Daily Archives: February 12, 2008

Bayanihan Filipino Community Center

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A Home for FilAms in New York City

by Miko Santos/Asianjournal.com

NEW YORK — More than 200 guests, local dignitaries and FilAm community leaders braved strong winds and an impending snow storm to warmly welcome the Bayanihan Filipino Community Center last Sunday (February 10) at the heart of the FilAm commercial district in Woodside, Queens. The center is a stone’s throw away from the well-known Filipino landmark restaurant Krystal’s Cafe.

Council Member Eric N. Goia (D), District 26 (Queens), graced the opening with Helen Marshall, President of the Borough of Queens sending a representative to praise the center as an energetic and forward-thinking organization.

“I commend the opening of this center in the heart of our growing Filipino American community, and for reaching out to neighbors from all walks of life in Woodside,” states the Marshall’s letter read by Tito Luna, Director of Youth Services and Advisor for Hispanic Affairs.

The center is a project of the Philippine Forum, a community organization headed by Co-Executive Directors Robert Roy and Julia Camagong. The Philippine Forum has gone through various office addresses in its 10-year existence before settling at Woodside, Queens where a large concentration of FilAms reside.

“We expect the Bayanihan Center [to] bring in a lot more foot traffic than our previous locations simply because we are now in the heart of the Filipino community,” said Roy.

“It belongs to the community. [A]ll are welcome to walk through its doors,” added Camagong.

The Filipino word bayanihan comes from the root word bayan, which means nation or people. The spirit of bayanihan refers to the community practice of working together for the common good.

Roy and Camagong named the new center with the mission of having it fulfill this greater purpose.

“The Bayanihan Center will live up to its name,” said Camagong.

Board director and Hermano Mayor for Sunday’s opening Dr. Ben Ileto encouraged the FilAm community to use the center’s facilities.

“We encourage the Filipino community to avail of the many skill-enhancing programs and social activities the center offers. We are here, we are part of your family,” said Ileto.

The Bayanihan Center will offer standard Philippine forum activities such as weekend line-dancing classes, computer classes, immigration and legal consultation, as well as offering a spacious banquet room open for rentals for parties and other group activities.

The center will also be the hub for activities for a number of other Filipino organizations and projects, including the domestic support group known as Kabalikat, the FilAm youth alliance SANDIWA, Ford foundation funded YEHEY (Young Educators for the Health and Empowerment of the Youth), Samahan Sports Program, The Filipino Worker’s Center, The Carlos Bulosan Heritage Center, and the Philippine Studies Program.

The Bayanihan Community Center sponsors are Dr. Ben Ileto, Cora Mahinay, Dr. Orly Apiado, Baby Bleza, Dr. Expedito Castillo, Rafael dela Cruz, Tito de Vera, Dr. Francia de Vera, Ramon Mappala, Jorge Ortoll, Joe Ramos, Att. Merit Salud, Sunny Sampayan, Ruben Velasco, Atty. Felix Vinluan, and Lynn Eclipse.



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More Illegals Arrests Conducted

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — The Fugitive Operations Program of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency has stepped up its crackdown against illegals.

Last week, around 120 employees of the Micro Solutions Enterprises in San Fernando Valley were arrested by around 100 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Authorities said the employees of the printer supply manufacturer were taken into custody for being in the country illegally. Eight were arrested and face federal criminal charges as they provided fraudulent information to get their jobs.

The  ICE spokeswoman, Virginia Kice, said the basis for the criminal warrant that led to the raid was under seal. Those arrested were taken into custody for illegal immigration status were interviewed for what Kice called “humanitarian issues.”  About 40 of them, including the elderly and those with children, were released to await a hearing before an immigration judge, Kice said. The rest, around 80 people, remained in the custody of immigration officials for potential deportation.

Meanwhile, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) teams in San Diego and Imperial counties, announced it has arrested 147 immigration fugitives in January.

Agency spokeswoman Lauren Mack reported that most of the arrests occurred in San Diego County. About 82 of those arrested were sought for having violated a deportation order or missing an immigration hearing; the others were people found during the searches who were not targeted but were also deportable. Of the total, 67 people were found to have criminal records, she said.

Mack said there was no special sweep but rather a continuation of what has become the agency’s routine practice.

The Fugitive Operations Program started in 2003 with eight teams according to Mack. More than 72,000 people have been arrested since the program began. Seventy-five teams operate nationwide, two dedicated to San Diego and Imperial counties. Congress has authorized the immigration agency to add 29 more teams by the end of September.


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We Need Another People Power – Almonte

by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com

MANILA — National Security Adviser during the Ramos administration Jose Almonte on Monday said that another people power is needed for the country to have a “good President.”

Speaking before the gathering of the country’s top lawyers belonging to the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco, popularly known as The Firm, Almonte stressed that the leader of the country must lead by example in order for democracy to work.

“What we need…if we were able to mobilize a people power in 1986 to bring down a bad President, my suggestion is this: We have to organize another people power to make a good President. This is the only medium to prevent our problems from taking root,” Almonte said without elaborating.

Almonte served as a guest speaker during the cocktails held at the Rigodon Ballroom of the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City to welcome the firm’s seven returning “prodigal sons” — former Secretary of National Defense and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Avelino Cruz, Former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo, former Undersecretary Rafael Antonio M. Santos, former Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Joe Nathan P. Tenefrancia, former Undersecretary of National Defense and Undersecretary, Office of the President Rodel Cruz, former Undersecretary, Office of the President and Assistant Secretary of National Defense Aida Araceli G. Roxas-Rivera and former Solicitor and head executive assistant of the Office of the Ombudsman John Jerico L. Balisnomo.

Almonte also took the opportunity to bewail the recent ruckus in the House of Representatives which led to the ouster of Speaker Jose de Venecia saying that such proceedings “diminished the soul of the Filipino nation.”

Aside from Almonte, other prominent figures who attended The Firm’s gathering were former President Ramos, Senate President Manuel Villar, Senators Joker Arroyo, Franklin Drilon, Edgardo Angara, Palace spokesman Ignacio Bunye, Socialite Baby Arenas, former Senator Ernesto Maceda and other bigwigs from the legal profession and business sector.

The law firm, originally known as “Carpio, Villaraza and Cruz,” was renamed “Villaraza & Angangco” law office after its founder, now Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, and Cruz, who joined the government as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, left the firm.

In an interview, Marcelo, who also served as Solicitor General in 2001, said he would not be handling cases against the government but more on corporate litigations.

Although he has received feelers to represent Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., star witness on the alleged bribery scandal involving the US$330 million national broadband deal, Marcelo said he is barred from accepting cases against former clients.

Under Rule 6.03 of the Rules of Court, a lawyer shall not, after leaving government service, accept engagement or employment in connection with any matter in which he had intervened while in said service.

Initially, Marcelo said, he thought of doing some consultancy work or return to teaching following his resignation as Ombudsman. But he realized that he needed a higher income to be able to support his family, thus, he decided to rejoin his former law firm.

“I will try to bring in my experience in the government in handling corporate disputes. In can use my experience in the government in coming up with creative solutions that will also keep the interest of the government protected.

Marcelo led the legal panel that successfully prosecuted and secured the conviction of former President Estrada for plunder.

On the other hand, Cruz said he would focus on cases pertaining to tourism, property development and power sector.

Cruz said he is excited to be back in the private practice which he missed when he was still in the government.

“I feel more relax now until when I was in the government,” Cruz said.

Cruz oversaw inter-agency efforts in public policy litigation and international arbitration during his stint in the government.


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Everything that Flies Fills Pampanga’s Skies

by Carmie O. Carpio/Asianjournal.com

CLARK, PAMPANGA — All eyes were up on Pampanga’s sunny skies when the 12th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (PIHABF) showcased a “weekend of everything that flies” on Feb. 7-10 in Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga — formerly the largest American airbase outside the United States.

Giant hot air balloons, RC demonstrations, ultra-light aircraft formations, aerobatic display, helicopter exhibition, skydivers, paragliders and a hang glider filled the atmosphere daily. The visitors also had a chance to participate by flying kites of various shapes and colors.

The country’s biggest aviation sports event still drew in thousands of eager spectators of mixed race and color despite the recent downgrade by the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the Philippines’ rating in terms of compliance with the safety oversight standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The event attracted 22 foreign balloonists from Sweden, United States, Hungary, Thailand, Malaysia, Germany, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Finland, Japan, Switzerland, England, and South Korea apart from local balloonists.

Hot air balloons were set to fly twice daily, first from 5:30 am to 7 am and then from 5:30 pm to 6 pm. Hans Funk, a pilot from Switzerland and a first-time participant, showed some of the crowd how a hot air balloon is set and started.

On Saturday, however, strong winds nixed the morning balloon flights, causing disappointment from pilots and willing riders.

“Well, I like it,” he said of his first time in such event. “I don’t like the wind because we want to fly the balloon. But we had three flights already yesterday,” he added.

Asked if he will come back next year, he said, “Oh yes, definitely.”

The organizers also confirmed the participation of four paragliders, three from Malaysia and one from France, who flew for the whole duration of the events.

Other highlights included ultra-light bomb dropping exercises with audience participation, radio control aircraft flying, rocketry demonstration, search and rescue flying exhibition, light airplane balloon bursting competition, Army jeep club demonstration, missionary heliostat aircraft demo, ultralight fly by and choreographed kite flying exhibition.

Visitors also enjoyed mini-trade fairs, food plazas, souvenir shops, game booths and rides around Clark’s vicinity.

The event site was tightly secured with approximately 200 uniformed personnel from the Philippine National Police, Philippine Air Force, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) and Clark Police. No accidents had been reported according to Reniel Tiqui, a local policeman.

Over the years, the PIHABF has been held to promote the Philippines as a sport aviation destination in Asia and to increase public awareness of hot air balloons as an aviation sport. Hot air balloon and airplane pilots from all over the world fly into the Philippines to join their local counterparts in this breathtaking event. Local and foreign pilots offer fun flights to the public at reasonably discounted prices.

The PIHABF was patterned after similar events held in countries like Japan, United States and Europe. It kicked off in the Philippines in 1994 when then Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor commissioned Korean businessman and hot air balloon pilot Mr. Sung Kee Paik, and British Airways General Manager Mr. John Emery, to consider the staging of a balloon fiesta in the country.


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Annulment Cases on the Rise

by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com

MORE and more married Filipino couples are falling out of love.

This is true based on the data gathered from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) showing an increase in the number of annulment, legal separation and nullity cases being filed in various courts in the country.

Last year, a total 7,753 cases were filed seeking annulment, legal separation or nullity of marriage. Out of this number, 2,582 cases were lodged in Metro Manila.

Two years ago, the OSG said it has recorded 7,138 cases filed by married individuals seeking separation from their partners. The number is 19 percent higher as compared to the number of cases filed in 2005.

In 2004, there were 6,335 separation cases filed; 6,848 in 2003; 5,250 in 2002 and 4,520 in 2001.

Under the Family Code, non-Muslim Filipinos have three options to change marriage status — legal separation, declaration of nullity and annulment.

Annulment applies to a marriage that is considered valid, but there are grounds to declare it void such as lack of parental consent, insanity, fraud, force, intimidation or undue influence, impotence and sexually-transmissible disease.

A “declaration of nullity” of marriage, on the other hand, applies to marriages that are void or invalid from the very beginning. Among the grounds for nullity of marriage are minority, lack of authority of solemnizing officers, absence of marriage license, bigamous or polygamous marriages, mistaken identity, incestous marriages, void by reason of public policy and psychological incapacity.

On the other hand, in legal separation, spouses are still considered married to each other, and, thus, are not allowed to re-marry. The grounds for seeking legal separation include repeated physical violence inflicted by one spouse against the other or against a child; destructive addiction or behavior; and abandonment by a spouse without justifiable reason for more than one year.

“We are disturbed with the surge in number of annulment of marriage filed… We call on the church to do something about this,” Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera said.

Devanadera noted that the usual ground being cited by those seeking to declare their marriage void is psychological incapacity.

Under the Family Code, psychological incapacity contemplates downright incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume the basic marital obligations.

Article 36 of the Family Code stressed that psychological incapacity must be medically or clinically identified to be considered as a valid ground in voiding a marriage.

It added that the incapacity must be proven to be existing at “the time of the celebration” of the marriage.

However, Devanadera admitted that the “psychological incapacity” ground is usually being used as an excuse by either of the party to find a new partner.

Meanwhile a total of 805 petitions have been last year filed seeking a court declaration of presumptive death of a spouse.

Under Article 41 of the Family Code, a marriage contracted by any person during subsistence of a previous marriage shall be null and void, unless before the celebration of the subsequent marriage, the prior spouse had been absent for four consecutive years and the spouse present has a well-founded belief that the absent spouse was already dead.


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