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MARCH 20, 2021  HAWAII FILIPINO CHRONICLE  1

MARCH 20, 2021

OPINION

Beware of Scammers! Don’t Fall for the Scam! HAWAII-FILIPINO NEWS

Filipina Rum Founder Partners with Philippine Consulate in Honolulu in Celebrating Women’s Month

OPEN FORUM

Proposed Taxes Could Have Devastating Consequences

AS I SEE IT

Pres. Joe Biden Signs $1.9T Covid Relief Bill


2 HAWAII FILIPINO CHRONICLE MARCH 20, 2021

EDITORIAL

Raising Taxes at This Time Would Be Harmful

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awaii Republicans against the variety of tax increase bills currently at the Hawaii State Legislature owe a big thank you to Democrat lawmakers in the US Congress and Senate. Why? Because the latest $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that was entirely passed by congressional Democrats with no Republican support could just be enough for Hawaii lawmakers to forego at least some or all of the state’s proposed tax increase proposals this session. There are no guarantees, but Gov. David Ige already said a sizeable lump of cash from the federal government for the state would “ease the state’s immediate money woes.”

Federal Budget’s Impact on Local State and County Budgets Without the federal government’s assistance (Hawaii is expected to get $6.1 billion in federal funding from the $1.9 trillion), the state would have had no choice but to increase taxes to meet its budgetary shortfall. Remember that state and local governments are required by law to balance their budgets; while the federal government can incur debt and borrow money to meet its obligations. People who truly understand how government budgets work, they know a Democrat-controlled federal government is more likely to pass legislation that aide state governments. This in turn relieves some pressure for state government to raise taxes. This has always been the case. The fantastical, unrealistic world some Republicans tend to have is -- they would want a Republican-controlled Congress and Presidency to be tight-fisted in passing legislation that would provide assistance to states; then on top of that, at the state level they would also prefer to reject all or any taxes. Basic math tells you this just doesn’t make sense. Remember when then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last April in the beginning stage of the coronavirus said he would rather let state governments declare bankruptcy than receive more federal funding. Why taxes matter Under such an unrealistic system -- minimum federal support and minimum state taxation – Republicans just as well should agree to be living in a third world country where there is practically no government (scant revenues), no services, no infrastructure, no safety nets. Just a few rich people, small middle- and working class, and a vast majority poor. But all of them (including the rich) would share the space of living in an ugly, polluted, crime-infested country with bare infrastructure and few jobs. On top of that, there would be low consumer buying power (a bigger nail to seal the coffin on their business enterprises than paying taxes) and poorer quality workforce. How so? Because government helps to educate the masses and provide a baseline that enable children to become productive adults and good consumers. Reasonable Republicans know their wealth doesn’t come for free. They know their tax dollars go toward building an environment of prosperity that includes legal protections, a healthy consumer base, quality workers and infrastructure. And lobbying against tax hikes isn’t unreasonable in and of itself, but encourages checks and balances for equitable taxation and smart, non-wasteful spending. Taxes should be levied fairly Nobody likes to pay taxes. But the answer cannot always be a resounding no. At the same time, lawmakers must tax citizens fairly and look (continue on page 3)

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

ntroducing an increase of any tax from the GET to income has always been a highly contentious issue. Due to the State’s budgetary shortfall in excess of $2 billion caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it was expected that tax hike proposals would be in the mix this session to balance the budget. State lawmakers were also aware that federal money could be made available if another Covid Relief bill was passed by Congress. But whether Congress would pass one or how much was unknown at the start of the session so tax bills were introduced in January to give lawmakers options. Now into March with Hawaii’s share of federal dollars already known at $6.1 billion, some residents and businesses are becoming increasingly jittery that so many tax bills have survived the legislative crossover mark. It could be that lawmakers are buying more time to allocate federal funds with no intention of passing them into law. Or it’s possible that some could pass with amendments (less aggressive tax hikes). For our cover story this issue, associate editor Dennis Galolo gives us the details on the biggest tax increase package, Senate Bill 56 (the latest version as of press time), that could raise income tax on individuals making more than $200,000 a year, increase capital gains tax, impose a single rate for corporate income, increase conveyance taxes for the sale of properties, and repeal certain GET exemptions. Members in the community chime in why they are in support of or opposed to the bill. The general consensus: those who are okay with SB 56 passing want to ensure critical government services are not slashed; while those opposed to it say residents and businesses are already struggling, and passing any tax hike would exacerbate their struggle and couldn’t come at a worst time. Expressing opposition to the proposed tax hikes, we have two articles in our Open Forum section. Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, wrote: “The Chamber of Commerce opposes this measure because of the significant effect the increases would have on Hawaii’s economy, the rebuilding of our local businesses, and the restoring of jobs.” Joe Kent, executive vice president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, said “If our lawmakers really want to generate more tax revenues, they should stop playing with fire and instead focus on growing the economy.” Also in this issue, HFC columnist Elpidio Estioko gives us the details of the $1.9T Covid Relief bill (American Rescue Plan) that was signed into law recently. HFC columnist Emil Guillermo writes “In 2020, It’s VAX AMERICANA. But Will We All Be Together by July 4th?” an article on vaccination. He also brings attention to the rise in hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Be sure to read our other interesting columns. Lastly, we’re happy to report good news in this issue. The Bayanihan Clinic Without Walls (BCWW) is extending its Job Loss Assistance Program (JLAP) indefinitely to help workers who lost their medical insurance due to COVID-19. BCWW volunteers will provide free medical consultations. Find out if you qualify for this free service by calling the Hawaii Department of Health Bilingual Health Services at (808) 832-5865 or BCWW at (888) 674-7624. Spring has just begun this week. It’s usually a time associated with rebirth and renewal. May the spring season bring you renewed hope and a new beginning from the doldrums and hardships of 2020. Thank you to our advertisers, readers and community for your continued support. Until next issue warmest Aloha and Mabuhay!

Publisher & Executive Editor Charlie Y. Sonido, M.D.

Publisher & Managing Editor

Chona A. Montesines-Sonido

Associate Editors

Edwin QuinaboDennis Galolo

Contributing Editor

Belinda Aquino, Ph.D.

Design

Junggoi Peralta

Photography Tim Llena

Administrative Assistant Lilia Capalad Shalimar Pagulayan

Editorial Assistant Jim Bea Sampaga

Columnists

Carlota Hufana Ader Elpidio R. Estioko Emil Guillermo Melissa Martin, Ph.D. J.P. Orias Pacita Saludes Reuben S. Seguritan, Esq. Charlie Sonido, M.D. Emmanuel S. Tipon, Esq.

Contributing Writers

Clement Bautista Edna Bautista, Ed.D. Teresita Bernales, Ed.D. Sheryll Bonilla, Esq. Rose Churma Serafin Colmenares Jr., Ph.D. Linda Dela Cruz Carolyn Weygan-Hildebrand Amelia Jacang, M.D. Caroline Julian Raymond Ll. Liongson, Ph.D. Federico Magdalena, Ph.D. Matthew Mettias Maita Milallos Paul Melvin Palalay, M.D. Renelaine Bontol-Pfister Seneca Moraleda-Puguan Mark Lester Ranchez Jay Valdez, Psy.D. Glenn Wakai Amado Yoro

Philippine Correspondent: Greg Garcia

Neighbor Island Correspondents: Big Island (Hilo and Kona) Grace LarsonDitas Udani Kauai Millicent Wellington Maui Christine Sabado Big Island Distributors Grace LarsonDitas Udani Kauai Distributors Amylou Aguinaldo Nestor Aguinaldo Maui Distributors

Cecille PirosRey Piros Molokai Distributor Maria Watanabe Oahu Distributors Yoshimasa Kaneko Jonathan Pagulayan

Advertising / Marketing Director Chona A. Montesines-Sonido

Account Executives Carlota Hufana Ader JP Orias


MARCH 20, 2021  HAWAII FILIPINO CHRONICLE  3

EDITORIAL

Pass H.R.1 For the People Act to Protect Our Voting System

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hichever side of the political fence you stand, both Republicans and Democrats should be sharing the collective victory that in the 2020 elections, voter turnout reached the highest ever: nearly 258 million ballots were cast, making up almost two-thirds of all eligible voters (more than 6 in 10 people). What made it even more significant is that voting in 2020 came with a risk of catching the coronavirus if a voter chose to vote on the day of election. But that did not deter millions from going to the polls. Another collective victory for both Republicans and Democrats is that after recounts, after independent review (with bipartisan observers) of the election process, there were no reports of massive errors or widespread fraud that could have changed the outcome of any election. Record breaking turnout. Elections review showed clean and accurate results. Everyone

should be happy, right? Apparently not.

GOP introduces more restrictions on voting As part of a national push, Republicans at state legislatures in this session have introduced 250 new laws in 43 states to limit voting by mail or early in-person voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. These new proposals aim to narrow eligibility to vote absentee, to curtail the use of ballot boxes and to eliminate automatic registration for absentee voting which forces voters to reapply each election. On absentee voting, there are extreme proposals to add ID, notary or witness requirements. In some states, there are proposals to allow absentee voting only for voters 65 and over, people with disabilities and those who will be away on election day (with proof of travel such as a plane ticket). There even have been moves to ban absentee voting altogether.

Both mail/absentee voting and early in-person voting are the primary reasons voter turnout was so high in 2020. Both methods also have been proven to be preferred for minorities, not just in 2020, but in the last two election cycles. With more restrictions on both mail and in-person voting, basically the outcome would be to steer more voters to vote on election day (which traditionally has favored the GOP). Elections officials say such restrictions would make long lines at precincts even longer, and could very well discourage voting. On top of these restrictions, Republican state lawmakers have also introduced legislation to make voting on election day more difficult with stricter ID requirements and limiting hours, even reducing the number of precincts. Some of the new proposed restrictions for voting on election day are so blatantly sabotaging that the goal cannot be interpreted other than Republicans want less people to vote.

For example Georgia Republicans propose to ban “line-warming” activities – no water will be allowed to be passed out to people waiting in line or no rain ponchos or blankets to keep warm (it’s already cold in November during the general election on the mainland). In Alabama there is a proposal to eliminate straight-ticket voting, which is bound to delay voting and further add to longer lines.

passing off the additional tax burden onto their consumers, that in the end, would impact all income-earners from top to bottom.

avoid a furlough of government workers as earlier federal money came in and by working with lenders to delay payments. Likewise, state lawmakers should also find a way now that federal monies have been provided to not raise taxes, especially at a time when money is tight all around. As travel is showing a strong rebound to the Hawaii islands, this could also mean a comeback of revenues for the state treasury – which is another reason why taxes should not be hiked. Certainly summer

What’s really at work here It’s clear Republicans want more restrictions. Republican lawmakers -- whether they believe there was election fraud as President Donald Trump falsely claimed -- are introducing all of these voting hurdles to appease their political base who actually believe there was fraud in 2020. But this is the less innocuous of the two reasons. The second, more insidious one, is to sway elections in their favor. Absentee voting has been supported by Republicans for years prior to 2020. The pan-

demic enabled millions more to vote absentee and they just do not like the results. It’s not about shoring up public confidence in elections or voting integrity. The 2020 election has already been proven to be accurate with a few anomalies that would not have changed results. It’s about voter suppression to rig an outcome – which is the most damaging assault on our democratic process. The likelihood of more restrictions passing is very high. Of the 38 states that are controlled by one party (both legislative chambers and the governorship), 23 of them are Republican compared to 15 Democratic. And if the tighter restrictions happen to be adopted into law in battleground states, this could be the difference that could sway any race in the GOP’s favor.

H.R.1 For the People Act To counter the massive restrictive election proposals at state legislatures, the US Congress recently passed H.R.1 (continue on page 6)

(EDITORIALS: Raising Taxes....from page 2)

at the burden of taxes considering the big picture. They must analyze the multitudes of taxes available -- income, excise (sales), property, business and corporate taxes, special taxes from capital gains to inheritance to estate, consumption and special fees tax, sin taxes (tobacco, liquor, sugar) regressive taxes – and levy them in a timely manner that would not place extra burden on one specific group. The burden must be shared as proportionate as possible among all groups and visitors included (considering how visitors make use of our islands’ infrastructure).

Senate Bill 56 In this regard, Senate Bill 56 as it stands right now before possible House amendments is unfair and could cause more hurt than benefit. The bill wants to raise taxes on Hawaii residents with the highest incomes ($200,000 individuals; $400,000+ married filers) by 5% (from 11%

to 16%), increase state capital gains tax, increase state corporate income tax, and boost the state conveyance tax. It’s very clear SB 56 is targeted at the wealthy. While a boost in tax could be fair in one or two of those proposals (small, incremental changes with expiration dates for possible adjustments), there is just too much in this tax package that place too great a burden on one specific group of the population. The State Tax Director Issac Choy told the Senate WAM committee SB 56 alone could raise about $100 million extra per year for the state treasury during the proposed seven years it would go into effect. On surface, it looks too easy a one-road route from one source to raise that much money without considering other revenue streams. While it also appears that taxing wealthier residents is the best alternative because they have the money, many of them who are in business could resort to

Now is not the time to be raising taxes It’s likely that the multiple tax increase proposals were introduced by state lawmakers in the beginning of session as fall back options if the federal government failed to pass another Covid relief bill. It’s also possible that these various tax proposals could survive the legislative crossover (midpoint) and move on because state lawmakers must analyze how federal money can or cannot be spent (considering stipulations) and how much will go to where. This is reasonable, just as they possibly could be keeping some proposed cuts and cost-saving measures alive to get the big picture on the best way to balance the budget. The state found a way to

travel will be a boost to tourism. The state will receive billions more in federal money, again. They must work with that and trim non-essential services where possible. A big part of smart policymaking is to identify and address risks. State lawmakers knew a furlough would risk hurting families and damaging the economy. Now lawmakers ought to be equally careful to not do harm to other segments of our population and economy. Do not raise taxes at this very fragile, critical time. 


4 HAWAII FILIPINO CHRONICLE MARCH 20, 2021

COVER STORY

Legislature Debates Controversial Senate Bill 56 to Raise Taxes By Dennis Galolo

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t’s no secret that Hawaii leads the nation in several reputable categories. We are the healthiest state for senior citizens and a leader in efforts to achieve environmental sustainability and a future free of fossil fuels. Hawaii is also at the forefront when it comes to fighting for women’s rights and other civil liberties. But on the downside, the Aloha State has the nation’s highest unemployment rate thanks largely to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have paralyzing traffic gridlock and endless red tape and government regulations for small business start-ups. Hawaii is also the least SB56 SD1 in its current form would do the following: • Impose a 16 percent tax on residents earning more than $200,000 a year. • Increase the capital gains tax rate from 7.25 percent to 11 percent. • Impose a single rate for the corporate income tax at 9.6 percent. • Repeal certain GET exemptions from July 1, 2021 until June 30, 2023, and • Increase conveyance taxes for the sale of properties valued from $1 million to $2 million to 0.6 percent and from $2 million to $4 million to 1.0 percent. The bill would revert the state income tax rate for higher earners from 16 percent back to its current rate of 11 percent after the year 2027. Of note, California currently has the highest state income tax rate in the U.S. at 13.3 percent for residents who earn more than $1 million per year. In a media statement, Sen. Chang said SB56 SD1 is a mechanism to generate revenue for the state. “In order to avoid future furloughs and layoffs

teacher-friendly state in the nation and the state with the lowest annual teacher salary. And if legislators have their way, Hawaii could soon hold the dubious distinction as the state with the highest income tax rate courtesy of Senate Bill 56 SD1 which calls for tax increases to help the economy. Introduced by Sen. Stanley Chang, SB56 SD1 was approved by the State Senate by a vote of 24-1 and transmitted to the House of Representatives where it passed First Reading and referred to the

for state workers, we need to consider every option to prevent disruptions to essential government services,” he said. Interestingly enough, Sen. Chang’s constituents are largely those from Kahala, Diamond Head, Waialae Iki and other ritzy neighborhoods in East Oahu. In testimony before the Senate’s Ways & Means Committee (WAM), State Tax Director Isaac Choy estimated that SB56 SD1 could raise upwards of $100 million per year for the state during the proposed seven-year period. Supporters say the bill is needed to generate additional state revenue needed to offset the financial toll caused by the COVID pandemic on Hawaii’s economy. As of December 2020, the state’s budget shortfall was estimated in excess of $2 billion. Gov. David Ige late last year said every proposal to address the shortfall would be considered, including state worker layoffs, budget cuts and tax increases, but with a better-than-expected economic forecast for the coming year such measures may not be necessary. Help is also on its way in the form of the federal

government’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, $6.1 billion of which is earmarked for Hawaii’s families, small businesses, and government to cover budget shortfalls and prevent worker furloughs. “This new infusion of federal funding gives the State much needed breathing room, and layoffs and furloughs are no longer necessary in the foreseeable future,” Ige said. Development and distribution of COVID vaccines for both the public and visitors have also helped but Ige is keeping an eye on various strains that are reportedly deadlier and more easily transmittable. In his recent State of the State address, Ige cautioned that Hawaii has yet to turn the corner. “Government will have to tighten its belt, our citizens will be asked to do more with less, and we will all need to help each other,” Ige said.

Fairness For All? The COVID pandemic devastated many workers in low-wage tourism and hospitality jobs who were already struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic hit. At the same time, many of those

committees on Economic Development, Housing, Consumer Protection & Commerce, and Finance. As of press time, none of the four committees have scheduled hearings.

at the top benefitted from a record-breaking stock market and skyrocketing highend real estate prices. Supporters say SB56 SD1, which targets Hawaii’s wealthiest residents and profitable corporations, will bring in much-needed revenue but not hurt lower income residents. Advocates want to make taxes more equitable, noting that Hawaii’s lowest income residents pay 15 percent in taxes, compared to the wealthiest residents who pay 9 percent.

According to Nicole Woo, director of research and economic policy for Hawaii Children’s Action Network Speaks!, SB56 SD1 has a number of “worthwhile revenue-generating ideas” that could help close budget shortfalls and protect important community services. “It makes sense to ask those who are fortunate enough to be doing well in this economy to pay more, in order to close the deficit without slashing the critical (continue on page 5)

“Hawaii already has some of the highest individual and business tax burdens in the nation. As our residents and local businesses are struggling, now is the worst possible time to increase that burden. Our residents and businesses need the support of our leaders and our state as they work to rebuild and regrow our economy.” — Lauren Zirbel Executive Director, Hawaii Food Industry Association


MARCH 20, 2021  HAWAII FILIPINO CHRONICLE  5

COVER STORY (Legislature....from page 4)

government services that so many struggling working families have come to rely on,” she said in written testimony. Rev. Sam Domingo from the Hawaii Workers Center opposes cutting government spending that would affect low-income housing assistance, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other social service programs. “That’s not the answer that our communities deserve,” he said. “When the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share in taxes, we can prevent these cuts to essential services and protect our communities,” he said. However, others like Hawaii Food Industry Association executive director Lauren Zirbel say SB56 SD1 will do more to harm rather than help our State in the long run. Zirbel opposes the bill, saying that increasing income and corporate taxes makes Hawaii a less attractive and less affordable place to live. “Hawaii already has some of the highest individual and business tax burdens in the nation,” she said in testimony. “As our residents and local businesses are struggling, now is the worst possible time to increase that burden. Our residents and businesses need the support of our leaders and our state as they work to rebuild and regrow our economy.” The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii agreed with the bad timing of the measure, saying that implementing broad tax increase measures called for in SB56 SD1 will undermine efforts to turn Hawaii’s economy around. The Chamber expects higher corporate tax rates to significantly harm already ailing small businesses and may force them to close altogether. The Tax Foundation of Hawaii also opposes the bill, even drawing comparisons to the infamous Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima and helped end World War II. The target this time would be the pocketbooks of Hawaii’s taxpayers.

If SB56 SD1 is passed, the Foundation expects Hawaii’s residents to leave in droves for tax-friendlier states. In written testimony, the Foundation stated, “When people are squeezed economically by the cost of living, taxes, and inefficient bureaucracy, they can and do vote with their feet – by getting on planes, for example. To what lengths will we go to chase people out of our state?” Last October, economists from the University of Hawaii predicted a net population loss of 19,000 over the next two years, a figure that very well could be exacerbated by the effects of SB56 SD1. In fact, Hawaii’s population has been on the decline since 2017. Not since statehood has Hawaii’s population declined for two consecutive years. The result of declining population is bad for the economy since fewer residents mean a smaller labor force, less tax revenues and shrinking consumer spending by households.

Escape From New York Like Hawaii, New York City has seen a population dip over the past three years but none more so than in 2020 as the result of COVID-19. According to the New York Post, the Big Apple’s rich are leaving in droves for tax friendlier states like Texas and Florida. For 2020, there were nearly 300,000 change of address requests from New Yorkers. Numerous moving trucks were seen throughout the city with residents headed for the suburbs and beyond. Additionally, cell phone data showed more than 50 percent of residents ghosting Manhattan’s wealthiest neighborhoods. According to a modeling scenario conducted by Rockefeller College in Albany, a 5 percent one-time net increase in out-migration by New Yorkers earning $100,000 or more would result in a loss of $933 million in income, sales and unincorporated business tax revenue. For his January 2022 budget proposal, New York Gov.

Andrew Cuomo proposed a 14.7 percent tax rate on the wealthy, which he estimates would raise $1.5 billion to address the state’s $15 billion budget shortfall. In California, state lawmakers last year deferred a proposal that would have raised the top personal income tax rate to 16.8 percent which would have impacted cities like San Francisco where an exodus from the Bay Area has accelerated due to homelessness and a host of long-standing problems. One venture capitalist from the Bay Area described such tax proposals as “rocket fuel for the exodus from California.” In 2020, major tech companies such as Oracle and Hewlett-Packard announced plans to relocate out of the Golden State, along with Elon Musk, Larry Ellison and other billionaires.

Hawaii’s Doctor Shortage SB56 SD1 creates a 16 percent income tax rate for single taxpayers who make $200,000 or more and married couples making $400,000 or more. Healthcare experts say the bill could negatively impact Hawaii’s healthcare industry which suffers from a severe shortage in the number of physicians. As of last year, the state had a shortage of 1,014 physicians. According to Dr. John Wade, a diagnostic radiologist based in rural Hilo and a member of the Hawaii Physician Shortage Crisis Task Force, the physician shortage varies from island to island, with the Big Island at 53 percent, Maui at 43 percent and Oahu at 20 percent. “These shortages are something that we on the Big Island deal with every day,” Wade says. “Certain specialties are either missing or we simply don’t have adequate numbers. This impacts patients’ access to healthcare. Even if you have a healthcare plan but no healthcare provider that you can see, then your health plan is meaningless.” In a recent webinar hosted by ThinkTech Hawaii and entitled “Tax Hikes Could Worsen Doctor Shortage,”

“We’re already having incredible challenges recruiting and retaining physicians and now you have the Legislature looking to add a tremendously high tax rate (as SB56 SD1 is proposing). The bill is just one more negative factor that physicians have to weigh when considering coming to Hawaii. It makes an already bad situation even worse.” — Dr. John Wade member of the Hawaii Physician Shortage Crisis Task Force

Wade cited two reasons for Hawaii’s physician shortage—the difficulty in recruiting doctors to Hawaii due to our high cost of living and doing business, and an accelerating rate of retirement among current physicians. But if steep tax increases called for in SB56 SD1 are implemented, the results from a healthcare standpoint, Wade says, would be “nothing short of apocalyptic.” “We’re already having incredible challenges recruiting and retaining physicians and now you have the Legislature looking to add a tremendously high tax rate,” said Wade. “The bill is just one more negative factor that physicians have to weigh when considering coming to Hawaii. It makes an already bad situation even worse.” Those physicians who come to Hawaii end up working long hours and struggle with high overhead costs, decreasing reimbursements and general excise tax that cut into their slim profit margins. Not surprisingly, the vast majority end up staying only a year or two before leaving for greener pastures in other states. Nationwide surveys of doctors show that over half have experienced burnout, are emotionally exhausted and have lost their sense of purpose. The high burnout rate among physicians has led to more divorces, financial catastrophes and in extreme cases, suicides.

The bottom line, according to physician advocacy groups, is that more taxes will only frustrate the many doctors who are already unhappy with the current state of affairs of the profession and discourage physicians from choosing to practice in Hawaii.

Dead On Arrival While SB56 SD1 sailed through the Senate, the going may be a lot bumpier in the House. The bill was assigned a rare quadruple committee referral, giving it a little to no chance of survival. Most observers feel that House leadership has its qualms about supporting any new tax increases to balance the State budget, preferring instead measures to restructure and consolidate. However, there is still time in the legislative process for legislators wanting a compromise to revive parts of the bill in one form or another. If so, Rep. Bob McDermott says that any new tax increases will be proposed at a much lower rate. Overall, Rep. McDermott says the tax increase proposals in SB56 SD1 are “short sighted and debilitating.” “With the announcement by Gov. Ige that furloughs and layoffs for state workers are no longer necessary, I don’t see any reason to continue considering this,” he said. “The bill is a bad idea that hurts doctors and small businesses who are still struggling.”


6 HAWAII FILIPINO CHRONICLE MARCH 20, 2021

OPINION

Beware of Scammers! Don’t Fall for the Scam! By Sheryll Bonilla, Esq.

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ou’ve seen these handmade signs posted on utility poles all around town: Cash paid for your house – any condition. Call ***-*** What these dishonest grifters do is offer desperate homeowners some money, such as $20,000, to sign over the deeds to their houses with a verbal promise to take over the mortgage. After the homeowner signs over the house, these con artists then sell the house for full value and make hundreds of thousands. Meanwhile the home loan is not paid off, so the original homeowner is left stuck with the home loan. The mortgage company goes after the original homeowner who has nothing to say except that so-and-so promised to keep paying the mortgage. The police won’t get involved because there’s no crime involved in a voluntary transaction. In a legitimate sale, the buyer pays the existing mortgage in full. If the buyer gets a loan or has enough funds to pay off the loan in cash, the conveyance can be concurrent with the signing of the deed. If the buyer is going to

pay overtime, then the buyer and seller sign a contract called “Agreement of Sale” where the buyer’s monthly installments pay off the purchase price and/or existing mortgage. When the buyer makes the final payment, then the seller signs the deed conveying the house over to the buyer. In these scams, there’s no pay off of the existing mortgage or agreement of sale. The homeowner has no protection that the mortgage he is responsible for, will in fact be paid in full. The grifter sells the house, makes a fortune, and leaves the original homeowner on the hook, legally and financially for the home loan. In short – stay away from these people. A verbal promise to pay the mortgage is as good as the air it’s spoken with – absolutely worthless. If this looks like someone may try to con you, tell them what Tom Cruise said: “Show Me the Money” – all of it, the whole price of the home, right here, right now. Another concerning occurrence are those businesses that “help” individuals or families with their Medicaid applications to pay for nursing home care of a senior citizen. The most distressing are

(EDITORIALS: Pass H.R.1....from page 3)

For the People Act aims to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, limit partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders. Specifically on voting, H.R.1 would expand automatic registration and allow for two-weeks of early voting across all 50 states. It also aims to beef up mail-in voting. Clearly, these proposals are exactly opposite of what the GOP are working to pass at the state level. The difference between the two is the Republican initiatives are more likely to discourage voting; while the Democrat initiatives (which should be a bipartisan effort)

want higher and secure voter turnout. H.R.1 is bound to be opposed by GOP members in the Senate and would only pass by skirting the filibuster (requiring 60-vote supermajority for approval), like what Senate Democrats had to do to pass the last Covid Relief Bill. The goal for all Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, should be to improve access to all who are qualified to vote. Higher voter turnout equals actualizing as close as possible the true will of the people. This is why H.R.1 must pass in the US Senate. It’s a pro-democracy legislation and would stop voter suppression currently at work at state legislatures.

those companies that charge $5000 to “assist” with the application. These are State of Hawaii forms. They’re not hard to fill in, and if you do need help, you can make an appointment with the state office to have their workers help you with it, for free. Some families are emotionally overwhelmed by the hardships of a family member who is now so disabled or difficult to take care of, that he or she must be placed in a care home. The change in circumstances creates anxiety, true, but to take advantage of this vulnerability doesn’t sit well with me. In short – if you can read, you can fill in the forms. Save the money – don’t give it to these people who hang around hospitals looking for their next $1000 to $5000 meal ticket! Use that for your rainyday fund, take a vacation, stash it in your retirement fund, fix up the house. Don’t fall prey to those who want to make a profit when you are in a time of need. Fill in the Medicaid application yourself and keep your

money in the family. You may contact the state Office of Consumer Protection. This Division of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs handles consumer complaints relating to products and services that are not otherwise regulated by the state, such as retail merchandise, mail order purchases, health clubs, and door-todoor sales. The office also handles issues involving gift certificates, refunds and exchanges of merchandise, and advertising complaints. The Office of Consumer Protection is located in Honolulu at 235 South Beretania Street, 8th floor, phone number is 586-2630. They also have offices in Hilo at 120 Pauahi Street, Suite 212, phone 933-0910, and in Wailuku, Maui at 1063 Lower Main Street, Suite C-216, phone 243-4648. Office hours are 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, except on state holidays. For more information, visit hawaii.gov/dcca/ocp.Hawaii Ombudsman. The Department of Com-

merce and Consumer Affairs also may look into different areas within its jurisdiction. For complaints against: • Certain licensed professionals, Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO) complaint forms • A cable provider, Cable Television (CATV) complaint forms • Certain financial institutions, escrow depositories, money transmitters, mortgage servicers, mortgage loan originators, and mortgage loan originator companies, Division of Financial Institutions complaint form • A utility, Consumer Advocacy complaint form • An insurance entity, Insurance complaint forms • A securities entity, Securities complaints • General commerce, Consumer Protection complaint forms Feel free to DCCA to ask for assistance. Thanks to Rep. Ryan Yamane (D-Mililani) for his suggestions for assistance if you are a victim of these deceptive practices. 

HAWAII-FILIPINO NEWS

Filipina Rum Company Founder Partners with Philippine Consulate in the Philippine Consulate for Honolulu the virtual rum tasting event.

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n celebration of Women’s Month, the Philippine Consulate in Honolulu is partnering with Filipina-founded Kasama Rum for a virtual Kasama Rum Tasting while tackling the conversation how women entrepreneurs can shape the food and retail industry. The Virtual Kasama Rum Tasting will be held on March 27, from 6pm-7pm. Kasama Rum is a smallbatch rum crafted in the Philippines. In Filipino, kasama means together or companion and the company wants to celebrate the importance of having a good company. “The whole brand is really rooted in celebration, and it’s about having a good

Alexandra Dorda

time with good company,” Kasama Rum founder Alexandra Dorda said. “I wanted to bring that attitude of optimism and carefree island lifestyle straight to your glass.” Recently, Kasama Rum started distributing their spirits at Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors in February this year. Dorda will be joining

She will be sharing her inspiration behind the brand and her favorite cocktail recipes using Kasama Rum. The virtual event will also feature the Kasama Rum Tasting Box which contains a bottle of Kasama Rum, cocktail ingredients to be used for tasting, and a special gift from the Philippine Department of Tourism. In addition, guests have an option to add hand-painted CBD-infused gourmet chocolates from Lacosta Chocolates. The gourmet chocolate brand is also founded by Filipina entrepreneur in Hawai’i Leni Acosta Knight. Guests can purchase their Kasama Rum Tasting Box via Eventbrite: bit.ly/3bbnyhf.


MARCH 20, 2021  HAWAII FILIPINO CHRONICLE  7

OPEN FORUM

Proposed Taxes Could Have Devastating Consequences By Sherry Menor-McNamara

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n the last few weeks, we have seen plenty of reason for optimism. O’ahu recently entered Tier 3 of its reopening strategy, allowing for larger gatherings, and more capacity for our local businesses. Vaccination efforts are gaining momentum, with the Department of Health opening vaccine appointments to those over 65 on Monday, along with many others in essential business categories. And, more visitors are coming to Hawaii. However, while optimism is cautiously growing for our economic recovery, businesses continue to face the devastating impact of COVID and their ability to provide services to customers. Hawaii’s businesses are at a precipice,

with the steady beat of news about businesses being forced to close for good because of the pandemic. Pali Lanes is a recent example of a business that is closing its doors, joining other household names like Loves Bakery, and Dillingham Saimin. Despite the precarious situation our economy and businesses are in, several bills being considered at the Legislature this session, will further exacerbate any efforts toward economic recovery. Amongst them are a plethora of revenue generating measures that have or are being considered due to the impact of Covid-19 on the state’s revenue. One of these, SB56, introduced by Senator Stanley Chang, would, among other things, increase the personal income tax rate to 16% for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2020 for single filers earning more than

$200,000 per year. In addition, the bill would increase the tax on capital gains from the current 7.25% to 11%, and impose a single corporate income tax rate at 9.6% (currently at graduated rates of 4.4%, 5.4%, and 6.4%). The Chamber of Commerce opposes this measure because of the significant effect the increases would have on Hawaii’s economy, the rebuilding of our local businesses, and the restoring of jobs. The enactment of a multi-faceted broad tax increase during a recovery phase will further hurt our economy. Hawaii’s business climate is not what it once was and this bill, if enacted, will reinforce the image that Hawaii is a poor place to live, work, and invest. This would put up yet another barrier for struggling businesses and individuals, who have spent the last year trying to survive the economic storm brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hawaii’s business community is at a critical point -where any additional business taxes could mean the difference between closing their doors permanently, filing bankruptcy, or laying off employees. In a survey of businesses conducted in partnership with Omnitrak and with the support of Central Pacific Bank Foundation, the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce Foundation found the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have dramatic consequences for local businesses. Eighty percent of the businesses that participated in the survey are small businesses with 20 or fewer employees. These companies expect the long road to economic recovery will extend into April of 2022. Revenues of businesses surveyed fell an average of 45% from 2019 to 2020, with no significant differences between O’ahu

and neighbor islands. Also, almost half of these businesses reduced their workforce, and reported this percentage would have been higher if not for the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Funds. Over the last year, businesses have been asked to step up and help slow the spread of COVID-19. This came in the form of complete shutdowns, ever-evolving restrictions, and for some, fundamentally changing the way business is done. While our business community continues to step up to the challenge, now is not the time to place an added burden on our economic recovery. The Chamber of Commerce will continue to advocate for sensible economic policy and stand with our local businesses as we look toward a better year for our island economy.

SHERRY MENOR-MCNAMARA is the President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.

SB56 Tax Scare Could Have Long-lasting Effect

By Joe Kent

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awaii residents were spooked last week by Senate passage of a bill that would increase the state’s highest personal income tax from 11% to 16% on annual incomes of more than $200,000, making it the highest in the nation. Promoted as a way to help balance the state’s budget, the now-notorious SB56 also would increase the state’s capital gains tax, corporate income tax and conveyance tax, and “temporarily” repeal a large number of general excise tax exemptions. Thankfully, the word from House leaders is that the bill is probably dead — at least for this year. The bill has been referred to four separate committees, all of which must hold hearings and approve it for the bill to survive.

But even if the bill is functionally dead at the moment, it still is shocking that such a bill made it out of the Senate — by a vote of 24-1, no less — and could return next year. At a time when many Hawaii residents still are nursing their wounds from the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 lockdowns, our senators do not seem to know that: • Hawaii already has the second highest tax burden in the nation. • Hawaii has been harder hit by the lockdowns than any other state in the nation, forcing thousands of businesses to close and pushing unemployment to the highest rate in the nation. • State lawmakers increased taxes and fees substantially in the decade before the lockdowns. • Hawaii businesses will be seeing their state unemployment taxes go up by

average 38% in 2021, leaving them little, if any, room to handle more taxes. • Hawaii has been experiencing net population loss in recent years because of its high cost of living, further eroding the state’s tax base as well. As The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board wrote last week, “If the Hawaii Legislature’s goal is to shrink the state population, its new tax grab might do it.” Already some entrepreneurs and doctors have notified the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii that they are considering leaving the state. Dr. Scott Grosskreutz, of the Hawaii Physician Shortage Crisis Task Force, said SB56 has pushed many physicians into thinking seriously about relocating to the mainland. He added that for four years, doctors have been lobbying the Legislature for a medical services exemption

from the state general excise tax. But what did they get? Possibly the worst Hawaii tax bill in decades. The state’s propensity to “tax to da max” also likely will discourage doctors moving here in the first place. Grosskreutz said most new physicians won’t want to move to a state with such high taxation while still dealing with their student loans and the overhead costs of setting up a practice. The fact is, SB56 is a Pandora’s box of tax hikes that already has waved a red flag to entrepreneurs across the nation that Hawaii is not a good place for business. If you were a potential investor on the mainland and saw headline, “Hawaii lawmakers considering nation’s highest income tax,” what would you think? Overall, it is doubtful any of Hawaii’s proposed

tax increases this year will, if enacted, achieve the goal of increasing state revenues. More likely, they will further damage the economy and prompt even more of our family, friends and neighbors to move away. If our lawmakers really want to generate more tax revenues, they should stop playing with fire and instead focus on growing the economy. They need to cut government spending, lower tax rates, and remove barriers to commerce and employment. The result would be more investment, more business activity and more jobs, and thus more tax revenues to help balance the state budget, which, after all, is the goal of SB56.

JOE KENT is executive vice president of

the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.


8 HAWAII FILIPINO CHRONICLE MARCH 20, 2021


MARCH 20, 2021  HAWAII FILIPINO CHRONICLE  9

NEWS FEATURE

Biden Signs $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan to Provide Relief Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

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n March 11, President Joe Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. The plan aims to accelerate the country’s recover from economic and health effects of the pandemic. An estimated $6.1 billion worth of funding is going to Hawai’i which will provide new program for restaurants, expand child tax credit and send more vaccines among other initiatives to alleviate the community. “Billions of dollars are coming to Hawaii to help families and small businesses,” said Senator Brian Schatz. “This new package will deliver immediate help to

people who have lost their job or can’t make their rent. It provides funding for schools and health care and will give our state more resources to get people vaccinated.” Some of the American Rescue Plan’s key provisions includes: U.S. President Joe Biden • Direct cash payments. Eligible • More support for small individuals will receive businesses. Additional a one-time cash payment $7.25 billion to the Payof $1,400 and additional check Protection Program $1,400 per dependent. and $29 billion for a new • Unemployment AssisSmall Business Administance. $575 million in tration program to grant funding to help Hawaii support for restaurants, workers. The aid will bars and other food-relatcover salaries up to about ed establishments. $65,000 through Septem• Better COVID-19 reber 6 with an additional sponse efforts. $20 mil$300 per week.

Rescue Plan ready to provide aide, Sen. Schatz released a comprehensive COVID-19 federal resource guide which includes details on eligibility, coverage and directions on how to apply for these programs. “At least $6.1 billion from the new COVID package is headed to Hawai‘i, and our new resource guide will help families, workers, and small businesses access this new relief,” said Sen. Schatz. “If you’ve lost your job, can’t make rent, or need help keeping your businesses  afloat, I encourage you to visit our website to learn more about the latest federal resources and programs.” As more assistance becomes available, Sen. Schatz reassures that his office will continue to regularly update its resource guide. To view the full resource, head to schatz.senate.gov/ With a wide array of programs under the American coronavirus. lion will go to Hawaii to help distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines, while a $47.8 billion national fund aims to expand capacity for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts. • Expanding health care in Hawaii. An estimated $150 million will go towards Hawaii’s healthcare system which includes $50 million to the state’s community health centers needs, $40 million for rural health care providers, $20 million to the Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems, and at least $25 million towards a new program that will recruit, hire and train new public health workers in Hawaii.


10 HAWAII FILIPINO CHRONICLE MARCH 20, 2021

AS I SEE IT

President Biden Signs $1.9T COVID Relief Bill, A Law That Saves Lives! By Elpidio R. Estioko

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e are now part of history! President Joe

Biden signed the historic $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on March 11 as Washington pledged to send fresh aid to Americans this month! With his signature, the plan will send direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans, extend a $300 per week unemployment insurance boost until September 6 and expand the child tax credit for a year. It will also put nearly $20 billion into COVID-19 vaccinations, $25 billion into rental and utility assistance and $350 billion into state, local and tribal relief. This is a milestone for Americans! Biden said before signing the legislation: “This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country… And giving people in this nation, working people, middle class folks, the people who built this

country, a fighting chance.” Also, I agree with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she said that the President’s $1.9 trillion COVID Relief Bill which was approved by the US Senate (50-49) and the House (220-211) will “save lives and livelihoods,” a package dubbed as the American Rescue Plan. The relief package will rescue middle-class Americans and will help them restore their damaged status caused due to the pandemic by extending benefits to those who are unemployed; giving stimulus money to individuals earning less than $75,000 a month; apportioning fund assistance to schools and local governments; and reserving support funds for small and medium-sized businesses. With the approval, Biden’s famous phrase “Help is on the way” becomes a reality as funds will be immediately released within this month. In the Senate, the absence of Sen. Dan Sullivan due to a family emergency prevented Vice President Kamala Harris from having to break a tie in the 50-50 chamber. The bill passed

50-49, along party lines with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia finally agreeing to support a provision backed by other Democrats that also allows the first $10,200 of the jobless benefits to be nontaxable for incomes up to $150,000. Manchin said after the vote: “Today the Senate passed a COVID-19 relief package that will help kill the COVID-19 pandemic and set us on the right track to economic recovery. I am proud to vote for this relief package and I look forward to seeing the president sign this bill into law.” The Senate’s changes to the House-passed version of the plan include reducing the jobless benefits to $300 (from $400 in the House bill) and extending them slightly to September 6. The Senate limited eligibility for the $1,400 checks by capping the payments for those who make $80,000, or $160,000 for couples. With assisting those heavily affected by housing and saving lives in mind, the plan would also provide $25 billion in rental assistance for low- and moderate-income households who have lost jobs during the pandemic. That is in addition to the $25 billion lawmakers provided in December. Another $5 billion would be set aside to help struggling renters to pay their utility bills. Biden is also calling for $5 billion to help states and localities assist those at risk of experiencing homelessness. The plan would extend

the federal eviction moratorium, which expired at the end of January, to September 30, as well as allow people with federally guaranteed mortgages to apply for forbearance until September 30. There is also help for the hungry under the plan. Biden would extend the 15% increase in food stamp benefits through September, instead of having it expire in June. He would invest another $3 billion to help women, infants, and children secure food, and give U.S. territories $1 billion in nutrition assistance. He would partner with restaurants to provide food to needy Americans and jobs to laid-off restaurant workers. Making sure people in need get the assistance, the Senate also approved some modest and noncontroversial amendments offered by both parties before passing the final version. In the House, Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene forced the House to delay debating and voting on the $1.9 trillion relief bill on Wednesday by using a delay tactic she used many times in the past. She made a motion to adjourn, before the chamber started proceedings, a procedural move that makes every lawmaker come to the floor and vote for or against keeping Congress in session that day. Her attempt however failed when 40 Republicans joined all Democrats in voting against her effort, which delayed the House’s business for roughly one hour. The House ultimate-

ly debated, and passed, the stimulus bill, which Greene opposed. To recap, the first major legislation of the Biden administration, includes  $1,400 stimulus checks, $300-per-week  jobless benefits  through the summer, a child allowance  of up to $3,600 for one year, $350 billion for state aid, $34 billion to expand Affordable Care Act subsidies and $14 billion for vaccine distribution. Biden called the aid package “urgently needed” and praised the Senate for passing it (50-49) Saturday and the House (220-211), saying it will get “checks out the door” to Americans “this month.” The help is right there in our doorsteps! He praised the Senate and the House and hailed the measure’s “overwhelming bipartisan support of the American people,” referring to polling that showed the Americans supporting the legislation by 61%. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters: “From the beginning, we said this: We had to pass this legislation. We made a promise to the American people that we were going to deliver the real relief they needed. And now we have fulfilled that promise.” The Maryland Democrat added: “Democrats are delivering on our promise to take action to defeat this virus and provide the assistance the American people need until our economy can reopen safely and fully.” Fellow Americans, “Help is on the way” and our lives will surely be restored and secured! Biden’s $1.9 T relief bill, which became into law, saves lives! ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist here in the U.S. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).


MARCH 20, 2021  HAWAII FILIPINO CHRONICLE  11

CANDID PERSPECTIVES

In 2020, It’s VAX AMERICANA. But Will We All Be Together by July 4th? By Emil Guillermo

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K, patriots, are you committed to masking up? Because according to President Joe Biden, it’s going to take more masking and physical distancing to beat this pandemic. Especially, if we want to celebrate Fourth of July with a bang. And don’t forget your shot. Not to brag, but I got the vaccine. I’m not a food worker, an educator (not presently), or a health care worker. Just an unboomed Boomer waiting for my needle. And I finally got it, the Moderna, the one that sounds like it belongs on the shelf next to Gucci and Dolce Gabbana. Pfizer? They didn’t offer it and I’m Pfilipino. Johnson & Johnson? It’s more than a Band-Aid or a one-hit wonder. If you are offered any of the three, take it. The best one is the one you can get. Any vaccine at this point will help you and everyone else. I wore two masks and blue light-blocking glasses. Am I overly cautious? Just note, fearing the vaccine doesn’t make sense. Of course, I wouldn’t trust Trump, the anti-masker who secretly got vaccinated. But after his administration gave the virus a year’s head start, and more than 525,000 deaths, this new administration is trying to get it right. From the $1.9 trillion stimulus package to the vaccine. And if you’re a Republican, what’s going on? Not one Republican crossed over to join the Democrats to pass the stimulus. What? Didn’t have any military spending? Or maybe the GOP has a death wish. Just remember this come election time: the

Democrats came up with a plan to bail out and unify the country, and the most Trumpy Republicans like Rep. Matt Gaetz and Rep. Jim Jordan declined to join in. Instead, they were advocating to end Britney Spears conservatorship. (A worthy cause, maybe, just not compared to helping the country recover from the pandemic.) Why expect anything different? Trump Republicans have been blocking and exacerbating Covid efforts since February 2020. It’s made getting vaccines post-Trump more difficult than it has to be. In California, so many doses were sitting on the shelf going bad as a mere fraction of eligible folks got vaccinated. I lucked out when a friend sent me to a website that signed me up in January. The state hadn’t developed a plan yet. When the state realized last week that certain zip codes were inequitably treated in the distribution (places like the Central Valley and parts of Los Angeles), the state finally contacted me for a first shot this week–after I had finished both doses. Waiting for the government would have delayed being fully vaccinated by at least a month. The bureaucracy is worse than the treatment. Just don’t worry about the vaccine. It isn’t made up of the active virus. Plus, it’s based on a delivery system that addresses your RNA, not DNA. Genetically, you don’t have to worry. (Doctors out there know I have horribly simplified this, but that’s what you need to know.) But here’s a warning from my experience. The second shot was different. I felt the needle. And within six hours, I had a fever of 101. Maybe I was sickened by the combination of

Columnist Emil Guillermo getting his COVID-19 vaccine

late-night writing and binge watching the sordid “Allen v. Farrow” on HBO. But by the morning, I was fine. My arm was sore. And my antibodies had gotten a gym workout. In two weeks, the buildup should result in my being fully vaccinated – a soon to be card-carrying member of Vax Americana. Mind you, I don’t feel like Superman yet. And I’m still masking and distancing. But I feel confident dealing with COVID. It’s the anti-Asian American racists I’m not sure about. Asian Americans Are Hot! People are noticing us, finally. For once, all my white friends are legitimately worried about my well-being. One in New York asked about me on a Zoom call, “Are you ok?” Another in Boston said he noticed how we’re always in the news. “You guys are hot!” he said.

But when I ask my friends who are Asian American history profs, they all say the same thing, essentially that we’ve been victimized by racist xenophobia for decades. It’s just that recent incidents, on top of the thousands of self-reported cases to the Stop AAPI Hate website, were so sensational–the death of a Thai man in San Francisco, and the slashing of a Filipino New York City subway rider. They were hard to ignore, unlike the previous 2,900 or so. To balance it all, we’ve had the Biden executive order to remind us that Asian Americans have rights, as if we needed that. But, I guess, yes, apparently America did. Then, Biden came out during his vaccine announcement and doubled-down on his denouncement of the “vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans who’ve been attacked,

harassed, blamed and scapegoated.” He went further than Trump ever did when he bluntly said, “It’s wrong. It’s un-American, and it must stop.” We needed that from the president. But will it work? One thing I’m seeing is a more concerted effort in the mainstream to include us. Recently, there was the front-page Arts story on Star Wars star Kelly Marie Tran’s triumph over online bullying. Another story on the appointment of Tim Wu, the Columbia Law professor, as a tech advisor to Biden on the National Economic Council. It’s important because of Wu’s advocacy for “net neutrality,” a phrase he coined that gave consumers equal access to internet content. More significant is his antitrust work and his advocacy for breaking up Big Tech, the purveyors of the next scourge, digital discrimination. The big recent takeout, however, was the front page of the New York Times Sunday Review section on Asian American topic A: a faceless Asian American with the words, “We Need to Put a Name to This Violence” Like that will do it? Giving it a name? Shouldn’t racist xenophobia, which everyone should rail against, be enough? The fact is we are face(continue on page 12)


12 HAWAII FILIPINO CHRONICLE MARCH 20, 2021

BOOK REVIEW

PEDRO PENDUKO, The Legend Begins By Rose Cruz Churma

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he character Pendro Penduko first appeared in Liwayway Magazine in 1954. Created by 2014 National Artist for Visual Arts Francisco V. Coching, Pedro Penduko is a widely known icon in the Philippines and had been adapted into film and television several times with different actors portraying the character. This publication is

a graphic novel created by a team of artists under the umbrella of EPIK Studios. This graphic novel’s lead character is a Filipino American named Peter Harris who lived all of his life in the U.S. where he grew up being bullied. When his adoptive father passes away of unexplained causes when he was 20 years old, he goes back to the Philippines to look for his mother whom he has not seen since he was an infant. He finds out that his mother has been a victim of a curse.

As he seeks a cure, he learns that he may not be an ordinary human but the prophesied “Chosen One” and takes on the role of the new Pedro Penduko. The illustrations are action-filled and visually stunning. The colors have dark undertones to match the fast-paced storyline, with its twists and turns. Reviving

an iconic character like Pedro Penduko is a risky undertaking, but the EPIK Studios creative team headed by Paul Alexei Basinillo pulled it off successfully. Francisco V. Coching, the original creator of Pedro Penduko is regarded as one of key

figures in the Philippines “Komiks Industry” and is sometimes referred to as the King of Komiks and Dean of Philippine Comics. He served as writer and illustrator of all his 53 graphic novels including such classics as Hogbis, Bing Bigtilyo, Marabini and Sabas ang Barabro. ROSE CRUZ CHURMA is a former President of the FilCom Center. She is also the co-owner of Kalamansi Books and Things, an online bookstore promoting works by Filipino Americans. For inquiries, email her at kalamansibook@gmail.com.

HAWAII-FILIPINO NEWS

Securities Commission Warns Investors of Threats

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he State Office of Securities Commissioners (OSC) reminds Hawaii investors to be cautious of investment schemes that are circulating online and on social media. Most of these investment scams involves precious metals, cryptocurrencies, promissory notes and foreign exchange markets. According to a survey by the North American Securities

Administrators Association, schemes related to those mentioned above are the top threats facing investor this year. The survey respondents include enforcement officials with state and provincial securities regulators throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. The survey notes internet or social media-based fraud as the top threat to investors. Coming in the second

spot are cryptocurrency and precious metals-based investments that are usually purchased through self-directed individual retirement accounts. These accounts are not protected under traditional IRAs and are popular for scammers. Foreign exchange schemes are on the top three threat according to the survey. The survey also notes that 82% of state and provincial

(CANDID PERSPECTIVES: In 2020....from page 11)

less and invisible still because we are many faces. A Thai man dies. A Filipino man is slashed. Does naming Vicha Ratanapakdee, the 84-yearold man, killed in San Francisco by a black suspect, do it? Does naming Noel Quintana, the Filipino man slashed move you to protest? Does it have the power of saying the name George Floyd? The problem is we cannot go alone in this battle. We need the handle of “Asian American” or AAPI, or APA, or some derivation. There are too many of us. Trump says, “China Virus” and perps attack a Thai man? A Filipino? No, we are faceless because America has never gotten beyond seeing race as Black and White. Civil rights came in 1964? Asians didn’t

Vincent Chin

arrive in numbers until post1965, and honestly, post1980. Brown sneaks into the Black-White paradigm somewhere. But what about Brown Asians and Yellow Asians? And Asians who are mixed Black and White? it’s not one face, or one name. It’s all of us. But if we need to summon up a name, if we need to put a name to this violence, then let that name be one we all know and come to for strength, purpose, and unity. It’s Vincent Chin. Still. Like immigration, hate

hits us in waves too. Chin’s death in 1982 galvanized the social justice movement of one generation. This new rise of Asian American hate in 2021 has ignited the call to action for not just today’s AAPIs, but for every previous generation that’s still alive and kicking. And hurting still. The Times said we need a name? Everyone already knows one. And he didn’t get justice either. Vincent Chin is still the hate crime that unifies all Asian Americans from Chinese to Filipino, from Honolulu to Bangor, Maine. That’s a face that reminds us all of the anti-Asian American hate that exists in America. EMIL​ GUILLERMO​ is a veteran journalist and commentator. He was a member of the Honolulu Advertiser editorial board. Listen to him on Apple Podcasts. Twitter @ emilamok.

securities regulators anticipate fraudsters will continue to attempt to take advantage of investor fear and anxiety related to financial market changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic to illegally sell securities this year. “Fraudsters will always try to leverage vulnerabilities wherever they can be found. Investors may be lured by the promise of high returns as a way to supplement income lost as a result of the pandemic,” said Securities Commissioner Ty Nohara. If an investment offer

sounds “too good to be true,” it is often a sign of an investment scam. Nohara recommends that investors always ask the salesperson if the investment itself are properly registered. To check, visit brokercheck.finra.org. To report an investment fraud, contact OSC’s Securities Enforcement Branch at seb@ dcca.hawaii.gov. To file a complaint, visit dccabreg.force. com/securities/s/. For more information and resources on investor protection, visit OSC’s Investor Education Program at cca.hawaii. gov/sec/icep.


MARCH 20, 2021  HAWAII FILIPINO CHRONICLE  13

WHAT’S UP, ATTORNEY?

Illegal Aliens Are Coddled (Cuddled?) While Law-Abiding Aliens Are Tormented By Atty. Emmanuel S. Tipon

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n September 23, 1986, when President Cory Aquino was visiting San Francisco where I lived, I saw an airplane towing a banner with the words “Cory Communist Cuddler”. I called the home of the Marcos children, identified myself as Atty. Tipon, and asked if they had a hand in the banner. The one who answered asked “Why, manong (elder brother)? [I should have been called “tata” (an Ilocano word of respect for someone old enough to be a parent) since I am just 2 years younger than Imelda]. I replied: “The banner has a misspelled word. It should read ‘coddler’ not ‘cuddler.’ Cuddle means to embrace affectionately like a baby. Coddle means to treat someone in an overprotective manner.” “Pareho lang yan” (They are just the same), I was told. How illegal aliens are coddled (cuddled?) So, whether illegal aliens are being “coddled” or “cuddled”, the undeniable fact is that they are now being treated much better under the current administration than they have ever been in the past. Illegal aliens are treated even better than law abiding aliens who are being tormented and oppressed (subjected to harsh and authoritarian treatment) by the government. Susmariosep. Illegal aliens are allowed to cross the southern border of the United States to such an extent that there is now a crisis at the border. They have no visa, no petitioner, no sponsor, no medical exam, no affidavit of support, no police clearance. After being asked to fill up forms, they are released into the United States. (Catch and release). No health check, no Covid-19 test, no quarantine, no masks. They are given free housing – a military base on the mainland is being refurbished to house the illegal aliens. Schools are being established near the border for

the illegal alien children. Would you be surprised if they are given a stimulus check? American citizens living near the border are being threatened, harassed, or inconvenienced by the influx of illegal aliens. The governors of southern border states like Texas and Arizona are appealing to the President to stop the illegal aliens but have been ignored. You have not seen this crisis? You might be watching the fake news and corrupt media who are covering it up to protect the current administration. Watch instead Fox News and Newsmax. They are telling the truth. What have illegal aliens done to deserve such coddling or cuddling by the current administration? “Come on man,” to use a familiar quote of the President, You know the answer. You are not dense. These illegal aliens will be given asylum or amnesty and a path to citizenship. They will be eligible to vote in 8 years. Guess who they will vote for? Their benefactor – the Democrats (or Demoncrats?). Oh, you are just a bleeding heart liberal and are not into politics. So why don’t you host an illegal alien in your home? What’s that? You are just renting and your landlord won’t permit it. Your landlord must be a law-abiding citizen. He must know that harboring an illegal alien is a crime. 18 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii). All persons who encourage or induce an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law, is subject to punishment. 18 U.S.C. § 1324(a) (1)(A)(iv). This includes persons who engage in any conspiracy or aid or abet the commission of such act. 18 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1) (A)(v). How law-abiding aliens are tormented and oppressed Compare the current administration’s treatment of illegal aliens with the treatment of law-abiding aliens who are seeking immigration benefits, such as adjustment of status, removal of conditional resident status, petitioning their alien rel-

atives, or applying for citizenship. Compare the treatment of illegal aliens with the treatment of law-abiding citizens seeking immigration benefits, like petitioning their alien relatives or fiancees. Law-abiding aliens and citizens are tormented and oppressed. They are made to file petitions or applications with hefty fees and file affidavits of support. The beneficiaries have to wait years, sometimes more than 20 years (like a brother or sister petitioning another brother or sister) for a visa to become available. The beneficiaries are made to undergo a rigorous medical and mental examination, pay significant fees for a visa application and green card, and are subjected to a grueling interview by a consular officer who might be a racist and hell bent on denying the visa. Upon arrival at the airport, the alien beneficiaries are again subjected to an examination by a customs and border protection agent. Citizenship applicants are tormented too. Every little mistake they have made in life is magnified and treated as fraud or dishonesty even if it is not so or is immaterial to the grant of citizenship. For example, a green card holder who did not disclose to a consul when he immigrated to the U.S. that he had an illegitimate child will be denied citizenship on the ground that he committed fraud, even though such nondisclosure is not considered fraud under immigration law because it was not made with an evil intent and was immaterial because with or without a child, the alien was eligible for an immigrant visa. The citizenship application will be denied and he will be placed in removal proceedings. A citizenship applicant who does not disclose all his encounters with law enforcement officers could be called dishonest, even though he does not remember all of them because they occurred many years ago or was insignificant or there was no arrest. An applicant who does not remember how many times he has been arrested will be denied citizenship, even though the applicant submits a criminal history certificate listing all his arrests. There appears to be a pat-

tern and practice of discriminatory treatment of law-abiding aliens and citizens seeking immigration benefits. Favoritism is discrimination “No state shall *** deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Constitution, 14th Amendment. “An unreasonable discrimination is a denial of due process of law.” Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497 (1954). The “Fourteenth Amendment’s requirement of ‘equal protection of the laws,’ combined with the Thirteenth Amendment’s abolition of the institution of black slavery, leaves no room for doubt that laws treating people differently because of their race are invalid.” Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois, 497 U.S. 62 (1990). Justice Scalia. “[W]hen the government distributes burdens or benefits on the basis of individual racial classifications, that action is reviewed under strict scrutiny. Parents Inv. In Comm. Sch. v. Seattle School, 551 U.S. 701 (2007). In order to satisfy this searching standard of review, the government must “demon-

strate that the use of individual racial classifications in the assignment plans here under review is “narrowly tailored” to achieve a “compelling” government interest.” Parents Inv. In Comm. Sch. v. Seattle School, 551 U.S. 701 (2007). Applying these principles to the conduct of immigration officials in coddling [cuddling] of illegal aliens (mostly Latino) while tormenting, oppressing, and discriminating against legal aliens (mostly Asians), it appears that the current administration has denied legal aliens – and certain U.S. citizens – applying for immigration benefits the equal protection of the laws and due process of law. ATTY. TIPON has a Master of Laws degree from Yale Law School and a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines. His current practice focuses on immigration law and appellate criminal defense. He has written books and legal articles for the world’s largest law book publishing company and writes legal articles for newspapers. Listen to The Tipon Report which he co-hosts with son Noel (senior partner of the Bilecki & Tipon Law Firm) on KNDI 1270 AM band every Thurs. at 8:00 a.m. Atty. Tipon was born in Laoag City, Philippines. Tel. (808) 800-7856. Cell Phone, (808) 225-2645. E-Mail: filamlaw@yahoo.com. Websites: https:// www.tiponlaw.com.

Opinions, advice, or statements in our Open Forum, Opinion or Columns are those of the writer and/or the organization represented, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle editorial board.


14 HAWAII FILIPINO CHRONICLE MARCH 20, 2021

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS

Please Let The Coronavirus Go Away

And the end is still nowhere in sight as surges and By Seneca Moraleda-Puguan waves of infected still toss humanity. Time went so fast esus, please but surely the days were long let the coro- and still are. navirus go Fortunately, protection away.” from the virus has been created My five- and vaccination is underway. y e a r - o l d Rich countries have started indaughter, Callie, utters this oculating their frontliners and every night before going to citizens. Developing countries bed ever since the pandemic are following suit. started. My 66-year-old mother She misses her friends. who lives in Florida already She is excited to invite people had her first shot and waiting to her house but she couldn’t. for her second dose in a few She longs to play in a kids weeks. Here in South Korea, cafe where she can freely my husband and I might have touch things and play with our turn in the middle of the other children but she has to year. Many of my frontlinwait a little longer. er friends in the Philippines It’s been more than a year have also been immunized. since COVID-19 changed the But we are still barely course of history and created scratching the surface. It is a new normal. It’s been more still a long way before the than a year of wearing masks, whole world reaches herd physical distancing and just immunity. This also does not coping with life where there take away the anxiety that are deadly viruses lurking and everyone feels regarding the ready to attack. efficacy and safety of the

“J

vaccines created by different pharmaceutical companies. Just here in South Korea, there have been cases reported of people having adverse reactions to the vaccines. Knowing that it takes years to research the viability of vaccines against viruses, the creation of the COVID-19 vaccines is relatively fast though there are consequences that we definitely have to face and accept. But even with vaccines around, we are still advised to not let our guard down. We still have a long way to go. The virus still continues to at-

tack and with the new, mutated strains, we are still vulnerable. Medical personnels are still overwhelmed and hospitals are still filled with the rising number of COVID-19 patients. So please, let us continue wearing masks, observe physical distancing, sanitize frequently, and obey our government’s protocols. Discipline and good hygiene are still the best protection we have against the virus. But just as we have conquered every endemic, epidemic and pandemic that we have faced, this too shall come to pass. Though the future is still blurry, the fog will settle and we will see the sun shining again. It is my prayer that before the year ends, we can get to breathe freely again, hug our loved ones again, gather in groups again, ride the plane and travel again, live normally again, be free again. But for now, let’s continue to en-

joy the time given us to spend with our families and make the most of every opportunity to rest and be grateful for the gift of life. My daughter’s prayer hasn’t been answered yet but she is full of hope and she will continue to pray until she finally receives the answer to her prayer. Just as the song she always listens to says: “Can’t go back to the beginning, can’t control what tomorrow will bring but I know here in the middle is the place where You promise to be... As I walk now through the valley, let Your love rise above every fear” (Here Again by Elevation Worship).” We are not alone in the waiting. Callie and I are confident in this, that we will experience the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living so we stay strong, take heart and we wait on the Lord until she finally prays “Jesus, thank You for letting the coronavirus go away.”

HAWAII-FILIPINO NEWS

AARP Community Challenge Grant Program is Now Open

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ith one month left before the deadline, AARP is encouraging community organizations and local governments to apply for its 2021 Community Challenge grant program.

The grant program funds quick-action projects, no matter how big or small, that aims to improve cities, towns, neighborhoods and rural areas to become great places to live for people of all ages.

“We are excited to see the ideas people and organizations have to improve their own communities and want to encourage eligible organizations to apply,” said AARP Hawaii State Director Keali’i Lopez. “We’ve seen great results from the Community Challenge grant program in communities across Hawai`i, and this year we are increasing our support for projects that focus on diversity and inclusion and aid in local recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.”

Since 2017, the non-profit organization has awarded 560 grants nationally with 10 grants worth more than $112,000 given to Hawaii projects. AARP will prioritize projects that deliver inclusive solutions that benefit diverse populations. The project should aim to achieve one of the following results: • Create vibrant public place • Deliver a range of transportation and mo-

bility options • Support a range of housing options • Increase civic engagement and demonstrate the tangible value of “Smart Cities” • Support local recovery from the coronavirus pandemic • Ensure a focus on diversity and inclusion • Other community improvements The 2021 Community Challenge application deadline is at 8pm EST on April 14. All projects must be completed by November 10, 2021. For those interested to apply, submit an application through AARP.org/CommunityChallenge. AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age.


MARCH 20, 2021  HAWAII FILIPINO CHRONICLE  15

COMMUNITY CALENDAR INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S MONTH EVENTS | Hosted by the Philippine Consulate General MARCH 19-21, 8:45AM Onwards | Pinay Powerhouse IV by Pinay Powerhouse. Register at pinaypowerhouse4.com. MARCH 20, 4:00 - 5:00PM | Women and Leadership in Higher Education by the University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Hawaii. To register, visit bit.ly/3pWRD8w. MARCH 23, 5:30 - 6:30PM | Women in Government by

the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu and the Filipino Junior Chamber. Register at bit.ly/3uD9tAH. MARCH 27, 6:00 - 7:00PM | Kasama Rum Tasting by the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu, Kasama Rum and CIH Events. Register via bit. ly/3pZNfFM. MARCH 27, 7:00 - 8:00PM | Himig ng Filipina by

the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu, Center for Philippine Studies and Knights of Rizal. Register at bit.ly/2PghlYW. MARCH 31, 5:00 - 6:30PM | #ChooseToChallenge Ideathon Demo Day by the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu, Chaminade University Communications Department and Filipino Junior Chamber. Register at bit.ly/3uEVgUe.

HAWAII-FILIPINO NEWS

More Hawaii Health Centers to Receive Additional Vaccines for Underserved Communities By Jim Bea Sampaga

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welve health centers across the Hawaii state have been selected to receive additional vaccines to serve those who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The vaccine program chose health centers that are easily accessible to the nation’s underserved communities.

The provided vaccine allocation is separate from the state’s weekly allocations. Moreover, the selected health centers will continue to follow Hawaii’s priority guidelines in administering the vaccine. “This means more vaccines for people in Hawaii who are being hit the hardest,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz. “The vaccine

is a miracle of modern science and will give us our lives back. I encourage everyone to get it when it’s your turn.” The Hawaii health centers eligible to receive the additional vaccines are: • Kalihi-Palama Health Center on Oahu • Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services

• • • • • • • • •

on Oahu Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center on Oahu Waikiki Health on Oahu Molokai Community Health Care on Moloka Lanai Community Health Center on Lanai Waimanalo Health Center on Oahu Hoola Lahui Hawai‘i on Kaua Malama I Ke Ola Health Center on Maui Koolauloa Health Center on Oahu Bay Clinic on Hawai‘i Island Hamakua-Kohala Health Center on Hawai‘i Island  (Sagot sa Krosword Blg. 3 | March 6, 2021)

Filipino Non-Profit Organization Extends Free Participants can easily availMedical Consultations able by calling the Hawaii Depart-

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he Bayanihan Clinic Without Walls (BCWW) is extending its Job Loss Assistance Program (JLAP) indefinitely to help workers who lost their medical insurance due to COVID-19. In cooperation with the Hawaii Filipino Healthcare, the JLAP pro-

gram provides free medical consultations to people with no medical insurance. Since June 2020, the program has provided medical care to more than 100 patients. BCWW has more than 40 providers throughout the state who are ready to provide free consultations.

ment of Health Bilingual Health Services at (808) 832-5865 or BCWW at (888) 674-7624. The Bayanihan Clinic Without Walls is a non-profit community-based healthcare organization established by the Philippine Medical Association of Hawaii in 1997. 

CROSSWORD by Carlito Lalicon

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