Daily Archives: February 18, 2008

Thousands Demand Arroyo’s Ouster: More protests lined up – Binay

by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com

MAKATI CITY — ABOUT six to ten thousand people gathered in Makati on February 16 in a United Opposition (UNO) rally aimed to oust President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The protest was held to denounce corruption and to show support to Jun Lozada, a star witness in the Senate inquiry on the NBN-ZTE corruption scandal. Lozada claims to have been harassed and kidnapped by men with connections to Malacañang to prevent him to testify.

“We decided to hold this rally after our [UNO] meeting Wednesday night,” said UNO president and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay. ”

Pero kahit na maikli lamang ang panahon, mararamdaman mo naman ang galit ng tao naghihintay lamang nitong rally…so hindi naging problema ang pag-organize nito (But even in a short time, you can feel the anger of the public who are just waiting for the rally…so there was no problem in organizing).”

Bearing oust GMA placards and wearing Moderate Your Greed, Exterminate your Breed stickers (with illustration of PGMA atop bundles of cash), the crowd chanted, ”

Tama na, sobra na, kumilos na (Stop it, it’s already excessive, do something).”

“This rally is just the start,” the Makati Mayor said. He added that from the day of the event and with every expose on the Administration, there would be an activity that will be organized by the opposition. Mayor Binay noted that the protest is not only for the NBN-ZTE deal, ‘Hello Garci’ scandal, South Rail and North Rail projects but also for the human rights the Palace allegedly violated.

The next move of the opposition will be a Mass on February 17 at La Salle Greenhills and then a bigger rally on February 25.

Ice-candy, fishball, grilled squid, and ice cream vendors made the event look festive. Bands and choirs including reggae group Brownman Revival performed. Confetti rained from the Bank of the Philippine Island and Tower 1 buildings.

Protesters started the program by singing religious songs, followed by prayers from the Muslim and Christian communities, Mass and testimonials from supporters from the private sector including National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera.

Aside from known anti-Arroyo groups and personalities including Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Roilo Golez, San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito and former Vice President Teofisto Guingona among others, non-partisan institutions such as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Makati Business Club also joined the rally.

Focus on economy

In a speech earlier in the day at the Philippine Economic Briefing, President Arroyo announced that there is no room in our development for money to be wasted in corruption. Previous statements from Malacañang dismissed the opposition’s investigations, which point to the PGMA, her husband and allies, as mere “political noise” intended to downplay the country’s economic growth.

Bayan Muna Party List Representative Satur Ocampo countered the President’s claim saying, “The administration’s claim that the economy is booming is a misrepresentation. It is true that the GDP levels are growing but this is what you call growth without jobs.” Binay added, ”

Yung ekonomiyang sinasabi n’ya ay mirage lang. Yung ekonomiyang sinasabi nya ay dahil sa OFW remittances at mga binentang properties. Hindi naman nararamdaman ng maraming tao ‘yan (The economy [the President] is referring to is a mirage. The economy she was referring to is due to OFW remittances and sold properties. Those were not felt by the people).”

GMA is watching you

Organizers of the crowd condoned the installation of surveillance cameras at the traffic light poles near the venue. For which the crowd were asked to wave because the Palace was suspected to be watching them. Some individuals who wanted to join the rally also claimed that they were stopped by the Police at the South Superhighway so that they would not be able to go.

To those who attended, Mayor Binay said, ”

Maraming salamat ho at nailabas na ninyo yung gusto ninyong ipakita…’yung pagkagalit sa ginawa kay Jun Lozada na ang kagustuhan naman lamang ay ilabas ang katotohanan.”


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Pinoy Technician, Overnight Millionaire

Victor Cabote Arogar was eagerly looking around the Duty Free shops in the Abu Dhabi International Airport as he waited to board his plane back to the Philippines. A resident of Abu Dhabi for the past seven years, the 33-year-old technician was excited to go back home for a vacation. On impulse, he bought a raffle ticket for the Abu Dhabi Duty Free’s Big Ticket raffle draw.

Several days ago, Arogar got the call that forever changed his life. His lucky ticket was drawn for the one million dollar dirham grand prize ( around $272,293.00 or more than P11,000,000).

In an interview with the Gulf News, Arogar said ”I am very thankful and happy for the draw’s result. I really could not believe it at first when I received the call telling me I was the grand prize winner.”

When asked what he plans to do with his winnings, Arogar said he will invest it on his daughter’s education.


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Galing Pinoy: From Janitor to AI Sensation

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

It’s unbelievable that an American Idol aspirant who gets a unanimous and resounding “No” from the judges comes out of the room with a big smile as if his dreams had just come true. Much less with great hope for the future. Pero iba talaga ang Pinoy!

A former tricycle driver for 11 years in Quezon City who migrated here in 2004 and worked as a janitor at Greyhound and Walmart, Renaldo Lapuz auditioned for American Idol Season 7, Fifteen minutes later, AI judges instantly turned him into a worldwide celebrity.

Never mind that the American Idol judges seemed patronizing. Never mind that they don’t think Lapuz has any place in Hollywood. Never mind that people are saying he’s another “William Hung” (A previous American Idol aspirant who was rejected because he obviously couldn’t sing and dance, but became popular nonetheless.)

What matters is that 45-year old Lapuz and his original song We’re Brothers Forever have both become a hit after last month’s season premiere of American Idol, rocking the YouTube and American Idol websites and earning him instant fame.

Lapuz’s fame after the audition have really hit the roof. Renaldo has been featured in Star World, Fox News and other popular media channels. A phenomenal 2.5 million people watched his 15-minute audition in 2 days over YouTube. Almost 7 million from over 120 countries have visited his website which is now translated in 16 languages making http://www.RenaldoLapuz.com  more popular than the websites of Elvis Presley and first American Idol Kelly Clarkson (2002).

Lapuz has also inked deals to sing in Cleveland, Puerto Rico and New York. The Maloof family, owner of Palms Hotel in Las Vegas and the NBA team Sacramento Kings, have invited Lapuz to be their special guest this basketball season. Another promoter is keen on touring Lapuz in Europe and a major worldwide record label will soon be meeting with Renaldo for ” a possible recording deal”.

A bachelor living in Reno, Nevada, Renaldo was the last audition in Dallas as the judges wrapped up their long day. Uniquely clad in a white leather suit with a shiny metallic cape and a hat with the name “Simon” on it, he obviously amused American Idol judges, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, with his costume which, according to Lapuz, was inspired by the film Gladiator. As he sang his original song over and over, Randy, Paula, and even Ryan Seacrest, joined him onstage, dancing and singing “I am your brother, your best friend forever”.

When Simon jokingly predicted  that  We’re Brothers Forever, might become a hit record, Lapuz beamed and took the comment to heart, profusely thanking Simon whom he called “heaven sent for judging talents free of charge.”

Lapuz still can’t believe his instant fame.

“I was shocked that, in two days 2.5 million people had watched the video [of my audition] on YouTube. I’d like to thank [everyone] who accepted my song, who accepted me,” he said in an interview. “They give me the “big-time” treatment here. What I think is going on now is, the start of my dream. It’s a new start in my life. My singing career is just getting started through American Idol. It’s all happening now to me, thank God.”

Lapuz’ story goes to show that if you plant a dream in your heart and work at it as best as you can, trusting God to bring it to pass, you could really see it come true. Renaldo related that he started singing at age 5, when his father taught him the US National Anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, though he’s Filipino.  Through the years, though no opportunities came his way in the field of music, he kept composing songs. His style of music is ballads, adding “I like serenading. In 1998, I recorded and copyrighted 10 songs in the Philippines. I’ve translated two of those into English.” He recounted recording in a studio on V. Luna Road near Sikatuna Village, his route as a tricycle driver.

Renaldo is profuse in thanking all his fans, specially the Filipinos around the world who have supported and encouraged him since his “15 minutes of fame”. In his now famous song, Lapuz sings about unity, a serenade, perhaps, to his kababayans:

I am your brother,/your best friend forever.Singing the songs/the music that you like./We’re brothers till the end of time./Together forever till the end of time./ Together or not, you’re always in my heart.


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FilAm in $121M Fraud Case

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – A FilAm and a former executive of a highway construction firm appeared to have conspired together to defraud the US Federal government of over a hundred million dollars.

Dennis F. Campbell, former vice president at a highway construction firm, pleaded guilty a few days ago to a scheme that prosecutors say improperly netted his company $121 million in federal highway contracts set aside for minority-owned firms. He faces up to five years in prison on the felony charge of conspiracy to defraud the Federal government.

Business Front

To level the business playing field, many State governments have created policies to increase opportunities for minority-owned firms. Most of these programs focus on the construction industry, because it receives a large amount of public money and offers well-paying jobs for people without advanced education. Such is the case in Pennsylvania which offers highway construction contracts to minority-owned firms.

Since Campbell’s company, Schuylkill Products Inc., which manufactures concrete bridge components, and a subsidiary, CDS Engineers Inc, which installs them, were not eligible to get contracts for a federally funded highway work in Pennsylvania, a scheme was devised involving a minority-owned firm, Marikina Construction Corp, based in Connecticut. Owned by FilAm Romeo Cruz and certified as a minority-owned firm by the Pennsylvania Highway Department, Marikina is eligible for the US Department of Transportation’s minority contracts.

For a period of over 14 years, Schuylkill Products used Marikina Construction Corp as a front to get highway construction contracts in Pennsylvania, according to the guilty plea read in court.

Assistant US Attorney Bruce Brandler said that while it appeared that Marikina Construction Corp. was bidding for and performing the work, in reality those tasks were carried out by employees of Schuylkill Products and CDS.

“In essence, Schuylkill Products and CDS rented Marikina’s name,” Brandler told US District Judge Sylvia Rambo. Marikina received a payment, part of which was kicked back to Campbell and an unnamed CDS supervisor, Brandler said.

Prosecutors said that Schuylkill Products and CDS prepared bids on Marikina’s letterhead, put magnetic placards with the Marikina logo on their work vehicles and prepared phony payroll and vehicle lease records to conceal their companies’ roles in the projects.


Campbell spoke little other than to say “Yes, your honor” when questioned by the judge. No sentencing date has been set and Brandler said that would likely happen after the completion of the investigation.

Brandler said investigators are examining whether a similar scheme was conducted in other States. No one other than Campbell has been charged.

“We’re trying to take corrective action and do what the government wants on the program,” Jim West, an attorney for Schuylkill Products, said. “We have taken some corrective action and we will take more as it goes along.”

Robert Lacobelle, the attorney for Cruz and Marikina, declined tocomment on the case.


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CCP Pres Wins Rockefeller Award

by  Maria Sunantha Quibilan/Asianjournal.com

Cultural Center of the Philippines President Nestor O. Jardin is the recipient of the 2008 John D. Rockefeller 3rd Award for outstanding professional achievement in the field of Asian art and culture.

The $30,000 award is presented yearly by the trustees of the Asian Cultural Council (ACC) to an individual from Asia or the United States who “has made a significant contribution to the international understanding, practice, or study of the visual or performing arts of Asia.”

Jardin, who has been the CCP president since 2001 and was its vice president and artistic director before that, was cited for being “a cultural leader of rare energy, commitment, and vision who has set an extraordinary example both regionally and internationally.”

A veritable leader and educator in his field, Jardin has “devoted his extensive career to championing the arts and artists of Southeast Asia and the Philippines and working to create an environment in which these can flourish.”

A graduate of the University of the Philippines with a BS degree in Zoology, Jardin began his career in the arts as a dancer with the Filipiniana Dance Troupe and as a soloist with Ballet Philippines.  He is a recipient of several grants and scholarships, which include the Goethe Institute Grant, the Asian Cultural Council Grant for Arts Administration, and the US International Visitors Program Grant. He is as well the creator of the Philippine Cultural Education Plan, a comprehensive national plan for arts and culture education.

Jardin is the second Filipino to win the JDR 3rd Award. In 1987, it was given to National Artist for Music Jose Maceda.

Funding for the award is derived from an endowment gift from the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Fund given to the ACC. Established in 1980 as a continuation of the Asian Cultural Program of The JDR 3rd Fund created by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller 3rd in 1963, the ACC has provided grant assistance to more than 4,000 Asians and Americans in the arts.

Nominations for the award must be made by artists, scholars, and others professionally involved in Asian art and culture. Various specialists in the nominees’ fields and other qualified individuals who have firsthand knowledge of the nominees’ professional activities and accomplishments are consulted, after which the council selects the recipients.

The award will be presented to Jardin during the ACC-Philippines gala to be held on February 29 at the Makati Shangri-la. Doing the honors will be chairman of the ACC board, Elizabeth McCormack. She will be joined by ACC trustees Josie Cruz Natori and Sir Kenneth Fung, ACC director Ralph Samuelson, and granddaughter of JDR 3rd Wendy Wang.


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Wrongly Accused of Stabbing, FilAm Set Free

by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

SAN DIEGO – A Filipino American was released from county jail after being wrongly accused of stabbing a 24-year-old woman, according to a San Diego Police spokesperson.

The San Diego Police Department released Gerardo Pascual, 42, due to lack of evidence last Wednesday.  Pascual was arrested on February 10 after the victim identified him as her attacker.

The attack happened outside the UTC Shopping mall in University City. The woman was in the parking lot when a man came up from behind and stabbed her five times in an attempted car jacking. She fled her attacker and collapsed in front of the mall entrance. The stabbing was not fatal. Reports say she is in good condition after the attack.

She told police that an Asian man attacked her before identifying Pascual as the suspect. Police arrested Pascual later that day.

Throughout his detention, Pascual maintained his innocence. According to the local San Diego NBC news, Pascual arrived at UTC from the Old Town station at 4:30 pm, which would make it impossible for him to have stabbed the victim at 4:26, which is when police say the stabbing occurred.

“I didn’t do anything,” said Gerardo Pascual in a jailhouse interview with NBC 7/39. “They got the wrong person.”

Pascual’s attorney Tom Mathews said that the victim was mistaken.

“I have a feeling that one of the reasons he was identified so quickly is because of the problems inherent in cross-racial IDs,” said Matthews to NBC. “I think police made an error in having the victim identify someone so quickly because of the state of mind she must have been in at the time. She just had a traumatic horrific experience and no way could have been in a sound state of mind to make an important decision as to who was her perpetrator.”

Police have downgraded Pascual to a “person of interest” and will continue to investigate the case.


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