Monthly Archives: January 2008

API Leaders Campaign for Prop 92

by Joseph Pimentel/

LOS ANGELES — The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) is urging the FilAm community to vote for Proposition 92, a measure that would increase funding to statewide community colleges and lower student fees from $20 to $15 a unit.

“The Filipino community needs to understand that many FilAm nurses and health professionals working now started out in a community college,” said John Delloro, Dolores Huerta Labor Institute Executive director. Delloro along with APALA leaders and community college advocates spoke during a press conference held at East Los Angeles Community College last January 29.

It is estimated that 2.5 millions tudents are enrolled at 109 of the State’s community colleges. More than 270,000 enrolled are of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and 58,000 are FilAm students. The number of FilAm community college students is more than double the number enrolled at a California State University and/or University of California system, according to Delloro.

Prop. 92 is a $300 million ballot initiative introduced last year that would increase funding for school districts and community college districts to be calculated separately, lower student fees to $15 a unit in the next school year, and limits future fee increases.

The much-disputed ballot has two of the largest California teachers union pitted against one another. The California Teachers Association opposes, while the California Federation of Teachers support the ballot initiative.

Opponents of Prop. 92 said that this is not the time to increase state funds. The State is already facing a huge budget deficit estimated at $14 billion. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier in the year has proposed a $4.5 billion cut in education. If passed, Prop. 92 would increase state spending on K–12 and community college education to about $300 million per year.

“The fact is that Proposition 92 is a deeply flawed measure that will cause more problems than it claims to solve,” said officials of the Californians for Fair Education Funding (CFEF).

“Prop. 92 will cost California nearly a billion dollars in the first three years, but includes no way to pay for this new spending. In addition, Prop. 92 will drain $70 million per year from the state budget in reduced fee revenues. To come up with the funds for Prop. 92, the legislature will have to cut other programs like health care, public safety, and public educationn or raise taxes,” according to CFEF.

Critics also pointed out that California community colleges rank last nationwide in tuition fees and would take away funds allocated for K-12 public education.

However, Prop. 92 advocates disagree.

Vice Chair of the State Board of Equalization Judu Chu said that Prop. 92 would not raise taxes or take away from K-12 education.

“It’s about stability,” said Chu. “The whole point is that tuition in California is changing rapidly.”

Chu cited the 2004 tuition hike as an example. When the State increased the cost of tuition in community college from $11 to $26 a unit, Chu said that more than 305,000 fewer students enrolled the following year. The state eventually compromised to $20 a unit.

Chu said that society would be a victim if Prop. 92 will not be passed.

“Our society won’t have the necessary trained workforce to sustain our economy,” she said.

President of Asian Pacific Probation Association Hans Liang said that attending community college benefited him personally. Like many others, Liang chose to attend a community college to save money before enrolling at a four-year university.

“The community college helped me achieve my educational goals,” said Liang.

He said that in addition to preparing low-income students for a four-year university, it also supplies a good workforce.

“Half of the trained Registered Nurses (RN) in California were trained through a community college,” he said. “Because community colleges have fire technology classes, many fire fighters started out in community colleges. Over 160,000 apprenticeship classes are offered by attending community colleges.”

“Finance and money should not be an issue when it comes to education,” added Ted Cha, also of the Asian Pacific Probation Association.


(Yes on 92: No on 92:

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Women Want Contraceptives Ban in Manila Revoked

by Joel Roja/

MANILA – Twenty Manila residents Tuesday asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to declare null and void the eightyear-old executive order issued by former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza banning the use of artificial methods of contraception in the city.

In a 64-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, the petitioners, mostly housewives, through their counsels led by Harry Roque, asked the appellate court to issue a temporary restraining order directing the Manila City government from further implementing E.O No 003 until the petition is resolved.

The petitioners claimed that since the order was issued on February 29, 2000, the city government has continuously denied them any access to public information and artificial contraceptive such as condoms, pills, intrauterine devices, surgical sterilization,among others.

Under E.O. No. 003, the Manila City government declares its policy to “promote responsible parenthood and uphold natural family planning not just as a method but as a way of self-awareness in promoting the culture of life while discouraging the use of artificial methods of contraception.”

The petitioners noted that since the order was implemented, the city health department has deprived Manila residents access to reproductive health information and artificial contraceptives in health centers and public hospitals.

The petitioners noted that the order has resulted to the high rates of unplanned pregnancies in Manila City,which has socioeconomic and health consequences.

“Families are driven to extreme poverty due to the proliferation of unintended pregnancies, since losing free supplies of contraceptive pills strained household budgets and forced such women to spend on food and subsistence for their growing families rather than contraceptive pills,” the petitioners argued.

The implementation of the order, according to the petitioners, amounts to the absence of any family planning program since some Manila health facilities have refused to provide information, counseling, or referrals for family planning, interpreting the vague wording of the policy as a sweeping ban.”

Former UP Law Dean Raul Pangalangan, one of the counsel of the petitioners said the EO deprived citizens of their right to decide for themselves.

The housewives said health centers in Manila have reportedly deprived them of family planning services directing them to get help from other DOH centers like Fabella hospital.

The petitioners, however did not implead Atienza who is now Environment Secretary in their petition for certiorari and prohibition but the Office of the Mayor hoping to set a legal precedent that will deter other local government units from issuing similar orders and policies.

The petitioners want the CA to decide whether a local government unit like the City of Manila unilaterally prohibit its constituents any and all access to artificial contraceptives and reproductive health information in favor of natural family planning methods?

“The freedom of choice in marriage and family relationships  are at the core of the right of privacy. There is a private realm of family which the state cannot enter,” they told the Court.

They insist that “it is the right of every individual to make decisions relating to marriage, procreation, childbirth, child-rearing and family relationships because these are vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness of free men and women.”

“Regulation impinging on the right of privacy is subject to strict scrutiny – it is the burden of the government to show that its measure is justified by some compelling state interest narrowly-drawn to promote such objective,” the petitioners added.


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SF’s DA, USD, Fight to End Truancy in Schools: Records show problem most prevalent in ethnic communities

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/

SAN FRANCISCO — In 2007, nearly 5,500 students — about 10% of the district’s total student population — were considered habitual and chronic truants.Although the there was a very slight from the previous year, the number of habitually truant children has remained above 5,000 for the last three years in spite of the implementation of new stay-in-school programs.

This has prompted San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, along with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) Superintendent Carlos Garcia and Stay in School Coalition Coordinator Keith Choy, to discuss and present the district’s efforts to support parents who are having difficulty keeping the kids in schools.During a roundtable discussion with the members of the ethnic media organized by the SFDA and New America Media last Jan. 22, Harris discussed her office’s Campaign Against Truancy in SFUSD, new truancy policies and data on San Francisco’s ethnic communities.

The call on finding solutions to end truancy also stems from the research that a child’s future will be bleak if they are habitually absent from school.Aside from increasingly falling behind middle and high school, criminal law experts call chronic school absence as the most powerful predictor of juvenile crime, which often leads to adult crime.

Harris states the grim fact, “Over the last four years, 94% of San Francisco’s homicide victims under the age of 25 were high school dropouts.”

Truancy data and figures

Truancy is considered as an unexcused or unverified absence from school or class, without proper consent from the school principal or personnel.Under the State Education Code, a student with unexcused absences totaling 10 or more days of school is considered a “habitual truant,” while a student who had 20 or more days of unexcused absences is a “chronic truant.”

While both Harris and Garcia say that truancy is a statewide problem, both agree that it has reached a crisis point in San Francisco that the city has one of the highest rates in the state — higher than the average rates of California’s other major urban areas, including Alameda, Los Angeles and contra Costa counties.Also, records show that truancy is most prevalent in the Asian, African American and Latino communities.

Although data show that truancy is higher among African American and Latino students, Asian and Pacific Islander students comprise 18% of the nearly 5,500 habitual or chronic truants in San Francisco schools, and 324 of those students are Filipinos.

Holding parents accountable

Under state law, a parent of a chronically truant student can be charged with contributing to the deliquency of a minor, a misdemeanor that carries a sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500.

But they also acknowledge the various reasons why a student is frequently absent from school.Harris explained, “Presumption has to be that parents do care, but not every parent has the tools.” By this it could mean anything — from lack of transportation and child care, as well as family crises or lack of interest in school.

That is why both the DA’s office and the SFUSD aim to ensure that parents and guardians are provided multiple opportunities to improve their children’s attendance.However, if students still continue to be absent, despite repeated interventions and attempts to work with the students and their families, the matter may be referred to the district attorney’s office and the courts for criminal prosecution.

“The last thing I want to do as District Attorney is prosecute a parent,” said Harris and added, “It’s very difficult to be a parent, so we are doing everything short of prosecuting.”

Programs and policies

Over the past two years, mediation sessions with parents in several schools were done with solid results.But data has also showed that truancy is a continuing problem in San Francisco’s schools at all levels that this year, the DA’s office, in partnership with SFUSD recently sent letters to parents educating them about the problem, at the same time warning them of the consequences.

Aside from educating parents, mediation workshops and other after school programs offer help and assistance.Home visits by teachers, school officers and even police are also part of the efforts to fight truancy.A Stay in School hotline is also accessible by dialing 701-STAY to report if there are any minors loitering during school hours. Community members are also called on to help keep children in school by supporting organizations, volunteer as a mentor and by making day care accessible.


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Couple Sentenced for Slavery of Pinay

By Cynthia De Castro/

James Jackson, former vice president of legal affairs at Sony Pictures, was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine during his sentencing in US District Court in Los Angeles. The couple pleaded guilty earlier to harboring Nena Ruiz, a domestic worker whose visa had expired, and holding her in forced labor.

Elizabeth was accused of bringing Ruiz from the Philippines to the United States in 2001, confiscating her passport and forcing her to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week, authorities said. Ruiz, who worked in the Jacksons’ home from 2001 to 2002 and was threatened with deportation if she left without permission, was paid no more than $400 a month.

“These defendants used their power and affluence to coerce a vulnerable woman into their personal service for several months,” said Grace Chung Becker, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

Elizabeth Jackson’s attorney was unavailable for comment. All forced-labor charges against her husband were dropped by federal prosecutors, said Richard Steingard, James Jackson’s attorney.

“I am grateful that all charges against Mr. Jackson were dismissed,” Steingard said. “I am terribly sorry that his wife received a prison sentence, as neither I nor Mr. Jackson believe that the imposition of that sentence is necessary.”

In 2004, Nena Ruiz was awarded $825,000 in damages by a Los Angeles jury after she sued her former employers. Ruiz said that Elizabeth Jackson regularly slapped her, pulled her hair, forced her to sleep on a dog bed, and gave her three-day-old food to eat while she was expected to clean and provide fresh food to the Jacksons’ dogs. The domestic worker finally ran away after she was hit in the mouth with a water bottle in February 2002.


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FilAms Protest US Citizenship Application Delays

By Cynthia De Castro/

Citizenship applications typically take about seven months to process. An increase in applications, however, has caused delays as long as 18 months, the USCIS reported.

“We’re really encouraging the USCIS who increased the fee to $675, which is very, very difficult for a lot of working families, to process those applications. They increased the fee supposedly to be able to augment the resources to make that happen quicker, ” said Bobby dela Cruz of the Service Employees International Union.

The crowd sang God Bless America and waved American flags. Some wore T-shirts that read, “We waited in line, we followed the rules. Citizens 7/4/08. Don’t break the promise.”

The rally was organized by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which tries to help improve the lives of working families, said Matthew Henderson, the organization’s southwest regional director.

State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, who was at the protest, said he found it ironic that the delays coincided with a presidential election. “The same [delays] occurred in 1996,” he said, “and those people were able to participate in the election.”

The group boarded buses after the demonstration and headed to the office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to deliver letters asking for her support.


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SC Dismisses ABS-CBN Plea Against ‘Wowowee’ Stampede Probe

By Maria Sunantha Quibilan/

THE Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the petition filed by ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. that questioned the result of the investigation conducted by the Department of Justice into the tragic stampede at the ULTRA stadium (now Philsports Arena) two years ago.

In a 22-page decision, the high court, through Associate Justice Conchitina Carpio Morales, disagreed with the TV network’s allegation that the DoJ preliminary investigation was biased and unfounded. The ruling directed the DoJ prosecutors to continue with the proceedings to determine if there was probable cause to charge ABS-CBN executives of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and multiple physical injuries.

On Feb. 4, 2006, seventy-one people were killed and hundreds more were injured as the crowd, estimated at 30,000 people, pushed and shoved outside the Pasig City stadium to get a hold of the tickets being given out to the first anniversary celebration of the popular noontime show, Wowowee. On that day, the show was planning to give away big prizes which included P1 million pesos, a house and lot and a car.

A resolution issued on Oct. 9, 2006 by the five-man investigatory panel headed by State Prosecutor Leo Dacera from the DoJ found probable cause that several ABS-CBN executives were to blame for the deadly stampede. The network officials questioned these findings, arguing that Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez had prejudged the case and that the proceedings were done with “indecent haste.”

These claims, however, were debunked by Tuesday’s ruling, a portion of which stated that the “petitioners’ [ABS-CBN officials] fears are speculatory.”

“As for petitioners’ claim of undue haste indicating bias, proof thereof is wanting. The pace of the proceedings is anything but a matter of acceleration. Neither is there proof showing that Gonzalez exerted undue pressure on his subordinates to tailor their decision with his public declarations and adhere to a pre-determined result,” the Supreme Court said.

The high court’s decision denies the plea of ABS-CBN, led by its executive vice president Charo Santos-Concio, for a temporary restraining order against the DoJ panel’s preliminary investigation.  This paves the way for the indictment of all those involved in the Wowowee stampede, except for host Willie Revillame, with criminal charges.

Meanwhile, ABS-CBN legal department head, Atty. Maxim Uy, said that the company will ask the court to reconsider its decision. They were given 15 days to file such motion.

In addition, ABS-CBN said in its website that it will continue to help, through its 71 Dreams Foundation, “the orphans of the stampede victims despite the decision that could lead to the filing of charges against the company.”


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Amparo Filed Vs. Rights Group

by Joel Roja/

MANILA — Another petition for the issuance of a writ of amparo has been filed before the Supreme Court, this time not against the military, but a human rights group and Gumaca, Quezon province Vice Mayor Josefa Carmela Lavidez.

Aside from, Lavidez, petitioner Alfreda Orlina filed the case against KARAPATAN (Southern Tagalog) members Charlie del Valle, Wins Pertierra, Kate Realco and Princess de Leon.

In her petitioner, Orlina together with Epifanio Puyos, a barangay captain, asked the Court to compel the respondents to produce her husband–farmer Elizer before the court and release him from their custody.

Orlina also asked the High Tribunal to issue an order allowing the inspection of all safehouses of KARAPATAN within the Southern Tagalog area and direct them to give and explain the present whereabouts of Elizer.

Elizer was reportedly last seen by a witness in one of the safehouses of KARAPATAN in Lucena City.

Elizer reportedly told the witness that he was confused because the human rights group would not let him go home to his family.

In September last year, Orlina claimed three alleged members of KARAPATAN – Wins Pertierra, Kate Realco and Princess de Leon visited them in their residence to inform them that their son was in the custody of the military.

Documents show that Orlina’s son, Rodel was one of four civilians chanced upon by operating Army troops in Gumaca, Quezon during an encounter with NPA rebels.

A special habeas corpus proceeding conducted by Gumaca RTC (Branch 62)  Judge Hector B. Almeyda showed that the four were placed by the Army’s 76th Infantry Battalion in their protective custody as standard operating procedure.

But while the two others were released by the lower court to their respective families, Rodel and the other civilian opted to stay at the Army headquarters.

On September 4, 2007, Elizer accompanied by Puyos, the barangay captain of Barangay Villa Reyes went to Barangay Lagyo, Gumaca, where they were met by members of KARAPATAN.

Elizer said he was able to see his son and learned that he “voluntarily put himself” in the custody of the 76th Infantry Battalion at Barangay Villa Principe, Gumaca.

After the meeting, Puyos returned to Barangay Villa Principe and informed Alfreda that Rodel is safe and that her husband, Elizer, is in the safekeeping of Lavidez.

Alfreda became worried after Elizer had failed to return home. She later learned that her husband was taken by the  three KARAPATAN members from Lavidez on September 5, 2007.

“At present, Elizer Orlina is still detained by and in the custody of KARAPATAN against his will. The petitioners are afraid that unless Elizer is immediately released, or his whereabouts known, his life maybe in danger. Moreover, they know that there is no reason fore his continued illegal confinement,” the petition said.

Elizer’s family are also asking the Court to compel KARAPATAN to pay P500,000 as compensation for punitive and moral damages.


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