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was then that they decided to create “a movement where Filipinos can help push for electoral reform, people empowerment, and the crusade against all illegal activities.” Hence, KN was born. On July 30, 2008, KN had its formal launching at AdMU. According to KN’s official website, many Filipinos expressed support over the movement and eventually called the leaders at the forefront as “Islands of Hope” after they read it in the news. Congressman Teddy Baguilat, who was at the time Ifugao governor, also decided to join the group. Some people have misconstrued the movement as a party-list group. But as stated in its official website, KN is a “non-partisan movement composed of good Filipinos from different sectors of society that aim to espouse genuine change and ethical leadership in our country.” The movement aims to promote the values and principles of transparency, people empowerment, social accountability, and electoral reforms in order to achieve a genuine and lasting change in the national

By lorela u. sandoval

T really began in 2008. It was founded by Among Ed [Panlilio], Governor Grace [Padaca], and then Mayor Jesse Robredo who became DILG [Department of Interior and Local Government] secretary. It was over dinner at Club Filipino. And the theme was really just to share experiences, kung ano ‘yong pinagdadaanan nila,” narrated Harvey Keh, lead convenor of the Kaya Natin! (KN) movement, during its Get to Know Kaya Natin! Day last September 8 at the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU). Representing the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government, Keh arranged the first meeting with Robredo, Padaca, and Panlilio on June 10, 2008. A second meeting followed suit, this time including Mayor Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija. It

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KAYA NATIN! TOWARDS GOOD GOVERNANCE

Padaca is now Comelec commissioner while Panlilio is seeking to regain the Pampanga gubernatorial seat in the coming election.

Kaya Natin! aims to promote the values and principles of transparency, people empowerment, social accountability, and electoral reforms in order to achieve a genuine and lasting change in the national government.

Robredo: The poster boy of good governance.


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Napakasimple at payak na pamumuhay ng pamilya niya. At napakalaking lesson nun sa amin kasi nakita naming na pwede palang mamuhay ng payak at simple ang isang lider na tinitingala tulad ni Jesse Robredo.” To be sure, the group faces many challenges and problems in the pursuit of good governance and ethical leadership. One of the bigger problems is elections -- vote buying and paying off election officials, among other things. But Keh is confident the nature of Philippine politics can be reformed. He cited three things necessary in achieving this. “Well, first of all, I think there should be transparency and accountability in the government. There should be genuine electoral reforms, meaning hindi pupuwede na ‘yong mga mabubuting kandidato, sila pa ang natatalo dahil sa dayaan ‘di ba? So sana dapat ‘yong mga mabubuti, they are given fair and equal chance of winning. And then last but not the least, citizen empowerment. There should be more Filipinos who should be active in governance work. Hindi pupuwedeng iiwan lang natin ang government or the business of governing government to our government leaders, it should be with the Filipino people as well.” n

President Aquino speaks during a Kaya Natin-sponsored event explaining the role of government and how the citizens can actively involve in public affairs. government. It also aspires to “help make our government and our leaders more responsive to the needs of the Filipino people and enable it to deliver basic services to those who need it most in the most efficient and effective way.” Eventually, KN received numerous invitations from colleges and universities to speak to students about good governance, thereby starting campus and organization tours which became part of the Kaya Natin! Caravan of Good Governance. The caravan aspires to increase the awareness of the Filipino citizenry, especially the youth, about the best practices of good governance based on the experiences of its Kaya Natin! Champions. The Kaya Natin! Champions are government leaders recognized by the movement as “embodiments of effective, ethical, and empowering leadership.” The Champions go against all illegal activities, such as jueteng and illegal logging, and advocate for “a government that is truly by the people.” Among those declared KN Champions are Senator Teofisto Guingona III, Quezon Congressman Erin Tañada, Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection Neric Acosta, Quezon City Congressman Bolet Banal, and Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte of Quezon City. KN also saw the significant role of the youth in the movement, and thus created the Kaya Natin! Youth. This group is composed of college students and young professionals

KN lead convenor Harvey Keh is confident the nature of Philippine politics can be reformed demonstrating leadership abilities in school or in communities and a commitment to extracurricular activities. It conceptualizes programs and organizes activities that seek to help strengthen the youth in the hopes that they become models of good governance and empowering leadership. It also serves as an avenue for youth leaders to inspire and empower each other in promoting positive change and empowering the country and its people. To help deliver the basic needs of the marginalized Filipinos, which is one of the goals of the movement, KN also designed different programs and activities. One is in health and education where members and volunteers conduct medical missions and lectures on preventive health and maternal health, among others. But there’s a twist to this—they include lectures on public safety, good governance, electoral reforms, and basic rights of every Filipino. Another is KAYA Natin! Gives, a donation website created in collaboration with the Ateneo School

Keh: Pushing for change one small step at a time.

of Government and UnionBank’s Asked what three most important U-Share Project. In its education things they learned from the late program, it encourages people to secretary, he was quick to answer. sponsor 3rd year to 4th year college “Ang malaki talaga sa amin ‘yong Peoscholars who have difficulty in ple Empowerment. ‘Yong dapat talaga financing their education. Mean- hindi nagdedesisyon ang isang pinuno while, the health program solicits nang hindi kinokonsulta ang tao. At support for the yearly health in- ‘yong walang itinatago sa tao, ‘yong surance and medical check-ups tinatawag na transparency. Very imof carefully selected marginalized portant kay Sec. Jesse yun. At siyempre ‘yong pagiging simple niya at marangal families. The third program is the creation na pamumuhay na ni minsan ‘di siya of a leadership sanctuary – “a place nagpayaman at kumita sa gobyerno. or way by which we are able to bring together these good leaders and they get to share their problems and support each other.” Fourth is Financial political educaSaving for your Future tion and respon• TFSA, RRSP, GIC 2.5% sible citizen ( 5 yrs ) ship wherein • Income plan for life the Caravan of ACCOUNTING/TAXES Good Gover ( 5%/yr ) • Bookkeeping nance is part • Debt elimination over 70% • Financial Statement of. The caravan • Retirement plan in the ( T1 & T2 ) has already visPhilippines ited 13 areas in Immigration the country. Insurance • Permanent Residence With the • Personal or Group • Temporary Worker passing of SecExtended Health & Dental retary Robredo, • Nannies Plan Keh said they • Spousal-sponsorship have lost a big • Life & Disability • American Visas part of them. • Critical Illness • Small court claim cases

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The senatorial lineup for 2013 of the United Nationalist Alliance includes the sons of former President Joseph Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and the daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay.

PHILIPPINE POLITICS – IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR By kate mcgeown

There’s clearly a growing public appetite

OLITICIANS for change. A local newspaper columnist, in the Philippines have Solita Monsod, recently suggested that been filing their Filipinos “pledge not to vote for anyone candidacies for next year’s whose surname is the same as, and/or elections - and who is related to, an incumbent there are some familiar names. public official.” Very familiar. In fact, it’s hard as the wife of President Ferdinand to avoid the impression that Marcos, and Mr. Estrada when he politics here is a form of fam- himself was president. ily business. Both have also faced lengthy triImelda Marcos and Joseph Estrada are two of the best-known names in the Philippines. Both have been ousted from the presidential palace - Mrs. Marcos

She’s not the only Marcos back in government - her son is a senator and her daughter a provincial governor. At 75, Joseph Estrada is hoping to become Manila’s mayor. His son is running for the Senate - to join a half-brother who’s already there. Brothers, wives, uncles, children - Philippine politics is dominated by certain families. And evidently, even if one of them is very publicly deposed, they’re not out of power for very long. “It may be the 21st century, but in reality this is still a very feudal society,” Bam Aquino: If people like me are willing to serve, we shouldn’t just stay by the sidelines.

als for corruption. But neither is a quitter. Imelda is already a congresswoman, and at 83-years-old she’s putting herself forward for another three-year stint.

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The Marcos dynasty: Ilocos Norte Congresswoman Imelda Marcos, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos and Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

says political analyst Marites Vitug. It’s not just families from the past who keep appearing on the ballot, either - new dynasties are forming too. The famous Philippine boxer Manny Pacquiao won a Congress seat three years ago, and now his wife and brother are running for positions alongside him. Of course political dynasties are not confined to the Philippines. India has its Nehrus and Gandhis, Pakistan its Bhuttos, even the US has had the Kennedys and the Bushes. But the trend is particularly evident here, despite what Filipinos insist is a vibrant democracy. Part of the problem is that Filipinos need a lot of money to campaign for votes - and wealth is concentrated among certain families. Manny Villar is one of the few senators who’s not from a well-known name - in fact he says was born in a squatter camp and once sold shrimps in a market. But by the time he ran for political office, he’d already made his millions in business - and he says that private money is essential to any election campaign. Yet even he believes money isn’t as good as family connections - the reason he gives for his failed presidential bid in 2010. “You can go far, but I don’t think you can be president without being from one of those families,” he says. Bam Aquino, a cousin of President Benigno Aquino, acknowledges that his relatives are a great help in his current run for the Senate. At just 35, it’s difficult to see how else he could have a chance of winning. But he insists there are other ways of getting known too - fame, even infamy, can be a substitute for family ties. Many movie stars and talk show hosts seem to find their way into politics - and, as two current senators have discovered, launching a failed coup also seems to launch a political career. Bam Aquino acknowledges that the system isn’t ideal, but says he doesn’t see why that means he shouldn’t run. “I was six years old when my uncle [the

current president’s father, Ninoy Aquino] was shot. It changed my life. I saw Filipinos coming together, wanting democracy. Because of that I’ve always wanted to be in politics. If people like me are willing to serve, we shouldn’t just stay by the sidelines. All good people need to engage. Why should we wait?” He raises an interesting point. How much damage is actually done if politics is in the hands of a few big families, as long as they run the country well? According to Marites Vitug, a great deal of damage. “It seriously limits the growth of other people who aren’t as rich,” she says. “And it stifles politics. These people have vested interests - to perpetuate things the way they are, for themselves. I can accept it if a doctor has a family business, and passes it on his son, but being in the Senate should not be a family business.” If this is the situation nationally, it’s even worse in local politics, where one family often has a complete monopoly on power - passing posts around their relatives so they effectively rule the whole area. In an extreme example of the damage this can cause, members of the Ampatuan clan - the most powerful family in Maguindanao province - are alleged to have killed 57 people in 2009, purely because of their anger at a rival who dared to challenge their stranglehold on power. So can this system ever change? According to Senator Villar, the key is to bring people out of poverty, and provide better education. “When we develop economically, the influence of these family dynasties will go down significantly.” Bam Aquino thinks that political parties first need to be more mature and stable - at the moment candidates frequently flit from one party to another. Then they will be able to nominate candidates “whatever their last names are,” he says. Marites Vitug agrees with both of these suggestions - adding that there should also be a law to limit the number of politicians from each family. There’s clearly a growing public appetite for change. A local newspaper columnist, Solita Monsod, recently suggested that Filipinos “pledge not to vote for anyone whose surname is the same as, and/or who is related to, an incumbent public official.” And when Interior Secretary Jess Robre-

do died in a plane crash a few months ago, there was widespread public mourning for a politician seen as one of the exceptions - a man who rose up the ranks not because of fame, fortune or family, but because he was good at his job.

S

C

But the Philippine public isn’t entirely consistent in the campaign against political dynasties. In response to intense public demand, Jesse Robredo’s widow has just announced that she’s running for office. (BBC News, Philippines) n

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By manuel f. almario

T is easy to see why a law outlawing political dynasties will be difficult, if not impossible, to pass. The law will be a curtailment of the right of every citizen to vote for any candidate of his/her choice, which is the essence of democracy. Commission on Elections Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. says that the only way political dynasties can be banned is by amendment of the Constitution through a public initiative, as Congress will not enact such a law because of conflict with the self-interest of most of its members. But even if such a constitutional amendment is introduced, will it not conflict with the right to free choice? Or the right of any qualified citizen to run for public office? Webster’s Dictionary defines “dynasty” as “1) sovereignty, lordship, dominion; 2) a race or succession of kings, of the same line or family; the continued lordship of a race of rulers.” Princeton’s World’s Net has a more modern definition: “a sequence of powerful leaders in the same family.” A dynasty is historically inherited political power through a bloodline, as in the case of kings and nobles during the feudal period. The French, English and Russian revolutions ended this heritage of power by cutting off the heads of their kings (Charles I of England in 1649, King Louis XVI of France in 1793, and Tsar Nicolas II of Russia in 1918). Democracy abolished dynasties of inherited power and replaced it formally with the sovereignty of the ballot. The voter is “king.” His basic qualification is citizenship, not blood or property. But as one veteran Filipino politician has put it, in the Philippines, it is the “golden rule” that dictates the outcome of elections: “He who has the gold rules.” The 1969 election, in which President Ferdinand Marcos won reelection, was decided by “guns, gold and goons” -- the three Gs. Marcos looted the national treasury to win reelection, bankrupting the government, seeding the social unrest that eventually deposed him. The politician who famously provided this truism was Sergio Osmeña Jr., the presidential candidate who was defeated by Marcos. Sergio Jr. was himself a member of a

A STRONG

MIDDLE CLASS

IS THE SOLUTION

Banning political dynasties via legislation is a long shot because the members of Congress will not allow it. “political dynasty” in Cebu, founded by his father, former President Sergio Osmeña Sr. The Osmeña “dynasty,” which has reached its twilight years, is now replaced by another, that of the Garcias. The source of a “political dynasty” is wealth, whether inherited or acquired, legally or illegally. Without wealth, you cannot pay the goons or buy the guns to coerce the voters. Also, you cannot buy the votes. And more especially, you cannot afford the Comelec, which is needed for wholesale fraud, like

dagdag-bawas (literally, adding to and subtracting from electoral returns). The democracies of ancient Greece and Rome eventually collapsed when the government by merit, courage in the battlefield, education and wisdom gave way to government by oligarchy (wealth). As young republics, their citizens composed mostly of farmers and artisans with more or less equal income, Greece and Rome were the powers in their regions. But empire made the state wealthy, with public works and armies being raised by

The peasants and workers are hungry, and their votes are in the market cheaply for those who can afford to buy public power. Power begets wealth and wealth begets power. It is a vicious cycle that is the root of the political dynasty, Philippine style.

stealthy individuals who made huge profits through government contracts and trade monopolies. An oligarchy of a few rich families seized governmental power. Lord Acton’s law took over: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The termites of corruption gutted the foun-

The author argues that building a strong middle class -- a majority class of voters who cannot be bought – is the antidote to political dynasties. dations of the state, which inevitably collapsed. The Philippines, without even becoming wealthy as a nation, has developed an oligarchy bred during colonial times. Its members reside splendidly in shining communities protected by high walls and private armies, and surrounded by hovels of emaciated peasants and workers eking out a bare existence -- a feudal society in an age of modern metropolises, space satellites and computers. The peasants and workers are hungry, and their votes are in the market cheaply for those who can afford to buy public power. Power begets wealth and wealth begets power. It is a vicious cycle that is the root of the political dynasty, Philippine style. The solution? Provide a livelihood with decent wages to all family heads of the class of workers and tillers. Thus, you build a strong middle class -- a majority class of voters who cannot be bought. The American Empire, like the Roman Empire and the Greek democracies, has declined because of the weakening of the middle class. US President Barack Obama said he would rebuild it. In the Philippines, our job is to build it. (This commentary first appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Manuel F. Almario is the spokesperson of the Movement for Truth in History.) n


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Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila delivers more babies than any other facility in the Philippines. By floyd whaley

ANILA — In the main ward at Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, 171 women and nearly as many newborns share fewer than 100 beds. Dozens more expectant mothers line the street outside, some sleeping on the sidewalk while waiting to get in. The women, most of whom cannot afford to give birth at a private hospital, move through a type of controlled chaos from the street, to the labor room, to the delivery room, to the maternity ward and back out the door, usually in less than 48 hours. “It’s a never-ending story, 24 hours a day, every day,” said Dr. Romeo Bituin, who added that the government-run maternity hospital was legally required to serve as a safety net for the poor. “We can’t reject patients. If we turn them away, where will they go?” After years of discussion in the Philippine Congress, the House of Representatives finally decided in August to end debate on a reproductive health bill that would subsidize contraception and require sex education in the Philippines, a country with one of the highest birthrates in Asia. (Note: The Reproductive Health bill has been “watered down” to accommodate the wishes of the opponents of the measure. But its chances of being approved by the



PHILIPPINES

MANILA HOSPITAL AWAITS REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH BILL’S FATE

‘Family planning in the Philippines is not about population control. It is a health intervention. We are focusing on women who are too young, too old, too poor or too sick to have babies but their situation does not allow them to stop.’

current Congress are dim as it remains pending as of this writing in both the House and the Senate.) The bill’s proponents, led by President Benigno S. Aquino III, who has made the issue a priority of his two-year-old administra-

Many Filipino women do not have any sexual or reproductive health education to help them have fewer children if they want to.

DECEMBER 1-15, 2012

tion, say the measure will give poor women a chance to have fewer children and rise out of poverty. Opponents, backed principally by the Roman Catholic Church, say the bill is out of step with the moral tenets of the overwhelmingly Catholic Philippines and argue that a high birthrate lessens poverty. “Our country’s positive birthrate and a population composed of mostly young people are the main players that fuel the economy,” said Jose Palma, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. Whether it is a bane or a boon, the birthrate in the Philippines — 24.98 out of 1,000 people, compared with 13.7 in the United States — is not a matter of statistics at Fabella. It is a matter of logistics. The hospital, in a former prison between a public market and the city jail, delivers more babies than any other facility in the Philippines. Last year, 17,639 babies were born there. The women are allowed into the hospital only when they are ready to give birth. After the birth, they sleep two to a bed in the maternity ward. If they have a healthy delivery without complications, they are sent home after one day. “We don’t have the capacity to let them come in early or stay long after delivery,” said Dr. Marie Pacapac, a spokeswoman for the hospital. “Our delivery room fills up.” The hospital averages about 60 deliveries a day in the summer and about 80 deliveries in a 24-hour period during the peak delivery season, September to December.


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Most of the women who deliver at Fabella have never had any sexual or reproductive health education Fabella, which accepts pregnant women that other facilities reject, charges 3,000 pesos, about $70, for a normal delivery. Women who cannot afford that pay whatever they can. Some babies have been delivered for 100 pesos, about $2.40, while some expectant mothers show up at the hospital without a single peso, hospital officials said. Most of the women who deliver at Fabella have never had any sexual or reproductive health education — which is rarely taught here — and many cannot afford to buy contraception, said Dr. Bituin, who noted that these issues would be ad-

Women rally to demand speedy passage of the Reproductive Health bill. dressed by the pending legislation. “These women will use birth control pills, they will use condoms, but they can’t afford them,” Dr. Bituin said. “If they received these things

for free, they would use them, and fewer of them would end up here,” he said. “We are just the last step in the process. We need to advocate reproductive health in the community at the grass roots. The

church is already there spreading their message through services every Sunday.” The hospital does offer family planning information, but budget constraints prevent it from giving

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patients contraceptives, said Dr. Esmeraldo Ilem, the facility’s head of family planning services. “Family planning in the Philippines is not about population control,” Dr. Ilem said. “It is a health intervention. We are focusing on women who are too young, too old, too poor or too sick to have babies but their situation does not allow them to stop.” That description could be applied to Jelly Galia, a 44-year-old with seven children who was in the main ward after her eighth child died shortly after birth the night before. Sitting on a bed surrounded by women nursing their newborns, Ms. Galia said she lived with her children in a slum. Her husband is an unemployed taxi driver, and her family has no income. “I don’t want to have any more babies,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. “I would take the pills, but we don’t have money to buy those. We’ll try ‘control,’ ” she said, using the local term for abstinence. (The New York Times) n


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E’VE been warned time and again that if something is too good to be true, it probably is a scam. It turned out that the get-rich-quick scheme that hit the headlines last month was another of those so-called pyramid scams that have victimized thousands of people before. According to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), at least 15,000 investors, mostly in Mindanao, were duped of some P12 billion in a matter of months this year. The investment scheme of Aman Futures Group Phils. Inc. has already

claimed lives -- a few victims have committed suicide, a sales agent for Aman Futures was killed in Zamboanga del Sur, and the houses of at least two relatives of the former company manager were burned down.



PHILIPPINES

More than 8,000 victims of Aman Futures in Pagadian City troop to the NBI office to file complaints for the recovery of their money.

PYRAMID SCAM

‘LIKE A STORM’ VICTIMIZING RICH AND POOR ALIKE

Manuel Amalilio, the suspected mastermind of the scam, has disappeared.

DECEMBER 1-15, 2012

Unlike previous scams that principally victimized the poor, the rich were the main prey of Aman Futures. Big and supposedly astute businessmen came forward to admit that the rosy promise of very high returns prompted them into putting their money in Aman.

Authorities said Fernando “Nonoy” Luna, the manager, and Manuel Amalilio, a Filipino of Malaysian descent who is alleged to be the mastermind of the scam, have fled the country. The Department of Justice has formed a special team to probe the scam and bring the perpetrators to justice. More than 8,000 complainants against Aman Futures have filed statements before the NBI as of Nov. 15. Following is a report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Mindanao Bureau on how the latest pyramid scam devastated the lives and fortunes of Mindanao residents:


PLANET

DECEMBER 1-15, 2012

FROM the streets of Pagadian City to the golf course of Ozamiz City, the “economic typhoon” that was Aman Futures Group Phils. Inc. is still the talk of the town as people are still baffled by the riches the company had brought to some and the misery it had inflicted on many others in northwestern Mindanao. “It was like a storm,” a Pagadian motorcab driver described the short-lived operation of Aman Futures. But unlike previous scams that principally victimized the poor, the rich were the main prey of Aman Futures. The investment pooling racket started and grew among poor investors, especially among vendors and tricycle drivers of Pagadian. The high return on the investments earlier placed by the poor enticed the moneyed to join the game, creating an investment frenzy. Big and supposedly astute businessmen came forward to admit that the rosy promise of very high returns prompted them into putting their money in Aman. Early investors, who talked to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, said the scheme started in January. The Pagadian motorcab driver said he shelled out P2,000 as initial investment, money he earned from a week of ferrying passengers around the city.

P50K investment

At the time, an investment of P50,000 earned P50,000 in 20 days. A smaller amount was assured a return of 40 percent to 60 percent. The motorcab driver said about 20 of them pooled their funds to come up with the P50,000 investment. But only one had an investment account with Aman. “The division of the proceeds consistent with our respective contribution was based on personal trust. After all, we were neighbors or colleagues in the trade,” the motorcab driver said in Visayan. “In total, the returns I earned were several times more than my original investment. From these, we renovated our house and paid a down payment for a motorcab,” he added. “But I have not recovered my P2,000. That is my loss in what now turned out to be a gamble.” The motorcab driver’s P2,000 was referred to as his original investment, which he could not recover, because the firm paid only the returns, according to many of those who say they have current claims against Aman Futures.

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AN EVEN BIGGER SCAM IN LANAO SUR

B

EFORE the multibillion-peso Aman Futures pyramiding scam, there was an even bigger fraudulent moneymaking scheme in the south, according to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas meets with victims of the multibillion-peso pyramid scam in Pagadian City and assures them that the government will run after the perpetrators of the scheme.

Hot commodity Within a few months, Aman Futures’ “investment product” became a hot commodity. In February, the scheme was introduced in Ozamiz City, attracting employees of a government-owned hospital. The need to pool funds to come up with the minimum amount for the “double-your-money” offer required developing a network. Networking hastened fund pooling and expanded the number of people who later fell victim to the scam. Those who oversaw fund pooling were the ones who held Aman accounts. The other contributors were called “riders.” But as the racket underwent explosive growth, the investment “poolers” could just be riders of large account holders. Soon, the minimum amount for the “double-your-money” offer was raised to P100,000. When Aman Futures’ operations were about to collapse, the amount was raised to P1 million. Doubts about Aman Futures’ investment scheme cropped up as early as February. But investment poolers claimed that the doubts were unfounded, citing the growing number of people who were able to acquire brand new cars.

SEC advisory An advisory from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in August practically had no effect, especially for those who were taking chances of becoming instant millionaires. Among employees, many of their investments came from loans. Asked about the business of the company, investors gave varying answers, indicating their poor knowledge of the true nature of Aman’s operations. One said Aman dealt in oil palm and mining; another said it was into oil production; and still another said it was into securities.

Aman was shaken by the August SEC advisory. By September, it advised the public, largely through word-of-mouth, that it would temporarily stop investment solicitations by December but would return by January 2013. But by October, many investors reported long delays in the release of promised returns, usually deposited in the bank account of a registered investor. The firm went bust with the official announcement of an SEC cease-and-desist order. Following the SEC order, many investment poolers were nowhere to be found apparently to evade the riders who were demanding the returns promised them and their original investments.

Still hopeful Word spread that Aman was hopeful that things would return to normal as the secondary license for Aman Opportunities Inc. was being worked out with the SEC. Investment poolers were reportedly preparing a manifesto imploring the SEC to issue the secondary license so that Aman would be able to reopen and allow them to recoup their investments. Records show that Aman Futures got SEC registration papers only in June, months after it had pooled millions of pesos. But its registration was in connection with trading in commodities. Despite the adverse developments, hopes among the investors that Aman would be able to pay them returns were running high. They said Aman was supposedly working out the consummation of the electronic deposit transaction for P27 billion between a Malaysiabased bank and a bank in Cebu. “We were told the central bank has stopped the transaction because it will entail an abnormal demand for money,” a minor investment pooler explained. n

Operated by the Jachob “Coco” Rasuman group in Lanao del Sur, it collected more money on fewer investors than Aman Futures, the NBI said. “We cannot at this time commit to an exact figure but our estimate based on the investigation is that the Rasuman group got more money and have fewer victims compared to the Aman Futures,” said Virgilio Mendez, NBI deputy director for regional services. And in a bizarre kind of justice, Rasuman itself became a victim of Aman Futures. It invested its money in Aman and lost everything, said Mendez. To illustrate the kind of money involved in the Rasuman group scam, Mendez cited a case in Cagayan de Oro City in which the group received P300 million in investment from only 29 investors. “Investors of Rasuman were moneyed people, while those of Aman Futures were ordinary people,” he said. Apparently, Rasuman attracted more affluent investors because it was founded and was run by a legitimate businessman with ties to Muslim royalty, the NBI said. Rasuman, who founded the Rasuman group in 2010, is a known businessman in Iligan City whose business interests included the sole distributorship of Holcim Cement in Mindanao, restaurants, car sales, fuel and others. He is married to a Princess Tomawis, whose family is also engaged in various businesses in the region, the NBI said. “Before the downfall of Rasuman, he was considered a hero for making their standard of living higher by people who initially profited from his doubleyour-money scheme,” Mendez said. The Rasuman group shut down its operations in July when it ran out of money to pay its investors. However, its pyramiding scam operations only came to light after the Aman Futures scam exploded in the media in mid-November. According to Mendez, the group of Cagayan de Oro investors brought no complaint against Rasuman to authorities then because they had been

told that their money had been invested in Aman Futures. Unlike Aman, there were no complaints brought against Rasuman because the group only operated in the Muslim areas of Tamparan and Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, and Iligan City, and its investors were mainly Muslims like Rasuman himself. Mendez added that unlike the victims of Aman who became violent, the Rasuman case was “resolved in a peaceful solution through the intervention of religious leaders in the area.” “The victims were urged by the religious leaders to stand down and give the family a chance to pay,” Mendez said. “The Rasuman family had promised to pay all the investors until February of 2013,” he said. Mendez said Rasuman was now in the custody of the Philippine National Police. According to Mendez, Rasuman and Aman Futures leader Manuel Amalilio had no personal relationship and had no links at all, except that Rasuman was victimized by Aman Futures. The NBI said Rasuman’s modus operandi differs in some aspects from that of Aman Futures. While Aman Futures started with market vendors, Rasuman began his investment scheme by getting into buying and selling cars to raise quick cash. “The scheme is cash conversion,” said Mendez. As explained in the NBI report, Rasuman would buy a car with a market value of only P100,000 at a higher rate of P150,000. But the seller had to wait for two months before the vehicle is paid. Rasuman, the report said, would then sell the car at a still lower price for quick cash, which he then used as capital to invest in other ventures. In 2010, the NBI report said Rasuman hired at least 50 agents to look for investors. The agents were promised 80 percent return on investment. These agents in turn would promise the investors they found a 40 to 70 percent profit. “The difference was the commission of the agents,” the report said. (Philippine Daily Inquirer) n


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10 HOTTEST PLANET

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MALE STARS

Nowadays, being “hot” in showbiz means having more than just a pretty face. A “hot” actor, in today’s standards, has not only muscles and six-pack abs but also a well-selling album or a blockbuster hit movie. By cherie del rio

HERE was a time when showbiz was welcoming only to those who had flawless mestizo faces and wellchiseled physiques. Face value was the only thing that mattered. Those days, however, are far gone and seemingly never to return.

JOHN LLYOD

Nowadays, being “hot” in showbiz means having more than just a pretty face. One must have the talent -- a triple threat (one who is good in singing, dancing, and acting) could have a far longer career success than someone who can sing but cannot act. A “hot” actor, in today’s standards, has not only muscles and six-pack abs but also a well-selling album or a

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Paulo Avelino

GERALD blockbuster hit movie. There are also occasions when, despite an actor’s lack of apparent good looks and model-type body, he could still be considered as a network’s hot property due to his success in other media platforms -perhaps in hosting or in acting in a top-rating teleserye. If showbiz were a star-studded furnace, then these guys are the flames that keep the fire ablaze! Get to know today’s 10 hottest male celebrities (alphabetical order):

Gerald Anderson

Starting out as a housemate in Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition, Gerald has climbed the ladder of showbiz success and rightfully earned his place among the hottest male celebrities today. He has appeared in a number of soap operas and movies and is a regular endorser of top brands in the country. Gerald is also a talented dancer and his fans (from Kimeralds to Ashralds) have continued to support him in all his endeavors. Gerald’s impressive performance in the teleserye Budoy has proven that he truly is one of the top caliber actors in the industry, and there should not be any doubt as to why he remains one of the most bankable talents of ABS-CBN.

Even during his days in the Kapuso network, Paulo had quite a following. Not surprising because he is a talented model and actor with a promising career ahead of him. Having a love child with GMA-7 actress LJ Reyes didn’t put a damper on his fast-rising career as a young heartthrob. His network switch last year turned out to be a positive career move -- he landed a role in ABS-CBN’s hit soap Walang Hanggan and people took notice of his brilliance in the craft. Paulo is likewise an established model and product endorser.

John Lloyd Cruz

This 29-year-old heartthrob first charmed the ladies when he starred in the teen-oriented show, Tabing Ilog. From there, he snagged major roles in epic teleseryes such as Maging Sino Ka Man and It Might Be You. His love-team partnership with Bea Alonzo is one of the strongest pillars of his career, earning for him multiple box office hit movies (that consequently gained for him the title of Box Office King). Their most recent collaboration, The Mistress, has already been certified as another box office success. JAKE

Jake Cuenca

Although Jake is not that visible on the big screen and TV commercials, he has earned a spot among Kapamilya teleserye royalties. He seems to be in every soap opera. In fact, as of this writing, Jake appears in two soap operas both airing daily -- Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo in the afternoon and Kahit Puso’y Masugatan during the Primetime Bida slot. His runway appearance in the recently concluded Bench Universe Party elicited a lot of oohs and ahhs from his female fans, proof


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COCO

DANIEL

XIAN enough of his popularity and bankability both in teleseryes and product endorsements.

Xian Lim

Although Xian has had a number of minor roles in ABS-CBN shows and a few product endorsements here and there, his major breakthrough in showbiz didn’t come until he was cast in the Kim Chiu starrer, My Binondo Girl. Since then, Xian has landed lead roles in two movies, My Cactus Heart and The Reunion, and his first album, So It’s You, has acquired gold status. Xian is slated to appear in the upcoming teleserye, Ina, Kapatid, Anak, opposite Kim Chiu once again. With over a million followers on Twitter and Instagram, this Chinese cutie is destined to be one of the top male celebrities of his time.

Elmo Magalona

The 18-year-old son of late musician Francis M. has certainly made

a name for himself both in the singing and acting fields. His songs with Julie Ann San Jose as well as their love team are a hit with the fans. The two have appeared in a flick entitled, Just One Summer. Elmo continues to be one of the Kapuso network’s most-prized talents. He has a solid fan base that supports his shows, songs, and endorsements. Elmo is one of those up and rising stars that Filipino audiences should definitely watch out for.

Coco Martin

Hailing from the indie film industry, C o c o ’s f i r s t brush w i t h fame w a s w h e n his performance in the movie Masahista was recognized by critics and audiences alike. He won the Best Actor Award from the Young Critics Circle in 2006 for that film. Coco’s

is a big hit -- their soap opera Princess and I is now number one in ratings. Judging from the way malls are filled with expectant crowds going gaga over Daniel, it’s safe to say that Daniel is sure to replicate his uncle’s footprints in local showbiz.

PIOLO

Piolo Pascual

career flourished as he began to star in more movies and he likewise landed big roles in ABS-CBN soap operas -- most notable of which is Tayong Dalawa. Coco is also an accomplished product endorser. With the way his fans screamed with glee during his recent modeling stint at the Bench Universe fashion show, it can be deduced that Coco is truly one of today’s hottest actors.

Daniel Padilla

Dubbed as the “Justin Bieber of the Philippines,” Daniel’s boyish good looks and bad-boy charms reminiscent of his uncle, Robin Padilla, have put the young actor up there in the list of who’s who in today’s hottest leading men. His team-up with teen sensation Kathryn Bernardo

Despite the intrigues and destructive rumors arising from his breakup with KC Concepcion, Piolo continues to make women swoon with just a few lines from a song, or a dialogue from a movie or soap opera. He remains a master of his craft, be it in singing, acting, or hosting. His fan base remains solid even in the face of all the negative publicity. Fan or foe of Piolo, you can’t deny the fact that Papa P remains one the hottest male stars today.

Derek Ramsay

Despite his move from ABS-CBN to TV5 and the much publicized breakup with Angelica Panganiban, Derek seems unfazed by all the drama and negativity. He has made a name for himself not just as a sexy heartthrob worshipped by female fans but also as a seasoned actor and TV host. He has been tapped to host TV5’s The Amazing Race Philippines. Derek may be gone from the usual Kapamilya lineup, but he still hasn’t disappeared from the limelight. With his rugged looks and to-diefor body, he’ll always be in the hottest list. n


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WILLIE LEAVING GAME SHOW

Willie and his dancers work the crowd

WILLIE Revillame said he is leaving his game show, Wil Time Bigtime, and will make a formal announcement about the fate of his program on Jan. 5. In a shocking announcement on his game show last Nov. 20, Willie said, “January 5, abangan ninyo, mag-a-announce ako ng desisyon kung ako’y magtutuloy pa sa programang ito,” he said. “January 5, basta abangan n’yo. Ia-announce ko lahat yon.” He added: “Kung walang ganito, walang programa, saan kayo pu-

ANDI TORN BETWEEN TWO LOVERS? JAKE Ejercito revealed that he and Andi Eigenmann were still a couple when the young actress renewed her relationship with actor Albie Casiño that resulted in an unwanted pregnancy. The son of former President Joseph Estrada and his mistress, former actress Laarni Enriquez, told Philippine Entertainment Portal in an interview in London that Andi’s affairs with him and Albie “overlapped.” Jake, who is currently in London for his collegiate studies, said that he and Andi merely had an “LQ” (lovers’ quarrel) when he returned to London for his studies. He learned later that Andi and Albie became an item again. “The thing is, before siya mabuntis, kami na,” recalled Jake. “One time, nung mag-LQ kami ni Andi, nasa Manila ako. Bumalik ako ng London, kasi start na ng school. Pagbalik ko, sila na ulit ni Albie [Casiño]. Pero hindi kami nag-break or anything. Nag-away lang kami. Pagbalik ko, biglang buntis na, gano’n.” “Tapos, nakita ako ng mom ko -- you know how heartbroken she was,” he added. “And it’s because of that kaya medyo nasaktan… Siyempre, nanay ka, e, di ba? Siyempre, masasaktan ka rin para sa anak mo.” Jake admitted that after his recent split with Andi, she sent her this text message: “I don’t feel the same anymore.” Shortly after the PEP interview became public, Andi fired off this Twitter message: “So much for going against my own mother and sacrificing our relationship just to give u what u want. Fyi everything my mom said was true anyway.” This was immediately followed by another post: “I hate boysssssssss.”

Playful Albie and Andi

Playful Albie and Andi

punta? Pumunta kayo sa ibang programa… abangan n’yo… pumunta kayo sa ano… January 5… Sabado ba ‘yon? January 5, mag-a-announce po ako sa buhay ko... Talagang i-aannounce ko na kung ano ang gusto kong gawin. January 5 ‘yan.” Addressing his staff, the controversial TV host said, “Sa lahat ng aking staff, mga dancers, basta kayo ay maghanap-hanap na ng dapat ninyong puntahan.” Willie’s remarks caught many fans and observers by surprise. There have been no reports or ru-

mors about what’s going on behind the scenes between Willie and TV5 management. “Ia-announce ko kung bakit, kung anong rason. Basta malalaman ninyo… January 5.,” he said. “Pero magmula ngayong araw hanggang sa Pasko po, magbibigay ako ng todo-todong papremyo sa inyo—yung mga huling araw ko dito. Akala ninyo nagbibiro ako? Seryoso ako... may huling araw po ako dito— January 5. Nagpaalam na ako sa management. Sabi nila, ‘Ikaw ang bahala, ‘yan ang desisyon mo.’ ”

REGINE LOSES VOICE IN CONCERT what I’ve been doing for the past twenty-five years -- so that’s what I’m giving you tonight.” She struggled with a few more songs and then she cried. “Actually, I was expecting for the worst.

I was expecting that you would boo me. I was expecting that you guys would leave…” Before finally cutting short the show, Regine promised to hold a repeat concert for free.

DANIEL ADMITS BEING PROTECTIVE OF KATHRYN Regine with Baby Nate at concert ASIA’S Songbird Regine VelasquezAlcasid lost her golden voice during her 25th anniversary concert, Silver, on Nov. 16 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. She was already feeling the ill effects of a virus before the show but she decided to go on with it. In the middle of the show, Regine let her fans in on her situation. Tearfully, she addressed the audience: “Actually, madami rin po ang pinagdaanan ko para po… just to get here tonight. We’re thinking of cancelling the show altogether because I didn’t have a voice. But, inisip ko, para kanino ba ito… this show is a celebration… Minsan ka lang magse-celebrate ng twentyfive years sa industriya, palpak pa. Nandito naman kayo, dumating naman kayo. I know that you deserve more from me and I really would’ve wanted to give you more.” She continued: “Okey lang ba sa inyo na ituloy pa natin ito? Kahit pumapagak-pagak ako? … Pasensiya na kayo, ha? But, but… even though my voice is not even fifty percent, I am a performer. This is

Daniel and Kathryn TEEN actor Daniel Padilla admits he does not like it when other boys stare at actress Kathryn Bernardo’s legs when his Princess and I co-star is wearing short outfits. In an interview on the Sunday talk show, The Buzz, Daniel said he sometimes calls Kathryn’s attention when she’s wearing short skirts or dresses. “Totoo po na medyo tabingi po tayo pagdating sa mga suot ni Kathryn eh. Opo [selo-

so ako],” he said. “Parang kasi pagdating sa damit ni Kathryn, ayaw ko na tinitignan siya ng ibang lalaki kapag kunyari maikli ang shorts niya, titignan siyempre sa baba. Kapag ganun, parang gusto kong tanggalin ‹yung mga mata.” Kathryn, for her part, finds this gesture overly flattering. “Concerned kasi siya sa iyo tapos as love team mo, inaalagaan ka talaga niya so nakakatuwa,” she said. Asked if she ever listens to Daniel when he says he dislikes her clothes, Kathryn said: “Nakikinig po ako pero sumusunod ako depende sa situation. Kasi for example, may prod, walang magagawa kung iyon ang ipasuot kasi kailangan maigsi. Pero kapag lalabas, nagle-leggings na lang ako para covered talaga.” Daniel also admitted that he already had a crush on Kathryn even when the actress was still with the ABS-CBN kiddie show Goin Bulilit. “Nung ‘Going Bulilit’ pa lang napapanood ko na siya so medyo nakakasabay po ako noon. Pero ‹yung totoo talaga naging crush ko na si Kathryn ‘Goin Bulilit’ pa lang, walang halong bola,” he said.


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CELEBRITYFILES

VILORIA STOPS MEXICAN FOE BRIAN Viloria continued his climb to boxing greatness with a 10th round stoppage of tough Hernan “Tyson” Marquez on Nov. 17 to unify the World Boxing Organization (WBO) and World Boxing Association (WBA) flyweight titles at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Showcasing his masterly counterpunching, Viloria floored Marquez for the third and last time with a thunderous left hook to the jaw while the Mexican was on the attack early in the 10th. The WBA king managed to beat the count and referee David Mendoza signaled the fight to continue, but after Viloria unloaded more shots, Marquez’s trainer, Robert Garcia, threw in the towel with a minute and a second to go in the round. Living up to his “Hawaiian Punch” moniker, Viloria improved his record to 32 wins, 19 by knockouts, against three losses and boosted his stock as an elite fighter in the mold of compatriots Manny

Viloria downs Marquez Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire Jr. It was the third successful WBO title defense for Viloria, a former World Boxing Council (WBC) and International Boxing Federation (IBF) world light flyweight champ,

Erap campaigning in 2010

CAN ERAP RUN AGAIN?

TWO and a half years after his unsuccessful presidential bid in 2010, former President Joseph Estrada’s eligibility to seek an elective position is being questioned. Two private lawyers have asked the Sandiganbayan to clarify whether or not the presidential pardon given to Estrada after his conviction for plunder in 2007 allowed him to run for elective office. Estrada has filed a certificate of candidacy for mayor of Manila in the 2013 polls. The petitioners said Estrada may have violated the conditions of the pardon granted by then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when he decided to again seek elective position or office. Estrada was convicted by the Sandiganbayan’s Special Division of plunder on Sept. 12, 2007, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. On Oct. 25, 2007, Arroyo granted executive clemency to Estrada. The two lawyers quoted one of the paragraphs in the conditional pardon that read: “Whereas, Joseph Ejercito Estrada has publicly committed to no longer seek any elective position or office…In view thereof, and pursuant to the authority conferred upon me by the Constitution, I hereby grant executive clemency to Joseph Ejercito Estrada, convicted by the Sandiganbayan of plunder and imposed a penalty of reclusion perpetua. He is hereby restored to his civil and political right.” According to the petitioners, it is clear that the restoration of the civil and political rights of Estrada did not include the right to seek elected position or office. In 2010, nobody questioned the condition of his pardon when Estrada ran for president, the lawyers noted.

since snatching the crown from Julio Cesar Miranda last year. Viloria, who turned 32 on Nov. 24, also thwarted the challenge of Giovani Segura and then exacted revenge over Omar Niño Romero.

AGUILAR’S NBA BID STALLED

JAPETH Aguilar’s bid to become the first Filipino to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA) hit a roadblock on Nov. 21 after the 6’9” forward failed to make the final lineup of the Santa Cruz Warriors in the NBA D-League. Aguilar was drafted in the 7th round (109th overall) by the Santa Cruz Warriors, the D-League affiliate of the Golden State Warriors, but unfortunately, was the last player to get waived.

The 25-year-old Aguilar’s first step towards his NBA journey came when he transferred from Ateneo de Manila University to Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers to play college basketball. Aguilar, whose father Peter was a former PBA player, became the first Philippine-born player to play in the US NCAA Division I league.

ZOREN SURPRISES CARMINA WITH FLASH-MOB WEDDING

First kiss as husband and wife CARMINA Villaroel got the biggest thrill of her life when longtime live-in partner Zoren Legaspi pulled off on her a surprise “flash-mob” wedding last Nov. 15. Everything - from the wedding gown to the nitty-gritty details of the wedding - was kept secret by Zoren and their twins from Carmina, who thought she was only going to shoot a wedding scene for one of the products her family is endorsing. At the venue, guests waited

beside the reception hall. The scripted photo shoot included a flash mob, a dance number by their twins, and Zoren in a fight scene with a crew member in the shoot. Carmina, who watching the sequence of events, was suddenly startled when the people started dancing to the tune of We Found Love. By then she could only utter, “Anong nangyayari? Wala talaga akong alam!” Zoren then proposed and the elaborate ploy was laid bare. The civil rites, officiated by a lady judge, were held at Fernbrook Gardens in New Alabang, Muntinlupa. Zoren recalled he started secretly planning the wedding during the time that Carmina’s father was in the hospital for surgery. He said that he was supposed to propose to Carmina in Japan during their recent family vacation but the plan didn’t push through. In the end Zoren kept his promise. The wedding, he said, was his way of honoring his loving partner of 12 years, with whom he has 10-year-old twins - Maverick Peter and Maria Cassandra. “Sobrang happy,” said Carmina after the wedding. “Grabe, para akong lutang!”

SHARON FALLS FOR ‘KRISSY’ PARODY

SHARON Cuneta has apologized to Kris Aquino for falling prey to a joke on Twitter, which made her react to a “Krissy” parody. In the parody, blogger ‘Professional Heckler’ asked “Krissy,” a fake character who is imitating Kris that the blogger created, what she thinks about Sharon frequently getting mad at her bashers on social network Twitter. “Krissy” was quoted saying, “I don’t follow her. Ayokong ma-stress aha-ha-ha. But I follow KC.” Thinking it was for real, Sharon tweeted back, “’Yaan na natin. Di ko rin naman sya fina-follow ever. Sasakit ang ulo ko.” This led Kris to join the conversation to clarify things. “I don’t understand y u want to create animosity? It was the parody ‘krissy’ who commented about @sharon_ cuneta12,” she tweeted. Eventually, the two celebrities talked privately to patch things up. Kris then posted on Twitter, “We had nice text exchange. She’ll

always have my respect & admiration. And I now follow her.” For her part, Sharon said, “Tweeties, I’ve just received a text message from Kris Aquino. apparently, some people are trying to create something really bad between us, and now I know it wasn’t really Kris who sent that tweet about her not following me here on Twitter cos daw ‘ayaw nya ma-stress.’” She added: “We should really be careful who we believe here on Twitter. There are lots of people pretending to be us artistas, & we should make sure that we know who’s talking before we react, especially if what we read hurts us.”


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PAMPANGA PAROL GOES GLOBAL

TEXT By tonette t. orejas

Photos by E.I. Reymond T. Orejas

Y early December, giant multi-colored lanterns with intricate designs and dancing lights will once again adorn Philippine homes and offices all over the world. The parols of San Fernando, Pampanga, are now scattered in all four corners of the globe to give warmth and joy to weary and homesick Filipinos.

At the façade of the Philippine Embassy in Poland 20 Pampanga lanterns will be sparkling in the desolate night of winter. In Honolulu, Hawaii, a 16-foot lantern shall serve as the centerpiece of the first Philippine lantern festival there. This Christmas, two giant lanterns will be displayed at the Cathedral

Christmas won’t be as colorful and joyful without those giant lanterns from Pampanga. Through the years, the uniquely Filipino Yuletide attraction has made its way to homes and offices abroad. Hopefully, the Pinoy parol becomes as much a Christmas tradition and ornament as Santa and the Snowman.

These were among the 10 entries in the 2011 Ligligan Parul (Giant Lantern Festival) in San Fernando, Pampanga. of Good Shepherd in Singapore. And for the first time, the parol will dazzle both our kababayan and the locals at the Philippine embassies in Moscow and Ottawa. The overseas sojourn of the San Fernando lanterns, or parul Sampernandu, as the old folk call them, began in 1979 through the effort of San Fernando Mayor Oscar Rodriguez as a way of strengthening our Christmas tradition.

“It’s one of their (overseas Filipinos) connections back home. It reminds them of their families and our country while they work overseas,” says Rodriguez. Moreover, Rodriguez says the promotion of the lanterns to a global audience helps boost tourism and livelihood in the province. “For foreigners to know our city for tourism purposes, to showcase our products, to help our parul

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makers in finding market, and to show the special skills and talent of our people,” he explains. Overseas Filipino associations, many of them Kapampangans, as well as Philippine embassies and consulates are the partners of the city government in the endeavor. In 2011 and for the second time, lanterns graced the embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. In 2010, the Philippine embassy in Dublin, Ireland, the consulate in Beijing, and the Ethnology Museum in Vienna were adorned with parol. In 2009, the lanterns made their way into the Philippine consulate in New York and the Lord Mayor’s House in Dublin, following the lead of overseas Filipinos in Austria who put up lanterns at the Vienna City Hall grounds in 2007. In 2006, lanterns were exhibited to commemorate the centennial of Filipino migration in Hawaii and the 60th anniversary of PhilippineAustrian diplomatic relations.

First overseas display The first documented overseas display of Pampanga lanterns was in 1979 for the 75th anniversary of the Philippine Hawaii Commission that year, according to the San Fernando tourism office. In 1989, a


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giant lantern played to a delightful audience at the Kunitchiwa Asian Fair in Yokohama, Japan. By 1992, or just a year after the eruptions of Mt. Pinatubo, a giant lantern was exhibited at the World Expo in Seville, Spain. In 1993, a float that featured a giant lantern made in San Fernando won first place at the Hollywood Christmas parade. In 2003, former Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon sent a giant lantern to the Taiwan International Lantern Festival in Taipei. In 2005, the City of San Fernando joined the 3rd Annual Parol Lantern Parade organized by Filipino-American Development Foundation in California, USA. On top of these global incursions, there are the international exhibits, competitions or contracts by sought-after lantern makers

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like Roland Quiambao and Eric Quiwa. Quiwa, 40 and a fifth-generation descendant of pioneer parol maker Francisco Estanislao, has exhibited household and giant lanterns in Seville, Spain in 1990, San Diego in California in 1993, Taipei and Hollywood in California in 1995, Dubai in 2008 and 2009 and this year in Hawaii and Singapore.

Beginnings of lantern making

This entry of Barangay Sta. Lucia won the grand prize in the 2011 Pampanga lantern festival.

Garnering the second prize in last year’s festival was this giant lantern from Barangay Telabastagan.

Lantern making began in Bacolor town, the capital of Pampanga and the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period, and from where San Fernando was partly carved out. Back then, the faithful lit candles encased in paper lanterns to illuminate religious processions in that part of Pampanga, the seat of Augustinian missions in Central Luzon. The lanterns have since evolved in design, lighting techniques, size and materials. The making of small lanterns has become a household-based enterprise employing some 5,000 families in the 1980s. From the papel de japon (rice paper), the sheets have changed to capiz (flattened white sea shells), plastic vinyl, handmade paper from grasses and in the last four years, fiberglass. From candle, the lantern used light bulbs powered by batteries, an initiative of Severino David, son-in-law of Estanislao, in the 1940s. These allowed the operators of giant lanterns to turn on and off the lights in sync with the music played by a full brass band. Mario Datu and Susing Manalang introduced the use of molded steel as frame in 1950, replacing bamboo or wood. The rotor came in 1957, an invention of Severino’s son Rodolfo. This single piece changed the whole course of lighting lanterns, giving it the illusion of dancing. Unmatched till now, the rotor is an aluminum sheet rolled into a circle and fitted with a car steering wheel. Connected to an electric source, the rotor is exposed to contact with a row of hair clips that are connected to a set of light bulbs. Portions that are not linked to the hair clips are covered with masking tape and so would not light up. The patterns of lights are lit when the rotor is rotated to the left, to the right or to a full or half circle. By the 70s, the small lanterns were given the “dancing lights” through winkers. The recent use of sequencer, a safer gadget, allows lanterns to meet safety standards abroad, thus boosting the export of the lanterns. The tradition of parol making makes its biggest splash every December during the annual Giant Lantern Festival in San Fernando. Months before the event, residents give money, materials and food to parol makers in every barangay as they labor to prepare their festival entries. The cost of making one competitive entry is over P500,000. This year’s festival is set on Dec. 15 at the Robinsons Starmills in San Fernando. The entries are judged according to design, color combination, interplay of lights and colors and interplay of lights and rhythm of the music. n


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Despite everything that has been said and done about our motherland, the Philippines is the best place to celebrate Christmas in.

By cherie del rio

’M dreaming of a white Christmas. . .” It could be the desire for greener pastures, the great American dream, the lure of the land of milk and honey (and snow). Or, it could be just the intoxicating power of Bing Crosby’s lyrics. Whatever it is, however, there will always be a moment or two in a Filipino’s life when he or she will dream of the proverbial white Christmas. There is the fantasy of making Frosty The Snow Man with carrot noses and tree branch arms, of riding sleds and slipping down icy slopes, of donning thick checkered trench coats and wearing knee-high leather boots (everything from the trendiest winter collection that would have been just a Halloween costume if worn in the tropical country of beloved Philippines), of putting on ice skates and twirling under the December moonlight -- scarves tightly wound around one’s neck, gloves warming up one’s hands. With Karen Carpenter Christmas hits playing in the background, the scent of roasted chestnuts invading the air, and snowflakes falling beautifully to the ground, one cannot help but hope to experience this kind of Christmas at least once in their lives. A white Christmas wins you over with that perennial appeal: postcard-perfect scenarios of families making snow angels, frolicking in snow-covered front yards, sipping hot cocoa with marshmallows after they gather around a real pine tree adorned with glittering foils of silver and gold, with presents wrapped in bright shiny paper waiting to be opened on Christmas morning. Christmas Eve and Christmas morning are among the mostawaited events in the calendar. But that’s just the thing -- it’s only two days. Maybe a fortnight or a month at most. You dream of a white Christmas, you fantasize about snow-covered yuletide joy and excitement -- and then you wake up to clean the decorations, not to mention the inches upon inches of snow that need to be plowed away before the work week starts. For the Filipino living abroad, this is where the realization kicks

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THERE’S NO CHRISTMAS LIKE PASKONG PINAS

Whether at home or abroad, Filipinos and foreigners alike can only dream of that one-of-a-kind Paskong Pinas.

The Filipino Christmas . . . you can never get enough of it. Despite being celebrated for months, it never seems long enough. There’s always so much to be celebrated. And once you have experienced Christmas in the Philippines, you will always want to come back for it: it is a dream that needs fulfillment year in and year out. It is a dream everlasting.

Simbang gabi is a Christmas tradition that has withstood the march of modernity.

For Filipino children, there perhaps is nothing more symbolic of Christmas than our native parol. in. This is where the dream ends. This is where they are awakened to the reality that, despite everything that has been said and done about our motherland, the Philippines is

the best place to celebrate Christmas in. The celebrations begin as soon as the calendar is turned to the October page. Filipinos put all their creativity and energy into preparing for the

As soon as the “-ber” months kick in, lanterns appear on the streets and Christmas carols fill the airwave.

Christmas season. Although there other holidays such as Halloween or All Saints’ Day, Christmas still rises above all other celebrations. In the western world, Christmas celebrations take a back seat until holidays such as Halloween trick or treat and Thanksgiving are given their full spotlight. It is only after these holidays are observed that Christmas is finally given the limelight it deserves. But despite the grandiose Christmas setups in giant establishments and the majestic decorations inside each Filipino home, there is still that recognizable longing for a chance to participate in the Misa de Gallo, to taste the purple rice cakes smothered in delectable butter and niyog, to take a sip of the ginger salabat -- and most of all, the yearning to be reunited with the extended family: aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, relatives from far-away degrees of consanguinity… all united under one roof eating hot pan de sal and slices of smoked ham and queso de bola. The dream of a white Christmas is suddenly just that -- a dream that can be fulfilled with just one Christmas spent abroad, just one experience. And then you’re good -- it would be enough to last you a lifetime. But the Filipino Christmas -you can never get enough of it. Despite being celebrated for months, dragging all the way into the New Year, the Niños Inocentes, the Three Kings… it never seems long enough. There’s always so much to be celebrated. And once you have experienced Christmas in the Philippines, you will always want to come back for it: it is a dream that needs fulfillment year in and year out. It is a dream everlasting. Whether at home or abroad, Filipinos and foreigners alike can only dream of that one-of-a-kind Paskong Pinas. Because when all the white snow has faded, there remains in the Filipino hearts the ultimate dream: a Christmas spent with the family back in the Philippines… back at HOME. n


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Natori brings her 2012 Spring Collection to Manila. By ed biado

Josie Natori poses in front of her ready-to-wear collection at Rustan’s in Makati.

AFTER 35 YEARS, THE BEST IS YET TO COME FOR JOSIE NATORI When Filipina fashion designer Josie Natori founded her US-based company in 1977, there was no one else making Eastern-inspired nightshirts. Natori saw her niche and made it her own. Today, “Natori” is synonymous to high-end lingerie, sleep- and loungewear with distinctive Asian motifs.

HE was recently profiled by Kiplinger Magazine as one of seven notable self-made immigrant millionaires in America. She has served as a commissioner on the White House Conference on Small Business and has been awarded the Order of Lakandula, one of the highest civilian awards in the Philippines. Her multi-million-dollar fashion empire turned 35 years old this year, following a successful collaboration with US retail chain Target for a diffusion line and a reported $150 million in retail sales in 2011. But what does Filipina fashion design powerhouse and entrepreneur Josie Natori consider her greatest achievement? “I don’t think about that. I just keep moving forward. I don’t want to become complacent [by thinking I already have achieved something great]. I feel fortunate, yes, and I’m proud of where The Natori Company is today, but I don’t look at specific achievements,” she said in an interview on Nov. 16, one day after Rustan’s threw a soiree in her honor to celebrate her 35th anniversary in fashion. (In November 2011 the Natori Company opened a boutique at Rustan’s, the first outside the US). “I’m just fortunate to be around [after all these years] in a tough business. It feels great and I’m amazed

that I continue to love the business of fashion. It’s been a long time but the best is yet to come. I’m excited for the next 35 years,” she says. Moving to the United States from the Philippines in 1964, Natori, born Josefina Almeda Cruz, initially pursued a career in the financial sector, where she became vice president in investment banking at Merrill Lynch, the first woman to earn the title. But her first love was the arts. By age nine, she was already an accomplished pianist, having performed a solo piece with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra. “I’m a musician…an artist. I’m never content, I’m always evolving and I love beautiful things -- that’s my driving force,” she replies when asked what inspired her to venture

Natori’s 2012 Fall offering features retro Mongolian-inspired collection with deep black, cream and red colors.

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into fashion and stick with it for 35 years. Not once, the 65-year-old designer maintains, did she ever consider giving up and calling it a day. “I don’t design for fashion’s sake. I design clothes that people would want to wear and, along the way, I could earn from,” Natori explains. “There’s always a new way to do something [in fashion]. But for ‘Natori,’ we maintain the brand’s East-meets-West philosophy, like the kaftans. I’ve always been in love with the East and that’s the core of all my designs.” “You can say I’m lucky,” she quips. And she’s probably right. When she founded The Natori Company in 1977, there was no one else making Eastern-inspired nightshirts. Natori saw her niche and made it her own. Today, “Natori” is synonymous to high-end lingerie, sleep- and loungewear with distinctive Asian motifs. The brand has spawned two sub-labels, “Josie by Natori” and “N by Natori,” and has diversified into categories such as ready-towear, swimwear, fragrance, eyewear and home. The “Natori” name is a fixture at major retailers in the US, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. Aside from luck and finding a place within the fashion world, her experience in banking proved to be a valuable factor in building and sustaining a business through different economic climates. The most important lesson she’s learned in fashion is that “it’s a business,” something she says that every aspiring designer should realize when they enter the industry. On the state of Philippine fashion, Natori comments, “I think we’re on the upswing. There are a lot of new designers and I think the time is coming for Philippine fashion to be noticed and it’s about time. There are reality shows [and plenty of other platforms] where they can show their talent. The future is bright.” But she admits that, if reality shows existed 40 years ago, she probably wouldn’t have joined one because “it’s not [her] style.” The fashion veteran has these words of encouragement for young designers: “Believe in yourself and have a vision.” Vision is very important, she stresses, because that is the identity and backbone of a brand. However, she cautions that the industry is cutthroat and that, in order to succeed, they should fully “understand the business.” And when the going gets tough -- and it will -- Natori’s advice: “Don’t give up.” (Manila Standard Today) n


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Besa said that more and more Pinoys are becoming “enlightened” and willing to explore Filipino cuisine.

By amanda lago

HERE is perhaps no room more central to the Filipino home than the kitchen. It’s where you can find the patis, toyo, bagoong, and suka; where the sound and smell of longganisa and sinangag that wakes you up in the morning comes from; where adobo is whatever the cook wants it to be; where a pot of sinigang or bulalo waits to warm up the cold and hungry on a rainy day; and where the steam rising from a pot of rice holds the promise of the best meal you’ll ever have every time you see it. More than that, it is within the busy Filipino kitchen that families gather, wisdom is taught and learned, and inimitable culinary traditions on the verge of disappearing get passed on. “To me preservation is not just documenting them and putting them in a file somewhere,” Amy Besa, coauthor of the book Memories of Philippine Kitchens, said at the launch of its updated version recently. “You have to cook and eat them again,” she said. Besa believes our long colonial history, when our ancestors were repeatedly told that the local cuisine was inferior and even nutritionally deficient, has resulted in Filipinos getting ashamed of our own cuisine such that instead of promoting it, we often hide it. “Whenever people want to celebrate or to show something off, they have foie gras, caviar, they have the kurobuta pork. To me, whenever I see that in a menu, I am so bored. Truffle foam…bo-ring! Give me pukot any time, or hagikhik,” she quipped. “Show me something that came from the rural areas of the Philippines, I will pay attention,” she said. Besides, she noted that when travelers or balikbayan Pinoys visit the country, it’s not the foie gras they want to experience. “If they came here and looked at all the restaurants and saw all the foie gras and all that, they will say, ‘why are we here?’” she said. “I want home cooking. That’s where the best food is. Give me your lola’s cooking,” she added. Besa, who opened the Purple Yam restaurant in Brooklyn, NY, in 2009 with her husband Chef Romy Dorotan, wrote the book with him in 2006 when they were still running their restaurant Cendrillon. They updated the book earlier this year to include recipes and stories from their new restaurant. According to Besa, the work -which is part cookbook, part memoir, and part photo book -- aims to promote Philippine cuisine to Filipinos and foreigners alike. “Everybody asks me, how do we promote Filipino food abroad?

Cover of the revised and updated edition of Memories of Philippine Kitchens.

REVISITING THE FILIPINO KITCHEN One of the dishes featured in the book is Chicken Kinulob.

Romy and Amy: Partners in the kitchen.

DECEMBER 1-15, 2012

“For me, food per se is boring. Food to me becomes interesting if first, it’s shared and eaten with friends, and then you know the background, there’s a back story, there’s a context. So to me, that’s the beauty of food,” says restaurateur and book author Amy Besa.

The best way is to show what we had before,” she shared. “One of my goals here is to share the excitement of these beautiful ingredients, dishes, cooking methods, cooking equipment and heirloom recipes that you can still find in the rural areas,” she added. For instance, there is Chicken Kinulob, made from the recipe of Lola Anday Tolentino from Bulacan. It’s a stew laden with cabbage, leeks, celery, unlaid eggs, chicken blood, and native chicken stuffed with ginger, onions, and pork stomach, all slow cooked over an open fire in a palayok covered with banana leaves. More well-known dishes are also in the book, like the pig’s blood stew Dinuguan according to Nana Meng of tsokolate fame, or the eternal Chicken Adobo the way they serve it at Purple Yam. The recipes, though familiar, are given a new twist or have a special back story. The back stories, in fact, seem as important as the recipes themselves, because according to Besa, they make food more interesting. “For me, food per se is boring. Food to me becomes interesting if first, it’s shared and eaten with friends, and then you know the background, there’s a back story, there’s a context. So to me, that’s the beauty of food,” she said. Perhaps it’s the stories that are getting Filipinos interested in local cuisine again -- because even with a long history of cuisine colonization, Besa said that more and more Pinoys are becoming “enlightened” and willing to explore Filipino cuisine. Traveling the length and breadth of the Philippines, and doing research, are the best ways to discover more local food, Besa shared. “All you have to do is be aware. Your mind has to be open,” she said. “You read. You research. There’s a lot of stuff on the internet, you just have to intelligently look at it. “You really have to know what you’re looking for because it’s not there for you to see, it’s not very obvious. You just have to look for it. Once you uncover it, there’s so much underneath that surface and it’s so fabulous,” she concluded. (GMA News) n


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By kate mcgeown

HE Philippines is fast becoming the world’s low-cost English language teacher - with rapid increases in overseas students coming to learn English or study in English-speaking universities. There might be other countries that people think about as a classic place to learn English, such as the UK, the US or Australia. But there is one key reason that they are switching to the Philippines. It’s much cheaper. And in the competitive market for language students, it means the Philippines is attracting people from countries such as Iran, Libya, Brazil and Russia. “We have very competitive rates compared with other countries,” says English teacher, Jesy King, citing her school’s fees of $500 (£313) for a 60-hour class - about a third of the price of an equivalent course in the US or Canada. Another major advantage is the accent. Filipinos speak with a clear American accent - partly because the Philippines was a US colony for five decades, and partly because so many people here have spent time working in call centres that cater to a US market.

Call centres These centres train their staff to sound indistinguishable from Americans, so callers never realise that the person they’re speaking to is on the other side of the world. “I have a background in call centres, so I’ve learnt to adopt an American accent - it’s one of the pre-requisites when you join,” says Jesy King. Her school, the International Language Academy of Manila, attracts students from all over the world. The majority are from Asia - especially Japan, Taiwan and Korea - but in the past few months she’s also taught people from North Africa, South America and the Middle East. Student numbers are growing rapidly. According to the Philippine Immigration Bureau, more than 24,000 people have applied for a study permit this year - compared to fewer than 8,000 just four

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THE WORLD’S BUDGET ENGLISH TEACHER The Philippines markets itself as being the third largest English-speaking nation - after the US and the UK - a fact proudly displayed on the Department of Tourism website. And in a way, that’s true. Most people speak at least rudimentary English, and the welleducated speak it fluently.

Much cheaper lessons and a convincing US accent are bringing a fast-increasing number of students to learn English in the Philippines. did just three years before. Dr. Alvin Culaba, the executive vice-president of De La Salle - one of the country’s top universities - is confident that the level of teaching in his institution can compete with that found anywhere in the world. “Our programmes are very comparable, or sometimes even better, than in the US and Europe,” he says.

Driving a bargain De La Salle already has a lot of students from China and Japan, but there’s recently been an increase in

The main reasons that attract graduate students are the cost and the fact that all classes in the country’s top universities are held in English. years ago. The government sees this sector as a golden opportunity for growth.

Increasing demand “We’re geared to accept more and more students,” says Cristino Panlilio, the undersecretary for the Department of Trade and Industry. “I believe the country should come up with more marketing for this.” And it’s not just English language students who are coming to the Philippines - there’s also been a rapid increase in the number of foreigners applying for graduate and post-graduate courses in all kinds of fields. The main reasons that attract them are, again, the cost - and the fact that, in the country’s top universities, all classes are held in English.

In order to study at a university here, foreigners need a full student visa, and immigration records show that three times as many foreigners applied for one in 2011 than they

Living here means coping with the bureaucracy and corruption, and if you’re in Manila, the heavy pollution.

Foreign students cite learning the culture and going to the beaches as the other benefits of studying in the Philippines.

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Europeans. Elizaveta Leghkaya, a Russian engineering student, is one of them. She looked at courses in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but the programme at De La Salle was a quarter of the price of the others. “Here it’s much cheaper, and I’m really confident that the qualification I’ll get is just the same,” she says. She had found other benefits of studying in the Philippines too. “It’s a good experience, as it’s a different style of life than I’d get in Europe. It’s interesting to learn the culture. I like to travel here, and go to the beaches and museums.” But studying in the Philippines isn’t for the faint-hearted. Living here means coping with the bureaucracy and corruption, and if you’re in Manila, the heavy pollution. And then there’s the fact that many Filipinos speak a rather different language than the rest of the English-speaking world. The Philippines markets itself as being the third largest Englishspeaking nation - after the US and the UK - a fact proudly displayed on the Department of Tourism website. And in a way, that’s true. Most people speak at least rudimentary English, and the well-educated speak it fluently.

Taglish speakers But a lot of people speak Taglish - a mix of English and the local language Tagalog - which is often difficult for foreigners to understand. English signs often have the wrong spellings and the way English words are used is sometimes uniquely Filipino, with confusing and occasionally unintentionally amusing results. One of the national newspapers used the headline, “Police Clueless,” for a story about the police officers not having any specific clues about a case. For a foreign student trying to learn English, this will undoubtedly present some challenges. But for an increasing number of people, these are small obstacles compared with the benefits of studying in the Philippines. The spiralling cost of education in many parts of the world, coupled with the ease of finding out about foreign courses on the internet, mean that more and more students are deciding to study abroad. And English-speaking nations like the Philippines are primed to cash in on this trend. (BBC News, Philippines) n


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COMMUNITYNEWS

WAIT, GO, WAIT – AN IMMIGRATION DILEMMA By joseph lopez

J

. Estrada came to Canada for a visit partly out of a desire to get a respite from the brutal abuse of her husband in the Philippines. Living in unspeakable violence and demeaning treatment, Ms. Estrada felt she needed a break and the only way to do so was in a foreign country.   On December 2009, Ms. Estrada flew to Canada.   Counseled by friends, Ms. Estrada later agreed to file for a divorce and apply as a refugee around 2010. According to Ms. Estrada, her application for divorce was uncontested and approved under Canadian law. As fate surprises anyone, Ms. Estrada met a local Canadian who was also a divorcee. The two genuinely fell in love, became partners

and got married on April 2011. A petition to sponsor a spouse was filed. A few months later, her application for asylum was denied.

According to Ms. Estrada, the immigration judge reasoned that Ms. Estrada could have moved elsewhere in the Philippines. Ms. Estrada said her ex-husband had openly declared face-to-face retaliation if she decides to live anywhere in the country. Ms. Estrada thinks the judge had reservations believing on the long reach of Ms. Estrada’s ex to exact a reprisal. But Ms. Estrada felt that with her need to contact her young daughter, her former husband can figure out wherever she is in the Philippines.

An appeal known as Pre-Removal Risk Assessment Application was disapproved because of an onerous rationale – her denial for a refugee claim was just less than 12 months. Now the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is asking her to leave. She was given a self-removal date to leave Canada on November 21, 2012. Fortunately, through the assistance of New Democrat MP Don Davies (Vancouver-Kingsway), Ms. Estrada was able to get a reprieve until January 2013. If nothing is heard regard-

ing her sponsorship as a spouse of a Canadian by then, Ms. Estrada has to leave. Her counsel and advocate Mr. Rey Concepcion is asking, “Why require Ms. Estrada to leave Canada now when her spousal petition is in process? Why not let her stay and spare Ms. Estrada the high risk of physical assault from a vindictive ex in the Philippines? Why separate Ms. Estrada from her love one here in Canada?” Only CBSA has the answer. And time is ticking.

Mexican counterparts, yet he is still not considered the best in the weight class, mainly because he does not have a definitive win against Marquez. Pacquiao overwhelmed both Morales and Barrera, yet even with his 2 official wins and draw against Marquez, many boxing experts argue that Marquez won at least 2 or even all 3 of their fights. And that’s why this next fight looms as an important decider of their boxing legacies. If Marquez wins, he can lay claim as the best featherweight of this era. Of course, this won’t diminish Pacquiao’s greater overall accomplishments as a small fighter who dominated in the higher weight classes with his blinding speed. It simply means the style of Marquez is the perfect foil to

Pacquiao, but nobody really believes Marquez can duplicate Pacquiao’s feats in the higher weight classes, as we saw when Marquez was dominated by Mayweather. Pacquiao will surely put up a better fight against Floyd, and I truly believe Manny will actually catch him and win. Now if Pacquiao wins another close and controversial decision against Marquez, many will be convinced that Marquez simply can’t get

a fair shake in Las Vegas, and the debate will rage on forever (since a fifth fight is highly unlikely). So Pacquiao has no choice but to win convincingly, preferably by KO, or by runaway decision. Then he would have finally solved the Marquez riddle, and there will be no more doubt that he is indeed the greatest little big man of this generation. We will all know the answer on Dec.8. n

Marquez Fight to Define Pacquiao Legacy By hermie atienza

T

hose who think that Manny Pacquiao’s 4th fight against Juan Manuel Marquez on Dec 8 is just another repetitive money-grabbing sideshow by Bob Arum do not fully appreciate the importance of this upcoming fight, which is probably the most crucial in Pummelling boxing’s cash cow Manny’s career so far. Oscar DelaHoya into retirement Only a potential fight with Floyd Mayweather, if it happens, may be more significant, only because it stands to become the biggest and richest fight in history. Although I personally believe Manny has the right style to beat Floyd, most boxing experts consider Pacquiao an underdog in that fight. Which means that a win would truly be a crowning achievement, but a loss would not actually tarnish his reputation or standing in boxing history. But not so in Pacquiao-Marquez 4. There have been a lot of milestones in the PacMan’s illustrious career. Winning his first flyweight world title at age 19. Destroying Marco Antonio Barrera to gain international prominence.

to take over as the sport’s biggest attraction. Mauling Margarito to win his 8th world title in as many weight classes. These and other great fights already guarantee Pacquiao’s place in boxing’s pantheon. But one important piece of his legacy hangs in the balance on Dec.8 – unanimous acclaim as the greatest featherweight of this era. Just like the 80s, when boxing greats like Leonard, Hearns, Duran and Hagler fought each other, the beginning of the 21st century is the era of great featherweights, notably Pacquiao and the 3 Hall of Fame Mexican warriors – Barrera, Erik Morales and Marquez. Manny’s boxing accomplishments surely dwarf those of his


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overtaken India as the international hub for call centers.

By analiza perez-amurao

ANGKOK, Thailand Never in man’s history has the demand for the English language been this great. It has become an indispensable commodity around the world. Globalization, of course, has been one of the main catalysts behind this phenomenon. It is not uncommon nowadays, for instance, for two individuals of different nationalities to troubleshoot technical problems or place orders in an instant despite the geographical differences that divide them. California-based Mark only

Phenomenon

In a recent study involving the Business English Index (BEI), the Philippines emerged as the world’s best country in business English proficiency, even besting the US.

THE PHILIPPINE MODEL FOR LEARNING ENGLISH

needs to dial a toll-free number to get directed to Manila-based call center agent Geoffrey who takes his call for tech support and asks him some preliminary questions. In a few minutes, Mark gets satisfied with Geoffrey’s customer support service. Meantime, Geoffrey waits for another call that may come from the UK or any part of the Englishspeaking countries. This scenario has become a 24hour, 7-day-a-week routine, making it a way of life for many Filipinos in major urban centers in the Philippines. In a recent study involving the Business English Index (BEI), the only tool that measures business proficiency in English in the workplace, the Philippines surfaced as the world’s best country in business English proficiency, even besting the US. The 2012 results demonstrated that out of the 76 countries that participated in the study, the Philippines was the only country that went above 7.0, “a BEI level within range of a high proficiency that indicates an ability to take an active role in business discussions and perform relatively complex tasks.” This came out even as the Philippines has been reported to have

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To know and understand any language, one has to know and understand its culture as well. In the case of Filipinos, this does not seem to be a daunting task at all. With a century-old history of having been exposed to anything American, the Filipinos are more familiar with Western practices than other Asians.

But how did this phenomenon start? What has made the 20-yearold call center industry in the Philippines successful? Can other non-native speaking countries learn from the Philippine experience? A number of reasons have been cited, but the Filipinos’ competence in the English language tops the list. In GlobalEnglish Corporation’s BEI study, skills such as taking participatory roles in business-related conversations or carrying out relatively complex responsibilities are highly prized. GlobalEnglish also implied that other more basic skills such as being able to “understand or communicate basic information during virtual or in-person meetings, read or write professional e-mails in English or deal with complexity and rapid change in a global business environment” were accounted as well. Tom Kahl, GlobalEnglish president, noted that being able to convey ideas with ease and work with others within a multinational setting help boost an organization’s finances. The study revealed that the 7.11 score of the Philippines, the only country reaching the intermediate level, may help explain why the country’s economic condition has improved, placing it in the Top 5 in the 2011 and 2012 World Bank GDP data. Aside from those cited by GlobalEnglish, an executive from an American company outsourcing customer service calls to a Philippine-based call center underscored the value of knowing how to use certain phrases and idioms.

The edge

Filipino students learn English starting in the elementary grades, giving them a vast advantage over their Asian counterparts.

It may seem fairly basic, but it counts as another factor why English-speaking Filipinos are highly preferred over their Indian counterparts. This may be correlated to a person’s vocabulary and grammar being central to his success or failure in every communication. In Barry Tomalin’s “India Rising: The Need for Two Way Training,” he cited vocabulary and grammar use as a source of pressure for Indian call center agents. They tend to use “long, indirect questions, which prolong the exchange. Done out of politeness, it can actually be counterproductive as it draws out the exchange beyond what is necessary.” The use of some words, such as “prepone” instead of saying “bring forward,” or “I will bring


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the needful” instead of saying “I’ll do what is needed,” which may not be clear to multinational clients, further causes miscommunication. In short, knowing standard expressions offers a huge pay-off. To become effective users of any language, one has to understand also the culture within which the language is used. Braj Kachru, a well-known linguist dubbed the “father” of World Englishes, once said that language and culture are intertwined. To know and understand any language, one has to know and understand its culture as well. In the case of Filipinos, this does not seem to be a daunting task at all. The Philippines has long been prepared for this. With a century-old history of having been exposed to anything American, the Filipinos are more familiar with Western practices than other Asians. This criterion might be frowned upon by other non-native English-speaking countries for fear of dampening their people’s sense of nationalism. Of course, for a nonnative speaker of English to successfully know and understand the target language, he does not necessarily have to embrace the same setup Filipinos have. One practical advice Filipinos

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The emergence of the Philippines as the world’s leader in the call center industry is primarily due to the Filipinos’ competence in the English language. offer is that the support system to learn any language at the very least should be present. This means having a ready access to the English language inside and outside the classroom anytime.

External support In the Philippines, most signages and outdoor billboards are

in English, there is a proliferation of Hollywood films in cinemas and American sitcoms on TV – without sub-titles in Filipino, official government documents are in English, as are nearly half of the local songs recorded (even as Top 40 songs from the US enjoy extensive airplay). Parents use the English language

with their children even before they go to school. Middle- to upper-class members of society use English when on the phone, when they email, and when they chat. All these, they say, have never threatened their sense of patriotism, as patriotism – they argue – is what lies in one’s heart and soul. With the ASEAN Economic

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Community starting in 2015, member-states are now busy preparing for the integration. Inasmuch as people are looking forward to enjoying the opportunities that the community-building will offer, it also brings with it challenges. One of these is the people’s need to become competent players not only in their own countries, but also within the region. With competence closely tied to a worker’s communication skills, non-native speakers of English are faced with questions propelling them to reflect on whether they are as good or better than their counterparts in neighboring countries. In the midst of all these, the Philippine experience may not necessarily be a perfect language learning model to the peoples of ASEAN. However, somewhere along the country’s journey in making its citizens communicatively competent, perhaps some lessons can be picked up and put to good use. (Rappler.com) Analiza Perez-Amurao teaches research and writing courses at the Humanities and Languages Division of Mahidol University International College in Thailand, where she is currently pursuing her PhD in Multicultural Studies. n


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BEAUTIFUL P

HILI

P

P

INES

TH

E

THE ALLURE OF VIGAN

The famous Crisologo Street is lined with centuries-old houses.

“Antiquing” or scouring for old furniture, home accessories and kitchenware is a favorite pastime of many tourists to Vigan. As is our usual Pinoy custom, haggle like there’s no tomorrow.

OMETHING old, something new. Visiting Vigan, the capital of Ilocos Sur, takes hardy sightseers to a time long forgotten, but it may also satisfy their hunger for more current attractions. The city appeals to both lovers of tradition and culture, as well as the young ones looking for an exciting, new unforgettable experience. So it is not uncommon to see droves of families from three generations traveling to the city as they indulge their respective thrills and fun-filled adventures. Aside from the visit to ancestral houses, there is a zoo with the most

exotic of animals roaming freely about, as well as a wide array of delectable Ilocano treats that will appease the discriminating palates of travelers. Make sure the batteries of your digital cameras are well-charged

because this is probably one of the most picturesque towns in the country.

Must-see’s A time gone by -- A visit to the Vigan Heritage Village transports travelers to a world chockfull of history and tradition. There are old Spanish-era churches such as the Vigan Cathedral (St. Paul Metropolitan Cathedral) across the Plaza Salcedo, and the Shrine to the Nuestra Señora de la Caridad (Our Lady of Charity) in the town of Bantay, with their earthquake baroque architecture, and simply decorated altars. Climb

the red-brick belfry of the Nuestra Señora de la Caridad to see the centuries-old bells, and for an amazing panoramic view of Vigan. Drop by the Pagburnayan in Barangay 7, where sturdy clay jars (burnay) continue to be churned out by hand with craftsmen still using a potter’s wheel. Most of their jars are transported to Manila for private individuals and commercial buyers. The Mestizo District (“Kasanglayan”-- Sanglay, being a Spanish term for natives of China) with its cobblestone streets where Chinese merchants once owned stalls, is the epicenter of the Heritage Vil-

lage. Here, two-story houses owned by the merchants had their stores located on the ground floor of the houses, while the living quarters were on the second floor. These days, stores selling souvenir items -- T-shirts, native bags, woven Abel Iloko blankets and linen, antiques -and restaurants occupy the ground floors of these ancestral homes. If you could talk to the animals -- Both kids and adults will enjoy a visit to Baluarte, the mini-zoo that sits in the vast estate owned by Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson in Barangay Salindeng. Here, miniature horses and alpacas roam, freely interacting with visitors. Also on display in cages are two hefty Siberian tigers; an albino python and an assortment of reptiles; and butterflies in a covered sanctuary. Best of all, entrance is free. Weaves of wonder -- Aside from burnay, products made from handwoven cotton or abel (now marketed as Abel Iloko) continue to be in demand among tourists. At Barangay Camangan, just a short ride from Plaza Burgos, is where a lot of the weavers do their work,


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PHILIPPINEStheBEAUTIFUL spinning yarns of cotton into comfortable pieces of bed linen, towels, robes and tablecloth. Guests may buy the handloomed items at very attractive prices.

To-do’s Unearthing the old -- “Antiquing” or scouring for old furniture, home accessories and kitchenware is a favorite pastime of many tourists to Vigan. A few of the stores along Calle Crisologo and adjoining streets carry some wonderful vintage finds (e.g., charcoal iron presses, gas lamps, blue and white china, stained-glass windows made into dividers, etc.) that may be repurposed as accessories in one’s home. As is our usual Pinoy custom, haggle like there’s no tomorrow. Most often, the price these “antiques” dealers quote on an item you fancy will be double than what they are actually worth. Taste tests -- Like its sister to the north, Ilocos Sur, especially Vigan, has its own culinary finds. Gaizel’s Carinderia along Gen. Luna Street is a good place to start one’s Ilocano food adventure. It is

The native longganiza Vigan is celebrated during the annual Longganiza Festival. a popular eatery because it offers crispy pork belly)? Get it from home-cooked dishes served in alu- the Vigan Public Market; ask the minum casseroles, turo-turo style, at friendly locals for stall referrals to make sure the bagnet you get is fried very reasonable prices. Have a taste of its seaweed salad, in fresh oil, not stale cooking oil. When dipped in the local vindinengdeng, and, of course, the famous longganiza Vigan, a personal egar (sukang Iloko), the crispy fried favorite among native sausages. (The empanada (Irene’s Empanada, city celebrates its Longganiza Festi- Calle Crisologo) filled with skinless val during its annual weeklong fiesta longganiza Vigan, vegetables and egg, makes a delectable afternoon snack usually from January 19 to 29.) Aside from the longganiza, what after a half-day of sightseeing. Another wildly tasty treat is the creature can resist the allure and deeply satisfying heart-stopping Royal Bibingka made from glutinous goodness of the bagnet (twice-fried rice flour and baked in ovens. There are three outlets that sell the Royal Bibingka -- Tongson’s (Crisologo Street) is said to be the pioneer, followed by the breakaway group of The Sisters ( N a g u i d dya n , Bantay) and Marsha’s Delicacies (National Highway, Bantay).

Where to stay

Villa Angela Heritage House (26 Quirino

Abel Iloko is a must-have for every tourist in Vigan. Boulevard/http://www.villangela. treat if you could book the same com) offers value-for-money ac- room he stayed in. commodations to travelers who Also steeped in Spanish colonial want to relax in spacious rooms architecture and furnishings, Vigan with the Spanish era-theme. Plaza Hotel along Mena Crisologo Its staff is noted for being very Street (http://www.viganplazahoaccommodating, engaging and tel.com) is well-liked by tourists for friendly to guests. What’s more, the its central location. breakfast is authentic homey IloThe hotel has modern amenities cano, which keeps guests hankering and uses secure SIM card-based sysfor more. tem for its doors. It has Internet conThe inn is also popular because nection and cable TV. It also offers it is where American actor Tom in-room massages, perfect for those Cruise stayed while filming the war tired aching feet from the heritage movie, Born on the Fourth of July. So walks. Make sure to reserve a room if you’re a fan, it would be a real with windows. (Business Mirror) n


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TELCOS TOLD TO REFUND SUBSCRIBERS T

HE National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has ordered the country’s top telecommunications firms to refund millions of subscribers after finding that the telcos have been overcharging customers for text messages. The order, one of the three directives issued by the NTC Tuesday, is effective immediately. “These orders are immediately executory upon receipt, but the telcos have the right to appeal,” Dennis Babaran, NTC legal director, said at a press briefing on Nov. 20. It is estimated that Smart Communications, affiliate Sun Cellular and Globe Telecom may have to return at least P1.42 billion to their subscribers. The telcos have been collecting 20 centavos more (P1 instead of 80 centavos) for each off-net text message, or those sent from one network to another, since December last year, the NTC said in a ruling. Text messages between subscribers of the same network and those under unlimited or “bucketpriced” offers are not covered by the order.

About 20 million off-net messages are sent every day, based on 2010 records, which are the latest the NTC has. This is just 1 percent of the 2 billion text messages that were sent daily on average that year in the Philippines, for years considered the world’s texting capital. Assuming that daily text message volumes have not changed since 2010, the telcos stand to pay at least P1.42 billion to refund 20 centavos for every regularlypriced off-net text message. Globe, Smart and Sun Cellular had a combined subscriber base of 100.65 million at the end of September 2012. This translates to about one active SIM for every Filipino, although a growing number of users now carry at least two accounts at the same time. Refunds for prepaid subscribers could be given in the form of

extra prepaid credits that could be used for calls, text messages, and data services, the NTC said. For postpaid users, the telcos could offer rebates to cover the refund. In three separate orders, the NTC directed the telcos to reduce the maximum price of text messages from P1 to 80 centavos each, stemming from the reduction of interconnection charges to 15 centavos from the previous 35 centavos. The reduction of interconnection charges was ordered by the NTC in December last year. The telcos agreed to reduce interconnection charges but refused to pass on savings to consumers, the NTC said. This meant that text message prices remained at P1 each, instead of the NTC’s intent of reducing it to 80 centavos. Apart from the refund, the telcos were also ordered to pay a fine of P200 per day from Dec. 1, 2011, until the companies lower their text message charges by P20 per off-net text message. n

NBI BUSTS ANOTHER PYRAMID SCAM

ANOTHER investment scam has been uncovered. Weeks before the P12-billion investment scam of Aman Futures was exposed, hundreds of employees of a popular mall chain in Metro Manila were reported to have been victimized using the same doubleyour-money-scheme, the National Bureau of Investigation said. A suspect in the investment scam, Imelda Labadia, also known as Imelda Lomido, was arrested in an entrapment operation on Nov. 20 in her house at Signal Village in Taguig City, the NBI said. “Based on the sworn statements of the victims, in one mall outlet alone, she victimized 300 employees and some of them even hold managerial and supervisory positions,” the NBI said. Money received by Lomido from employees of the mall alone “could reach P30 million.” The victims started filing their complaints last October after Lomido’s remittance had fallen behind, the NBI agent said.

Earlier, the NBI raided another investment company in Pagadian City, believed to be a copycat and competitor of Aman Futures Group in the “double your money” scheme. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima disclosed that the firm, Visioner 2020 International Traders, Inc., is a “newly-sprouted” group in Tiguma, Pagadian City. The firm is said to be run by a British national, with help by local leader Glenda Andagan. Some 20-30 people, mostly Maranaws from Lanao del Sur, have complained against the firm. NBI District Director Norman Decampong said initial investigation showed the company got an estimated P60 million from investors although they have information that the scam could run to a billion pesos. A cashier in the firm’s office said up to 200 investors a day lined up to give their money to Visioner. The company reportedly offered up to 52% return on in-

vestments monthly but lowered it to 30% after news broke on Aman Futures Group scamming P12 billion from investors. “Kahit putok na putok na ‘tong Aman [Futures] scam and [Coco] Rasuman scam, meron pa ring grupo, mga firms, na trying their luck to victimize people. Why are they (public) so gullible about this thing? Hindi ba sila nagbabasa ng dyaryo, hindi ba sila nanonood ng TV? Bakit nagpapabiktima pa rin sila? Government can only help those that want to be helped,” De Lima lamented. The NBI, meanwhile, said it continues to verify the whereabouts of Aman Futures officers, even as coordination is ongoing with Malaysian authorities regarding the whereabouts of its founder, Malaysian Mohammad Suffian Saaid, also known as Manuel Amalilio, who has been reported sighted in Malaysia. Aman Futures has been implicated in a P12-billion pyramiding scam. n

OBAMA CALLS FOR SOBRIETY ON SEA DISPUTE AS the show of unity within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations appeared to crumble, US President Barack Obama urged Asian leaders to rein in tensions, saying there was no reason to risk an escalation of their territorial disputes. Speaking at the 21st Asean Summit, Obama stopped short of firmly backing allies Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam in their disputes with China over a cluster of isles historically called the South China Sea and which Manila refers to as the West Philippine Sea. “President Obama’s message is there needs to be a reduction of the tensions,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said after the summit in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. “There is no reason to risk any potential escalation, particularly when you have two of the world’s largest economies—China and Japan—associated with some of those disputes.” Obama’s message came at the end of a three-day trip to Thailand, Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia in a visit that underlined the expansion of US military and economic interests in Asia under last year’s so-called “pivot” from conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Earlier, President Aquino said the United States had a strategic role to play in keeping the peace in Southeast Asia. “It is especially vital to have the world’s largest national economy involved in the discussions considering the interconnectedness of our current milieu,” he told an audience that included Obama and other Asean leaders. Mr. Aquino’s call came after he openly rebuked host Cambo-

dia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen for saying a consensus had been reached not to “internationalize” the territorial disputes. China has long insisted that the disputes should be resolved through bilateral talks and opposed the involvement of outside parties, such as the United States. The Philippines is pushing for a multilateral solution. Addressing the Asean-US leaders meeting, one of the side summits here, Mr. Aquino said the United States had a role to play in the discussions, especially in light of its touted “pivot” to the Pacific to check China’s growing military assertiveness. “Each one of our nations has a stake in the stability of Southeast Asia. The United States understands this and, for this reason, has chosen to work with us to ensure the peace and continuous advancement of our region,” Mr. Aquino said. He said US presence in the Asean summit “adds a special dimension to our regional discussions, particularly on issues that have far-reaching political and economic implications.” He said territorial and maritime disputes should be settled peacefully and in accordance with the rule of law. Mr. Aquino said the United States, as the biggest economy, should not be left out of the talks considering its own stake in the region. Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, along with Taiwan, have overlapping claims in the West Philippine Sea, which is believed to hold vast deposits of oil and gas. China claims virtually the whole body of water. n


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COMPREHENSIVE PEACE PACT WITH MILF BY DECEMBER

THE government’s chief peace negotiator dealing with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front voiced confidence Sunday the government can sign a comprehensive peace pact with the secessionist group by December. Dean Marvic Leonen said that while there are still adjustments to be made, major issues have been addressed and both parties are committed to finish “within the year.” “We’re past the major issues but there are still adjustments to be made concerning the details. Both parties know of the decision points needed. Both parties have publicly and officially committed to finish within the year,” Leonen said in an article posted on the Office of the Presidential Adviser of the Peace Process website. “I look forward to our next meeting in December that we would be able to produce annexes on power sharing and wealth sharing and we could cover a substantial part of normalization. I think we will be able to achieve many things on the three issues at hand,” added MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal in his closing statement. On Nov. 17, both sides ended their exploratory talks in Malaysia on a positive note.

Both sides said in a joint statement they made “substantial progress in crafting the annexes on Power-sharing and Wealth-sharing.” On the other hand, the technical working group on normalization was convened for the first time. The two panels are to meet again in December. Leonen said he is confident both sides can complete the three annexes of the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) by end-2012. He noted the peace negotiators were able “to end a day early because of the substantial movement in the crafting of the annexes through the efficiency of the three TWGs.” For his part, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said he knows “everybody exerted their utmost efforts and have managed to settle many things.” “But the remaining issues are still so many and very hard but with determination and commitment of both parties, I think we will be able to overcome a lot of issues,” he said. During the closing ceremonies, Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Abd Ghafar Tengku Mohammed said he was hopeful the two panels would be able to finish their assigned tasks very soon. n

LEONEN NAMED NEW SC JUSTICE PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino plucked Mario Victor “Marvic” Leonen from the middle of crucial negotiations with Moro rebels so he could serve on the Supreme Court and contribute to his vision of a “reformist and independent judiciary.” In a quick turn of events, the President named Leonen the new associate justice of the high court and administered his oath in Malacañang a few hours after interviewing him yesterday. Only 49, Leonen will serve for 21 years since 70 is the retirement age for justices. But Mr. Aquino’s choice of Leonen, the chief government negotiator who shepherded the signing of a preliminary deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Oct. 15, did not come as a surprise to many. The President’s spokesperson, Secretary Edwin Lacierda, said Leonen’s key role in the crafting and eventual signing of the framework agreement setting up an autonomous Moro homeland, Bangsamoro, was his edge over the six other nominees. “I think his (Mr. Aquino’s) confidence in him as somebody who

was able to forge a framework agreement was a consideration,” Lacierda said in a briefing, pointing out that Mr. Aquino had a glimpse of Leonen’s views and “thought process” while both worked on the framework agreement. “President Aquino views his appointment as a contribution to his vision of an empowered, independent and reformist judiciary,” Lacierda said, citing Leonen’s significant contribution to the forging of a just, dignified and lasting peace with the MILF within the bounds of the Constitution. The President viewed Leonen’s appointment as a legacy of the administration “consistent with his desire of a judiciary imbued with the high standards of independence, probity and integrity,” he added. Leonen will fill the post vacated by Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno when she was appointed Chief Justice in late August to replace Renato Corona. Lacierda said the government peace panel would press ahead with the negotiations with the MILF, and any member could take over from Leonen. n

7 SOLDIERS KILLED IN ISABELA CLASH SEVEN soldiers have been killed and eight others wounded in a clash with communist guerrillas waging a decades-old Maoist insurgency. The army casualties on Nov. 17 were part of a foot patrol that clashed with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in a remote area of Isabela province, Philippine Army spokesman Cirilito Sobejana said. “They were on security operations, combat operations. We have inserted reinforcements by helicopter and are picking up the casualties,” Sobejana told reporters in

Manila. Residents had told the army up to five guerrillas were also killed but no bodies of any rebels were found when the army casualties were evacuated, he said. Fighting has broken out in two areas of Isabela amid efforts by the government to restart stalled talks aimed at ending one of Asia’s longest-running rebellions. Sobejana said the deadly skirmish occurred during the army’s patrol at dawn near the mountainous town of San Geronimo. NPA rebels also clashed with another army unit in the adjacent town

of San Mariano, but there were no known casualties there, the military spokesman said. Peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front, the rebels’ front organisation, were due to have resumed in Norway last month. The rebels called them off after Manila again rejected their long-standing condition that 18 jailed comrades be released before negotiations can resume. The communists have been waging a rebellion since 1969 and more than 30,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the government. n


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PESO SEEN TO STRENGTHEN TILL END OF YEAR THE peso is expected to keep its tendency to appreciate in the next three months, but this will be tempered by a further reduction of key policy rates that is expected in December. First Metro Investment Corp. (FMIC) and the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) said in a joint research that the foreign exchange rate could fluctuate through November to January. FMIC and UA&P see the peso trading at 41.42 to a dollar in November, appreciating slightly to 41.38 in December and further to 41.27 in January. “The peso will have an appreciation bias, but this will be moderated by a further 25-basis-point rate cut in December,” they said.

Meanwhile, remittances rose further in September, hitting a new monthly high of $1.8 billion, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said. This only showed that the crisis in the eurozone did not put a damper on the ability of Filipino workers abroad to send money back to the country. “Remittances remained resilient on the back of sustained foreign demand for skilled Filipino manpower and continued financial service innovations of banks and other financial institutions to address the remittance needs of overseas Filipinos and their beneficiaries,” BSP Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. said in a statement. The BSP said the $1.84 billion in

remittances sent to the Philippines in September was the highest on record, representing a 5.9-percent growth from the $1.74 billion reported in the same month last year. So far this year, the BSP has cut both the overnight borrowing and lending rates by 100 basis points to 3.5 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively. FMIC and UA&P also said that other measures that the BSP was prepared to put in place to avoid a further erosion of the Philippine economy’s competitiveness would temper the peso’s continued strengthening. They added that Philippine sovereign securities should remain in favor among foreign investors due to the strong dollar inflows and

Remittances hit US$1.8 billion in September. the Philippines’ “very high” international reserves, which FMIC and UA&P expect to reach $84.5 billion by year’s end. The amount would be equivalent to 12 months’ worth of the country’s imports of goods and services. The reserves amount would also

IMC CHIEF LAUDS PH ECONOMIC GAINS THE Philippines is the only country in the world for which the International Monetary Fund has upgraded its economic growth forecast for 2012, according to visiting IMF managing director Christine Lagarde. Compared with the once-powerhouse economies of Europe and the United States, which are now struggling, the Philippines is on the road to maintaining an average growth rate of 5 percent next year, Lagarde told a press briefing in Malacañang on Nov. 16. “I congratulated the Filipino authorities for their excellent economic stewardship during difficult times. In the last decade, the Philippines managed to have an average growth of about 5 percent,” said Lagarde, who met earlier with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

“And you will be interested to know that this year, 2012, at a very difficult time because of the financial crisis in other parts of the world, the Philippines is probably the only country in which we have increased the growth forecast as opposed to other places in the world where we actually decreased our forecast,” said Lagarde, the first woman to head the IMF and who was recently named by Forbes magazine as the 8th most powerful woman in the world. The Aquino administration has set a growth target of between 5 and 6 percent this year, 6 and 7 percent in 2013, and at least 7 percent in the succeeding years. Lagarde is the second important international leader to make optimistic projections about the Philippines’ economic future. Last week, visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s made the bullish prediction to President Aquino that

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde is welcomed by Vice President Jejomar Binay during her courtesy call on him at his office. Behind Binay is Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, the Philippines was “an emerging Asian tiger.” Australia earlier made a similar observation, with the Australian business establishment led by the Asia Society Australia telling the President during the latter’s state visit there last month that the Phil-

ippines was now “the fastest-growing economy in Asia.” Lagarde described as “excellent” the manner by which the Philippine economy is being managed, citing the country’s respectable growth, benign inflation and stable financial sector in the wake of a crisis grip-

be “much higher in relative terms than our Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and East Asian neighbors, except for China and Taiwan,” they said. According to the BSP, cash remittances that overseas Filipinos sent through banks reached $15.6 billion in the nine months to September, an increase of 5.5 percent from last year. The inflow of foreign portfolio investments also reached $14.7 billion in the 10 months to October, with net inflow placed at $2.7 billion. The country’s gross international reserves reached $82.1 billion as of the end of October 2012, rising by about $100 million from the previous month’s level. n ping many industrialized countries. “Thanks to these good policies and reforms, the Philippines has become a vibrant emerging market that is approaching investmentgrade status,” she said. Lagarde, however, said that despite the favorable economic growth story, the country has its share of problems. “It is no secret,” she said, that about 42 percent of the Philippine population was living on less than $2 a day. One advice she gave was for the government to continue with, if not strengthen, programs aimed at addressing inequality. She said the government is in the right direction in its antipoverty programs, including the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program which gives monthly subsidies to selected poorest families. Economists agree that a key problem of the Philippines is to make the benefits of its growing economy translate into poverty reduction. They said the economic growth of the Philippines is “noninclusive,” as it is enjoyed almost exclusively by the rich and the middle class. n


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SENATE OKAYS ‘SIN TAX’ BILL

THE Senate, in a 15-2 roll call vote, has approved on third and final reading Senate bill 3299 re-indexing the excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol products. Senators Joker Arroyo and Francis Escudero voted against the bill. This was initially stalled by moves of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the tobacco-producing provinces over differences in burden sharing and the schedule of implementation. The amendments and likely vote were stalled by Marcos’ amendments, which included the further staggering of the already staggered implementation of the tax for tobacco. Senator Franklin Drilon eventually agreed to the staggered imposition of a P26 unitary tax rate on cigarettes starting next year with the full imposition by January 1, 2017. Hand-packed cigarettes will be imposed a 12-peso tax by January 1, 2013, going up to to 15 pesos by January 1, 2014, 18 pesos by January 1, 2015, still at 21 pesos by January 1, 2016, and 26 pesos by January 1, 2017. The staggered imposition of taxes on machine-packed cigarettes will be applied differentially depending on the price tier of cigarettes. Distilled spirits, meantime, will be levied 20 pesos per proof liter, plus 15% of the net retail price by January 2013; by 2015, this will go up to 20 pesos per proof plus 20% of net retail price. The taxes will be shared by the tobacco and alcohol industries, 60% to 40%. Enrile protested the burden sharing between the 2 industries which, based on his computations, leans in favor of the alcohol industry in succeeding years. Government projects revenues of about P40B which it will use to expand PhilHealth coverage and other health-related projects of the government. It will also earmark 15% of earnings from locally-made Virginia tobacco products for beneficiary provinces. The bill, meantime, will also require local manufacturers to source 15% of the requirements from local tobacco farmers. n

DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and top police officials discuss election “hot spots.”

POLICE EYE 15 POLL ‘HOT SPOTS’

FIFTEEN provinces considered are Abra, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, “high-risk” areas for election vio- La Union, Cagayan, Pampanga, lence will get special attention from Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Cavite, Masthe Philippine National Police three bate, Samar, Misamis Occidental, months before the start of the cam- Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and paign for the May 2013 midterm Basilan. elections. “We now start operations in The 15 provinces are traditional these 15 provinces to address the hot spots during elections. risk of [election] violence,” Roxas Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” said in a news conference to launch Roxas II said the 15 provinces would the Task Force Safe and Fair Elecget priority in the security prepara- tions (SAFE) 2013. The national election security tions for next year’s elections, as they posed the biggest problems, task force used to be called Task including private armed groups, Force HOPE, for Honest Orderly and loose firearms, Peaceful Elections. With Roxas at the news conferthreat groups, ence held at PNP general headquarcriminal groups and intense po- ters in Camp Crame were outgoing PNP chief, Director General Nicanor was part of the $40-million fund transfers litical rivalry. Bartolome, and the incoming PNP The 15 highby Universal’s Aruze USA in the first half of chief, Deputy Director General Alan risk provinces 2010 while Universal was seeking tax and ownership-related concessions in the final months of the Arroyo administration. Reuters based its report on bank records, corporate filings, court documents and records prepared by Universal’s staff. Lacierda said the executive branch would not “countenance” any finding of bribery in the grant of a license to UniverA US Navy contractor violated Philippine meant the wastewater Glenn Defense’s sal. environmental laws by dumping toxic tanker MT Glenn Guardian removed from “If there are allegations and proof that waste into Subic Bay in October, Sen- a US Navy vessel and dumped into waters the award was granted through some form ate investigators found. The contractor, 37 kilometers off Subic on Oct. 15 was of bribery, then certainly we will not counGlenn Defense Marine Philippines Inc., hazardous. Samples taken by the Subic tenance that,” he said. was also found to have no clearance from Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) EcolLike Lacierda, Pagcor said the license the Philippine government to dispose of ogy Center and tested by Subic Bay Water granted to Universal for the operation of a ship waste in the sea and no equipment showed the waste contained particulates casino hotel complex in Entertainment City to determine whether the waste it was beyond permissible limits. could be canceled should it be found that handling was harmful to marine life. Both SBMA Chairman Roberto GarOkada had bribed former officials of the In a joint hearing of the Senate com- cia and Rear Adm. Luis Tuazon Jr., Coast state gaming agency. mittees on foreign relations and environ- Guard officer in charge, confirmed durPagcor said it would ask the DOJ and ment and natural resources, Sen. Loren ing the hearing that the waste was not the National Bureau of Investigation to get Legarda said Glenn Defense clearly broke pretreated, and the Coast Guard did not help from the US Federal Bureau of InvestiPhilippine laws on proper waste disposal grant Glenn Defense a discharge permit. gation (FBI), which had first uncovered the Mayuga earlier insisted that Glenn regardless of claims to the contrary by the alleged cases of bribery, in verifying the alcompany’s CEO, retired Vice Adm. Mateo Defense obtained an exit permit from leged payment to Soriano. Mayuga. Mayuga told a news conference the SBMA Seaport Department, which Lacierda, however, said that the allegarecently that waste removed by Glenn De- he claimed was enough to cover its tions of bribery should go through the regufense from US Navy ships docked at Subic operations, but Tuazon claimed that a lar process of investigation by the justice was pretreated and disposed of in waters prior clearance from the Coast Guard department. was mandatory under Coast Guard outside Philippine territory. Soriano, Genuino and 16 other former But the US Navy, which is investigat- Memorandum Circular No. 01-2006, or Pagcor officials are facing plunder charges ing Glenn Defense, denied Mayuga’s the Rules Prohibiting the Dumping and for alleged malversation of public funds statement, saying it had no waste treat- Discharging of Wastes and Other Harmand goods amounting to more than P100 ment equipment aboard its ships. That ful Materials. n million. n

$2-B CASINO PROJECT IN PERIL THE license issued to Universal Entertainment Corp. of Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada to operate a casino in Manila will be canceled if it is found to have been obtained through bribery, Malacañang said. However, Malacañang and gaming regulator Philippine Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) said due process must be observed in probing the alleged bribery. US regulators are investigating a $5-million payment two years ago by affiliates of Universal to Rodolfo Soriano, then a Pagcor consultant, in exchange for concessions at a $2-billion casino on Manila Bay. Soriano allegedly served as bagman of then Pagcor chairman Efraim Genuino. President Aquino’s spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda, said Pagcor officials had referred the allegation of bribery involving Universal and Soriano to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for investigation. “If there’s proof that the license was obtained through bribery, then there may be reason to consider canceling the contract,” Lacierda said in a briefing. Universal won a provisional license to operate a casino in the Philippines when it paid about $300 million for land as part of the project on Manila Bay. It began building the casino in January, promoting it as a VIP destination resort for China’s new rich. Universal acquired reclaimed land in 2008 and announced plans to build Asia’s largest aquarium, a Ferris wheel and a 2,050-room hotel and casino. Reuters reported that the $5 million

Purisima, who is also the overall task group commander. In Maguindanao, where 58 people, including 32 journalists, were brutally killed on Nov. 23, 2009, in the worst election-related violence in the country, the PNP has identified four private armed groups. There are about 4,000 loose firearms in the province, the PNP said. The PNP has reported 27 election-related incidents so far, with six public officials killed. Bartolome said PNP teams would round up firearms whose licenses had expired. Carrying search warrants, the teams will go to the last known addresses of the owners of those firearms, Bartolome said. The PNP said the licenses of 552,338 firearms had not been renewed, making them loose firearms. The PNP said at least 25,065 firearms, mostly handguns, were in use but never registered. When asked if the government would go after politicians with private armies, Roxas said the government could not do that, as it did not have proof to link politicians to private armies. Instead, the government will go after the armed groups to deprive politicians of the services of such groups, Roxas said. “What can they (the politicians) do if there are no more armed groups?” Roxas said. The campaign for national offices will start on Feb. 12, 2013, while the campaign for local posts will begin on March 29, 2013. n

SENATE PANELS CONFIRM SUBIC TOXIC WASTE DUMPING


DECEMBER 1-15, 2012

PLANET

32

PHILIPPINES

Vancouver Edition

December 1-15, 2012 Issue  

John Llyod cover

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