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Will justice finally prevail?

Published in On Distant Shore

Almost exactly nine years ago, in the morning of November 23, 2009, a convoy of six vehicles, including two carrying 32 journalists, rolled out from Buluan town in Maguindanao to accompany the wife of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu who was set to file her husband’s certificate of candidacy for governor of Maguindanao in the Commission on Elections office in Shariff Aguak.

 

Mangudadatu, who said he received reports that he would be chopped off if he filed his certificate of candidacy, had sent his wife, lawyers and relatives, mostly women, and requested 37 media members to witness the filing in the hope that his rival, Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., son of the powerful Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., would not dare touch a group of women and journalists.

 

He was wrong.

 

The 58-member convoy was stopped by more than 100 armed men, believed to be members of the Ampatuans’ dreaded private army and militia men, as they neared Shariff Aguak, herded and brought to a hill in Ampatuan town where they were executed and later buried in shallow graves, some of them still inside their vehicles.

 

The wife of Mangudadatu was reportedly slapped and shot in close range allegedly by Ampatuan Jr. himself while some of the other women, including four female journalists, were reported to have been raped before being shot to death by Ampatuan’s men.

 

The first people to arrive at the scene saw several bodies still lying near the vehicles with the others half-buried on the Ampatuan hill as the operator of the provincial government-owned heavy equipment fled after seeing a helicopter hovering above.

 

It was a horrifying scene, described by the International Crisis Group as “one of the worst acts of political violence in modern Philippine history, and the largest number of journalists slain on a single day ever, anywhere in the world.”

 

“This looks like Rwanda,” Peruvian forensics expert Jose Pablo Baraybar was quoted as having described the massacre site. Baraybar was referring to the tiny African nation where 800,000 Tutsis were killed by Hutu militiamen at the height of a civil war in 1994.

 

We are narrating the events of that fateful day based on the accounts of some journalists and witnesses so that we may never forget the cruelty and barbarism of that infamous incident and in the hope that the government will finally do something to end the culture of violence and impunity in our country.

 

A total of 197 were originally accused of multiple murders when the trials began in January 2010, but only 103 remain under trial, including prime suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr., and his brothers Zaldy Ampatuan and Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan, the latter out on bail after the court granted him bail in January 2015. Twelve other surnamed Ampatuans are in the list of the accused. The patriarch, former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., was also included in the charge sheet but he died in detention on July 17, 2015.

 

The trial court has already heard a total of 273 witnesses — 166 for the prosecution and 107 for the defense. The transcripts of stenographic notes have reached 59 volumes, while the records of the cases are 129 volumes thick, plus 10 volumes of prosecution’s evidence.  Some potential witnesses have reportedly been killed while others are missing.

 

And yet, nine years and three administrations since the gruesome murders, not one of the accused has been convicted. The Department of Justice said on Monday that Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes was expected to now set the promulgation of the case where she would decide whether to convict or acquit Ampatuan and the other accused. The decision, according to the DOJ, would most probably be reached in the first quartet of next year, as early as January.

 

Year after year on the day of the massacre, November 23, journalists and relatives of the victims light candles in the hope that it would move the government to give priority to the resolution of the case and, therefore, show that amid the darkness, the light of justice would eventually prevail.

 

Will justice finally prevail?

 

The need to render justice on this horrific incident becomes even more important and urgent in the wake of recent murders of media men that have increased the tally of unsolved media killings, and the recent upsurge of political violence ahead of the mid-term elections in May next year.

 

Almost every week, we hear of mayors, vice mayors, councilors and other local politicians being ambushed or assassinated with the coming elections -- expected to be bloodier because of the culture of violence and impunity that has been heightened by President Duterte’s reckless speeches -- still six months away.

 

Convicting and rendering the harshest possible sentence on those found guilty of the Maguindanao massacre will hopefully send a strong signal to political warlords that they can no longer decide the outcome of elections by violence, and that the rule of law still prevails in the country.

 

The culture of impunity will continue to cast a dark shadow over the country unless the government shows its resolve to arrest the suspects of media and political killings and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law and in the fastest time possible. Finally finding justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre would be a good start.

 

The reason that the culture of impunity continues is because nothing has been done to make the wheels of justice run faster. The Maguindanao massacre numbers are glaring: 58 dead, 9 years, 0 justice.

 

Will it finally become 58 dead, 9 years, 103 guilty? Will the yearly candles finally bring justice into the light amid the darkness that has prevailed over our country for decades?

 

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Creative Way for Savings, Convenience

Published in Health and Wealth

Studying DNA from more than 1.5 million people, an international team of researchers has identified points of DNA that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and also heighten the risk for Alzheimer's disease, according a published report.

 

The researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of California in San Francisco looked at the differences in the DNA of people with factors that contribute to heart disease or Alzheimer's disease and identified 90 points across the genome that were associated with risk for both diseases. And their analysis confirmed that six of the 90 regions had very strong effects on Alzheimer's and heightened blood lipid levels, including several within genes that had not previously been linked to dementia risk. These included several points within the CELF1/MTCH2/SPI1 region on chromosome 11 that previously had been linked to the immune system.

 

The researchers confirmed their most promising findings in a large genetic study of healthy adults by showing that these same risk factors were more common in people with a family history of Alzheimer's, even though they had not themselves developed dementia or other symptoms such as memory loss.

 

***

As founder of MOBILE SIGNING SERVICES and accredited Notary Public by the Philippine Consul General in San Francisco, I discovered another creative way for savings and convenience on documents notarization and follow-up authentication at the Philippine Consulate Office in San Francisco, California.

 

Last week Oliver and her mother went to the Office of Jevi in Milpitas, California for the notarization of two Special Power of Attorney (SPA) and Proof of Life for her elderly mother who is residing in Sunnyvale, California. Jevi who is also accredited Notary Public is my partner with MOBILE SIGNING SERVICES but doesn't do authentication follow-up of notarized documents.

 

Jevi, with cell phone (408)854-4274, referred me to Oliver and gave him my cell phone (650)438-3531 for authentication follow-up of the notarized documents. The following day, Oliver called me and asked my assistance for the authentication follow-up of the notarized SPAs and Proof of Life at the Philippine Consulate Office in San Francisco, California. He said that he can't personally go to the Philippine Consulate Office in San Francisco. He doesn't want to take off from work and also avoid the hassle and pressures of driving and going to the Philippine Consulate Office in San Francisco.

 

I told Oliver that I normally visit my 99-year-old mother every week in Santa Clara, California. I explained to Oliver that I can meet him in Sunnyvale, California by 11:00am before visiting my elderly mother. Oliver arranged for a lunch meeting inside a Filipino restaurant in Sunnyvale, California. The place is just 6-minute drive from Santa Clara, California where my elderly mother is staying with my sisters.

 

During the lunch meeting, Oliver showed me the three sets of notarized documents for the two Special Power of Attorney (SPA) with Proof of Life enclosures and picture I.D. of her elderly mother, two $25 Money Order paid to the Philippine Consulate for authentication fees. The two SPAs were extremely rush and needed immediately in the Philippines, so Oliver requested me to submit immediately the notarized SPAs at the Philippine Consulate for authentication.

 

The following day, I went to the Philippine Consulate Office and submitted the notarized SPAs at the Front Desk in the 2nd Floor, 447 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California 94108. After review of the notarized documents, I went to the Cashier (6th Floor) and submitted the reviewed documents with the 2 sets of $25 Money Order paid to the Philippine Consulate. The Cashier issued a Receipt with a note to wait for the authenticated SPA at the Release Counter by 4pm. I got the copies of authenticated (with red ribbon) documents at 4:30pm.

 

I sent a text to Oliver that I got the copies of the authenticated SPAs. He sent a text that he will pick up the copies of the authenticated in our home in San Francisco, California by 7:30pm. He drove to our home that evening and picked up the authenticated documents. He was very happy and very satisfied with the prompt and excellent services.

 

Through this creative way, Oliver and her elderly mother received the following advantages and benefits of our MOBILE SIGNING SERVICES:

 

  1. Oliver and her elderly mother saved $120 for gas and mileage fees;
  2. SAVINGS ON DOCUMENT PREPARATION;
  3. AVOID TAKING DAY OFF FROM WORK – Because the two sets of SPAs were notarized by Jevi who is accredited Notary Public, Oliver doesn't need to take day off from work to go to the Philippine Consulate Office in San Francisco, California.
  4. SAVINGS ON PARKING FEES AND OTHER EXPENSES - Oliver doesn't need to drive and go to the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco for the authentication follow-up of the notarized documents. Oliver easily saved $150-$200 on parking fees, lunch, snacks and other expenses.
  5. FAST TURN-AROUND AND DELIVERY - Because of extreme rush and urgency, Oliver drove and picked up the authenticated documents in our home in San Francisco. This was the fastest one-day turn-around and delivery of authenticated documents.
  6. AVOID HASSLE AND PRESSURES IN GOING TO THE PHILIPPINE CONSULATE -With the prompt and efficient services of accredited Notary Public with MOBILE SIGNING SERVICES, Oliver and his elderly mother avoided the hassle and pressures of going to the Philippine Consulate.
  7. CONVIENCE AND PEACE OF MIND – Yes, there is total convenience and peace of mind with the services of accredited Notary Public and authentication follow-up assistance through MOBILE SIGNING SERVICES.

 

For immediate help and assistance in the notarization and authentication follow-up of Affidavits, Special Power of Attorney (SPA), DEED OF DONATION, Parental Travel Permit (PTP), DEED OF ABSOLUTE SALE and other documents needed in the Philippines and in California, just call:(650)438-3531 or (415)584-7095 or email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

*ART GABOT MADLAING is a commissioned Notary Public and licensed Real Estate Broker (BRE#00635976) in California since 1981. He is accredited Notary Public by the Philippine Consul General in San Francisco. Art is the founder of FITNESS FOR HUMANITY (aka FITNESS FOR CHRIST) and ACAPINOY. He is active Evangelist with the GOLDEN GATE CHURCH OF CHRIST in San Francisco, California.

 

China's 'bait' for the Philippines

Published in Editorial & Other Articles

 

President Rodrigo Duterte’s pivot to China and apparent veer away from long-time partner and ally, the United States, came into focus once more with the visit to the Philippines of China President Xi Jinping. Readily upon arrival, Xi extended a message of strengthened cooperation and friendship, even comparing Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal whom Xi claimed to have Chinese blood with ancestors from Fujian province to Mr. Duterte. At the state banquet in Malacanang, President Xi likened Duterte to Rizal for making the “ultimate sacrifice” for his country and pushing for an “independent Philippines.” The China leader said: “I commend the President for taking on Jose Rizal’s mantle and for his commitment to an independent Philippines.”

 

Claiming the Philippines now as a strategic ally of China, Mr. Xi saw the signing of 29 agreements, including one calling for joint exploration for gas and natural resources in South China Sea, including the disputed waters of Philippine Sea and the islands, shoals and reefs being claimed by the two countries. Mr. Xi has also offered billions of dollars in assistance, grants and loans in support of the Philippine government’s “Build, Build, Build” program covering bridges connecting islands, highways, railways and other important infrastructures.

 

Philippine leaders are happy with the offers of Mr. Xi but many are wary about the consequences as, for one, it may jeopardize the Philippines’ claims in the disputed waters which it had won in the United Nation’s International Arbitrary Court. What also disturbs many Filipinos is the possibility of putting the Philippines in a “quagmire of debts” where it will be drowned and never to surface again. This fears are based on the examples of some countries indebted to China and when the countries defaulted, Beijing reportedly took over, a consequence described as “an economic invasion and takeover.”

 

Experts and academicians thus are urging Filipino leaders to be extra careful in the offerings of China. While partnership is most welcomed, the “bait” when gobbled up may lead to perdition instead of progress for the Philippines. There should be no rush to taking some or all the offers considering that the decisions made today will affect the next generations.    

 



America and Philippine media

Published in Editorial & Other Articles

In observance of the Filipino Heritage Month, I am resuming this column, “America in My Heart” to tackle subjects close to the hearts and minds of Filipinos, especially those in America.

 

In a way, this “resurrection” is ignited by a news report about the Plaridel Awards of the Philippine American Press Club (PAPC) in which my lawyer friend, Rodel Rodis, recounted the history of PAPC in which  all those founders were named, except me, then one of the editors of Manila Bulletin on study leave in US and later editor in chief of Philippine Examiner, the Northern California edition of California Examiner of Southern California which for a time was managed by the triumvirate of Oscar Jornacion, Art Madlaing and Roger Oriel. The report states: “In honor of the founding members of PAPC, Atty. Rodel Rodis, narrated the start of the erstwhile press club in 1988. Founding members were Willie Jurado, Dave Baquirin, Al Repato, Quezon Mangawang, Prudencio Europa, Lilia Andolong, Art Madlaing, Art Padua, George Nervez, Angelo Castro Sr., Rodel Rodis and George Bernal.” Ironically, weeks before the event, Rodel and I had exchanges of messages about the beginnings of the club in which names cropped.

 

The reason I may have been missed in the list, apart from senior moments, is that I returned to Manila after one year leave in the Manila Bulletin. But if my memory serves me right, the initial meetings of the founders at Tito Rey’s were spearheaded by Lilia Rianzares Andolong (partner of former NPC president Nereo Andolong), among others, when she learned that a member of the National Press Club of the Philippines – that’s me -  was in town. So old members of the NPC were invited and originally planned to form an NPC chapter in the Bay Area. Just like in the NPC Bar in Manila, Willie, a former general manager of the Manila International Airport, who was then publishing the newspaper “The Eye,” was boisterous in those meetings like Lilia, who we fondly called “Tiger.” Former defense reporter Dave, though towering over Willie, was silent but active, especially in dishing out his column “Mail From Washington.” Angelo, who was my poker classmate in the Malacanang Press Corps during the Marcos years (his brother was a Chief Justice), and later a court interpreter when he migrated to San Francisco, was at his element in those meetings just like Manong Art of Liwayway Magazine and Quezon of Manila Bulletin. George, former business editor of Evening Express and business reporter of Daily Express, was there, too, representing the Filipino Guardian.

 

 Realizing much later that there are others who are non-NPC members who are potential members, the group became the Philippine American Press Club.

 

The formation of the press club clearly showed that the Filipino journalists are active and Filipino publishing vibrant in America. During those years, the information technology revolution was taking its roots. Internet was not yet popular then as it is today and the cellular mobile telephone (CMT) or cellphone was so expensive as they were very big (Diamond Tel, Mitsubishi) and so were overseas calls. So the main source of news were the old Manila newspapers brought in by Philippine Airlines. The US publishing industry was then also slowly shifting from typesetting using big and expensive photo-based equipment like the Compugraphics which galleys you produced will still have to be cut and pasted into pages to what is known today as personal computers (PCs) where typesetting and layouting or pagemaking can be done with ease.

 

We were much luckier though than the early Filipino journalists in America like Pangasinan native Victorio Velasco and his brother who were based in Seattle, Washington like my grandfather Carlos Bulosan using mimeograph machines and the dirty, messy and slow letterpress. (More on the Velascos and in the succeeding columns).

 

In 1999, 10 years after I left San Francisco, I returned now as president of the National Press Club (NPC) of the Philippines. On my way to Washington DC where I signed the first reciprocity agreement with the National Press Club in Washington, the most powerful and influential press club in the world, I installed the officers of affiliate clubs in Los Angeles and Southern California with Las Vegas, Chicago and the Midwest and San Francisco and Northern California. It was George Nervez of Filipino Guardian who headed the Philippine American Press Club officers who I inducted into office in the presence of seven other NPC officers and leaders like Melandrew Velasco, a book author and Philippines Today columnist. Then Consul General Amado Cortez was our guest of honor and speaker during that event.

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