Daily Archives: April 14, 2008

Tax Exemption For RP Minimum Wage Earners Urged

By Jherlyn Meneses/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – Despite the 7.3-percent economic growth in 2007, the continuous increase in the prices of food and other commodities exert much pressure on the consuming public. With the looming rice crisis, the consumers’ plight compound further.

To cope with the existing economic situation and to ease the people’s burden, the House Committee on Ways and Means was urged to convene immediately and act on a law that seeks to exempt minimum wage earners from paying income taxes, as a gift to laborers in commemoration of Labor Day on May 1st.

Valenzuela Rep. Magtanggol “Magi” Gunigundo II, Chairman of House Committee on Labor, said that the proposed income tax exemption will greatly ease the burden of the minimum wage income earners from the soaring prices of basic commodities.

He added that the government will be capable of absorbing the estimated P607 million tax loss once the measure is implemented.

“It will be complemented by a congressional-executive consensus to pass a bill that will exempt minimum wage earners in the private sector and government workers in the lower rungs of the bureaucratic pay scale from paying a tax,” said Gunigundo who also welcomes the 10 percent wage hike increase for the government employees as directed by President Arroyo effective June 1, 2008.

Davao del Norte Rep. Anton Lagdameo, meanwhile, suggested that the 10 percent wage hike should also be applied to the local government units and state corporations like the previously implemented Executive Order (EO) 611 which grants a 10 percent wage hike to government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCC’s).

The Department of Finance previously urged the congress last February 2008 to prioritize this year the passage of the bill seeking to exempt minimum wage earners from the income tax. Notwithstanding the estimated revenue loss for the government, they expressed their full support behind the proposal to provide relief to all minimum wage earners. The department said that an estimated 365,317 minimum wage earners stood to benefit from the tax exemption proposal.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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American Airlines Chair Apologizes for Cancellations

By Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — American Airlines Chairman and CEO Gerard Arpey took the opportunity to apologize for cancelled flights at the Oneworld Alliance in Los Angeles April 9.

” I publicly apologize for any inconvenience caused by American Airlines flight cancellations. We are doing all we can to accommodate our passengers. We have obviously failed to complete the airworthiness directive to the precise standards that the FAA requires, and I take full responsibility for that,” said Arpey.

American Airlines has canceled more than 3,000 flights since Tuesday, April 8, when Federal regulators warned that nearly half of its planes could violate a safety regulation designed to prevent fires. They also announced canceling 595 flights last Friday.

The nation’s largest carrier canceled its flights to fix faulty wiring in hundreds of jets. The problem stems from an FAA order in 2006 covering the bundling of wires in the backup power system for the fuel pump of the MD-80. The FAA says improperly bundled wires could rub, leading to an electrical short or even fire.

Airline executives said they thought they had fixed the wiring two weeks ago, when they canceled more than 400 flights to inspect and in some cases fix the shielding around the wires in their MD-80 aircraft. But this week, Federal Aviation Administration inspectors, who have been conducting stepped-up surveys of airline compliance with safety rules called airworthiness directives, said 15 of 19 American jets they examined flunked. That left the airline no choice but to ground all 300 of its MD-80s, the most common jet in American’s 655-plane fleet.

American officials said the safety of their planes was never jeopardized, and the FAA said no serious incidents have been caused by poorly bundled wires.

However, the mass groundings, which have inconvenienced at least a quarter million people this week, have left countless angry passengers.

A return to normal operations depends on how quickly mechanics can inspect and fix the wire bundles. Airline spokesman Tim Wagner said late Wednesday afternoon that 60 planes had been cleared to fly, 119 were being worked on, and 121 planes had not yet been inspected.

The effects of the massive schedule disruption is causing American Airlines a great deal of money. On the stock market, shares of American’s parent company tumbled more than 11 percent Wednesday. It also faces a big loss in terms of $500 travel vouchers given to passengers, hotel rooms for stranded travelers, overtime pay for mechanics, expenses for putting some displaced customers on other airlines etc.

When asked by reporters in the Oneworld event in California, CEO Arpey declined to comment on the financial implications the cancellations. Dan Garton, American Airlines’ Chief Marketing Officer, also declined to put a dollar figure to the costs the massive schedule disruption had caused, saying only that it would be “significant.”

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Charice to Appear on Oprah

By Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – First, it was Ellen DeGeneres. Now, Oprah Winfrey has invited the 15-year-old Filipino singing wunderkind as a guest on her No. 1 daytime US TV show.

ABS-CBN reported that Charice Pempengco has taped an episode on the Oprah Winfrey show to air sometime in May.

Tapos na po akong kumanta para sa isa pong episode ng Oprah (I’ve just recorded a performance for Oprah),” she said in a phone interview with an ABS-CBN reporter.

Pempengco did not delve into further details as to what she will be doing on the show.

However, a 43-second teaser for the upcoming episode on Oprah is already posted on Youtube and other video sharing websites.

From the teaser, it appears that Pempengco will perform and share the stage with other music and dance child prodigies.

“They may look like ordinary kids but what they’re getting ready to do on our stage will blow you away. This you have to believe,” according to the Oprah episode clip.

Originally from Cabuyao, Laguna, Philippines, Pempengco’s musical journey has been a whirlwind ride since appearing on

The Ellen De-Generes Show last December. She just finished an appearance in the Paul O’Grady Show in London. She’s also been traveling frequently to New York and Los Angeles.

Besides The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Pempengco has been featured twice in the US on the Daily Ten, a regular show on E! entertainment channel. She was first noticed when she placed third as a 12-year-old contestant on the first season of Little Big Star, a singing contest aired on ABS-CBN in the Philippines and internationally on The Filipino Channel.

Charice will have her first ever appearance before her kababayans at the 36th anniversary awards of Los Angeles Filipino American organization Search to Involve Pilipino Americans on April 26.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Consulate Assists Family of Boy Killed in Crash

by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – The Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles is doing “whatever they can” to assist the family of the Filipino boy, who was fatally struck by a vehicle in Pasadena.

Vice Consul Charmaine Serna-Chua said that they are closely coordinating with the deceased seven-year-old boy’s family as they deal with a grieving situation.

“At this time, they have not asked for anything,” said Serna-Chua to the Asian Journal. “It’s really an untimely death. Our hearts go out to them and the father who is still rehabilitating from his injuries.”

Jose De La Rosa, his wife and son Jose Gabriel De La Rosa were walking on the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena when a Toyota Corolla involved in a car accident jumped the curb and struck them. They had just arrived from the Philippines visiting with friends and relatives just hours before the accident.

The family was rushed to Huntington Memorial Hospital where the mother received treatment for minor cuts and bruises. Jose suffered a fractured hip while his son was declared in critical condition and pronounced dead a few days later.

Pasadena Police are still investigating the matter. Charges, if any, will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s office.

Serna-Chua said that Consul General Mary Jo Aragon was on her way to visit the family when doctors at the hospital declared the boy dead.

“She was there consoling the family,” said Serna-Chua. Aragon said she visited the family to reassure them that the Consulate will help in any way.

“At this stage, it’s been very difficult them. They were here on a vacation,” she said. “The father is still seriously injured.”

Aragon said they are also closely monitoring police investigation of the case. A fund, also, has already been set up by Comerica Bank.

There is a strong possibility that the Dela Rosa family could seek punitive damages for their son’s death in a California court. Aragon said that the family has spoken with legal counsels about possible legal action but she did not go into details.

Aragon is also unsure whether the boy will be flown back and buried in the Philippines or in the US.

“At this time, we just wanted the family to know that we are here,” she said.

(www.asianjournal.com)

(Individuals who would like to donate and help the family with the medical and burial expenses please contact Comerica bank representative Yong M. Wong, (626) 356-0549.

Jose Gabriel Dela Rosa Fund. c/o Comerica Bank. 35 N. Lake Ave. Suite 120, Pasadena, CA 91101)

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GMA Empowered to Declare Rice Emergency – DOJ

by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com

MANILA – President Arroyo may declare rice and corn emergency if the perceived shortage in the country’s rice supply would continue.

In an interview, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez told reporters that under Republic Act 3452, which provides measures to stabilize the price of palay, rice and corn, among others, the President is empowered to initiate drastic measures to ensure consumers of continued rice supply.

He said under Section 12 of R.A. 3452, the President is authorized to declare a rice and corn emergency any time she deems it necessary in the public interest.

Under the “rice and corn emergency”, the government can control all stocks, whether private or public, and distribute it as it sees fit.

The provision further states that during the emergency period, the President can direct, subject to constitutional limitation, the National Food Authority “to conduct raids, seizures, and confiscation of rice and corn hoarded in any private warehouse,” provided that the agency will pay for the confiscated rice and corn at the prevailing consumer’s price.

But Gonzalez said that there is no need for that measure yet as supplies of rice are still stable.

Although the present situation does not warrant yet the declaration of a rice and corn emergency, Gonzalez assured that the government will not wait for the situation in India, Jamaica and Haiti to happen in the country before it would declare an emergency.

On Wednesday, Gonzalez met with officials of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), to find ways to efficiently implement laws against rice-hoarding.

He said he would be issuing a memorandum to the NBI informing them of various laws that would allow them to legally seize rice being hoarded by rice traders.

With this law, Gonzalez said that the NBI teams joining in the government’s campaign against rice hoarding, will be given more teeth and muscle to go after erring rice traders and dealers.

Gonzalez defines hoarding as having “50 percent more than your currently needed supply.”

The DOJ secretary earlier disclosed that the President has given law enforcement agencies the go-signal to take over warehouses of rice traders who insist on holding a rice holiday.

Gonzalez cited provisions in the 1987 Constitution that will protect the general welfare from emergencies, including “artificial” shortages.

“We can cite Section 17, 18 and 19 of the general welfare provision of the Constitution. If there is a situation like an artificial shortage, the government can take over,” he said.

Under Section 17, “in times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires, the State may, during the emergency and under reasonable terms prescribed by it, temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately owned public utility or business affected with public interest.”

On the other hand, Section 18 provides that the State may, in the interest of national welfare or defense, “establish and operate vital industries and, upon payment of just compensation, transfer to public ownership utilities and other private enterprises to be operated by the government.”

Section 19 says that the State “regulate or prohibit monopolies when the public interest so requires. No combinations in restraint of trade or unfair competition shall be allowed.”

(www.asianjournal.com)

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‘Military Leaders Should Testify in Jonas’ Abduction’

by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com

MANILA — Editha Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas, Wednesday sought the dismissal of the motions filed by former Army commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino and Col. Eduardo Ano seeking to quash the subpoenas issued to them by the Court of Appeals (CA) compelling them to testify in the ongoing hearing on the petition for the issuance of a writ of amparo in connection with the disappearance of Jonas Burgos, political activist and son of press freedom fighter Jose Burgos.

The Burgos’ lawyers, led by Atty. Ricardo Fernandez, insisted that Tolentino should testify on what he knew about a certain Ramon or Jonas and when he came to know about it.

Fernandez said that Tolentino was reported in the newspapers on July 4, 2007, that at the celebration of the Philippine Air Force 60th founding anniversary, he told reporters “that the names ‘Ramon,’ ‘Mina’ and ‘Tabara’ have been included in the reports of field agents gathering information for the probe in Bulacan province.”

He was quoted to have said that “we have a research, a study and we have a lead. The names of Ramon, Mina, Front Committee 12 and Tabara are cropping up.”

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) insisted that the testimony being sought by Burgos is irrelevant to the issue in the case, which is whether respondents have violated or are violating Jonas’ right to life, liberty and security.

What the petitioner wants, according to the OSG, is for Tolentino to testify in a case of an officer based in Central Luzon who was arrested in an entrapment operation.

The officer being alluded to is a certain Lt. Dick Abletes who is now facing court martial for allegedly passing off vital military information to two New People’s Army members, a male and a female.

The OSG noted that Capt. George Ventayen, the prosecutor in the case, testified in an executive session on April 7, 2008 in Baguio City on the charges against Abletes and presented his evidence in prosecuting the case.

In the said session, according to the OSG , it was shown that the male NPA member to whom Abletes passed on vital  military information was not Jonas.

“After seeing all the documents, confidential or not, brought by Capt. Ventayen, it is clear that Jonas Joseph Burgos has nothing to do with the prosecution of Abletes. Thus, the speculation that the court martial case against Abletes has something to do with Jonas has been disproved,” the OSG said.

“Accordingly, Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino’s testimony is not relevant to the issue in this case….Also Lt. Gen. Tolentino had already retired from the Philippine Army; hence, he is no longer privy to the developments in the Abletes case,” the OSG added.

Aside from Tolentino, Col. Eduardo Ano was also sought to be subpoenaed by Burgos’ camp for his participation in the case.

Ano is the head of the Intelligence Service Group of the Philippine Army mentioned in the same Newsbreak article who admitted that Lt. Abletes was caught on March 26 giving classified documents to a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Fernandez said Capt. Ventayen has testified that indeed Lt. Abletes has been charged with three violations of the Articles of War for passing off classified information to two members of CPP-NPA.

He noted that Ano’s testimony is needed in light of Ventayen’s admission that the two CPP-NP who received the working order of battle from Lt. Abletes was identified as certain “Liza,” which is the alias of one of three witnesses of the police in the Jonas case whose true name is Melissa Concepcion Reyes.

The meeting between Lt. Abletes, Liza and her male companion was recorded, according to Fernandez, on video which was played at the hearing on April 7.

The petitioner identified Liza to be in fact Melissa Reyes, who was also reported missing on April 28, 2007, at the same time Jonas was reportedly abducted.

“Petitioner would like Col. Ano to testify and disclose any information which may lead to who abducted Jonas, what the abductors did to Jonas, where the abductors is keeping Jonas or God forbid, where they buried him,” Fernandez said.

Among the respondents in the case are Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., Army chief Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano and Philippine National Police (PNP) Director Gen. Avelino Razon.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Galing Pinoy: Pulitzer Mania for a Pinoy

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – “No one really wins anything alone.”

Such is Filipino American Jose Antonio Vargas’ humble assessment for a momentous achievement like winning in the 2008 Annual Pulitzer Prize.

At 27, Vargas became the youngest and only the 5th Filipino to win a Pulitzer. The highly revered award-giving body honored Vargas together with other writers of The Washington Post for their exceptional, multi-faceted coverage of the deadly shooting rampage at Virginia Tech.

He has since been deluged with interviews about what he calls the Pulitzer mania. “But, to be frank, what’s more important than the Pulitzer is the chance to say thanks to relatives and friends who’ve been incredibly supportive,” he told the Asian Journal.

A journalist for the past 10 years since he was a junior in high school, Jose was born in the Philippines in February 1981. He grew up in Zambales and Pasig, and attended elementary in Pasig Catholic College. Jose’s mother, Emily, was a single mom who raised him with the help of his maternal grandparents.

In an email sent to the Asian Journal, Vargas relates his path to the Pulitzer:

“My grandparents, Leonila and Ted, moved to the States and took me with them when I was young. We moved to Mountain View, California in 1993 and Lolo, Lola and my Uncle Rolan, my mom’s younger brother, raised me. We come from modestmeans; my Lola was a food  server, my Lolo was a security guard.

“Here in the States, I found a second family at Mountain View High School, where the principal, Pat Hyland, and the superintendent, Rich Fischer, acted as if they were my surrogate parents. With their help, and because of the generosity of a venture capitalist, I landed a full scholarship for college. I attended San Francisco State University and studied Political Science and Black Studies, graduating in 2004. One of my proudest moments was when Uncle Rolan, Auntie Aida and all my Lolas -Lola Leoning, Lola Rosie and Lola Florie- attended my college graduation,” Jose said.

Jose started his journalism career at 17, while he was a high school junior. He was first an intern and then became a paid staffer for the Mountain View Voice, a local weekly paper, covering city hall meetings, school board meetings, light features. After graduating in high school in 2000, he landed as a copy boy at the San Francisco Chronicle, sorting mail, delivering faxes and answering the phones.

“A Filipino American named Leslie Guevarra, whom I consider one of my mentors, hired me,” he continued. “Back then, in 2000, she was terribly impressed with my writing. I particularly recall her saying, in that deep, low, intimidating voice of hers, that my writing was ‘simplistic.’

“Leslie advised: ‘Be simple. Don’t be simplistic.’ A very good lesson. Leslie was one of the top managers at the Chronicle. She was an inspiration to me. Her work ethic, her discipline, her skill was undeniable.”

A few months into the job, Jose started writing for the Chronicle and landed summer internships at the Philadelphia Daily News in summer 2001 and at the Washington Post in summer 2003. After he got back from The Post, the Chronicle offered Jose a full-time reporting job on the city desk which he accepted. A few months later, however, The Post offered him a job months before his college graduation.

“I couldn’t turn it down,”  he said. “So, two days after my graduation, I moved to Washington, DC to work for the Washington Post.”

That was in 2004. Since then, Jose has written so many articles for the Post including a couple of features about Filipinos, the culture of video games, a yearlong series on AIDS in Washington, and the award-winning Virginia Tech massacre. Vargas is now covering the political campaign, running up to the November presidential elections.

“I specialize in the marriage of the Internet and politics, how all the candidates are campaigning online. Barack Obama has raised a tremendous amount of money on the Internet,” he said.

Despite his success in the US, Vargas remains proud to be Filipino.

“I stay in touch with Filipino culture. Whenever I visit Lola Leoning in Mountain View, which is about once every two months, the only thing on TV is TFC and Wowowee,” he said.

“I love my Lola’s kare-kare which is my favorite Filipino dish and I can’t get enough of Auntie Aida’s ube whenever she makes them. I speak with my mom in the Philippines often. I still watch Korina Sanchez, try to keep up with Filipino news and have many Filipino friends, all of whom I’ve known since I was in middle school. I still speak Tagalog and some Zambal,” he added.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Veteran’s Pension Budget Doubled by Consulate

By Rene Villaroman/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – Consul General Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon announced on Wednesday, April 9 that the Philippine government had doubled its veterans’ pension budget so that all unpaid old age pension claims could be paid by the end of this year.

Consul General Aragon made the announcement at the celebration of Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor). The date also marks the fall of Bataan Peninsula into the hands of the Japanese during World War II.

“The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office has also reduced claims processing time in its delivery of pension payments,” Consul Aragon said. “Today, as I understand it from Secretary Teodoro, all pensioners can withdraw their pensions from ATMs.”

Consul Aragon also told a handful of Filipino World War II veterans that President Arroyo also had signed into law an amendment to Republic Act 6498

“This means that those veterans who receive benefits from the US government will not continue to receive whatever is due them from the Philippine government,” Consul Aragon added. These benefits include a monthly SSI payment of around $750.00 and medical coverage.

She also reiterated an earlier pledge to continue pushing for the passage of the Equity Bill for Filipino World War II veterans. Aragon added that a team composed of Senator Gordon, Congressman Solis (Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs), Antonio Diaz, and Roman Romulo, will be arriving this month to lobby for the bill that is presently debated in the US Congress.

“Of course, the Philippine government will continue its lobbying efforts with US Ambassador to the Philippines, Christy Keeney,” Consul Aragon said further.

Following a ceremonial flower offering at a shrine erected at the Rizal Hall of the Philippine Consulate General Office, Consul Aragon paid tribute to the veterans “for their courage and patriotism.”

Quoting from a speech delivered on April 7 by President Gloria Arroyo, Mrs. Aragon said: “The courage and patriotism of all our soldiers will shine through our efforts to forge lasting peace.”

Deputy Consul Dan Espiritu also read a message sent by Philippine Ambassador to the United States Willy Gaa.

“What we recall of this day is not the success of the overwhelming forces of the enemy, but the gallantry and courage of Filipino and American defenders. For long months, Filipino soldiers tenaciously stood their ground and fought with uncommon valor side by side with American soldiers in fending off the foreign invaders, fighting for their homeland and fighting for the cause of liberty, justice and democracy,” the statement read.

“Moral Debt: The Postwar Battle of Filipino Veterans,” a 25-minute documentary about the struggle for recognition of Filipino WWII veterans already living in the United States, was screened by the Consulate after the ceremonies at Rizal Hall. The documentary showed surviving veterans, most of them in their 80s and 90s, recalling their experience as US citizens, surviving on their meager SSI income holding odd jobs, sharing rooms with other veterans, away from their loved ones.

California Congressman Bob Filner, consistent supporter of the Equity Bill, recalls in the movie how he stumbled on his mission.

“When I first ran for Congress and visited Filipino neighborhoods and interviewed Filipino families, most of the people I talked to had fathers, brothers, grandfathers who were World II veterans,” Senator Filner shared.

He acknowledged that the bill is experiencing rough times in its quest for approval by the US Congress. “There is a demand that I find an offset, which means that I take money from old programs to pay for the benefits stipulated in the Equity Bill,” Filner said in the documentary.

“It’s been 66 years, and we are still fighting for the veterans’ benefits,” said San Francisco State University’s Professor Danilo Begonia. “How can you put a price tag on heroism? This is a grave injustice.”

(www.asianjournal.com)

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