Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Vice mayor is first victim

“Fake it until you make it.”
--Steven Tyler

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey -- Sometime in 1997, a radio station in Iloilo City in the Philippines made a “flash” report that a woman had filed a case for sexual harassment and abandonment against then Vice Mayor Guillermo dela Llana.
She claimed to be the vice mayor’s alleged inamorata.
It spread like a prairie fire.
A few curious supporters and worried relatives immediately stormed city hall looking for the vice mayor.
Reporters were in a mad scramble to get Dela Llana’s side at noontime.
A dentist by profession, Dela Llana didn’t know what hit him.
He refused to comment when asked by reporters, but muttered: “I have no idea about it; I don’t know what’s going on.”
Print and TV reporters, who didn’t have an inkling of the report’s genesis, refused to leave the Sanggunaing Panlungsod premises even if the vice mayor had requested for privacy and locked himself inside his office.

-o0o-

Later in that day, members of the city hall press corps converging inside the office of the late Councilor German Gonzales were able to secure an “affidavit” signed by the “complainant” and with a stamp from the “city prosecutor’s office.”
It was the same document the radio station had used as the basis to make the report.
We verified it in the Hall of Justice and found out the complainant was non-existent.
The address she had used was also fictitious.
In other words, the affidavit was a fake.
The radio station that broke the report had been taken for a ride.
It was one of the first known cases of fake news in the pre-social media era when bloggers weren’t yet an on-line vogue.
Dela Llana’s camp surmised the dirty stratagem had been engineered by a female political enemy it didn’t name.
The political enemy supposedly had “retaliated” after being “humiliated”.
Until now, the author of that obnoxious assault on Dela Llana’s reputation was never identified and sued for moral damages.
Some members of the city hall press corps, however, “knew” who was the vice mayor’s tormentor.



Sunday, January 28, 2018

Will lightning strike twice in city hall?

“If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.”
--Thomas J. Watson

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey -- An illiterate but patriotic public servant is as dangerous as the corrupt public servant.
The only difference is, corrupt public servants are really the real menace to society.
The illiterate will mismanage the government. The corrupt, on the other hand, will impoverish the nation.
The country can easily rebound from the doldrums of mismanagement.
If public coffers have been emptied by corrupt public servants, every citizen or member of the family will suffer from a hodgepodge of government neglect and dispossession.
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice and Senate President Hilario Davide prefers the illiterate over the corrupt.
I reject both.

-o0o-

THE presence of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in the 50th Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City in the Philippines on January 28, 2018 didn’t sit well with those wishing to oust Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III before the May 2019 elections.
Roque, President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s representative during the festival’s final day, reportedly conveyed the President’s message of support for the festival’s golden edition.
Roque’s gesture could be interpreted that everything is well between Malacanang and Iloilo City Hall in as far as political relationship is concerned.
Those who believed that “stubborn” Mayor Joe III may have committed a serious gaffe by his refusal to recall the much-criticized executive order that closed a portion of Rizal Street in Plaza Jaro in connection with the Feast of Our Lady of the Candles Nuestra Señora de la Purificacion y Candelaria on February 2, however, think the city mayor is ripe for a kill.

-o0o-

CRITICS surmise the city mayor can be eliminated through a case for “violation” of anti-graft practices act before the Office of the Ombudsman and, thus, suffer the fate of his predecessor, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.
They suspect his much-ballyhooed “cordial” relationship with the hard-hitting President from Davao City is a myth or like a bubble that can explode anytime.
They viewed President Duterte’s non-appearance in the Dinagyang Festival as a tell-tale sign that the President’s relationship with the City Hall has remained frosty even after Mabilog’s overthrow.
They are apparently cynical on a scenario of President Duterte coming to Mayor Joe III’s rescue in the event the city mayor will end up facing the slammer.
And if ever a case of that nature be marshaled against Mayor Joe III, it would most likely come from former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada, author of the Ombudsman case that toppled Mabilog last year.
If Mejorada is convinced that Mayor Joe III really violated the law when he defended and sustained his controversial Jaro Plaza road edict, the former capitol bigwig probably must be hoping that lightning will strike anew in the Iloilo City Hall.    
Incidentally, Roque is Mejorada’s former legal counsel in the latter’s libel cases filed by Senator Franklin Drilon.
His other legal counsel is Atty. Eduardo Jalbuna, former president of the Iloilo Press Club (IPC).

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Dinagyang’s lifeblood

“Generally, when I come to festivals, I just wander freely and see what happens.”
--St. Lucia

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey -- The just-concluded 50th Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City in the Philippines wouldn’t have reached the golden year if not for the strong and unwavering support of the advertising industry.
This is where we can best appreciate the role of capitalism.
This is where business, religion, and culture blend together and become vital cogs in progress and productivity.
In any gargantuan undertaking, money is the game changer and trailblazer.
Commercials easily strike a chord with consumers during gigantic events like the Dinagyang Festival held on January 27-28, 2018.
By shifting away from downbeat and snarky campaigns, companies with wise investment in Dinagyang and other prominent annual festivals in the country, can easily connect with consumers, thus their participation also contributes an uptick in local economy.

-o0o-

Without money, the talents and sacrifices of ati-ati warriors, choreographers and other stakeholders will not be given justice.
Business has pumped millions of advertisement in promotions and sponsorship in the tribes participating in the Kasadyahan and Ati-ati dance competitions, side events like the Miss Dinagyang pageant, sports and other religious and cultural programs related to the week-long feast in honor of Senor Santo Nino, and media commercials and coverage.
Advertisement and sponsorship has become a necessary lifeblood for the promotion and sustenance of the annual festival, now known worldwide because of its sophistication, uniqueness, and grandeur.
The Iloilo Business Club (IBC), Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation, Inc. (IDFI), Filipino-Chinese business and community, Department of Tourism (DoT), Iloilo City and Provincial Governments, and participating schools are actually the primary heroes of the Ilonggo festival that has attracted thousands of visitors and millions of viewers in “live” television and social media coverage.
When chroniclers of this colorful religious and cultural festival produce a manuscript, they will not forget to emphasize that without its lifeblood, Dinagyang Festival, as an integral part of our culture and history, could never breach the golden age.  

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Noble deeds)

Noble deeds that are concealed are most esteemed.
 – BLAISE PASCAL :

When we help a distressed person or do something good, let’s keep the gesture under wraps; there’s no need to advertise it or make it known all over the universe. In the eyes of God and in the heart of the recipient of our kindness, our reputation will forever be cemented. We don’t need the crowd’s applause.
-- ALEX P. VIDAL

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Why 'terrorists' won’t bomb Iloilo City

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.”
-- Peter Drucker

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey -- At the risk of being accused as an imbecile, I reiterate my stand against the decision of authorities to “jam” or suspend cellular phone signals in Iloilo City in the Philippines during the highlights of the Dinagyang Festival on January 27-28, 2018.
If cellular phone signals are jammed or suspended, users along the parade route may not be able to access call, text and mobile data services, according to an advisory from a giant telecommunication firm.
If the purpose is to “prevent” terrorists from disrupting or sabotaging the Ilonggos’ religious and cultural festival, it’s an absurd wishful thinking.
It’s the users that are being punished, not the “terrorists”.
It’s the users that are being inconvenienced, not the enemies.
Cellular phone users with reserved seats in judging areas and those lining up in the streets to watch the performances of competing tribes, will be cut off from their loved ones for several hours only because our authorities are jittery about terrorism.

 -o0o-

They may argue that “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”; but, in the first place, it’s the job of the police intelligence unit to monitor whether a terrorist group has arrived or is now present within the vicinity of the metropolis days ahead of the festival.
Strict monitoring and sleuthing is part of effective preventive measures.
With their high tech monitoring gadgets, police can always intercept any hostile communication by any intruders.
There should be no more need to disrupt the normal life of civilian mobile phone users.
A cellular phone is man’s most important gadget in this age of social media and 3G mania.
Sometimes he can afford to lose his wallet or even a backpack, but not his cellular phone.
Mobile phone users in the crowd who can’t send a text message or check their Facebook and Instagram accounts for just a few seconds even while watching the ati-ati performances, will surely utter unprintable words or hoist a goblet.
Globe Telecom has nevertheless complied with the directive from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to “temporarily suspend mobile services within the immediate vicinity” of Sinulog festival in Cebu City (January 20-21) and Ati-atihan festival in Kalibo, AKlan (January 21).

-o0o-

The possibility of organized or home-grown terrorists penetrating the Dinagyang parade routes to create mayhem is next to nil, to say the least, if we consider the following reasons:
1. Iloilo City is well-guarded and secured. The Police Regional Office 6 (PRO6) is three minutes away by car from the Plaza Libertad, which is adjacent to the City Hall;
2. Some 3,314 police security personnel will be deployed within the vicinity of the parade;
3. Enemies or armed bandits will find it hard to reach within the festival’s parameters because traffic is usually blocked across the bridge in La Paz district for north-bound vehicles, and in Molo district for south-bound vehicles. Unless the bombers are parade participants, it’s impossible for them to reach even the rotunda of Gen. Luna St. and Bonifacio Drive;
4. Iloilo City, as the “City of Love”, is not the right place for brutal malcontents and invaders wanting to foment violence or terrorism. Its leaders are not known to taunt or spit any inflammatory diatribe against jihadists or other known Islamic extremist groups; and
5. Since time immemorial or since the Dinagyang Festival romped off officially as a religious and cultural festival in 1967, the Ilonggos have not experienced any violent disruption of horrific proportion from outsiders that would erode their faith on the security measures undertaken by authorities.
Let’s think positive, pray, be vigilant, be merry and enjoy the 50th Dinagyang Festival. Hala bira!

DINAGYANG FESTIVAL: No terrorist will commit a hara-kiri

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." --  George Bernard Shaw

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey -- I would like to reiterate my stand when I wrote last year that I was against the move by authorities to jam cellular phone signals during the Dinagyang Festival highlights.
I grew up in Iloilo City in the Philippines and witnessed how Dinagyang Festival started as a ramshackle religious and cultural activity until it blossomed into a behemoth international attraction.
Since the actual street dancing Dinagyang festivities romped off in the 70's, the real problem was peace and order--drunken revelries, ill-behaved drug addicts and gangs composed of skinny but tattooed teenagers.
No invasion of the third kind. No rebellion. No earth-shaking tumult.
There were some incidents of mugging, snatching, vandalism, acts of lasciviousness, street rumble, stabbing, among other street-level crimes.
The police were able to professionally handle the situation and nipped the troublemakers in the bud.
It's the proliferation of illegal drugs, especially shabu, and the sales of liquor in the streets that should be regulated if not stopped during the week-long festival in the month of January.
Not the "jamming" of cellular phone signals.

JEOPARDIZE

When communication lines are shut down during important events, we jeopardize the comfort and safety of visiting tourists and the residents who give updates to their relatives abroad on what's going on in their locality.
Drug addicts and drunken dolts don't use high-tech communication gadgets to create trouble.
Police deployed in performance areas can manually overpower any amok in the crowd.
No real terrorists from other regions--or even outside the country-- will commit a hara-kiri or kamikaze attack by sneaking inside the well-guarded Iloilo City, surrounded by treacherous rivers, just to sabotage the Dinagyang.
If they intend to extort, bringing an explosive device in Iloilo City is like holding a microphone in public and announcing that they would pee at the Plazoleta Gay.
If they intend to send a political message, they will not only be barking at the wrong tree, they will be in the wrong place of the planet.
Malacanang and the Imperial Manila are several islands and regions away.
The Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) initially wasn't keen on recommending the jamming of mobile signals in the metropolis during the two-day Dinagyang highlights on January 27-26, 2018.
Now it's a different story. 

NECESSARY

Signal jamming or shutting down cellular phone signals is necessary and effective in events where the visiting VIPs in the country are considered as "security risks."
Especially when the occasion attracts a large number of crowd like the recent Black Nazarene procession, which drew 1.5 million devotees in the streets.
Like when Pope Francis visited the Philippines on January 15-19, 2015. And when state leaders gathered for the APEC Meeting.
Or even during the 2017 Miss Universe coronation night where foreign dignitaries and high government and military officials would be in attendance.
Mobile phone signals may also be jammed if there are special police operations like the raids conducted in the shabu-infested National Bilibid Prison.
The purpose is to prevent terrorists and criminals from sabotaging the events or operations by knocking out their communication.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Bizarre Dinagyang crime stories

“In a closed society where everybody's guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.”
--Hunter S. Thompson

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey -- After witnessing the cold-blooded murder of a plainclothes cop from Arevalo district during the  1990 Dinagyang Festival final night in Iloilo City in the Philippines, I became convinced that there should be a gun ban when the Ilonggos celebrate the feast of Señor Santo Niño every year.
The cop (I can remember him only as “Ben”) was gunned down while answering the call of nature on the rear tire of an owner type jeep where I was sitting and parked on corner Valeria and Ledesma Streets in the City Proper, a stone throw away from our News Express editorial office.
“Ben” died on the spot from multiple gunshot wounds fired by an unknown assailant at past seven o’clock in the evening.
I was holding my friend Emmanuel “Boyet” Carillo’s state-of-the-art camera (which was burned in a fire that gutted their house in Kalibo, Aklan weeks later), thus I was able to take some photos as “Ben” sprawled on the pavement bathing in his own blood.  
The case has remained unsolved.
We also support the move of the Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6) and the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) to prohibit glass bottles and cans during the revelries.
Glass bottles and beer or soft drink cans can become deadly if used by drunken revelers as weapons.
Senior Inspector Shella Mae Sangrines, ICPO spokesperson, said in a recent press conference they did not want revelers to carry illegal weapons, drugs and other harmful contraband, thus they would inspect all backpacks.

-o0o-

The police may also check belt bags aside from backpacks.
Drug dealers and gang members carrying deadly weapons and illegal substances will eschew backpacks now that the police have announced what type of bag to be strictly perused during the festivities.
Some thugs who use backpacks are not really members of drug syndicates, terror groups and street-level fraternities engaged in riot.
Some of them are small time robbers or pickpockets.
One afternoon during the 1998 Dinagyang Festival, I “saved” a 17-year-old out-of-school teenager from being lynched by an angry mob near the Ledesma Street gate of Mary Mart Mall in Iloilo City.
“Randy” was being punched and kicked by male and female attackers while tightly embracing his backpack.
I intervened and was able to stop the carnage. When I checked the victim’s backpack, it contained several Nokia and Philips  analog cellular phones.
He was a “snatcher” cornered by some of his victims.
I negotiated with the maulers and helped them recover their cellular phones right away. I escorted the “snatcher” away from harm after he promised to go straight.
Since I was into sports, I encouraged him to train as amateur boxer in the YMCA gym. After a series of bouts in our weekly boxing tournament at the Iloilo City Freedom Grandstand, I introduced him to the late then City Administrator Angelo “Bebot” Geremias and brought him to Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu thereafter where he won a bronze medal in the inter-city youth slugfest.

-o0o-

Drunkenness should also be regulated if not avoided during the Dinagyang revelry.
In the 1994 Dinagyang, the grandson of a prominent Filipino-Chinese tycoon hogged headlines when he was “drugged and molested” by two gay hairdressers who befriended him at the Freedom Grandstand, the main judging area for ati dance competitions.
“Anthony”, who once worked with former Sen. Joselito “Lito” Lapid as stuntman in an action film shot in Cebu, alleged that he passed out and wasn’t able to go home after a drinking session with the two hairdressers while waiting for announcement of winners Sunday evening.
He woke up the following morning in the sidewalk of J.M. Basa Street without a shirt. His other personal belongings went missing. He confessed to police he suffered a “swollen penis” and was treated in the hospital.
When one of the hairdressers was stabbed dead by an unknown suspect in Brgy. Tanza-Baybay in the City Proper weeks later, “Anthony” disappeared in Iloilo City.
“Anthony’s” cousin, “Jaguar”, who owns a resort in Boracay in Caticlan, Aklan, got mad when police coaxed him to cooperate and pinpoint his cousin’s whereabouts.
I accompanied the cop who went to the cousin’s office, a lending firm, in downtown, City Proper. The cop managed to enter and talk to “Jaguar” briefly before being rebuked.
I was left outside “Jaguar’s” office after being denied entry by “Jaguar’s” secretary.
“Anthony” hasn’t been seen again.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The man Mayor Joe III respects most

“This is the person you think is your antagonist, who ends up being your greatest ally: the person who pushes, criticizes, and challenges you to meet a standard of excellence you might not otherwise achieve.”
-- Bonnie Hammer

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey -- If some allies and confidants of Iloilo City Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III in the Philippines find it hard to make him agree on certain matters that are clearly correct and lawful, they shouldn’t feel bad about it.
They shouldn’t be quick to pillory him; refrain from antagonizing him and get their fingers off the trigger.
Mayor Joe III is now his own man; no one can compel him to follow suggestions and pieces of unsolicited advice even from his contemporaries and advisers.
If he will adopt some of their sensible suggestions, it’s a bonus. If he doesn’t, no hard feelings.
The city mayor is the master of all ceremonies; he has the final say on every crucial matter that requires a critical judgment of the city hall chief executive.  
Whether he fails or succeeds, the buck stops on his table.
For sure, there were those who did attempt to tell him to go slow on the issue against the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD).
But he didn’t.
Public opinion showed the odds were stacked against him. Some were saying it backfired.
Mayor Joe III’s unfortunate bicker with the water utility’s board of directors, his baptism of fire after clinching the mayoral post on October 30, 2017, has remained unresolved before 2018 came.

-o0o-

Recently, for sure, there were those within his coterie of consultants who tried but failed to dissuade him from closing the Plaza Rizal Street in Jaro district for vendors on January 8, 2018 through an executive order.
Not all his recent decisions were popular, in the same manner that not all the suggestions or opposition from his acolytes were reasonable and acceptable.
Because of the city mayor’s executive order, vendors have erected kiosks on two lanes of the four-lane road as part of the 2018 Jaro Agro-Industrial and Charity Fair from Jan. 8 to Feb. 8. The fair is part of the Jaro fiesta celebration that will highlight on Feb. 2.
The closure order didn’t sit well with pedestrians and motorists caught in traffic jam as a result.
But because the city mayor has the solid backing from City Administrator Hernando Galvez and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), he won’t believe Councilor Plaridel Nava, a lawyer like him, who considered the executive order as legally infirm.

-o0o-

Ilonggos will have to brace for more surprises on Mayor Joe III’s brand of leadership as he completes the remaining term of office of his predecessor, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, in 2019.
Some of his detractors may be waiting for Mayor Joe III to slip in the banana peel or to commit bad and unpopular decisions while in office and kiss goodbye his chances to win the same position in May 2019.
But there are also strong chances he will finish the remaining 15 months of Mabilog’s unfinished term with flying colors.
This was made possible after he reportedly retained some of Mabilog’s best consultants, not to mention his built-in rapport with his former peers in the city council.
Among those who are reportedly helping rev up his engine in public service are former vice mayor, Dr. Guillermo dela Llana, and former city councilors, Victor Facultad and Dr. Perla Zulueta.
Dela Llana is one of the only few consultants that Mayor Joe III respects most when it comes to running a public office.
Back in 1990s when Dela Llana was vice mayor and Mayor Joe III was a senior member of the city council, they worked together like father and son. So close were Dela Llana and Mayor Joe III that they would sometimes swap some trusted staffers.
Then Councilor Joe III also “accommodated” casual workers handpicked by then Vice Mayor Dela Llana.  
When Dela Llana, Joe III, and the late former Councilor Eduardo Laczi formed a triumvirate in the city council, they became Mayor Mansueto Malabor’s “headaches.”
Facultad and Zulueta were also his most trusted and long-time allies and some of the only few remnants of their dreaded bloc in the city council that brought nightmares to the Malabor administration.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

No knee-jerk reaction on Defensor’s transfer to PDP-Laban

“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”
--Franklin D. Roosevelt

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey -- When big names in Philippine local politics jump from one political party to another, it is normally greeted with derision and mockery from the deserters’ hitherto party mates and rivals.
They are tagged as “opportunists” and dismissed as “balimbings” (fruit with scientific name Averrhoa carambola) or turncoats.
Such was the misfortune that befell politicians in Iloilo City led by Rep. Jerry Trenas and Mayor Jose Espinosa III, who abandoned the Liberal Party (LP) for the administration’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) last year.
Political rivals took turns in lambasting “ingrate” Trenas , Espinosa and some of their ilk in the city council.
Their political enemies also utilized the social media to ridicule their move to leave LP and embrace President Rodrigo Duterte’s political party.
It’s always an earthshaking event for their detractors; the kind of opportunity to skin them alive in public their detractors would never allow to slip away. Politics 101.

-o0o-

Not in Iloilo province.
When Governor Arthur “Art” Defensor Sr. disclosed last year that he, his son, Iloilo third district Rep. Arthur “Toto” Defensor Jr. , and 4,000 other local officials from their district will take their oath as the newest members of the PDP-Laban on January 18, 2018, nobody from the governor’s political rivals--or potential political enemies--raised a whimper.
Team Defensor’s scheduled “mass oath taking” would be administered by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez at the Pototan Astrodome in Pototan town, 30 kilometers north from Iloilo City.
No admonition even from Iloilo fourth district Rep. Ferjenel “Dr. Ferj” G. Biron, Rep. Defensor’s rumored rival for governor in 2019.
Rep. Biron, who admits he has big respect and admiration for Gov. Defensor despite his loss in the 2013 gubernatorial race, probably didn’t want to sully the Defensors’ significant date with political history.
It would be awkward for the lawmaker from Barotac Nuevo to criticize the Defensors’ transfer from LP to PDP-Laban if he was eyeing LP’s official nomination for the top capitol post.

-o0o-

Some provincial board members and municipal mayors who have remained loyal to LP also didn’t find it necessary to rebuke the Defensors’ decision to transfer even for the sake of “check and balance” and, to some extent, publicity.
They probably got Gov. Defensor’s message loud and clear: he needed the President’s blessings for Toto Defensor’s candidacy in 2019.
From the very beginning, the governor never hid his cards and was even excited to immediately lay them on the table without beating around the bush: he wanted the congressman son to be the administration’s standard-bearer in 2019.
Defensor would have been chided both by allies and detractors as hypocrite if he did not admit his decision to walk away from LP to PDP-Laban had something to do with political survival.





Monday, January 15, 2018

I didn’t execute a CHR affidavit on Capitol raid

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”
--Mahatma Gandhi

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey -- I did not regret it until now when I “ignored” the request of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the Philippines for me to execute an affidavit to narrate what I saw when fully armed assault cops raided the Iloilo Provincial Capitol to forcibly remove then Governor Niel D. Tupas Sr. and two other members of the provincial board on January 17, 2007.  
I knew it would be useless to join the fray because the Philippine National Police (PNP) would anyway exonerate those involved; the PNP bigwigs were not stupid to pin down their underlings.
It was enough and necessary that I decided to instead chronicle the event in my newspaper articles weeks after the violence.
The cases against the cops have been dismissed; my articles will remain intact on-line and in printed newspaper files for future generation.
When historians remember that ugly episode, they will be horrified to know that despite “overwhelming” pieces of evidence, the case has been whitewashed.
Being in the right place at the right time, I knew I hit a jackpot as a community journalist nevertheless.

-o0o-

Then PNP chief Director General Oscar Calderon tasked Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Director Edgardo Doromal to investigate the allegation of “overkill”.
As expected, Doromal cleared the Iloilo Regional Mobile Group (RMG) team despite video footage aired on national television showing the mostly rookie cops pointing guns at civilians and some reporters inside the Iloilo capitol.
Doromal’s report claimed it was Tupas’ supporters led by his son, then Iloilo Provincial Board Member and future Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr., who initiated the scuffle.
The Civil Disturbance Management (CDM) group only reacted accordingly to the situation, insisted the PNP report.
What I saw, which was also witnessed by other reporters and capitol workers caught in the melee was the opposite: the 65 assault cops smashed the glass doors in the back, forcibly entered the capitol like they were looking for Osama bin Laden.
Inside the 2,248 square feet, six-storey with 37 offices capitol , they didn’t know where to proceed; they pointed their guns at terrified civilians and reporters on their way up to the next floors where they engaged Junjun Tupas and his sister, Tweety Balleza, in a loud scuffle.

-o0o-

Then Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada was in the front line outside the capitol negotiating with the leaders of other PNP teams to calm down and not to enter the capitol.
Visayan Tribune publisher Johnny Dignadice, then 72 years old, and I were among those nearly mistaken as Bin Laden’s cohorts.
We saw long firearms being aimed right before our eyes.  
Family members, some lawyers, and staff members stayed with Gov. Tupas and his wife Myrna in the governor’s office.
The tumult simmered down when Junjun Tupas waved and presented the fax copy of a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Court of Appeals.
The raiders failed to evict Tupas and Board Members Domingo Oso and Cecilia Capadosa.
The raiding cops were cleared even if Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, who ordered Tupas’ dismissal, admitted "there were very disturbing footage of the clearing operations."
Among those who constantly communicated with the Tupas family and monitored the ruckus in Manila were future President Noynoy Aquino, and Senators Mar Roxas and Chiz Escudero.
These national political figures condemned the raid.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Success, Value)

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.
-- ALBERT EINSTEIN :

Success can lift up our self-pride and galvanize our inner satisfaction, but the bliss we experience doesn't have staying power. Honors are toppled; contracts expire; big profits decline; titles melt away; health deteriorates; wealth dissipates. A man of value is like a candle in the wind: tenacious, solid, placid, ethical, principled.
-- ALEX P. VIDAL

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Love, sex, greed for money don’t mix

“There are crimes of passion and crimes of logic. The boundary between them is not clearly defined.”
-- Albert Camus

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey -- We don’t need Hollywood or Tagalog crime and soap opera movies to warn us that it’s not only taboo to mix love and insatiable greed for money, it’s downright fatal.
We don’t need to be reminded that excessive love for money, sex, and betrayal are synonymous with violence and death.
If some friends, office mates, and relatives of both Kevin Piosca, 33, and May Luzurriaga, 53, had misgivings about the duo’s alleged romance from the very start, they may have a strong basis to think and feel that way.
Some of them probably didn’t believe Piosca’s arrest for allegedly masterminding Luzurriaga’s murder in a refreshment in Concepcion, Iloilo in the Philippines on January 11, 2018, was only a coincidence.
Was the alleged amorous play poisonous from the beginning?
Luzurriaga’s alleged assailant, Edmar Camangyan, 24, believed to be Piosca’s henchman, was also nabbed in Sara town two days after the grisly murder.
A CCTV reportedly caught the trigger man while fleeing on board a motorbike after shooting Luzurriaga in the back of her head. She died from a fatal wound before reaching the hospital.

-o0o-

Probers led by Concepcion police commander, Chief Inspector Abner Jordan, have gathered that Piosca, a cop assigned to the Sara Police Station, owed Luzurriaga some P1 million cash in debts.
Pressures for the cop suspect to settle the debt reportedly mounted “when the victim learned he was secretly maintaining romantic liaisons with two other women.”
Probers reportedly gathered further that days before the murder, the victim received threats allegedly from the suspected mastermind.
It was not immediately established if the alleged love affair between Piosca and Luzurriaga “ended” because of infidelity or non-payment of a whooping debt.
This could be another case of crime of passion we normally watch in the movies and reality TV police series.
There are many lessons to be learned from the crime:
1. A romance can be faked because of money;
2. A bogus love affair can end fatally when infidelity has been uncovered;
3. Money can’t buy happiness;
4. Money can be used as a leverage to punish a Lothario;
5. Murder can be used as a “final solution” to end a sexual relationship and to elude payment of debt.

-o0o-

A group of New York-based Filipino-American revelers, some of them former officials of the scandal-ridden Philippine Independence Day Parade, Inc. (PIDCI), is flying to Iloilo City in the Philippines to witness the 2018 Dinagyang Festival dubbed as #GoldenDinagyang which officially started on January 12, 2018 with the “opening salvo.”
The visitors, some of them had been in the city before as guests of former Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, plan to have a courtesy call with Mayor Jose Espinosa III, Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr., and Guimaras Governor Samuel Gumarin and will be accompanied by media liaison officer Jay Balnig of the Cream magazine. Good luck and bon voyage!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Close down Boracay

“A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone or part of the same social web network. It's about feeling connected and responsible for what happens. Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role.”
 -- Yehuda Berg

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey -- Political will ba ang kailangan, Sec. Roy Cimatu?
Close down Boracay.
This may have been the most “stupid” and “weird” suggestion, nay solution, ever offered to the island’s gnawing environmental and sanitation problems, but it’s how the much-abused line “political will” should be best illustrated if we are really serious in curving the problem and not merely doing a lip service.
A mere expression of “sadness”, “worry”, and “concern” is no longer viable and effective to assuage the stakeholders, especially the residents of Malay, Aklan.
The Romans will tell us, Nos postulo moventur eundemque or we need a concrete move.
After an age-old peroration, there must now be dramatic results.

-o0o-

It was Sec. Cimatu himself who reshuffled the monotonous “political will” line as the supposed solution to arrest the environmental fiasco in the 1,032-hectare premier tourist destination.
Past Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Department of Tourism (DOT) appointees of former presidents have overused and abused those forlorn expressions to the point that they have sounded corny and become phonies in the eyes of the public when nothing has really happened to lift Boracay from the nadir.
So many DENR and DOT officials in the past have performed the same hokey and theatrical show for Boracay’s woes in front of Malay residents since the time of Tita Cory, FVR, Erap, Ate Glo, and P-Noy.
Secretaries Cimatu and Wanda Tulfo-Teo were not the first and  last Famas awardees.
We can only hope their twin-department Boracay rendezvous on January 9, 2018, capped by an amazing aerial inspection, dialogue with local officials and investors, and press conference to boot, will not be buried in the statistics of junkets and end up as another case of ningas cogon like what their predecessors did in the past.

-o0o-

Closing Boracay can be done if that is the only way to discipline or punish insensitive resort and hotel owners who violate environmental laws with impunity.
When the island is restricted, profits of greedy and callous investors will nosedive.
Sporadic construction of buildings and houses in beach areas prone to surges of the sea and in mountain slopes that produce pollution and sanitation problems will be regulated if will not come to a screeching halt.
Impact on local economy may be catastrophic, but residents must learn to adapt and become self enterprising for the time being. It won’t be the end of the world.
Business must be accompanied with respect and responsibility, commitment to protect and improve the residents’ health and quality of life, and respect for environmental laws as a paramount concern.
The move will anger a lot of stakeholders and may be sneered at by the municipal and provincial governments, Boracay Foundation Inc. (BFI), and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Boracay as harsh and counter-productive.
As the population in the world-famous island increases, so does the intensity of destruction to environment and rapid decline of the residents’ quality of life.  
Political will, isn’t it?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Pinoy LGBT worker survives 7-Eleven raid

 “All I'm trying to do is survive and make good out of the dirty, nasty, unbelievable lifestyle that they gave me.”
--Tupac Shakur

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey -- Sometime in 2015 when I discovered a Chinese restaurant on corner 82nd and Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, New York, I tipped off several fellow Filipino friends.
The restaurant, a turo-turo (point-point) style, does not only display ample selection of oriental eat-in cuisine, it also offers a budget meal (two items for $3 and three items plus soup for $4.50 are the most popular).
As a regular customer there, I met 29-year-old restaurant male server Jennifer in summer 2016.
“Ano po ba ang trabaho ninyo kuya? (Mister, may I respectfully know what is your profession?)” asked Jennifer, who had no doubt about my nationality the moment he saw me.
“I’m a newsman in our country. Here in the U.S., I’m a J.T.S.A.,” I retorted.
“Ako po pala si Jennifer. Ano po ba ang J.T.S.A.?” he inquired.
“Jack-of-all-Trades and Strike Any-where,” I quickly answered with a smile.

SCUFFLE

Jennifer, an LGBT, totes scars on both faces inflicted from an ugly scuffle with a former lover’s family in Hagonoy, Bulacan. He left the Philippines “to escape the wrath of a powerful political clan.”
He is a confessed former lover of a fellow male town official, allegedly the nephew of a certain “Gob Obet” whose conservative family begrudged the “scandalous” dalliance.
Jennifer, a look-alike of former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) star Bogs Adornado, doesn’t have plans to go back to the Philippines soon. At least, not yet, he said.
He was contemplating on converting his status from “tourist” to “asylum” because of alleged political threats he received in Bulacan, a province in Central Luzon located 11 kilometers north of Manila.
“Kuya may alam po ba kayo na mapasukan kahit under-the-table lang? Maliit lang po ang suweldo ko dito alam nio na ang ibig kong sabihin (Do you know of any temporary job for me? I really need to earn extra money),” explained Jennifer, who arrived in the US via Kuala Lumpur in spring 2015.
Our conversation was cut short as he needed to serve other customers; I needed to pay my order in the cashier.

CUSTOMER

I learned in spring 2017 that another Filipino customer, a woman in her 60’s, whom Jennifer had approached for help, recommended him for a job as inventory taker in a 7-Eleven store, a 24-hour convenient food and drinks establishment (Jennifer requested not to mention the store’s location).
In November 2017, Jennifer, who had overstayed his tourist visa and did not have a U.S. social security number, left the 7-Eleven store for a “better-paying” job in a Manhattan laundry and dry-cleaning shop owned by a Korean investor.
On Wednesday, January 9, 2018, agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) swooped down on 98 (not 100 as reported earlier) 7-Eleven stores in 17 states, including New York, and netted 21 workers with no valid permits and believed to be illegal immigrants.
It was not immediately known if there were Filipinos among those arrested whose names and nationalities were not yet disclosed as of this writing.
ICE's Acting Director Thomas D. Homan said, their actions “send a strong message to U.S. businesses that hire and employ an illegal workforce. ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable.”
“Thanks God (sic) I olridy left wen d raid ws conductd (sic),”Jennifer, a Hotel and Management graduate, said in a text message.