heaven forbid!

I am an ordinary citizen and taxpayer. I am blessed to have a job that pays for my needs and those of my family's, even though 30% of my earnings go to the nation's coffers. Just like others in my lot, I have complained time and again because our government could not provide enough of the basic services that I expect and deserve. Rutty roads, poor educational system, poor social services, poor health services, poor everything. But I have always thought that was what all third world countries were all about, and my complaints never amounted to anything more.

And then this. Scandalous government deals. Plundering presidents pointing fingers. Senators associated with crooks. Congressmen who accept bribes. Big time lawyers on the side of injustice. De Venecia ratting on his boss only after his interminable term has ended, Enrile inquiring about someone's morality! The already filthy rich Abalos and Arroyo wanting more money than they or their great grandchildren could ever spend in a lifetime. Joker making a joke of his own "pag bad ka, lagot ka!" slogan. Defensor rendered defenseless. Gen. Razon involved in kidnapping. Security men providing anything but a sense of security. And it's all about money, money, money that the average Juan de la Cruz could not even imagine in his dreams. Is it any wonder why our few remaining decent and hardworking citizens are leaving to go work in other countries?

And worst of all, we are once again saddled with a power-hungry president whose addiction has her clinging on to it like barnacle on a rusty ship. "Love (of power) is blind" takes a whole new meaning when PGMA time and again turns a blind eye on her husband's financial deals. And still blinded with all that is happening, she opts to traipse around the world with her cohorts in tow while her country is in shambles.

They say the few stupid ones like me who remain in the Philippines are no longer capable of showing disgust. I don't agree. Many like me feel anger at the brazenness of men we call our leaders, embarrassment to share the same nationality with them, frustration for our nation and helplessness at my own ineffectuality. It is not that I won't make a stand. It is just that I am afraid my actions would only be futile. After all, these monsters are capable of anything. They can hurt me and my family. They already have, though I may not yet feel it.

But I am writing this because I need to do something concrete. I need to let others know that ordinary citizens like me do not remain lukewarm to issues that would later affect me and my children. I want to make it known that there are also Filipinos who dream of something better for the Philippines. I want them to know that my country is not filled with scalawags and crooks in every corner, and that there are citizens left who believe in decency, fairness, a right to speak, a right to voice out ideas, a right to tell the people we have trusted to lead us that they have abused their power and that it is time for them to step down. I refuse to let this country go to hell because it is the only country I call mine and it is my responsibility to make sure I have done what I could for it.

Those of us who do not have the wealth, power or position it needs to battle the evil crime lords in the government can summon the power of good. We can pray. We can do this with our families every night. We can offer petitions every time we celebrate mass. We can ask others to pray, too, including relatives and friends here and overseas. And we can offer sacrifices along with our petitions, just so we get the message to Him of our desperation in ridding our nation of these vermin. After all, they cannot be more powerful than God!

I implore mothers out there to raise your children the best way you can. Do not smother, pamper, or lavish them with too much of the material comforts of life even if you can well afford them. Teach them that there are more important things in this world. I beg all fathers to spend time with their children, to teach them the virtues of hard work, honesty, fair play, sharing, dignity and compassion – right from the sandbox till they are old enough to go on their own. Not just in your homes, but at work, in school, everywhere you go. Be good role models. Be shining examples for your children so they will learn to be responsible adults who will carry and pass on your family name with pride and honor.

I call on educators and teachers – we always underestimate the power of your influence on the minds of our youth. Encourage them to be aware of what is happening in their surroundings. Instill in them a love of their country, inculcate in them the value of perseverance in order to gain real, worthwhile knowledge, help us mold our children into honorable men and women. Encourage our graduates, our best and brightest, to do what they can to lift this country from the mire our traditional politicians have sunk us into. The youth is our future – and it would be largely because of you, our educators, that we will be able to repopulate the seats of power with good leaders, presidents, senators, congressmen, justices, lawmakers, law enforcers and lawful citizens.

I ask all students, young people and young professionals everywhere to look around and get involved in what is happening. Do not let your youth be an excuse for failure to concern yourselves with the harsh realities you see. But neither let this make you cynical, because we need your idealism and fresh perspective just as you need the wisdom of your elders. YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU! Let your voices be heard. Do what you can for this land that gave you your ancestors and your heritage. Use technology and all available resources at hand to spread good. Text meaningful messages to awaken social conscience. Try your best to fight moral decay because I promise you will not regret it when you become parents yourselves. You will look back at your past misdeeds and pray that your children will do better than you did.

Remember that there are a few handful who are capable of running this country. You can join their ranks and make their numbers greater. We are tired of the old trapos. We need brave idealistic leaders who will think of the greater good before anything else. I voted for Atty. Martin Bautista and his team and I sure hope they will run again. Do your utmost to excel in your chosen field. Be good lawyers, civil servants, accountants, computer techs, engineers, doctors, military men so that when you are called to serve in government, you will have credibility and a record that can speak for itself.

For love of this country, for the future of our children, for the many who have sacrificed and died to uphold our rights and ideals, I urge you to do what you can. As ordinary citizens, we can do much more for the Philippines than sit around and let crooks lead us to perdition. We owe ourselves this. And we owe our country even more.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

European actors clean sweep at the Oscars'

La Vie en Rose star Marion Cotillard upset favorite Julie Christie to become the first woman since Sophia Loren 46 years ago (in Two Women) to win a Best Actress Oscar for a foreign-language performance. Language barrier notwithstanding, the French actress' joy was apparent, as she concluded her speech by saying, ''Thank you life, thank you love, and it is true, there is some angels in this city.''

HOLLYWOOD – European actors scored a rare clean sweep of the Oscars' top acting honors here Sunday as American nominees were shut out of the awards for the first time in more than 40 years.

The best actor and actress and supporting acting Oscars will all be heading back across the Atlantic for the first time since 1965 after a night of triumph for Europe at the Kodak Theatre.

Leading the way was France's Marion Cotillard, one of the night's most popular winners for her portrayal of singer Edith Piaf in "La Vie En Rose."

Cotillard, 32, became only the second woman in history to win the best actress award for a non-English speaking performance after Italy's Sophia Loren in 1962. "I'm speechless now... I thank you life, thank you love and -- it is true, there is some angels in this city. Thank you so, so much," Cotillard said in her acceptance speech.

Ireland's best actor winner Daniel Day-Lewis meanwhile paid tribute to an American icon -- George Clooney -- after picking up the second Oscar statuette of his career. The 50-year-old British born star even planted a kiss on Clooney's cheek as he rose to collect his award.

"He's just a great guy. I had to kiss someone. I kissed my wife, and in the interest of parity, I kissed George," Day-Lewis said.

Earlier, Javier Bardem had scored a historic first for Spain, becoming the first performer from his country to win an acting Oscar. The 38-year-old won the best supporting actor award for his turn as a psychopathic hitman in the night's best picture winner "No Country for Old Men."

"This is pretty amazing. It's a great honor for me to have this," Bardem said, paying tribute to directors Joel and Ethan Coen.

"Thank you to the Coens for being crazy enough to think I could do that and put one of the most horrible hair cuts in history on my head," he added.

Rounding out the quartet of European winners was Scot Tilda Swinton, who won the best supporting actress award for her portrayal of a scheming corporate litigator in "Michael Clayton."

Asked about the number of European winners, Swinton replied: "Dude, Hollywood is built on Europeans. I'm just really sad I couldn't give a speech in Gaelic but if I could, I would have."

Meanwhile Swinton, 47, said she would be keen to play a comedy role.

"I think everything I do is hilarious, but obviously I'm in the minority, but I'm getting there," she said.*AFP

Happenings at the O BAR & Restaurant

Monday, February 25, 2008


Rodel E. Rodis, February 25, 2008

Two months ago, I proposed to the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) that the association which advocates for the Filipino WW II veterans should direct its 12 regional chapters to each sponsor local activities to mark the 62nd anniversary of the infamous Rescission Act of February 19, 1946. The purpose - to highlight the law that stripped Filipino veterans of the USAFFE of their US military benefits and to mobilize support for the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill that is pending in the US Congress. I also suggested that we distribute 500,000 armbands with “2/18/46 – Rescission Act” inscribed on it to supporters all over the US.

My proposal was tabled for future discussion so February 18, 2007 came and went with only a march-forum in Los Angeles and a wreath laying ceremony in Washington DC to commemorate it.

When I went to Washington DC two weeks ago to lobby the US Congress to support the bill, I wrote about my concern that the Filipino veterans were getting caught in the crosshairs of the anti-foreigner anti-immigrant sentiment of Republican lawmakers. Unlike columns on other subjects, I received no feedback from readers about this issue.

Was this an indication that the Filipino community has lost interest in the fight of our Filipino WW II veterans to regain the benefits that were denied them 62 years ago?

Was the level of interest in the community always just a mile wide but only an inch deep? In other words, was the professed interest in the issue by the Filipino community leadership not actually shared by the Filipino community at large?

Is there a Filipino veterans "compassion fatigue" which occurs when, due to constant media stories of suffering Filipino WW II veterans, people in the community somehow develop a numbness to the stories of their plight?

These are questions that our community should raise and grapple with. The honest answers to them should guide us in our campaign for the veterans.

It may be that it is not just a community-wide indifference to the veterans issue but simply an indication of an indifference to all issues. This week marks the 22nd anniversary of People Power, perhaps the most shining moment in Philippine history, the spark that ignited similar People’s Power uprisings in South Korea, Taiwan, and in all of Eastern Europe. But there are no celebrations of this glorious moment anywhere in the Filipino community this week. Why?

Five months ago, the Filipino community expressed outrage at the “Desperate Housewives” veiled attack on Philippine-educated physicians (September 30, 2007 premiere episode). There were demonstrations, on-line petitions (signed by 150,000 people), a barrage of protest letters and emails sent to ABC, and a national conference in Las Vegas in November to mobilize the community to demand a meaningful on-air apology from ABC.

But three months after the November conference, the issue has been forgotten. ABC dangled the carrot of a collaborative partnership with NaFFAA to accept Filipino interns into ABC, which carrot was apparently enough to prompt NaFFAA to discourage any lawsuits or protest actions against ABC.

With all the Democrat-Republican, liberal-conservative, pro-GMA/anti-GMA divide in the Filipino community, it was believed that support for the Filipino WW II veterans was the one issue that all sides could agree to and rally behind.

But there are divisions even with this issue. There are those supporters of the veterans who believe that the community should not compromise on the full equity issue, that Filipino veterans in the Philippines should receive the same benefits as those in the US.

Rodel Rodis meets with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on February 20, 2008 to discuss the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill

But even that formerly inflexible position has given way to support for the proposal of Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), the chair of the House Veterans Committee, whose bill would provide $900 a month to the 6,000 US-based veterans and $500 a month to Philippine-based veterans. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this would amount to $1-B over 10 years or about $100-M a year.

There are those who believe that the veterans should get whatever they can get. As the ranks of the surviving veterans dwindle at an exponential rate, what good would it do the veterans if the US Congress, several years from now, passes a bill giving all the veterans full equity when there is no one left alive to receive it?

This group of aging veterans support the Senate bill of Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), the chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, which would also provide $900 a month for US-based veterans and $375 a month for Philippine-based veterans with dependents, $300 for single veterans, and $200 for widows of veterans. The CBO believes this bill would amount to $365-M over 10 years.

Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) proposed a more modest bill that would also grant $900 a month to US-based veterans but only $100 a month to Philippine-based veterans. He withdrew this proposal on December 13, 2007 and currently backs the bill of Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) to totally eliminate any benefits to Philippine-based veterans.

The divisions within the Filipino community on this issue discourage many of our supporters in the US Congress and provide a convenient cover to those unwilling to back the bill (“if you guys can’t agree on what bill to support, why should we?”).

I strongly suggest that the Filipino community rally behind supporting a veterans bill that can pass the US Congress. If even US Pres. George W. Bush has to regularly compromise with the US Congress now, why shouldn’t we?

In the final paragraph of the 4-page letter written to Sen. Craig by veterans advocate Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, he wrote: “As we commemorate the Anniversary of the Rescission Act of 1946 on February 18, we pray that this 62-year old claim for recognition and benefits of these remaining gallant men and women who served America with utmost loyalty and devotion during WWII be finally granted.”

Prayers have been known to work wonders.

Please send comments to or log on to or write to Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127, or call (415) 334-7800.

The Imminent Fall of the Evil Empire

PerryScope: Perry Diaz

For the last seven years since she usurped the presidency from Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo built an empire that fed on greed. And over that period of time, she spun a massive web of corruption -- and deception -- that centered in Malacanang. Corruption was institutionalized at every level of her government -- from the lowly paid clerk to the greedy influence peddlers and all the way to the top echelon of the Arroyo administration.

Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada's testimony before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee was akin to the testimony of Joseph Valachi before the U.S. Senate McClellan Committee in 1962 when it investigated organized crime in the U.S. Valachi was the first Mafia insider who broke the "Omerta" code of silence and exposed the extent of the "Cosa Nostra" criminal empire. In the case of Lozada, he was the first "Evil Empire" insider who exposed the extent of corruption in the Arroyo government.

In his testimony, Lozada talked about a meeting that he attended last December 2007 with Romulo Neri and Senators Ping Lacson and Jamby Madrigal. At that meeting, Neri said of Arroyo: "She is evil." Neri also told them that Arroyo allowed her business cronies to control certain industries. Lacson and Madrigal, however, would not divulge what Neri told them. They said that they promised Neri to keep the information he disclosed confidential. I think there's more to it than keeping their promises.

According to Lozada, Neri named Lucio Tan, John Gokongwei, Enrique Razon, Tomas Alcantara, and the Aboitizes as some of the "oligarchs" who ruled the country under the patronage of Arroyo. It is interesting to note that on December 12, 2007, a consortium led by Enrique Razon which comprised the State Grid Corporation of China and Calaca High Power Corp. won the right to operate the government-owned TransCo for 25 years for only $3.95 billion. Critics said that the government would earn a lot more than that if Congress did not pass a law forcing the privatization of TransCo operations.

Last September 2007, after the ZTE-NBN scandal erupted, Arroyo quietly suspended more than $4 billion worth of projects funded by China. She also suspended the $460 million Cyber-Ed project which was also awarded to a Chinese company.

It is anticipated that some of Arroyo's political allies would abandon her at the crucial time. But how about the military? Would the military's top brass stick with her until the very end? I doubt it. Just like in 1986 and 2001, the military would do the right thing and support the leader who would emerge with popular support. After all, Arroyo's presidency is considered by many as illegitimate; thus, giving the military a pretense in the event that they abandon Arroyo. Hey, they're human too.

At a recent wreath-laying ceremony at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery) commemorating the 22nd anniversary of the "People Power" revolution, former President Fidel V. Ramos, in his speech, said that the gains of the "People Power" revolution in 1986 and 2001 were being lost to "greed, apathy, and corruption." Those words must have shaken Arroyo -- who was present at the ceremony -- to the bones. And in what appeared to be a "call to action," Ramos implored, "history might yet call us to come together again -- to offer our lives and fortunes on the altar of our civic leaders." Then he blasted the oligarchs, dynasties, and opportunists. It doesn't take a genius to figure out who Ramos was talking about. After the ceremony, Arroyo took off without saying a word to the audience. Perhaps she was choking from the "noose" tightening around her neck while Ramos was lambasting corruption in her government.

A few days earlier, Vice President Noli de Castro said, "Nobody is above the law." He said that government officials, including Arroyo, should be charged if they were found involved in the ZTE-NBN scandal. That's a pretty strong message which told Arroyo that he is ready to take over in the event that she would resign or be removed from office. It is interesting to note that in 2005, de Castro stood squarely behind Arroyo and said that he was not interested in the presidency. In the end, Arroyo was saved only because nobody was ready to take over. This time, de Castro is ready. And all he had to do is convince the power brokers that he is ready, willing, and able to step up to the plate… and lead.

In an unexpected move a few days ago, First Gentleman Mike Arroyo hastily left for Hong Kong for an acupuncture treatment. But I doubt if anybody would believe him. Interestingly, he left four days after the Ombudsman opened its investigation on his involvement in the $329 million ZTE-NBN contract. Was he doing what his friend Joc-joc Bolante did -- flee the country to avoid prosecution?

After Mike left for Hong Kong, Arroyo admitted that she was aware of allegations of high-level corruption in the NBN deal. However, she did not stop the signing of the deal claiming that she didn't want to create a "diplomatic problem" with China. Whoa! This must be a joke. She placed the interest of corrupt Chinese officials -- or as one of my readers said, her own interest -- over the interest of the Filipino people. She could have come up with a good -- and valid -- excuse and told her Chinese friends that the review of the contract was still in progress. And what would the Chinese do otherwise -- invade the Philippines?

Freddie Hernandez of Port Moresby wrote, "Loyalty has become a multi-million peso/dollar commodity for those who are close to the powers-that-be. To them, it is their dogged commitment to stick to the seat of power come hell or high water; it is a determined effort to simply play deaf to the prevailing public outcry that clamorously tells them such allegiance has now become a tool of oppression, and to play blind to the overlapping web of blatant corruption in their midst." But like all things, the good would eventually prevail over evil. The fall of Gloria's "evil empire" is imminent. Either she resigns gracefully now or feel the wrath of another "people power."

One of Arroyo's allies, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, in an article by Roger M. Balanza, said that "the ouster of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could be hastened not by the political opposition calling for her ouster or military or police losing trust on the Commander-in-Chief, but students rising up with one voice in a 'spontaneous combustion' to demand she step down." Indeed, a "spontaneous combustion" -- just like the First Quarter Storm 38 years ago -- could cause a massive turmoil that would either force Arroyo to resign or declare martial law. It's her choice to make.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ramiele Malubay gets 3 thumbs up on American Idol

The very pretty 20 year old Ramiele Macrowon-Malubay, a native of Miramar, Florida, who once said .... "If Jasmin can do it, I can do it!" was given three thumbs up by the American Idol judges in the February 20, 2008 episode of AI keeping her in the final 24. Ramiel established her attachment with music early at the age 12 when she sang in her cousin’s birthday. The very talented Filipina can also play the piano as well as the guitar which is being taught to her by her sister. Besides singing and playing instruments, she also did some Polynesian Dancing since she was on the first grade. She also confides that she has a vocal coach.

The “Pinay American Idol” is a huge fan of Regine Velasquez. She said that she really doesn’t want to be famous but instead, represent the Asian community especially the Filipinos in this competition where the whole world is watching. Favorite Quote: "If you're hated, you're doing something right."

Ramiele stopped nursing school for this season and promised to go back if not chosen to be the next American Idol. Fil-Ams: grab your phone and vote. AT&T Mobility subscribers can text the word 'VOTE' to the 4 digit short code numbers promoted for each contestant 2 hours after each show.

After the girls perform on the Wednesday night, you can vote for any of the girls who performed that night. You will have at least two hours after the show to cast your vote before lines close and no more voting for the girls will be accepted. Again, during the show you just need to note the number of the contestant you want to vote for, and then call or text after the show is over. At the end of those first three weeks of voting, there will be the Top 12 consisting of 6 boys and 6 girls, and voting will then only take place at the end of every Tuesday night performance show.

Ramiele Malubay's myspace profile states "I love grapes." But the comments being left at the American Idol website show that fans do love and support the Idol hopeful. Keep on Ramiele.

Jay Fermin ppp-usa

The Next Big Star to Watch in 2008: Maja Salvador

Her nickname is "Totzki". Friends call her "Maj". Maja Ross Andres Salvador is considered as one of the finest young actresses of her generation. She can sing, dance and surely she can act. Labled as the “Complete Package” of a true star, Maja Salvador is the next big star to watch. Born October 5, 1988 from Aparri, Cagayan, she came from a family of celebrities including her father Ross Rival (1945-2007), (Rosauro Salvador in private life), aunt Jobelle Salvador, late grandfather Lou Salvador Jr., and late grand-uncle Leroy Salvador were all great actors. Her uncle, Philip Salvador, is currently one of the more famous actors in the Philippines.

There’s something about a teenaged girl aching for her long-lost dad that moves one’s heart. When ABS-CBN’s Charo Santos-Concio saw Maja Salvador pleading on nationwide TV for a glimpse of her dad Ross Rival, something in the girl’s angelic face tugged at the network executive’s heartstrings. Concio asked her staff to look for Maja. Thus did Maja Salvador sign up with the Lopez network and was introduced as John Prats’ partner in It Might Be You. Before that though, Lady Luck was working overtime for the then 17-year-old girl from Aparri. Maja met Farrah Ramos, movie columnist-talent manager Chit Ramos’s daughter in a modeling workshop and they became fast friends. Little did Maja know their friendship will lead her, not only to a reunion with her dad, but to a promising career in showbiz, a field her father’s side of the family has been identified with for decades.

Maja confided to Chit that she had long wanted to see her dad, whom she last saw when she was only seven. Maja did not know Chit wrote about showbiz and never suspected her wishful thinking will come true. To Maja’s surprise, Chit replied, “You want to see your dad? Let’s call Phillip (Salvador, Maja’s uncle).” Before Maja can say a word, Chit dialed Philip’s number on the cell phone and uncle and niece were talking.

The long-delayed father-daughter reunion - chronicled and aired on The Buzz – took place in the house of Ramon Salvador, Phillip’s older brother. As fate would have it, Concio was watching at that time, and that touching scene stuck in her mind. The rest, as they say, is history.

Maja started as a secondary cast in the Diary episode of "Maalaala Mo Kaya" as Nayni. But her career blossomed when she became as one of the cast in the successful telenovela, "It Might Be You". Since then, she had been included in numerous shows. One of it is in ASAP ’07 where she became a regular host and performer. She have been included in a special dance showdown segment in ASAP ’07 called “The Ultimate Dance 4″. She was paired with the Dancefloor Dynamite, John Pratts; Rayver Cruz and Shaina Magdayao (Dancefloor Sweethearts) were also included. Maja was also included in the recently concluded telenovela "Pangarap na Buitin" and in the telefantasya "Pedro Penduko at ang mga Engkantao". Both shows were a success and have been frequently watched by the public.

She had parts in movies including Sukob, First Day High, My Kuya’s Wedding, and One More Chance. Maja have received a number of awards and nominations: Next Big Female Star (YES! Magazine Reader’s Choice Award, 2006), Best Single Performance by a Lead Actress Nominee in Maalaala Mo Kaya: Regalo (Philippine Movie Press Club’s Star Awards for TV, 2006), Most Promising Female Star (Guillermo Mendoza Memorial Scholarship Foundation Box-Office Entertainment Awards, 2006), New Movie Actress of the Year in the movie Sukob (Philippine Movie Press Club’s Star Awards for Movies, 2007), Breakthrough Performance by an Actress for Sukob (Entertainment Press Society, Inc.’s Golden Screen Awards, 2007), Best Supporting Actress Nominee for Sukob (PASADO Awards, 2007), Best Supporting Actress Nominee for Sukob (FAMAS Awards), German Moreno Youth Achievement Award (FAMAS Awards, 2007).

In the upcoming ABS-CBN primetime bida "Sineserye Presents: Patayin sa Sindak si Barbara", she plays the role of Agnes, a student psychic that can see the ghost of the antagonist. She is paired with Jay-ar Siaboc, her new love team since Pangarap na Bituin.

With Maja’s excellent acting skill, Regal Entertainment is planning a movie for her and she will be paired with Richard Guttierez. She will also replace Rainie Yang for the Taiwanovela “Exchange Love”. Another new project for Maja will be the famed "Anna Liza" series, an ABS-CBN teleserye remake of the 1980's soap opera of the same title (which was aired by GMA Network). Truly, Maja will be the star to watch for 2008.

Jay Fermin ppp-usa


Rodel E. Rodis, February 19, 2008

WASHINGTON DC – The Filipino WW II veterans’ long struggle to rescind the Rescission Act of 1946 faces a major bar in this presidential election year. “The Filipino veterans are unfortunately caught in the crosshairs of the anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner mindset of the Republicans,” a veteran Capitol Hill lobbyist observed.

The Filipino Veterans Equity Bill, which seeks to restore the pension rights of the surviving Filipino WW II veterans (currently 6,000 in the US and 12,000 in the Philippines) that were rescinded when the US Congress passed the Rescission Act on October 18, 1946, made unprecedented gains last year.

For the first time ever, the Veterans Affairs committees of both houses of the US Congress conducted hearings and passed their separate versions, setting the stage for a full vote in their respective floors. All that was needed was for Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), the bill's main senate sponsor, to get 60 senators to back the bill to get it pass cloture. If it passes the Senate, the ball goes to the House for Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), the bill's main house sponsor, with the help of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to gather the 218 votes needed to secure passage.

On November 7 and again on December 12 last year, Sen. Akaka (D-Hawaii) sought unanimous consent from his senate colleagues for his bill to go straight to a senate floor vote without fear of cloture (a filibuster). On both occasions, Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) rebuffed his request.

It wasn’t just Craig’s objection that caused the senate bill to fail but the nativist reason for his objection is the main “crosshairs” problem of the bill. In his objection, Sen. Craig said: "First of all, they (the 12,000 Philippine-based veterans) do not live in this country, they are not US citizens. They are taking money away from our veterans. That is the 'Robin Hood in reverse' effect. At least Robin Hood, when he took money, left it in Nottingham. He spread it out amongst his own. Here we are taking money from our own and sending it all the way to the Philippines."

In response to this charge, veterans advocate Delfin Lorenzana asked "What is the price of the services and sacrifices so generously given to America by these veterans and the entire Filipino nation during that Great War, Senator Craig? They were prepared to offer the ultimate sacrifice for America. Their homeland was made a battlefield in a war between Japan and the United States. An estimated One Million Filipinos, combatants and non-combatants, died in that war. If at all, for so many of these veterans, these benefits may be too little, too late."

But Lorenzana's question may be too remote, too irrelevant to those concerned only with what veterans have done lately for the US. Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), the ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said providing pension benefits to Filipino veterans is “the wrong priority at the wrong time” because the U.S. is now at war and the US government should focus on the needs of U.S. citizens and those injured in battle.” This bill is also being used as a vehicle for a provision that would take money away from helping veterans of war -- of the war on terror – and instead sending the money overseas," Burr said.

Sen. Burr this past week introduced a bill that deletes pension benefits for Filipinos veterans in the Philippines and instead boosts funds for grants to wounded U.S. veterans, providing retroactive payments between $25,000 and $100,000 to all disabled veterans who were injured since 2001 -- and not just in a war zone.

Sen. Burr is confident of winning a debate in the Senate Veterans Committee between Akaka’s bill which would provide veterans pension to Filipino WW II vets including 12,000 Philippine citizens living in the Philippines and his bill which would provide benefits to US citizens who are veterans of the current war on terror.

The Filner Equity bill that passed the House Veterans Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Filner (D-California), proposed a $90-M annual package that would provide $900 a month to US based Filvets and $500 a month pension toPhilippine based veterans. The Akaka Equity Bill that passed the US Senate Veterans Committee proposed a $50-M package that would provide $900 a month pension to the 6,000 Filvets in the US and $300 a month pension to Filipino veterans in the Philippines.

Sen. Craig and Sen. Burr previously proposed a $20-M package that would provide $900 a month to US based veterans and $100 a month pension to each Philippine veteran and $100 a month to the veteran’s spouse. But Craig and Burr withdrew their compromise offer on December 13, 2007 because of opposition from US veterans groups like the American Legion.

Seeking a congressional compromise that would ensure passage of the bill has been complicated, according to one congressional staffer, by the mixed messages coming from the Filipino American community. Veterans’ groups like the American Coalition for the Filipino Veteran (ACFV) favor working on a bill that can actually get through Congress while veterans support groups like the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity (NAFVE) are mobilizing to “oppose any efforts to weaken the (Filner) bill”.

As of a week ago, Filner’s equity bill had only110 sponsors in the House, 96 Democrats and 14 Republicans led by former lead sponsor Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). This week, the number was reduced by 2, with the death of long-time supporter Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) and the decision by West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to have her name removed from the list of sponsors.

The Akaka bill has only 16 sponsors, 15 Democrats and 1 Republican, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Akaka is confident that he can get all the Democratic senators to support his bill. But can Sen. Stevens pull 8 other GOP senators to support the bill?

The House is waiting for the Senate to act on the Akaka bill before the House will consider the Filner bill and schedule it for a floor vote. When Speaker Nancy Pelosi assumed the House leadership after the November 2006 Democratic sweep, she quickly passed the PAYGO (pay-as-you-go) rule which compels new spending or tax changes to not add to the federal deficit and for new bills to be either "budget neutral" or offset with savings derived from existing funds.

Rep. Filner insists that there are funds available for his bill from veterans’ earmarks that were not used. But Filner has been asked to identify which veteran’s earmarks he is referring to as other veterans groups are also eyeing the same pot. Speaker Pelosi and Rep. Filner have to work together to identify the pot from which the Filipino veterans bill can be funded.

Meanwhile, American Legion officials have expressed a willingness to meet with Philippine Ambassador Willie Gaa to discuss dropping their opposition to the equity bill if the bill's supporters can assure the Legion that funds for the bill will not be taken away from funds for US veterans.

As the debate over the equity bill continues on Capitol Hill, the American Coalition for the Filipino Veterans paused to mourn 15 of its veteran members who died just in the last month. These veterans had actively participated in various mass actions in support of the bill but sadly will not be around to see it passed.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is thanked for her cosponsorship of the Filipino Veterans Equity and Family Reunification bills by (L to R) Rodel Rodis, San Franciso Community College Board Trustee, Angelesio Tugado, 86, DC leader of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, and Edna Rodis, R.N. in the Washington office on February 12, 2008. (ACFV photo by Eric Lachica)

Please send comments to or log on to or write to Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127, or call (415) 334-7800.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Young Filipina Singer seeking record deal with U.S. Record Producer

LOS ANGELES — Charice Pempengco, the 15-year-old young singing sensation who recently wowed the world by guesting at the Ellen DeGeneres’ TV show, is reportedly in talks with no less than the legendary music producer Clive Davis. Charice Pempengco arrived in New York recently and is in the processs of inking a recording deal with star record producer Clive Davis.

Charice is also reportedly meeting with pianist, producer, composer and arranger David Walter Foster. Foster's producing credits include songs on such albums as Celine Dion's Grammy Award-winning "Falling Into You" and the two hit singles, "Because You Loved Me" and "To Love You More." He also produced Natalie Cole's "Unforgettable". From 1994-1997, four of his productions - "Unbreak My Heart" (Toni Braxton), "I Will Always Love You" (Whitney Houston), "I Swear" (All-4-One), "Because You Loved Me" (Celine Dion) each reached No.1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart for 42 weeks.

Foster's musical talent of synthesized sounds have made it possible for him to produce a record almost single-handedly. He plays everything from drums to cellos on his computerized keyboards, hires a studio singer to sing the vocals and then present the polished product to recording artists to show them how their song would sound like. In fact, he did just that with "I Will Always Love You" for Whitney Houston.

Here's a clip from ASAP 08 with Charice Pempenco and Lani Misalucha before Charice flew to New York.

Post performance clip with Martin Nievera

Clive Jay Davis is an American record producer and a leading music industry executive. From 1967-72 he was the President of Columbia Records, was the founder and president of Arista Records in the late 1970s through 2000 until founding J Records. Currently Davis is the Chairman and CEO of the RCA Music Group (which includes RCA Records, J Records and Arista Records), Chairman and CEO of J Records, and Chairman and CEO of BMG North America. Davis is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer.

He now oversees J Records, Arista, RCA, and Jive Records and the careers of such artists as Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Clay Aiken, Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, and Daughtry. Arista Records will be releasing an album by Whitney Houston, whom Davis has called the greatest singer in the world, in 2008.

Clive Davis is featured in the February 21, 2008 (1046) issue of Rolling Stone. The article titled "The Last Record Man" discusses how Davis has helped guide the careers of hit artists and how even four decades later he still looks for the next hit. With her great vocals, I won't be surprised if one of new 2008 hit singers will be Charice Pempengco.

Jay Fermin ppp-usa

It's time for Gloria to face the music

PerryScope: Perry Diaz

If only President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo knew that Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada would surface and spill everything that he knew about the ZTE-NBN corruption scandal, she would have kept Jose de Venecia as Speaker of the House of Representatives. As the saying goes, "Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer." That's what she should have done with de Venecia, after all de Venecia had always been a loyal supporter of Arroyo -- from the time Arroyo was de Venecia's vice presidential running mate in 1998. In that election, Arroyo won and de Venecia lost to Joseph Estrada.

Arroyo and de Venecia became close political allies, each one needing the other to maintain their hold on power. In 2001, when Joseph Estrada was deposed as President, Arroyo was elevated to the presidency and de Venecia was elected Speaker. In 2005, when Arroyo was on the brink of losing her grip on power during the "Hello Garci" election cheating scandal, de Venecia together with former President Fidel Ramos, several congressmen, and local officials rushed to Malacanang and stood behind her. She survived.

Now, with the blistering testimony of Lozada, Arroyo is once again mired in another scandal, the magnitude of which is much greater than the "Hello Garci" scandal. Lozada testified before the Senate and implicated First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and former COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos in brokering the overpriced $329 million ZTE-NBN contract which was allegedly padded with a $130 million kickback for Abalos and Mike Arroyo.

Lozada also claimed that government security people abducted him -- he insisted he was "kidnapped" -- at the international airport on February 5 upon his arrival from Hong Kong. Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon, Jr. claimed that the family of Lozada had requested for security. But when Razon was asked why he ordered Lozada "secured," he said that Environment Secretary Lito Atienza made the request on behalf of Lozada himself. However, on February 15, Romeo Hilomen -- chief of the Police Security Protection Office -- admitted that Lozada's family did not make a request for security for Lozada. Hilomen further admitted that he asked Lozada to sign a "letter of request seeking his protection." Recently, an airport surveillance video was released showing Lozada in the company of five men, one of whom was positively identified as a member of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).

Lozada's testimony implicating Mike Arroyo and Abalos lends credence to the testimonies of Jose "Joey" de Venecia III and Romulo Neri, former head of the National Economic Development Authority, before the Senate last October. Joey claimed that Mike Arroyo and Abalos brokered the ZTE-NBN contract. Neri testified that Abalos offered him a P200 million bribe for his approval of the $329 million deal. Neri said that he called President Arroyo and told her about Abalos' bribery offer. He said that the President told him not to accept the bribe but to go ahead and approve the contract. When he was pressed by the Senators for details, Neri invoked "executive privilege."

Recently, Neri publicly stated that he had suspicions that the ZTE-NBN contract was overpriced. He claimed that at the time he approved the deal, he didn't have any evidence or documentation to support his suspicions. That's hogwash. He should know better that there are no paper trails in this kind of deals. They're all sealed with a handshake and a kickback.

But betrayal happens all the time especially when large amount of money is involved and that's what happened in this sweetheart deal. Originally, Joey de Venecia was part of the deal and ZTE was not. But because he couldn't go along with the $130 million "commission" for Abalos, his bid was rejected. He said that to pad his Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) proposal with that amount, he would lose money on the project. Abalos then went to ZTE officials who were more than willing to accommodate his demand for a humongous kickback. Since the ZTE proposal was not a BOT, all ZTE had to do was add the "commission" to the contract price. And to secure Malacanang's endorsement of the overpriced ZTE-NBN deal, Abalos allegedly offered a $70 million grease money to his good friend Mike Arroyo. So all that Abalos needed was Neri's approval of the ZTE-NBN deal.

The testimonies of Jun Lozada, Joey de Venecia and Romulo Neri have damaged the credibility of President Arroyo beyond repair. A direct link to Arroyo was established by Neri. Joey de Venecia linked Mike Arroyo to Abalos. Lozada linked Mike Arroyo and Abalos to ZTE officials. Is it then fair to presume that Gloria Arroyo already knew what was being cooked when she told Neri to approve the deal? For all we know, she could have told Neri, "Don't accept Abalos' bribe; approve the deal and Mike will take care of you."

There is no denying that the ZTE-NBN deal was endorsed by President Arroyo. Although Arroyo canceled the ZTE-NBN contract after Joey de Venecia exposed the graft, attempts to cover up the stinking deal have brought to the forefront of debate Gloria Arroyo's moral ascendancy to govern the Filipino people. She betrayed the people and transformed the country into her family's fiefdom.

But the façade of invincibility that she built around her administration is now showing some cracks. Demands for her resignation have intensified. The people want to know the truth. Yes, President Arroyo has to tell the people the truth about the ZTE-NBN deal. But for her to tell the truth, she has to ultimately face the music and ask the people for forgiveness, and abdicate the presidency that she usurped in 2001 and extended in 2004 by cheating in the election.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have had her chance to clean up the corruption that pervaded at every level in her government. But instead of stamping it out, she turned a blind eye to the corruption around her. She used patronage -- and bribery -- to maintain her political supremacy. Arroyo must resign now. For the sake of the country, that's the only option left for her.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Search & Rescue Team trains on snow

Article & Photos by Jay Fermin ppp-usa

Los Angeles: Some of the mountain survival tips for hikers and skiers in winter weather are quite common sense. Tips range from as simple as letting somebody know where you will be starting your hike from and what time you’re leaving and what time you expect to return; or better yet, check in with the local forest ranger station at the trailhead of your hike, as well as having an imprint of your hiking boots by carefully stepping your boots on a piece of thick aluminum foil over a padding of folded towel on your kitchen floor and leave it at home or with friends or family so rescuers can track down your trail.

The ten essentials to good hiking according to West Valley Search & Rescue (WVSAR) are: Bring plenty of extra drinking water, plenty of extra food, first aid kit, large trash bag or tarp for shelter, whistle (which will carry your call farther than the loudest yell for help), lip balm, sun screen, signaling mirror, proper clothing and footwear and flashlights. They do recommend leaving a sample of your footprint at home using the foil technique above.

Also knowing the five W’s of survival are an essential part of a hiker’s safety: weather, wood availability, wigglies (spiders, scorpions, snakes), widow makers (rocks, trees, large animals that can fall or attack you), and water (where will you get water, and how).

On a recent beautiful and sunny Saturday afternoon of February 16, 2008, I caught up with WVSAR units who were practicing their snow search and rescue operations at Manker Flats (elevation 6,300’) at the base of Thunder Mountain in San Antonio Canyon and is the usual acclimatization point and trailhead for hikers going up to Mount San Antonio, better known to most in Los Angeles as Old Baldy or Mount Baldy. Mount Baldy is the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains standing majestic at 10, 064 feet. Mount Baldy’s peak, surrounded by eight other peaks of considerable height, is called ‘Baldy’ because of the absence of trees around the summit.

Taking Mt. Baldy road with its steep curves and incline, I was quietly reminded by a sign on the side of the road halfway up that I am leaving Los Angeles County and crossing into San Bernardino County. Upon arrival at the Manker Flats, due to the beautiful sunny weather, people dotted the gentle slopes to my right playing and sliding on the snow while WVSAR vehicles (with their distinct VHF/UHF radio antennas) and Forest Services personnel in their light green trucks conducted snow training. This will be a good day for snow training with an average of 4 to 8 slip, trip and fall on the snow slide area and maybe an occasional hiker in distress.

Snow Training took the WVSAR personnel from the usual team meeting at Chino Hills Sheriff Station, classroom, and CPR & First Aid refresher to prepare them for their upcoming MRA (Mountain Rescue Association) Recertification on March 1, 2008. West Valley SAR’s area of responsibility includes mountains from Mount Baldy and the Los Angeles county line along Little Creek and down south to Chino Hills State Park. Due to the varied terrain and stiff cliff and incline, the team of 41 rescuers are well trained and equipped to respond to Search and Rescue efforts in alpine, mountain, urban and desert areas of the West Valley area of San Bernardino County. Mount Baldy’s backside rugged terrain (compared by some to Mt. Whistler in British Columbia and Crested Butte in Colorado), as well as the San Antonio Falls offers the hiker an opportunity for trouble, totaling almost one out of four rescues they execute. Other peaks in the San Gabriel Mountain range including the three T’s: Thunder, Telegraph, Timber, as well as Ontario and Cucamonga Peaks also get a chunk of the calls. Come to think of it, San Bernardino County with all its mountain ranges is the largest county in the United States.

As I watched the team practice the slopes and assist in minor slips among the weekend crowd, and waiting for an occasional call from the ski lift of Mount Baldy, I cannot stop but stand amazed at the dedication and preparation of this all volunteer but professional SAR team. They even expanded their efforts by presenting PSAR programs to the community, aptly called Preventive Search and Rescue.

How can we help the helpers? WVSAR is a non-profit volunteer organization that donates their time and resources in saving lives. They are funded solely by private contributions, grants, and fund-raising activities. In April each year, they hold their 5k and 10k marathon “Fun Run and Fund-Raiser.” Here is how you can help. Mail your tax-deductible donation to:

West Valley Search and Rescue
PMB 475, 8780 19th Street
Alta Loma, Ca. 91701

Or call Sheriff Sgt. Dennis Shaffer (Chino Hills) (909) 364-2021
Team Hotline (909) 207-2444
WVSAR website

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Photo shows (from left to right, seated) Deputy Director of Philippine Tourism Authority Manny Ilagan, Consul General Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon, Deputy Consul General Daniel Espiritu, (standing) Vice Consul Charmaine Serna-Chua, Bobby Reyes, Mango Tours Operations Manager Louis Rodrigo, and Vice Consul Jim Tito San Agustin after the press meeting in the consulate general’s office in Los Angeles. Philippine Consulates General and Philippine Tourism Offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco aim to promote Boracay, rated by Yahoo Travel as one of the World’s Top Ten Beaches for 2007, as one of the best island destinations in Asia. This visit to Boracay has been arranged during the spring break from March 22 to March 30, 2008. For more details, e-mail or

Photo by Vics Magsaysay

Department of Tourism L.A.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Russian Tupolev Bombers 'buzzed' U.S. Aircraft Carrier

February 12, 2008 09:23am

US Navy fighter jets were scrambled to shadow and intercept a Russian bomber which buzzed and circled over an American aircraft carrier over the weekend in a Top Gun-style incident in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

One Russian Tupolev 95 buzzed the USS Nimitz twice on Saturday, the Associated Press has reported an anonymous source as saying.

The plane flew over the carrier at an altitude of just 600m, similar to the "fly-bys" depicted in the Tom Cruise film. A second Russian bomber circled nearby.

The Russians had been tracked since they took off from Ukrainka and were monitored as they broke off from the rest of their formation and flew into Japanese air space.

The two Tupolevs continued on a course towards the Nimitz and a US guided missile cruiser, USS Princeton.

Four F/A-18 fighter planes were sent to intercept them when they breached an 800km perimeter. Two stayed with the Tupolev circling at altitude about 80km from the Nimitz while two followed the other bomber as it approached the carrier.

The US fighters trailed the Tuoplev as it buzzed the Nimitz. No words were exchanged between the US and Russian pilots throughout the entire incident.

Here's how the whole incident might have looked:

These types of incidents were so common during the Cold War that neither side bothered reporting them, the Associated Press has said.

But it is the first time a Tupolev has flown over a US carrier since 2004.

Tensions have been growing between the US and Russia in recent years as Moscow seeks to reassert itself on the world stage.

US plans to build a missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic have angered the Kremlin, which see the shield as a threat.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

It Only Takes a Moment

In life, real love is hard to find
You have to be lucky and hope the Lord is kind
When you look for it, it eludes you
Trying to find that someone who can be true
You go on day to day sometimes hoping, sometimes not
That you meet that person whom you may like a lot
There are days you give up and don’t really care
If you find that relationship which will make you share
Then, the heavens smile and along comes this person
Who respects you, loves you, and gives you a reason

You look forward to being with him or her
Counting the days till you can be together
All that matters is seeing a smile on that face
Which may as well amount to heavenly grace
Laughing, and walking while enjoying the sun
Feeling the warmth as you both hold hands

Love is priceless, it makes us feel great
Knowing that you may have indeed found a soul mate
And when you experience this, it stays in your heart
Almost like a bulls-eye hit by a dart

But, it only takes a moment to lose a love
Caused by angry moods, maybe an unkind word
Pride comes in, then a verbal push and shove
That cuts thru the heart like a slashing sword

You get up then say your goodbyes
Feeling hurt not wanting to apologize
You both conclude its not working out
And at that moment you don’t have a doubt

It may take you a week, a month, maybe a year
To get over the pain and not shed a tear
You will always remember the great times you had
An in retrospect your relationship wasn’t all that bad

It only takes a moment to destroy something beautiful
A love which took a while to nurture and build
But that’s no reason to feel regretful
Since sooner or later we will all heal

As time passes by you move on but will always remember
The laughter you had while you were together
And on a bright day as you enjoy the warmth of the sun
You may recall that chapter in life when you had so much fun

Then you think what if you stayed and didn’t have that fight
Would things for you now be more complete and right?
Feeling this way you wonder what does it prove?
And the answer is
It only takes a moment to remember a love.

Written by: John F Lacson

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pure Valentines

by: Liberty Counsel, February 11, 2008

Students in America and around the world will celebrate Valentine’s Day by helping educate their peers on the value of sexual purity as a positive choice. Leading up to February 14, 2008, which is the Fifth Annual Day of Purity, youth are actively promoting purity by distributing flyers, wearing white Day of Purity T-shirts and LivePure wristbands and organizing events in their schools, communities and churches.

The Day of Purity celebrates purity in relationships by focusing on Valentine’s Day, a day where many students feel pressured into unwanted sexual activity. Day of Purity participants may obtain a planning manual, wristbands, T-shirts, informative flyers and other useful information from the official Day of Purity web site, Day of Purity also has a “myspace page” at and is also featured on

Students who embrace the purity lifestyle are countering the Hollywood culture with its risqué television shows, vulgar jokes, tasteless commercials and graphic movies. They are inundated at school, on television and on the internet with messages that lust and exploration are normal and healthy and that they should give up traditional moral values and explore their sexuality early and often. The Day of Purity is designed to raise awareness about the dangers of promiscuous behavior and encourage youth to adopt a lifestyle of sexual purity.

Each day in America 8,000 teens will be infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Two-thirds of the 10 million new cases of STDs this year will be among the 14-25 year old age group. Between 1994 and 1998 the rate of teenage girls contracting HIV rose by almost 117%. STDs are not the only issue. Over 1 million teenage girls will become pregnant this year, which is a 430% increase since 1960. As a result of those pregnancies, 20% of the 1.3 to 1.5 million abortions in America each year are performed on teenagers.

Rena Lindevaldsen, International Coordinator for the Day of Purity, explained, “The consequences of sexual promiscuity among youth are devastating. More than 3 million American teens are infected each year with sexually transmitted diseases. The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate of developed countries, and teens account for 20 percent of the 1.3 million abortions performed each year in this nation. These problems result directly from the failure of our society to offer clear moral guidance. We encourage students to choose sexual purity to drown out the persistent message of sexual promiscuity promoted through television, the internet, movies, video games and even in some school sex education programs. Youth who have already engaged in sexual activity can make a fresh start on the Day of Purity. Students are sending a message to their friends, parents, churches, communities, legislators, and the media that it’s time for a positive change in the culture.”


Monday, February 11, 2008

It's All About Power and Money

PerryScope: Perry Diaz

The ouster of Jose de Venecia as Speaker in the wee hours of February 5, 2008, demonstrated once again President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's insatiable lust for power. Indeed, Arroyo has amassed and consolidated more power than any other president except Ferdinand Marcos. But she did it without martial law. Through a series of Machiavellian maneuvers, she achieved absolute power. And as Lord Acton said more than a century ago, "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." It was true then, it is still true today.

The Philippine government was patterned after the U.S. form of government which has three branches -- Executive, Legislative and Judiciary. Each branch is independent from the other branches, a mechanism that provides a "check and balance" in the government. But with de Venecia removed as Speaker -- and 80% of the congressmen controlled by Arroyo -- the House of Representatives would become a rubber stamp of the Executive branch just like it was with the Batasang Pambansa (National Legislature) during the Marcos dictatorship.

The new Speaker, Prospero Nogales -- said to have been handpicked by Arroyo herself -- would just be a glorified lapdog of Arroyo who'll do anything that she wants out of Congress. Arroyo's two sons, Congressman Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo and his younger brother, neophyte Congressman Diosdado "Dato" Arroyo, would make sure that Nograles will do exactly what mama wants.

The question that comes to mind is: Why did Arroyo get rid of de Venecia? De Venecia has been a loyal lieutenant of Arroyo who -- together with former President Fidel V. Ramos -- rescued her from imminent fall in 2005 as a result of the "Hello Garci" election cheating scandal. At 5:00 p.m. on that fateful Friday afternoon on July 8, 2005, with Arroyo losing her grip on power and ready to flee Malacanang and follow her husband Mike and son Mikey into exile in San Francisco, former President Ramos, Speaker de Venecia, several congressmen, and local officials rushed to Malacanang and stood behind Arroyo. To save her neck, Arroyo promised Ramos and de Venecia that she would go along with their plan to transform the republic into a parliamentary system in 10 months! But as soon as the "people power" siege was over, Arroyo reneged on her promise and pursued a different course. Mike and Mikey came back from "exile" -- or was it R and R? -- and everything was back to normal. Once again, La Gloria has conned all the boys. Ha ha ha…

Given de Venecia's loyalty, and with two years left in her presidency, Arroyo could have kept de Venecia as the House head honcho until she steps down gracefully from the presidency at the end of her term in June 2010. That would have been the right thing to do. Instead, she started a war with de Venecia and anyone who stands on her way. This war -- the "War of the Dynasties" -- would go beyond 2010 where the Macapagal-Arroyo dynasty would battle with anyone who would dare challenge their supremacy. For Mikey and Dato, the "whacking" of de Venecia was their "baptism of fire." They have "made their bones," so to speak. They allegedly did it in retaliation for the expose' made by de Venecia's son Joey de Venecia III who accused their father Mike Arroyo for involvement in the NBN $329 million deal in which President Arroyo was forced to cancel to prevent the scandal from blowing in her face and scorch her presidency. According to Joey, Mike Arroyo and then COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos brokered the deal with the Chinese outfit ZTE Corp.

On February 7, two days after de Venecia was ousted by the Arroyo brothers, Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada, Jr. -- surrounded by nuns -- surfaced and held a press conference at 2:00 a.m. at the La Salle Greenhills campus and exposed Mike Arroyo and Abalos of their involvement in the failed NBN deal. Lozada said that he was a consultant for the NBN project and was asked by Romulo Neri, who was then the Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority, to review the project. The price tag of the NBN project was originally $262 million but Abalos wanted a $130 million kickback. Thus, the price was increased to $329 million to make sure that Abalos got his kickback. It is interesting to note that Joey de Venecia, in his testimony before the Senate last October, told the Senate panel that Abalos promised Mike Arroyo a $70 million kickback. If that would have been the case, Abalos would have kept a hefty $60 million for himself. After his press conference, members of the office of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms arrived and whisked him away to safety.

The following day, Lozada testified before the Senate for seven hours. He told the Senate panel that Neri "instructed" him not to involve Mike Arroyo in the NBN issue. Neri's instruction was relayed to him by President Arroyo's Malacanang aide Medy Pobaldor while he was in Hong Kong. Interestingly, Lozada said that the government sent him to Hong Kong because "they couldn't find a legal remedy to stop the Senate" from requiring him to testify on the NBN deal. Isn't that what also happened to Joc-Joc Bolante during the fertilizer scam investigation by the Senate? Lozada also said that he met with Mike Arroyo, Abalos, and Neri during a dinner with ZTE officials. Lozada said that the ZTE officials told him that they had advanced some money to Abalos. I supposed the "advance" money was not refundable which would have angered the ZTE officials when President Arroyo canceled their contract. The question is: Did Abalos split the "advance" money with Mike Arroyo?

With de Venecia licking his wounds and Lozada singing like a canary in front of the Senate, what's going to happen next? Would de Venecia do to President Arroyo what Governor Chavit Singson did to former President Estrada? If de Venecia were smart, he would have kept a dossier of damaging information on all the corruptions and shenanigans in the Arroyo administration, just in case he might need them someday. Well, that "someday" is today. De Venecia has to strike while the iron is hot.

We all know that Charter change (Cha-cha) has always been in Arroyo's mind. It's the only vehicle for her to stay in power short of declaring martial law. As a matter of fact, she proposed last year to change the government to a federal system by 2012. Many believed that Arroyo's ultimate goal is to extend her term beyond 2010. Had the Supreme Court not rejected Arroyo's flawed people's initiative, she would have become the Prime Minister in 2010 under the parliamentary system that she proposed. Now, with the House of Representatives under her control, Cha-cha could easily sail through the House. But she would face stiff opposition in the Senate in which case she could once again resort to a people's initiative. This time, she would not repeat the mistake she made with the first people's initiative.


Happenings at the O BAR on Valentines Night

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Madriaga file on the NBN/ZTN broadband deal scandal

February 7, 2008
By Ellen Tordesillas

THE following document landed in my mailbox. It's supposed to have been written by a certain Dante Madriaga. (A check with UP alumni activities show a Dante Madriaga as earning a BSE from UP in 1966.). For what's it worth, here it is.***

I am an electronic/electrical engineer by profession. I attended the University of the Philippines and Texas A&M University. I have been in the communications industry for over 30 years.

I was a part owner of a company in the LISP in Cabuyao, Laguna that exported microwave radio transmitters. I was involved in the original design of the ARESCOM proposal using a concept similar to what Joey de Venecia thought about. I have been involved in the preparation and design of the NBN ZTE proposal since the beginning.

I have been a technical consultant for the project involved not only in the design but as a liaison to NEDA, DOTC/TELOF/CICT. I was involved in all discussions regarding the project including the names of other people involved, margins and actual pricing details.

ZTE International signed an MOU with the government on March 14 on a National Broadband Network project.

The following is my account of the project from the start to the time when the negotiations were turned over to the finance group. With the exception of the China trips I was present in all the meetings. There may be some omissions and oversights, some of it done on purpose.

May 2006: The project was brought to ZTE on May 5 by a person named Stephen Lai, who was originally with Arescom and is a personal friend of the Arescom president Cris Ching. ZTE approached Chairman Abalos whom they knew to help on the political side.

Chairman Abalos enlisted the help of Ruben Reyes a golfing buddy to come up with a team to expedite matters. Ruben Reyes contacted General Quirino de la Torre and Leo San Miguel. I was approached by Leo San Miguel whom I had known before to work on the project. I provided Leo inputs on the Arescom proposal which ZTE used as a basis to start their design.

June 2006: Ruben Reyes, Leo San Miguel, General De la Torre, Stephen Lai, Yu Yong, Fan Yang met on June 16 at the Makati Shangri-La in a private environment to discuss the NBN project. They were later joined by Chairman Abalos who left first. We start the design work but are hindered by cost constraints. There is no possible way to achieve the $130M Arescom budget with the commissions that were needed. They decide to increase it to $190M and later added some more components to make it $262M.

Same group meets on June 18 with the addition of Secretary Mike Defensor and Abalos chief of staff Paz and without Stephen Lai meet in Wack-Wack to discuss details on the commissions.

July 2006: We make initial presentations to CICT and Telof at the CICT office. Chairman Sales was present together with then Telof Asec Frank Perez, the son of Sec Nani Perez, Commissioner Lorenzo Formoso, ZTE personnel and the DOTC/CICT technical staff. Chairman Sales' initial comment was that the NBN project was best left up to private but promised to review the proposal and make recommendations.

We made similar presentations to the NEDA infrastructure group, present was the ZTE group including Fan Yang and the accounting personnel of ZTE.

NEDA writes a letter to us citing objections to the initial design.

PGMA signs an MOU on July 12 designating Sec Favila to negotiate with ZTE on the government's behalf. Group meets on July 25 in Wack-Wack to solve the problems.

August 2006: Then DOTC Asec Perez makes a presentation and objects to the cost and the design. I work with the NEDA group to smooth out their objections.

Asec Perez who openly discredits the project is promptly replaced by Commissioner Formoso who vowed to help with the implementation. Asec Formoso is a better choice than Asec Perez because he is an engineer and a lawyer and can defend the project well.

Chairman Sales reviews the project but is still not convinced; through back door channels he changes his tune at a later date. Group on August 11 goes to China and demands an advance payment upon orders from the boss ostensibly to facilitate the approval and for PR. Chairman Abalos leaves first over the weekend. They get it after mentioning the name of the FG. Ruben Reyes is designated as the recipient.

Group comes back from China on August 15 and meets again with Chairman Abalos to tell of their success. US$1M was doled out, Ruben Reyes was designated as the recipient.

September 2006: Group meets regularly at Wack-Wack every weekend at night to discuss ways to facilitate the approval of the project.
NEDA status is ok but all of a sudden meets a sudden resistance from Director General Neri. Group meets at Wack-Wack on September 22 to address the problem.

We meet Sec. Mendoza at his office and make representations. Secretary does not hear the full presentation but endorses us to the then head of legal Atty. Noel Cruz.

DOTC legal returns the endorsement of the NBN project to the CICT.

Design is changed again trying to fit the commitments. ZTE and group argue on the profit margins, they finally decide on September 28 that the increasing the project amount to $270M will give them a margin of $70M each.

October 2006: The name Joey de Venecia suddenly comes into play and makes the group worried. He wants the same project but on a BOT (build, operate, transfer) scheme and is adamant about it, he had the idea long before Arescom and ZTE conceptualized it; in fact the whole idea the Arescom proposal came from Joey. Leo San Miguel is tasked to fix the problem since he personally knows Joey. The negotiations do not progress because of Joey's distrust for the group. Group meets at Wack-Wack on October 11 and decides to ask the FG for help on how to handle Joey. Ruben Reyes, Chairman Abalos and General De La Torre fly to China on October 14 and discuss the problem with the ZTE officials about Joey. ZTE is alarmed but is reassured that everything will be taken care of with the intervention of the FG.

November 2006: Group is notified on November 12 that the President does not want to borrow and instead wants a BOT scheme similar to the AHI proposal. Group decides to compete with Joey and brings an alternate solution by bringing out a competing BOT offer.

Joey is unfazed since he holds all the cards at NEDA with his father's help and stonewalls the group's effort. Group meets almost daily to discuss ways to resolve the issues. ZTE is furious at group for not controlling the situation.

Group decides that the only way that Secretary Neri would not object is to offer him a commission of US$4M at that time the exchange rate of 50-1. Chairman Abalos is designated to fix the problem.

December 2006: Group submits a proposal to Chairman Sales changing strategy and hoping to revive the NBN proposal to a BOT similar to Joey's proposal.

In a meeting in Wack-Wack in December 5, FG and Abalos try to convince Joey to just partner with them and quit his objection. In the meeting at Wack Wack FG threatens Joey by telling him to back off and stay out of the project.

ZTE tries to help out in the conflict and even designs the AHI network thereby exposing their pricing to Joey's group.

Group goes to China on December 27 with Joey to fix the problem, they meet with ZTE officials at ZTE HQ but the negotiation fails. It was during these negotiations that Joey brought up the idea of ZTE partnering with Hwawei, another Chinese supplier. The suggestion is promptly dismissed by ZTE and negotiations break down. Group demands an advance and promptly got it from ZTE before the arrival of Joey De Venecia. Ruben Reyes is again designated as the recipient. US$5M was doled out.

January 2007: Group abandons the BOT proposal and decides to meet Joey De Venecia's AHI group head-on with their own BOT proposal. Asec Formoso organizes a defense by creating a Technical Working Group (TWG) to evaluate the proposals of ZTE, AHI and Arescom.

It comes as no surprise that the TWG comes up with a report tilted in favor of ZTE because all of the members are either TELOF or DOTC personnel, they do not want the offer of AHI since it will be implemented by the private AHI group.

Group plots strategy and enlists Secretary Mendoza since Chairman Sales is a technocrat and Secretary Mendoza is a long-time ally. Group decides to move Telof back to DOTC citing the reason that CICT is a commission and cannot implement a project of this magnitude. In the end Secretary Sales signs the endorsement of the project anyway.

February 2007: TWG finishes the evaluation and hands it to the Technical Working Committee (TWC) who promptly endorses it to Secretary Mendoza. ZTE is endorsed to NEDA by both Mendoza and Sales.

Joey is not impressed and files a complaint about the ZTE proposal to whoever would listen citing the disadvantages to the government. The project at NEDA is delayed and the much needed NEDA approval is stalled. Secretary Neri does not seem to be favoring the NBN and appears to be part of the problem because he likes the AHI proposal rather than the NBN which requires a government guarantee.

March 2007: On March 8, approval of GMA is secured in order to meet the deadline for final NEDA approval by the executive.

Group meets on March 12 in Wack Wack with Yu Yong and Fan Yang. They finally expand the proposed coverage to increase the amount to $329M.

Joey is furious when the NBN proposal is approved and threatens to expose all the dealings that stopped his much superior proposal. Group does not appear to be worried and thinks it is just sour graping. Upon approval by the NEDA, group meets on March 28 in Wack Wack with ZTE and demands another cash advance which they got. Ruben Reyes is the designated recipient again. US$10M is again doled out.

April 2006: Group meets again in Makati Shangri-La on April 4 with Yu Yong and Fan Yang of ZTE to discuss ways of getting upfront money to finance partly the elections and some personal needs. Ruben Reyes is again designated as the recipient. US$ 30M is again doled out.

Yu Yong agrees but on the condition that PGMA be present at the signing. PGMA promptly goes to China to witness the signing. FG cannot participate since he is hospitalized and Abalos is busy with the elections. Ruben Reyes takes over all of the negotiations and transfer of funds.

Upon arrival from China on April 27, Secretary Mendoza and Secretary Favila visit the FG and inform him of the good news.

May 2007: Loan negotiation starts.

Note: Dante Madriaga is reportedly going to testify to the Philippine Senate soon. Meanwhile, testimony of Rodolfo Noel "Jun" Lozada Jr. continues at the Philippine Senate on Monday, February 11, 2008

Video clip of Jun Lozada Jr. testimony last February 8, 2008 with Senator Jamby Madrigal: