Daily Archives: March 26, 2008

GMA’S Amnesty is Constitutional – DOJ

by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com

MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has assured that Presidential Proclamation No. 1377 issued by President Arroyo last year which grants amnesty to members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPPNA-NDF) and other rebel groups will not violate the equal protection clause under Constitution. In his legal opinion no. 11 issued on February 21, 2008, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez explained that the equal protection clause means that “no persons or class of persons shall be deprived of the same protection of the laws which is enjoyed by other persons or other classes in the same place and in like circumstances.”

Gonzalez, however, insisted that the he constitutional guarantee on equal protection does not prohibit classification provided as long as it is reasonable.

He explained that the classification must rest on substantial distinctions; must be relevant to the purpose of the law; must not be limited to existing conditions only; and must apply equally to all members of the same class.

“Applied to the instant case, a reading of the purposes of the presidential issuance, as revealed in its whereas clauses, vis-à-vis the provision thereof, it appears indubitable that the requirement of equal protection has been observed and complied with in the issuance of the amnesty proclamation and the classification therein appears reasonable,” Gonzalez said.

He stressed that the proclamation clearly identified class of people and the crimes covered by the amnesty offer.

Gonzalez noted that the amnesty grant is limited to members of the CPP-NPA NDF and other communist rebel groups and covers only the crime of rebellion and all other crimes committed in pursuit of political beliefs.

“For another, the classification is undeniably germane to the purposes thereof, that is, to accept the rebels back into the folds of law by granting them amnesty and eventually providing them access to the government’s socio-economic services,” the DOJ said.

The legal opinion was issued in response to the queries made by Secretary Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, on the difference between political crime and common crime and on whether the said amnesty proclamation complies with the equal protection clause.

Specifically, the DOJ secretary stressed, political crime is one that is directly aimed against the political order, as well as such common crimes committed to achieve a political purpose such as those committed in furtherance of resistance to the duly constituted authorities of the government.

On the other hand, ordinary or common simply refers to one that is not aimed directly against the political and social order.


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USCIS Modifies H-1B Selection Process: Prohibits multiple filing for FY 2009

by Maria Sunantha Quibilan/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – US Citizenship and Immigration Services issued last week an interim final rule in the Federal Register prohibiting employers from filing multiple H-1B petitions for the same employee in a fiscal year.

The change was made in order to provide equal chance for companies filing H-1B petitions, which are subject to a congressionally mandated cap, to receive consideration for an H-1B worker. In order that available H-1B visas are fairly and systematically distributed, those multiple petitions filed by an employer for the same H-1B employee will be revoked or denied by USCIS and the filing fees submitted with duplicative petitions will not be refunded.

This rule does not inhibit related employers (e.g. a parent company and its subsidiary) from filing petitions for the same alien for different positions, based on a legitimate business need.

On April 1, 2008 , employers may file petitions requesting H-1B workers for fiscal year 2009 employment starting on October 1, 2008. For fiscal year 2009, Congress has set a limit of 65,000 for most H-1B workers. Additionally, the first 20,000 H-1B workers who have a US master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap. Under current procedures, which are not changed by this rule, once USCIS receives 20,000 petitions for aliens with a US master’s degree or higher, all other cases requesting the educational exemption are counted toward the 65,000 cap. Once the 65,000 cap is reached for a fiscal year, USCIS will announce that the cap has been filled and reject further petitions subject to the cap.

This rule also stipulates that if USCIS determines the number of H-1B petitions received meets the cap within the first five business days of accepting applications for the coming fiscal year, USCIS will apply a random selection process among all H-1B petitions received during this time period. If the 20,000 advanced degree limit is reached during the first five business days, USCIS will randomly select from those petitions ahead of conducting the random selection for the 65,000 limit. Petitions subject to the 20,000 limit that are not selected in that random selection will be considered with the other H-1B petitions in the random selection for the 65,000 limit.

These changes to the H-1B filing process are an important part of the series of immigration and border security reforms to be undertaken by the Administration, as announced by President Bush in August last year.

The interim final rule becomes effective upon publication in the Federal Register. It may be accessed, along with additional information regarding the H-1B program, via the USCIS website at http://www.uscis.gov.


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Language Yet Another Healthcare Barrier

by Maria Sunantha Quibilan/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – More than 2.5 million Los Angeles County residents face language barriers that may jeopardize their access to important social and healthcare services, according to a new report released on Monday by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC).

The report, entitled “LA Speaks: Language Diversity and English Proficiency by Los Angeles County Service Planning Area,” states that majority of LA County residents speak a language other than English at home, and that approximately one in three have limited English proficiency or find difficulty communicating in English.

Complementing the data in “LA Speaks,” a compilation of stories which illustrate the effect of language barriers on access to healthcare was released by PALS for Health. “In the Absence of Words” contains ten personal stories of “language ambassadors,” participants in the PALS for Health Speakers’ Bureau, who deal with LA County residents with limited English proficiency (LEP) and have firsthand experience of the need for the assistance of trained healthcare interpreters.

“Everyday we receive calls from LEPs seeking care at County health facilities, but who are often not provided the language assistance they need. These are some of their stories.” said Veronika Geronimo, Program Director of PALS for Health.

Both “LA Speaks” and “In the Absence of Words” reveal the special challenges brought about by the issue of language diversity in LA County, and their release coincides with the County’s recent move to address the problem of language barriers in health care.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved last year the hiring of nine full-time healthcare interpreters and the implementation of Video Medical Interpretation (VMI) technology, a system involving the use of videoconferencing to instantaneously connect patients and doctors in County hospitals with off-site interpreters.

The full-time interpreters will be hired for Spanish, Korean, Mandarin and Cantonese languages, and the VMI interpreters for Armenia, Russian, Farsi, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese and Spanish languages.

Rancho Los Amigos, LAC+USC, UCLA-Harbor and Olive View County Hospitals are the four Los Angeles County healthcare institutions that will use VMI.

Doreena Wong, staff attorney from the National Health Law Program, says that “it is tremendous that the County is taking important steps to meet its legal obligations to provide language assistance” to its residents. She however added that this is just “a first step” and that the County must “continue to grow this program to address more languages in the future.”

Furthemore, Wingshan Lo, Health Policy Advocate at ALPAC, states that while they are thankful that the County has approved the hiring of nine full-time interpreters and funded the implementation of VMI, the entire community’s help is needed to check up on the effectiveness of such programs.

“Doctors, hospital staff, patients [are also needed] to help monitor whether these changes successfully meet the daily crush of language needs at County hospitals. Right now, there is little to no outreach to inform the community and the County hospital staff about the hiring of the trained healthcare interpreters or the implementation of the VMI system. There is also no system in place to provide feedback to County about problems the community may encounter when requesting interpretation,” Lo said.

Advocates are urging the community to give feedback on their experience with the new healthcare interpreters and videoconferencing system by calling PALS forHealth hotlines at 213-627-4850 (Spanish) or 800-228-8886 (English, Armenian, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Thai and Vietnamese). Information from these hotlines will give insight as to whether the County is meeting the needs emphasized in the new reports.


(For a full copy of the “LA Speaks” report, visit http://www.demographics.apalc.org.)

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Communicating Healthcare, Horror Stories

by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES  – Lian Zhen Li, a 62-year-old Chinese immigrant from the San Gabriel Valley recalled the day her stomach swelled to the size of a balloon.

Five years ago, she suddenly became incapacitated due to abdominal pain. She couldn’t drink, eat, or sleep.

She was rushed to a local Chinese-speaking clinic where the doctors diagnosed her with advanced ovarian cancer. She urgently needed emergency life-saving surgery. The doctors at the clinic transferred her to a Los Angeles County Hospital.

Her adventure had only begun.

In front of a small crowd inside the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), Li described common hospital bureaucracy. Because she spoke with limited English, the administrators, nurses and doctors dismissed her pain. She also could  not understand her doctor’s surgery instructions.

“I wasn’t scared of [being diagnosed with] cancer,” said Li through a Chinese interpreter. “I was more scared of not understanding what my doctor wanted me to do.”

Hospitals are legally required to provide translation assistance for non/ limited-English speakers. In Li’s case, neither was offered or given.

Frustrated and worried about her health, she scanned the hospital lobby. Luckily, she found a Chinese patient recovering from cancer. The woman, who also did not speak English, advised Li to contact PALS for Health, an organization that offers free healthcare interpretation services to limited-Englishspeaking persons.

“I wouldn’t be here today,” she said if she did not find that Chinese woman sitting at the hospital lobby.

Li’s story is not uncommon.  Los Angeles is home to more than 2.5 million residents who speak moderate to no English, according to an APALC study.

In another harrowing case, a Korean woman seeking treatment for cancer had been waiting for hours at a Los Angeles County hospital. Not feeling well, she left, hoping to get treatment on another day. Before she left, the secretary pressed her to sign a consent form in English to waive further chemotherapy treatment. She signed the paperwork, thinking that the form was an appointment sheet. It was only a few days later when she arrived at the hospital for another treatment with a family member that she realized she signed the wrong form.

Her cancer spread. The Korean woman passed away shortly.

“Her sister is actually one of our advocates now,” said Marchela Iahdjian of PALS for Health. “The stories don’t have to be that drastic.”


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Army Recruits Pinoys in Daly City

by Cynthia Flores/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – Since the war in Iraq, US army recruiters have been having a tough time attracting new soldiers.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Palacios admitted he gets a lot of negativity when he tries to recruit teens into the army. In Daly City, however, US Army recruiters have met a 98 percent goal of signing new soldiers.Filipino immigrants make up almost one-third of Daly City’s population, the largest concentration in the US.

Immigrants are attractive targets for recruiters because they are often “underemployed,” Sgt. Brian Knott said. “Immigrant recruits are often legal residents with degrees who are underemployed — we offer them to be an accountant when they are washing dishes in McDonald’s.”

Newspapers in the Bay Area reported recently that the US  Army office has recruited 25 locals in Daly City since October at what is considered the top recruiting station in Northern California.

Tomas Jimenez, an assistant professor of sociology at UC San Diego conducting research on immigrants in the military, said the benefits from the Army. “The military is interested in immigrants because they have been known to make great recruits,” Jimenez said. He also said immigrants want to serve a foreign country to gain respect and assimilate into the new society.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Palacios, who joined the US Army immediately after emigrating from the Philippines in 1992, said the majority of his recruits are Filipino immigrants. Of the 62 locals recruited to the Army last year from north Peninsula cities, two-thirds were Asians, while Hispanics made up 17 percent, according to data compiled by the National Priorities Project, a research group that studies military trends. Most of the recruits, according to the data, came from Daly City. In San Mateo County, 39 percent of recruits in 2007 were Asian, while nationally, they made up only 3 percent.

For Myke Raymundo, a 20-year-old immigrant from the Philippines who was recruited in Daly City, entering the military is a great way to start a life in the United States. “It’s a win-win situation — it’s a chance for me to do all the things I want at the same time — work, study and get experience,” Raymundo said.

Maybe one attractive motivation for the Filipinos being recruited in the Daly City recruiting office is the massive poster displayed on the main wall – $50,000 in benefits for US Army soldiers. Considering that many Pinoys in Daly City earn just a fraction of that, the offer is truly enticing indeed!


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SC Rejects Manila Hotel Bid on NAIA 3 Row

by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com

MANILA – The Supreme Court has rejected the bid of the Manila Hotel Corporation to grab the right to operate the controversial Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal saying that its decision on the case on December 2005 has long become final and executory.

In a three-page resolution issued on March 11, the High Tribunal denied the motion to intervene with prayer for In a three-page resolution issued on March 11, the High Tribunal denied the motion to intervene with prayer for alternative compliance in the case filed by MHC but has yet to act on the petition filed the Lucio Tan-controlled Asia’s Emerging Dragon Corporation (AEDC) asserting its right to operate the airport being the “unchallenged original proponent” of the project which the MHC is also an intervenor.

“Our 2005 Decision has long become final and executory. Generally, after judgment has become executory, the court cannot amend the same. On the other hand, a motion for intervention may be allowed only before rendition of judgment in the case. Clearly, the present intervention attempt is unauthorized under our rules of procedure,” the SC stressed.

In its December 2005 ruling, the Court directed the government to pay Philippine International Air Terminals Co., Inc. (Piatco) the amount of P3 billion representing the proffered value of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.

It also ordered the Regional Trial Court to determine just compensation due to the claimants.

The MHC anchored it claim to operate the NAIA 3 on the ground that it had bought 20 percent of Piatco in 2005, and that it had an agreement with Fraport Fraport AG Frankfurt Services Worldwide for the purchase of its 30 percent equity shareholdings in Piatco for $200 million.

The MHC, which is controlled by Philtrust Bank owner Emilio Yap, urged the SC justices to allow it to operate and manage the NAIA Terminal 3 for 25 years, with 82.5 percent of the profits to be distributed to various government and charitable institutions.

It has proposed to donate annually 50 percent of any net profit from the Terminal-3 operations to the Philippine National Red Cross, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Caritas program of the Catholic Church, the armed forces and the police.

Aside from this “nationalistic fervor,” the petitioner asserted that it has legal interest in the case because it was partly owned by a government controlled corporation, namely the GSIS, and also because it has acquired the Piatco shares.

Since the December 2005 ruling has not yet been fully executed, the petitioner said it wanted to propose an alternative plan to “ease compliance with the said Decision by relieving the government from the huge financial burdens” involved in following the ruling.”

On the other hand, the AEDC, in its petition, asked the High Tribunal to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining respondents — Transportation and Communication Secretary Leandro Mendoza and the manila International Airport Authority — from negotiating, re-bidding or awarding the concession contract with Philippine International Air Terminal Co. Inc. (PIATCO) or any other parties, including the Manila Hotel Corporation.

AEDC stressed that the May 5, 2003 decision of the Court declaring null and void the award of contract for the construction and operation of NAIA – IPT III to Piatco has restored the group’s status as the “unchallenged original proponent” of NAIA – IPT III project.

Being so, AEDC said it is automatically entitled to the award of the contract in accordance with Section 4 of Republic Act No. 6957, as amended by Republic Act No. 7718 otherwise known as the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) Law.

The said provision, according to AEDC, “grants the original proponent with an incentive and advantage where, in the absence of any comparative or competitive proposal, the BOT project is automatically awarded to the original proponent. Or, in the event a lower price proposal is offered, the original proponent is given the right to match.”

The petitioner recounted that the AEDC, upon the request of the government, submitted its unsolicited proposal for the development of NAIA-IPT project on October 5, 1994 following the required procedures under the BOT law.


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The Dangers of Texting

by Cynthia Flores/Asianjournal.com

THE Philippines may still hold the title of being the texting capital of the world but recent developments in the United Kingdom may just change that.

UK media recently expressed alarm over texting as a vocational hazard. Reports have shown people crashing into poles and bins along streets where they walked while texting. In the same report, they recognized that Filipinos still hold the no.1 national record in texting, sending a billion text messages daily in 2007.

Global interest was stirred when news videos in Europe which were posted on the Internet showed some London pedestrians who have become so preoccupied with e-mailing and text messaging on their cellphones that they can’t make it down a city block without crashing into lampposts or trash bins. People were filmed walking head down, ricocheting off various stationary sidewalk objects.

A solution was proposed in the news video showing a pilot project in Brick Lane where lampposts were padded to make them more pedestrian-friendly.

“Britain’s first safe text street has been created complete with padded lampposts to protect millions of mobile phone users from getting hurt in street accidents while walking and texting,” the London Daily Mail proclaimed. But it turned out that the lamppostwrapping scheme was just a clever public-relations ploy mounted by 118118, a British directory assistance company, and Living Streets, a well-known charity dedicated to making cities more pedestrian-friendly. In tandem with the publicity stunt, Living Streets conducted a survey of 1,000 texting people and found that 1 in 10 had suffered injuries while texting and walking.

Though the lamppost bumpers were removed from Brick Lane after only 24 hours, the concern for the rampant dangers of walking while texting rages on.

A few months ago, New York State Senator Carl Kruger of Brooklyn introduced a bill in Albany to combat “iPod oblivion.” His bill, which was prompted by the death of two constituents who were killed crossing the street while listening to their iPods, sought to ban pedestrians from using earphones in crosswalks in New York’s large urban areas. The bill languished in committee last year, but the Senator has reintroduced it in 2008.

US law enforcement agencies agree that the increase in text messaging endangers both drivers and pedestrians. Many States have outlawed text messaging while driving, and Maryland and Virginia are considering banning cyclists from text messaging on the go. While having the distinction of being the texting capital of the world connotes a techno-savvy culture, safe use of technology should always comes first.


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