Sunday, February 28, 2021

Alex P. Vidal Quotes


There is a reason

 “If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve.”

William Tecumseh Sherman


By Alex P. Vidal


WHEN politicians suddenly engage in feeding and gift-giving activities without any reason, there is a reason.

When they start to smile like Mickey Mouse at anyone they meet in the coffeeshops, barbershops, beauty parlors, public markets, malls, and other public places, there is more than meets the eye.

When they begin to shake our hands even if we did not win in any singing contest and visit our houses while we are watching our favorite soap opera on prime time, that means they need us to remember them during the election.

The next election will be on May 9, 2022, or 15 months away, but some political wannabes angling for higher or new positions have ignored the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and are now visible in many barangays and public places. 

With or without a pandemic, politicians care for themselves first, their political existence and gains, and how to transform them into votes during election day.

They want to be recognized and remembered for purposes of name-recall.




For the meantime, they, most particularly, want to be known as “givers” or “someone who cares for the downtrodden”, an archaic political strategy that is still very much relevant and being accepted by gullible voters until today.

Politicians are the biggest whales in the ocean. They are also opportunists by nature.

If they want something from us, our approval and votes, they will throw their weight around and go ashore near public visibility.

If they don’t need anything, they don’t give a hoot and sometimes we see them only in the next election when they start to again tantalize and mesmerize us.

With the proposed redistricting of Iloilo City as a highly urbanized metropolis nearing its final approval after hurdling the third and final reading in the House of Representatives on February 2, there is a good chance that the House Bill 8477, introduced Iloilo City Lone District Rep. Julienne Baronda, will become a law.

Under the bill, Iloilo City will be divided into two congressional districts: one will be composed of Jaro, Lapaz, and Mandurriao districts while the other legislative district will have the City Proper, Molo, Arevalo, and Lapuz districts. 




If the bill will make it in the Senate and signed into law by President Rodrigo R. Duterte soon, Iloilo City residents will need to elect two sets of Sangguniang Panlungsod councilors and, the most valuable and No. 1 target of some eager-beaver local aspirants, two representatives in the Lower House.

If luck would have it, the Ilonggos will elect two representatives in 2022 and, thus, help spiral the development of Iloilo City in terms of social and infrastructure projects as enumerated by Senator Franklin Drilon.

Iloilo City will also have a “louder voice” in Congress, according to the lady legislator.

Mayor Jerry Treñas has been “fully” supportive of the proposed redistricting even during his term as congressman,

Citing that Cebu, Marikina, and Makati, among others, were also divided into two congregations disitricts, the mayor had said: “As a congressman for nine years, I have seen how a congressperson can help out in the development of our city.” 

Thus it’s understandable why many potential congressional aspirants have started painting the town red, so to speak, amid the pandemic, sending razor-sharp signals that they may be interested to join the  fray in 2022.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Oops! I did it again

“Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.”

Coretta Scott King


By Alex P. Vidal


AS an Asian, I am guilty of being the No. 1 violator of the unwritten rule among Asian Americans in the United States, particularly in New York City nowadays: “Don’t sleep while inside a subway train.”

Mea culpa, I fell asleep for a few minutes on my way to Brooklyn morning on Friday, February 26. It’s a good thing I was safe.

And, oops, I did it again on my way back to Queens past noontime.

We have been supposedly warned to be careful while in public, especially inside the bus and the subway train now that hate crimes involving Asian Americans have soared in these past weeks.

I travel from Queens to Brooklyn vice versa via subway train four times a week and my travel time normally takes one hour and 15 minutes from 90th Station in Queens to Avenue I going Coney Island in Brooklyn. 

After 10 to 15 minutes of each travel, I usually fall asleep as most passengers do. I wake up about five stations before my final stop.

Not anymore since three weeks ago after a 61-year-old Filipino passenger Noel Quintana, who looked like Chinese like me, received almost 100 stitches after he was slashed across the face by another passenger on the New York City subway on February 3.

Most of us have been alerted that Quintana’s case could be linked to the upsurge of hate crimes perpetrated recently against mostly Chinese nationals referred to as “Asian Americans” in the media.

Quintana was riding the L train to get to work in Harlem when a man walked by and kicked the tote bag that the Filipino worker had set on the train floor, according to a New York Daily News report.

When Quintana confronted the man after he noticed his bag being kicked again, the man took out a box cutter and slashed Quintana across the face from cheek to cheek.




None of the passengers reportedly came to Quintana’s aid.

He got off the train, and was only able to get help from a ticket booth attendant who called 911.

Quintana was taken to Bellevue Hospital for treatment. He survived.

The assailant was able to flee when the train stopped at First Avenue and 14th Street.

The New York Police have released images of the man and are asking the public’s help to find him. 

The assailant was described as between 20 and 30 years old, wearing a black mask with a Louis Vuitton logo, a black North Face jacket, red bandana, and light-colored sneakers.

Quintana’s experience is among the latest reported subway attacks in the city, and in a series of troubling violence against older Asian American individuals across the country.

In Oakland’s Chinatown, a viral video shows a suspect forcefully pushing a 91-year-old man to the ground. Actors Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu are offering a $25,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest in the attack.

In late January, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee, who was originally from Thailand, died from injuries after Antoine Watson, 19, knocked him to the ground while on his morning walk in the Anza Vista neighborhood of San Francisco.

The number of hate crimes with Asian-American victims reported to the New York Police Department jumped to 28 in 2020, from just three the previous year, though activists and police officials say many additional incidents were not classified as hate crimes or went unreported.

According to the New York Times (NYT), Asian-Americans are grappling with the anxiety, fear and anger brought on by the attacks, which activists and elected officials say were fueled early in the pandemic by former President Donald J. Trump, who frequently used racist language to refer to the coronavirus.




In New York City, where Asian-Americans make up an estimated 16 percent of the population, the violence has terrified many.

“The attacks are random, and they are fast and furious,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, a nonprofit network of community groups as quoted by the NYT. 

“It has stoked a lot of fear and paranoia. People are not leaving their homes.”

“The xenophobia and violence is compounded by the economic fallout of the pandemic and fears of the virus, which dealt a severe blow to New York’s Asian-American communities,” reported the NYT.

“Many of the attacks do not result in hate crime charges, because the police need evidence that identity was the motivating factor, like an audible racial slur, a self-incriminating statement or a history of racist behavior by the attacker.”

Two attacks on people of Asian descent have led to hate crime charges in New York, so far this year.

Police said another appeared to come on February 25, after a 36-year-old man was stabbed near the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan and taken to the hospital in critical condition.

The authorities initially said they would pursue hate crime charges, but on Saturday they had settled on several charges, none of them related to hate crimes, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation as reported in NYT.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Like father, like daughter

“It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.”

Niccolo Machiavelli


By Alex P. Vidal


SARA Zimmerman Duterte-Carpio, 42, said she will not run for president in 2022.

“I am not being coy nor am I doing a last minute. If the whole country doesn’t want to believe that, then I can’t do anything about it. Not everyone wants to be president. I am one of them,” Sara reportedly told Reuters recently.

“I thank all of them for their trust and confidence in what I can do but my refusal to run for president is not the end of the world.”

Her father, President Rodrigo R. Duterte, earlier declared he did not want her daughter to run for president saying “women are not fit for president,” a statement that drew a flak from Miss Philippine Universe 2020 Rabiya Mateo, 23.

“My daughter is not running (for president). I have told Inday not to run because I pity her that she will have to go through what I experienced,” Duterte, 75, said at a public event in January this year.

“This is not for women. You know, the emotional set-up of a woman and a man is totally different. You will become a fool here. So... that is the sad story.”

Tell it to the marines, President Digong.

Like father, like daughter. 




They “will not run” months before the campaign period, but “they are running” months before the election day. And win.

A tactic or political strategy that worked wonders for Mr. Duterte in the 2016 presidential election.

“The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent,” Sun Tzu wrote in the The Art of War.

When a person is confused they hesitate, wondering what will happen and what they should do.

In war and in election, hesitation can be fatal when it hands the enemy the initiative, giving them first strike or the choice of the next move.

“Hesitation by officers has a devastating amongst conscripts who assume that if officers are not sure what is going on then their doom is assured.” (Changing Minds)

When Mrs. Duterte-Carpio, now the mayor of Davao City, “changes my mind because of insistent public demand (for me to run for president)” in the eleventh hour, her political party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, has already wormed its way into the different cities, municipalities, and provinces nationwide and secured the commitments of major political leaders and local organizations.

It’s when her rivals are confused and caught flat-footed that Inday Sara will end up capturing Malacanang in a blitzkrieg. 

Father Digong will have the last laugh.

We are not born yesterday, that’s why we know, we are aware, and we understand.




MY friend in Brooklyn, a brave and articulate Caucasian woman, asked me yesterday (February 25) if I experienced harassment while riding in a subway train these past weeks.

“I learned from the news that there’s an upsurge of hate crime perpetrated against Asians like you,” she muttered.

“So far, I haven’t experienced one,” I answered her. “But I will always be on guard.”

Her concern came as New York City increased police patrols and investigations to fight a rise in hate crimes targeting Asian people amid the coronavirus pandemic.

She informed that police would step up investigations and patrols of subway stations, quoting New York City Mayor Bill del Blasio.

There were 28 coronavirus-related hate crimes committed against Asian people in New York City in 2020, compared with three such hate crimes in 2019, according to New York Police Department figures.

There have been two hate crimes against Asian residents in New York City so far this year, according to the NYPD, up from zero of such crimes during the same period last year.

The most recent incident occurred on Feb. 15, according to police officials, when an unknown assailant allegedly used hate speech against an Asian man in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood before punching him and stealing his phone.

There’s no substitute for being alert all the time.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

‘I am Tiger Woods’

 “I’m addicted. I’m addicted to golf.”

Tiger Woods


By Alex P. Vidal


IN 1997, this declaration became the title of one of my articles in Sun Star Daily.

A curious radio sports analyst asked me in an event we both attended in a hotel in Iloilo City: “Why did you claim that you are Tiger Woods?”

I smiled and retorted: “Are you referring to my article? Have you read it, by the way?” 

The broadcast sports analyst, who is now based in Europe, also smiled and responded, “No, I haven’t read it yet, but I saw the title of your article where you claimed that you are Tiger Woods. How did it happen?” I smiled once more.

Mr. Sports Analyst didn’t do his homework. 

He probably wasn’t updated in the world of sports; and it’s a mortal sin for sports scribes to miss developing and fundamental facts that ring a bell in most parts of the sporting world.

“I am Tiger Woods” was a statement that became the title of my article because the slogan had been reverberating around the world where golf was extremely popular.

And I happened to watch its short video on CNN participated by kids of different races.

“I am Tiger Woods” was golfing sensation Tiger Woods’ 1997 TV commercial in his rookie season.

The campaign was built on Woods’ universal appeal.

Boys and girls of diverse backgrounds—decidedly not the typical country club set—stream towards the golf course. 

In other words, it’s a bold, powerful message.




By the time Woods actually turned pro, he was already the biggest name in the sport.

Golf was about to go global, and Nike Golf was planning to do the same.

Tremaine Eto wrote that shortly after Woods burst onto the professional golf scene, Nike released I am Woods with full intention of making a statement.

“Tiger has Thai, African, Chinese, American Indian and European blood,” Eto quoted Woods’ mother Kultida as saying in a 1996 piece by Gary Smith. 

“He can hold everyone together. He is the Universal Child.”

In that same piece, Eto explained, Smith pines Woods’ arrival as a huge moment in golf. 

“The white canvas that the colors are being painted on—the moneyed, mature and almost minority-less world of golf—makes Tiger an emblem of youth overcoming age, have-not overcoming have, outsider overcoming insider, to the delight not only of the 18-year-olds in the gallery wearing nose rings and cornrows, but also—of all people—of the aging insider haves.”

The ad, highlighting children of various minorities, spoke to the fact that Woods could play to a wide swath of children and adult fans worldwide; nearly everyone could see a part of themselves in his mere existence in what was a mostly homogeneous golf world.

Earlier In 1996 during the Greater Milwaukee Open, Tiger Woods announced that he would be making his professional debut on the PGA Tour with the delivery of an unpolished 20-year-old.

“I guess, hello world, huh?”

Nike, which had just signed Woods to an unprecedented 5-year, $40 million deal to market its newly-formed golf division, had their commercial ready—in fact, it had been primed to go for weeks, waiting for Woods to introduce the phrase during his pivotal announcement, revealed Eto.

“Nike has always tended to go out on a limb to take advantage of the moment,” Rod Tallman, then director of marketing for Nike Golf, said in a quote that has remained true throughout Woods’ career.

The Hello World commercial by Portland-based Wieden + Kennedy would detail all of Woods’ historic achievements to that point—but also powerfully framing it with his status as a minority golfer in what was seen as largely monochromatic sport.





“According to Ad Track, 48% of consumers between ages 18 and 29 (a core Nike demographic) deemed the ad “very effective,” and later that year it was nominated for an Emmy,” L. Jon Wertheim reported in Sports Illustrated in his 2003 piece on the ad.

The spot was not without controversy; some questioned the claim that there were courses Woods was not allowed on, and some felt the campaign tried too much to frame Woods as a subversive crusader for social change. 

Eto said Nike and Wieden + Kennedy still saw Woods as a special, game-changing figure, though, so they would stick with their message but try to frame it differently.

We are aware what happened to Woods in the single-vehicle accident on February 23 in which his S.U.V. ran off the road and landed on a hillside near Los Angeles, causing leg injuries that required him to undergo hours of surgery.

At 12:30 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, a cording to New 

York Times’ Bill Pennington, a statement appeared on Woods’s Twitter account, saying that he had “undergone a long surgical procedure on his lower right leg and ankle” and that he was “currently awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room.” 

The statement added that a rod had been inserted into his right tibia and that screws and pins were used to stabilize bones in his ankle and foot.

We are glad he survived. A year ago in January, the world mourned when we lost a basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, in a helicopter crash also in California. The jinx has been broken.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two dailies in Iloilo)


Monday, February 22, 2021

‘Jasmin was already infected before she came to our house’

“This virus is an enemy that the entire country underestimated from day one and we have paid the price dearly.”

—Andrew Cuomo


By Alex P. Vidal


IT wasn’t true that Jasmin Abella Jamero Layson, the former Iloilo City Hall employee who succumbed to coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) at the New York Presbyterian Hospital in Queens on February 20, got infected after she attended a birthday party in a friend’s house last month.

This was the clarification made February 22 by Layson’s friend, Ana “Becbec” Geroy, who claimed that “before Jasmin came to our house, she was already coughing and was already probably infected (with Covid-19).”

Geroy said she and her family—her husband and two children—became positive after Jasmin’s visit. 

“Some of our friends were also infected and many of us nearly died had it not been for the proper medication we had undertaken,” Geroy, who works as caregiver in Long Island City, New York, told this writer over the phone. “We are also the victims.”

At least seven others have been infected, but only Jasmin died after 24 days in the hospital’s ICU, it was learned.

“My family had also suffered so much,” Geroy bemoaned. “It’s not fair to claim that Jasmin got the virus from our house. It was her who must have infected us, not us infecting her.”

Geroy said being infected with Covid-19 was “too much to bear for me because I am a cancer survivor.”

She admitted they used to have a weekly “bonding” with friends, including Jasmin, in her house in Queens and noticed that Jasmin, 67, was already showing signs of being sick.

“Jasmin was really my friend and she was a regular visitor in our house,” Geroy stressed.




Geroy, also from Iloilo City like the victim, said they theorized Jasmin had been carrying the deadly virus because they learned that Jasmin’s client and co-worker had also been tested positive of coronavirus.

Jasmin worked as caregiver like Geroy.

Geroy claimed she had been supporting and helping Jasmin find a job as caregiver when she was alive.

Geroy said she learned that Jasmin’s condition must have deteriorated and she became vulnerable to Covid-19 because of her underlying medical conditions.

Being a new disease, currently there are limited data and information about the impact of many underlying medical conditions on the risk for severe illness from Covid-19. 

Based on what we know at this time, adults of any age with the following conditions might be at an increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes Covid-19.

Jasmin was scheduled to be cremated on February 21 as a health protocol for those who died of Covid-19, but friends who helped facilitate her hospitalization were still waiting for her birth certificate, according to Jasmin’s friend Julie Potente.

Ray Sauter, a Texas-based husband of their fellow former city hall employee, Leocita Talanas-Sauter, was the one who facilitated Layson’s cremation, added Potente. 

Leocita will bring Layson’s ashes to the Philippines once everything has been finalized, Potente said.

“I just want to make it clear that before Jasmin’s friends from the city hall came forward, Leocita and I were the ones who did everything for Jasmin’s medical needs,” Geroy said.

Jasmin’s former city hall co-workers who are also now based in the US and who helped chip in to help Jasmin were: Lynnette Espinosa-Baranda, Mayette Geremias, Cyleehn Gumban, Marie Tez Grande-Tulio, Elsie del Rosario, Suzette Dumaran, Jocelyn Cabaluna, Nieva Seruelo, and Julie Potente.




As cases of coronavirus reportedly continued to decline in New York, health authorities continued to exhort the people to limit their interactions with others as much as possible.

We have been also told to take precautions to prevent getting Covid-19 when we do interact with others.

“If you start feeling sick and think you may have Covid-19, get in touch with your healthcare provider within 24 hours,” advised the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  

“If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health center-external icon or health department.”

We have been continuously told to encourage social distancing by limiting the number of people we  interact with and ensure we keep safe distances (at least 6 feet) between us when possible and if not in the same household.

We must also visit with our friends and family outdoors, when possible. 

If this is not feasible, we should make sure the room or space is well-ventilated (for example, open windows or doors) and large enough to accommodate social distancing.

We must also arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing. People from the same household can be in groups together and don’t need to be 6 feet apart from each other.

We must also consider activities where social distancing can be maintained, like sidewalk chalk art or yard games.

We must also try to avoid close contact with our visitors. For example, don’t shake hands, elbow bump, or hug. Instead wave and verbally greet them.

If possible, we must avoid others who are not wearing masks or ask others around us to wear masks.

We must consider keeping a list of people we visited or who visited us and when the visit occurred. This will help with contact tracing if someone becomes sick.

We must limit the time we have close contact with visitors to less than 15-20 minutes as much as possible.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)





Sunday, February 21, 2021

Covid-19 kills ex-Councilor Dabao’s former secretary


LAYSON (5th from left standing) together with her fellow former city hall workers in their 2018 reunion in New York City


 “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero


By Alex P. Vidal


JASMIN Abella Jamero Layson’s dream of coming home alive to Iloilo City in the Philippines soon to be with her family has been dashed to pieces when she lost her battle against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) at the New York Presbyterian Hospital in Queens around 5 o’clock in the afternoon on February 20 (US Eastern Time).

Layson, 67, former staff of former Iloilo City councilor Rolando Dabao, had been fighting for her life in the intensive care unit (ICU) for almost 24 days, according to another former Iloilo City hall employee Julie Potente, who is also based in New York City.

Layson, a resident of Dulonan, Arevalo district in Iloilo City and married to Ramesis, was scheduled to be cremated Sunday, February 21 (US Eastern Time) but might be delayed pending her birth certificate.

Layson, a caregiver, and seven other Filipinos were reportedly infected with COVID-19 after attending a birthday party in Queens last month.

Three of them were in serious condition, sources said. 

It was not immediately known what happened to Layson’s other friends.

She had been in the US since 2008.

Potente said it was Ray Sauter, a Texas-based husband of their fellow former city hall employee, Leocita Talanas-Sauter, who helped facilitate Layson’s cremation.

It was Leocita who volunteered to bring Layson’s ashes to the Philippines soon, Potente said.

The average cost of cremation with services handled through a funeral home is reportedly between $2,000 and $4,000, but if they were done through a crematory, the costs would be between $1,500 and $3,000. Prices also vary locally and by state. 




When a person has died from COVID-19 overseas, considerations for final disposition may include on-site cremation or internment at the location of death or repatriation of human or cremated remains to the State requested by the next-of-kin.

Meanwhile, other former city hall employees who are now US-based—Lynnette Espinosa-Baranda, Mayette Geremias, Cyleehn Gumban, Marie Tez Grande-Tulio, Elsie del Rosario, Suzette Dumaran, Jocelyn Cabaluna, Nieva Seruelo, Potente, and Talanas-Sauter—also helped arrange for Layson’s ashes to be brought to Iloilo City.

“We, all former (Iloilo) city hall employees who are now based in the US, had a reunion in 2018,” Potente revealed. “Sin-o pa abi ang mag binuligay kundi kita man lang.”

Ana Geroy alyas “Becbec”, the group’s friend, also reportedly helped Layson during her hospitalization.

Leocita lamented that “my heart is broken” when she informed their friends and relatives over Layson’s passing.

“My promises to her and her family that I will do my best in God’s mercy to take care of her remain (sic) and bring her ashes back to Philippines soon (sic) i am allowed to travel,” Leocita wrote on Facebook.




Layson was among the 28,824 New York City residents who died of COVID-19 as of this writing, records show.

Her death came on the day Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state's single-day COVID-19 positivity rate had dropped below three percent for the first time since November 23rd.

The governor said the state's positivity rate is now 2.99 percent. More than 6,600 of Saturday's 221,000 tests were positive.

COVID-19 hospitalizations stand at over 5,700, while 75 New Yorkers died on February 20 from the virus. The first case of the South African COVID-19 Variant, meanwhile, has been found in Nassau County.

The city's coronavirus metrics, which measure the indicators on a different scale, showed a seven-day average positivity rate of 7.31 percent.

There were more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases and 234 new COVID-19 hospitalizations across New York City February 20.

 (The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Did you arrive in the US before January 1, 2021?

 “Our immigration policy should be based in compassion and a desire to help the other.”

Ilhan Omar


By Alex P. Vidal 


HERE’S “good” news for those who arrived in the United States before January 1, 2021 and have lost their legal status after overstaying their temporary visitor’s visa.

The date is so important because so many of our non-immigrant friends who left the U.S. before the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) hullabaloo and intended to go back but failed because of the pandemic-induced restrictions and travel bans last year, have been burning the lines trying to get the latest updates from us here in New York City on the Biden administration’s much-publicized “amnesty” program for undocumented immigrants.

The “magic” date turns out to be January 1, 2021 in as far as who can be qualified and who can not is concerned.

The latest is that Democrats in the House of Representatives have introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill crafted around the priorities President Joseph Biden articulated on his first day in office, including a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US, including Filipinos known as “TNT” (Tago Ng Tago).

The centerpiece of the bill is reportedly a provision that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status and, eventually, citizenship.

The process would take at least eight years. To qualify, immigrants would have had to be physically present in the US on or before January 1, 2021, unless granted a waiver on humanitarian grounds.




Known as the US Citizenship Act of 2021, the long-anticipated bill, presented on February 18, would mark the most sweeping reform of the US immigration system since 1986, if passed.

It would also be a rebuke of former President Donald Trump’s nativist agenda.

The centerpiece of the bill is an eight-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US prior to January 1, 2021. 

It also includes provisions that would address the underlying causes of migration, expand the number of available visas and green cards, invest in technology and infrastructure at ports of entry on the border, remove obstacles to asylum, and shore up protections for immigrant workers.

Nicole Narea, who broke the news for Vox, disclosed that 

“noticeably absent from the bill are provisions that would promote the kind of border security and interior enforcement measures that Republicans have long sought.”

“For example,” Narea  explained, “previous Republican proposals would have boosted funding for the construction of the border wall, made it a crime to be present in the US without authorization, and required children to be indefinitely detained together with their parents while they faced deportation proceedings.”

Some Republicans have reportedly warned the bill would “return to the radical left-wing policies that will incentivize illegal immigration and promote an unending flood of foreign nationals into the United States.”

“But Democrats have so far been reluctant to say they are willing to bargain with Republicans on beefing up border security beyond modernizing ports of entry or narrowing the bill’s legalization provisions,” Narea emphasized.

Initially, immigrants would be able to obtain a work permit and travel abroad with the assurance that they would be permitted to reenter the US. 




After five years, they could apply for a green card if they pass background checks and pay taxes. 

Immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and Temporary Protected Status, as well as farmworkers, would be able to apply for green cards immediately, however.

After holding their green card for three years and passing additional background checks, they could apply for US citizenship.

Narea explained further: “The impact of such legislation cannot be overestimated: It could potentially bring millions of people out of the shadows.”

Among other reforms to the legal immigration system, the bill notably includes a provision to prevent presidents from issuing categorial bans on immigration.

It would also reportedly remove barriers to family-based immigration, including lengthy visa backlogs and employment-based green cards, which have been relatively inaccessible for workers in lower-wage industries.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Money not a problem this time?

 “It's all about the money.”

—Joe Jackson


By Alex P. Vidal


WE find it so surprising that no local government unit (LGU) in the Philippines has, so far, opposed the proposal of the national government for the LGUs to directly negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies and purchase their own supply of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines.

In many projects and transactions that needed a budget worth hundreds of millions of pesos, LGUs always dilly-dallied if not lobbied or sought succor for a “counterpart” funds, among other budgetary assistance schemes, from the national agencies concerned.

Or entered into a loan agreement only in transactions allowed and provided by law.

Not this time. 

Are they now awash with cash that the quick reaction by most LGUs from “vaccine czar” Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr’s proposal, which was supported by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, was “we have funds for the purchase of the vaccines and we are ready to purchase them” or words to that effect?

It began in an online briefing on December 19, 2020 when Galvez said, “I have raised it (with) the President but we are considering what he has been saying that it should not be that some barangays or towns might be left behind because they (cannot)afford to buy the vaccine. That’s what we’ll look into because we don’t want to (commit) injustice to those people who cannot buy it.”

He explained: “What we will do is to balance it. We can allow it provided that the (instructions) of our President to prioritize the poor, the health workers, our service (employees) and front-liners could be complied with.”




We had expressed concerns and misgivings that only rich cities like Puerto Princesa (which reportedly was prepared to spend some P100 million to buy vaccines for its residents), Makati, Quezon, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Manila might afford it if Galvez’s challenge would be accepted.

We emphasized that it might discriminate the country’s poorest provinces like Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Saranggani, Northern Samar, Maguindanao, Bukidnon, Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga del Norte, Siquijor, Agusan del Sur, Eastern Samar, Lanao del Norte, Mt. Province, Western Samar, North Cotabato, Catanduanes, Leyte, Negros Oriental, Zamboanga Sibugay, and Sorsogon.

It turned out most LGUs were willing to join Galvez in Salome’s dance.

It’s a good thing that concerned lawmakers at the House of Representatives have decided to remove from the bill of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco the power to allow LGUs to directly procure COVID-19 vaccines from manufacturers.

LGUs now “may purchase, only in cooperation with the DOH (Department of Health) and NTF (National Task Force) Against COVID-19, through a multiparty agreement which shall include the DOH and the relevant supplier of COVID-19 vaccine or ancillary supplies or services” under the amended version of House Bill No. 8648 contained in the committee report of the House committee on appropriations.




The bill’s original version, also known as the Emergency Vaccine Procurement Act of 2021, explains that LGUs “may directly purchase vaccines for the protection against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and secure other goods and services necessary for their storage, transport, distribution and administration, as the need arises in the most judicious, economical and expeditious manner.”

To expedite the procurement process of COVID-19 vaccines, the bill reportedly allows the DOH and the NTF to engage in “negotiated procurement under emergency cases.

If passed into law, the measure would reportedly waive the phase 4 clinical trial requirements for COVID-19 medication and vaccines to expedite the procurement process.

It was reported that the bill also provides an indemnification fund for individuals who would experience “adverse events” after being inoculated.

Under the bill, LGUs are to make advanced payments for the purchase of vaccines but would be limited to a maximum of 50 percent of the total amount.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Dean Art Jimenez, a trailblazer in business writing

 “Farewell, fair cruelty.”

—William Shakespeare


By Alex P. Vidal


WHEN then 41-year-old Dean Arturo “Art” R. Jimenez launched his “Business Observer” column in the now defunct the Daily Times on August 29, 1988, he never realized he buttressed the most formidable team in community journalism ever-assembled in the city and province of Iloilo in that pre-Microsoft software era.

The late publisher Marcos “Mark” Villalon, editor-in-chief Manuel Mejorada, associate editor Limuel Celebria, the late political columnists Sanny Rico and Bel Sobrevega, the late senior reporter Ivan Suansing, editorial assistant Lemuel Fernandez, society page heartthrob John Castigador, sportswriter Gina Hablero were among the best journalists in the region when newspaper articles were still being drafted in the age of manual typewriter.

“Being with the Daily Times give me a sense of déjà vu on my career as a business journalist from way back to the pre-martial law days at Business Day to Business Reporter less than two years ago,” wrote Jimenez.

“Through all those paper-chase and incessant typewriter-pounding years, there was but one object: to serve by sharing our socio-economic views, notes and information with the reading public.”

Dean Jimenez’s column also debuted in the now defunct The Sentinel edited by Mejorada in the early 90’s.

For the next 32 years, Dean Jimenez continued to write a column under his sui generis trademark, “Business Observer”, that chronicled and explained the country’s economic trend and how a particular social group or socioeconomic class behaves within a society, including their actions as consumers.




As a dyed-in-the-wool business columnist, Dean Jimenez filled in the blanks the Ilonggo readers’ penchant to search for tips about macro and micro investment opportunities when Google and other internet search links were still an imagination.

Because his columns dwelt mostly on business and economic issues, Dean Jimenez was never hauled in court for libel or any civil or criminal case related to his being a media personality.

He never offended any political, religious or business group.

Because of the quality of his articles, Dean Jimenez earned the respect of business leaders, including civic organizations like the Rotary Club where he became active leader; the academe, and some political personalities in Western Visayas.

The Daily Guardian reprinted Dean Jimenez’s last column that tackled the country’s much-ballyhooed economic recovery amid the pandemic on February 18, 2021, a day after he passed away at 74.

Whenever we had a chance to be together during the halcyon years, we talked mostly about sports. 

He believed that tennis star Bjorn Borg could have won more grand slam championships if he were an American like John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. 

He believed that Muhammad Ali was really “great” even if he lost to the little known Leon Spinks in 1978, the fight Dean Jimenez believed Ali had won on points after 15 rounds “if he wasn’t robbed.” 

Jessie Owens, the 1936 Berlin Olympics multiple gold medalist, would’ve beaten Canadian star Ben Johnson and other post-World War II sprint gold medalists if all of them ran together in one Olympic race, he theorized.

Rest in peace, Dean Art. We know you are now in a better place and one day we all shall meet again.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)