Daily Archives: July 13, 2008

LAPD Seeking Quick Extradition of FilAm Gang Members

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress

LOS ANGELES – Although it’s been more than 10 months since their arrest in the Philippines, FilAm brothers Marvin and Pierre Mercado have yet to be extradited to the US to face murder and attempted murder charges.

“It’s been an unusual long habeus corpus hearing,” said Sergeant Walter Teague during a press conference outside the Los Angeles Police Department’s Downtown Bureau. “We have sent over further evidence. I’ve offered to testify. Whatever the Philippine authority need I am 110 percent and the LA police department will provide them. We have provided some more [evidence] and hope it could expedite the process.”

On Thursday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and LAPD officials made its first announcement about the two fugitives capture since their arrest in the Philippines last September.

The Mercado brothers had been hiding in the Philippines for the past 11 years.

Teague said that Marvin and Pierre were members of the Asian Boyz gang in the 1990’s. The two brothers are wanted in connection for their roles in a crime spree that claimed the lives of 12 people and other criminal activities including home invasions, robberies, burglaries, assaults and drive-by shootings in the Greater Los Angeles area, according to Teague.

The two then fled to avoid arrest and prosecution for alleged murder, attempted murder and robbery charges in mid-1990.

Marvin was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List since 1997 and featured on America’s Most Wanted.

Last year, Philippine Immigration Authorities nabbed the two brothers in their condominium in Quezon City. They are being held on immigration charges. The FBI later confirmed it was indeed the alleged suspects.

Teague did not elaborate as to how they were apprehended.

“They were identified and arrested,” said Teague.

Teague has followed the Mercado’s trail for the past decade. He was part of the original LAPD Asian Task force along with the FBI that investigated the Asian Boyz gang.

“Right as our investigation was coming into fruition, several members of the gang including the Mercado’s fled the country…everyone was rounded up and brought to trial except the Mercado brothers.”

“That trial was the largest multi-defendant, death penalty case in California history,” he added. “Seven members of the Asian Boyz were convicted and sent to prison. But the Mercado’s escaped justice and remained at large.”

One of the Asian Boyz gang members convicted was another FilAm, David Evangelista. All seven-members were sentenced to life-in-prison.

Teague said that Marvin faces six-counts of murder. His brother, Pierre, faces attempted murder charges. Each faces a possible life sentence.

Teague did not give a timetable as to when the two brothers will be extradited.

“We are still working with authorities,” he said.


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Filipino family killed in hit-and-run crash

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress

WINCHESTER – Ariel Pagaspas still can’t believe that his sister and her family are gone.

“I am doing okay,” he said to the Asian Journal. “I need to be strong and collect myself. It’s physically draining. I’m the only family here. Everyone is in the Philippines.”

On Sunday, June 29, Pagaspas younger sister, 36-year-old Maribeth San Agustin, her 48-year-old husband Andres San Agustin, and their four year-old son Angelo, were coming home from a birthday party near Hemet when a truck driving on the other side of the road crossed over to the opposite lane and crashed head-on into the family’s car.

Reports and eyewitnesses say that the truck was racing with another vehicle moments before the accident happened. The truck was driving on a single lane when it crossed the double yellow line to try and overtake the other car.

The driver of the truck fled the scene. He/ she jumped into another vehicle, allegedly the same vehicle the person was racing against. Alcohol may have been involved, according to Pagaspas.

The California Highway Patrol has one of the suspects in custody, according to Pagaspas. The CHP has not released their names.

Maribeth and her husband, Andres, died on the scene, said

Pagaspas. Their four-year-old son was rushed to Rancho Springs Medical Center and lived for a few more hours before succumbing to the injuries.

Pagaspas recalls that fateful night.

He said family friends were worried when Maribeth did not return their calls that night.

It was unlike her to not return calls.

They called the police. They called the local hospital. Hospital officials said that an Asian boy had been carted in.

“That’s when we found out,” he said.

Pagaspas, a Los Angeles resident, said he remembers driving in the middle of the night over 100-miles-per-hour to the Murrieta hospital.

“My nephew was just being carted off to the coroner’s office when I got there,” he remembers.

“I confirmed their deaths.”

He said his sister and her husband’s bodies were so badly injured that he is deciding against having an open casket.


Pagaspas said the worst part he had to endure was telling his family back home in the Philippines of the news.

He admits he only calls home once a month. So when he picked up the phone and heard the excitement in his mother’s voice just to hear his voice, he just blurted it out.

“They are dead,” he recalls saying. “I just told them right there that they are gone, that she [Maribeth] and her family got into a car crash.”

“My mom started crying. My dad was in pain. They’ve never really experienced death. I just told them we’re trying to get more information.” He couldn’t talk to them again for days. The pain of hearing them cry over the phone was too unbearable.

If it appears that Pagaspas is being the strong one in the family, it’s because he has no choice.

“No one is going to take care of this – the mortuary, the memorial, the flight,” he said. “I don’t have a choice. I’m representing my side of the family. I have no choice but to be strong. There are days when I only get two hours or three hours of sleep. When I do go to sleep I wake up and I’m wide-awake thinking of things to do.”

Loving Sister

Pagaspas said that Maribeth was his favorite sibling. Besides

Maribeth, he also has a younger brother. Their family is originally from Rizal, Philippines. The two had lived together briefly while she was studying education at the Philippine Normal College. Maribeth was a loving person, he said.

“She was so selfless,” he recalls. “She always wanted to please everyone around her. She would keep negative things to herself. She was very positive. She loved her family. She had friends all around the neighborhood.”

He said that his brother-in-law was a dedicated family man and husband. Andres San Agustin was a former Navy Military first-class hospital corpsman. He served with the 1st Medical Logistics Company, 1st Supply Battalion, and 1st Marine Logistics Group.


There will be a full military memorial for the family this week at the Eternal Hills Memorial Park in Oceanside. The bodies will then be flown for burial in the Philippines.

Pagaspas said that the only positive, if there is a positive note, about this is that his sister and her family are all together.

“I think that’s the only positive thing,” he said. “They are together in heaven.”



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RP still bullish on real estate market

by Rene Villaroman/AJPress

CARSON — The Philippines still enjoys a bullish real estate market despite all the depressing economic conditions worldwide and those brought about by conditions in the United States. “The Philippines is still good because properties are being driven by end-users, not by speculation,” said Robert Sobrepena, the 53-year-old Chairman and CEO of Fil-Estate Group of Companies, which is headquartered in Metro Manila, Philippines.

“The buyers are people who use the units. They live in it, retire in it, and some buy properties for their families,” Sobrepena told Asian Journal during an interview at the office of Fil-Estate Global in Carson on Wednesday. “So that kind of demand is always good and sustainable.”

Sobrepena said the real estate market in the country is not a bubble. “That’s dangerous, just like here and because of the subprime (mess) and other conditions,” Sobrepena said. “In Manila in the Philippines, it’s pretty much driven by demand, and units are being bought up by end-users. It’s sustainable. That’s why it’s held up despite the crash of property (values) here. Property values are still appreciating, still strong, still sustainable, and developers are putting out more projects,” he said.

Real estate development has continued its furious pace despite the fact that Manila is inexorably running out of lands. But Metro Manila keeps growing, and real estate development has moved out of the traditional boundaries of Manila to the edges of surrounding provinces.

“Manila is fast expanding; it’s getting bigger,” says Sobrepena. “Right now, Metro Manila has reached all the way to Alabang; all the way to areas close to Bulacan. It’s a huge area, and it is continuing to grow.” The rising population in Manila, now estimated at 15 million people—and continuing to grow—is also helping to sustain the real estate market. Sobrepena said that Fil-Estate Properties’s profile shows that his company’s market is composed of 70 percent Filipinos and 30 percent foreigners.

As early as 15 years ago, Fil-Estate Properties and Fil-Estate Lands had foreseen that there would be a bump in the tourismretirement and leisure industries, and these companies directed their resources to developing infrastructure to satisfy these growing market. “We’ve focused on developing our land bank, which totals 3000 hectares, towards leisure, tourism and retirement type facilities. It would take from 10 to 12 years to develop these, but our focus will be on the best amenities and facilities, not just for Filipinos but also for foreigners,” Sobrepena said.

For example, Fil-Estate Properties’ two hotels in Camp John Hay, a former US Military property, enjoys 80 percent occupancy rates all year round. Part of the Fil-Estate Lands’ holdings and real estate developments are in Boracay, where they own almost 80 percent of the island, and in areas around Tagaytay City in the Southern Luzon province of Cavite. Fil-Estate Properties also has been invited to build golf courses in the island of Palawan.

And speaking of foreigners, Sobrepena thinks the largest and closest market is China. “In China the family structure is an inverted triangle: four grandparents, two parents and one child,” he said. “That’s a huge potential market for retirees who want to come the Philippines,” he said. “China is a huge market because it has a very old population.” Sobrena had been to China many times, building golf courses for the Chinese people.

Fil-Estate has also started the international marketing of their choicest properties in the Philippines to Southern California and the rest of the US. Fil-Estate Global, Fil-Estate Group of Companies’ international marketing network, formally opened its offices at 1 Civic Plaza Drive, Suite 310, Carson City, CA last June 20, 2008. With the establishment of Fil-Estate Global, Filipinos from the US and other parts of the world will realize their dream of owning a place to retire someday or put some of those hard-earned dollars into a worthwhile investment in a country that shows great promise.

Sobrepena has a lot of faith in his country. “Look at our history, beginning from the Martial Law (years). There was always turmoil and instability. But the Philippines is maturing as a democracy. There was a good and smooth transfer of power from Corazon Aquino to Fidel Ramos. [Joseph] “Erap” [Estrada] was a popular President, but he was not disciplined, and the country suffered from a momentary crisis when he was taken out of power,” he said. “But Filipinos have learned to have faith in elections. Out of the last four presidents, there was only one period of political instability. It’s getting better.”

“People have also learned that corruption does not pay, because you will lose your mind,” he said. “Ours is a very young democracy, but we are the only democracy in Asia. People are learning that EDSA-type People-Power Movements are no longer effective because it does not promote stability. People would rather wait for the next election.”

Sobrepena has arrived, and he is confident with that achievement. His seven children, ages 15 to 25, are studying in different schools in the United States. “Some are in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and in New York, but they all intend to come back and work in the Philippines after they graduate.” Sobreprena also has taken the sport of golf because he was asked by Jack Nicklaus, who designed the golf courses in Baguio City. First, it was basketball—he is about 7 feet tall—then tennis. “Now that I am becoming slower, I’ve taken up golf,” he said.


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