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It’s surprising that even after the heaps of publicity on the “laglag-bala” (bullet planting) racket at the Manila airports that enraged Filipinos around the world, three more passengers were caught allegedly carrying bullets inside their bags at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The three were identified as Marc Angelo Unida, 27, Josephine Agbayani, 52, and Gerard Ubarde, 25.  Unida was about to board his flight to San Francisco on November 20 when airport people allegedly found a bullet inside his bag. Agbayani, on the other hand, reportedly had a bullet inside her shoulder bag and Ubarde’s pouch bag was said to have contained a 40-caliber bullet. Pasay City prosecutors dismissed the charges filed by the Aviation Security Group against Agbayani and Ubarde for lack of probable cause. Unida was ordered released pending further investigation of his case but it was not known if he was able to continued with his flight to San Francisco.


The new airport incidents happened even President Aquino and Malacañang officials attempt to belittle the alleged existence of bullet-planting syndicates preying and extorting money mostly on elderly passengers and Filipino workers at the airport. Instead of trying to get into the bottom of these allegations, the President instead chose to dismiss these outright with statistics and even defended the airport authorities, including his cousin, MIAA general manager Angel Honrado whom many, including bishops, want axed.


Meanwhile, Rhodora de Guzman, an alleged tanim-bala victim from California filed administrative complaints against four personnel of the Office of Transportation Security assigned at the airport for allegedly extorting money from her and threatening to compromise her work as a caregiver in the United States. In her affidavit notarized in the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, de Guzman recounted she was returning from Batangas to California and was wheelchair-bound at the time when porters and airport security claimed to have found bullets in her luggage. The workers allegedly told her to just pay P500 or about $12 so that no complaint will be filed. De Guzman paid the money and later wrote a post on the incident in her Facebook account, which went viral. She said the airport personnel also threatened to compromise the caregiver's US green card.


Amidst the denial of airport, security and police officials at the airport of the “laglag-bala” racket, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is conducting its own investigation on the incidents and initially found that more than 1,400 cases have been recorded but only 70 went on to the city prosecutors or the courts. Even the Public Attorney’s Office which had helped several victims confirmed this finding, raising more questions about the behaviour of the people involved in the racket. While the NBI has not made official its report, Filipinos worldwide and even visitors from foreign countries, including the United States, and even the United Nations itself, have expressed outrage and concern. This racket at the airport must immediately stop and those responsible punished and removed from the airports, otherwise the country’s image will continue to suffer. These bullets which are being used only to extort money from hapless victims  may become the bullets that will pierce through the heart of this country as it struggles to attract more tourists and investors.  

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Amidst reports that veteran actress Susan Roces was gearing up to substitute for her daughter, Senator Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares, in the presidential race for the 2016 elections, the neophyte senator scored a victory in the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) which, by a close vote of 5-4, ruled that she qualified to become senator of the country.


The ruling could decidedly boost Senator Poe’s campaign to become the next president even as she faces four more disqualification cases questioning her citizenship and residency. According to the petitions, having been a foundling, she was at best a stateless and not a natural born Philippine citizen and having been in the country only since 2006, she lacked the 10-year residency requirement for a presidential candidate. Others point out that having renounced her Philippine citizenship when she was naturalized as a citizen of the United States, she had lost her being a natural-born Filipino citizen.


Senator Poe’s major rivals, Vice President Jejomar Binay, erstwhile the leading candidate in surveys, and a spokesman of Liberal Party candidate Manuel Mar Roxas III welcomed the SET decision despite of the fact that Binay’s daughter, Sen. Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay, voted against Poe in the SET meeting in Makati, claiming she decided based on the law and not due to political consideration.


Lawyers and leaders of Senator Poe said with the SET ruling, the Commission on Elections wth which four disqualification cases have been filed against the neophyte senator should immediately dismiss the cases. But legal experts warned that the SET ruling was made by senators and not on the basis of law as the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court who are members of the SET all voted to give due course to the petition to disqualify Sen. Poe. They said the case and other related cases may yet be raised to the High Court itself later.


Even then, it was a sweet victory for the struggling neophyte senator and for other foundlings in the Philippines for whom she said she fought for. Let us all wait for the next chapter of the Senator Poe’s saga and the final decisions of the courts before we all celebrate.

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Super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) with sustained winds at 285 km/h (180 mph) was the most powerful typhoon recorded in recent history. It was also the deadliest as it caused the death over 6,300 people (and the number is still rising as more than 1,000 were still missing) or more people than the tragic Twin Towers 9/11 incident in New York, and those of the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese. Typhoon Yolanda also destroyed houses, infrastructures and crops worth billions of pesos and rendering thousands of people homeless.The massive typhoon affected millions in nine regions, 44 provinces, and more than 12,000 barangays. Nine in 10 of those affected were from Western, Central, and Eastern Visayas (Regions 6, 7, and 8).

Immediately, in the aftermath of the typhoon, the United States brought in aid and other countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Israel, Japan and many others followed sending troops, medical equipment, food and relief items and billions of dollars in aid. But two years hence, thousands, if not the majority of the typhoon victims are still in sorry state, with aid not reaching them and are still homeless without the promised temporary or permanent homes. In Tacloban City alone, only 500 housing units have been built but without clean water. Then the Commission on Audit made public with its findings that millions of pesos of aid received from foreign countries have been impounded in banks and not being touched to help the victims. Even President Aquino’s appointed rehabilitation czar, former Senator Panfilo Lacson admitted that there was lack of focus, some government agencies are not doing their jobs, and so the “nightmare” of Super Typhoon Yolanda “continues to haunt us.” Lacson lamented that despite President Aquino’s commitment to speed up rehabilitation and recovery in Yolanda-devastated areas, some of the programs were not being implemented. 


“If not for the non-government sector and the bilateral and multilateral agencies from foreign countries which responded and assisted beyond anyone’s expectations, I cannot imagine how things shall have been accomplished as we see it two years after Yolanda. The nightmare of Nov. 8, 2013 continues to haunt us,” he said.

Former Budget Secretary and UP professor Benjamin Diokno said of the situation “Epic incompetence and callousness. The failure to address the needs of disaster victims after two years is unacceptable.” To Vice President Jejomar Binay, who led the commemoration of the second anniversary of the typhoon (Presideng Aquino ignored the invitation to be there as he attended a wedding of a billionaire’s son, that of Megaworld’s Andrew Tan), said it was a crime to allow the victims to continue to suffer and wallow from wanton disregard from government due to many factors like the ugly head of politics. Even the United Nations earlier aired its concerned on the resettlement and rehabilitation efforts.

Two years hence, many mistakes have been exposed. It is clear for one that many people still needs assistance and that rehabilitation and resettlement have been too slow and, therefore, must be sped up. At the same time, the government, and also the private groups which are recipients as conduits of cash donations, must be transparent with the work that they are doing and the handling of funds. Super typhoon Yolanda also showed the importance of preparedness. The country being an archipelago there are many areas which are exceptionally vulnerable to storm surges and efforts such as planting of mangroves in the shores and moving communities to higher levels must be institutionalized to protect these regions and the people. At the rate things are going, no time should be wasted for blaming each other for the mistakes that typhoon Yolanda has brought to light. Everybody – government and the private sector - must come to their senses, make good plans, orchestrate the work well and act immediately before we lose entirely the country’s credibility from the international donor community.


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Before there was Facebook, before there was cell phone texting, before there was Instagram and Twitter, there was a time when my wife, Edna, and I would just lie quietly in bed, reading books.
On my side of the bed lay a stack of books generally about politics, history and law. On Edna’s side were books about religion, personal growth and inspirational accounts of lives well-lived.
One night, about 20 years ago, I stopped what I was reading and talked to my wife about my utter frustration with all the destructive intrigues and petty backbiting in the Filipino community. I had written about this debilitating phenomenon in one of my first columns in Philippine News in October of 1987. In “Crab Mentality”, I wrote about the propensity of Filipinos to pull down those who may be seen as climbing out of the crab basket we’re stuck in.      
Instead of counseling strength and acceptance of the slings and arrows that go with being a public figure in the San Francisco Filipino community, my wife instead suggested I read the book she had just finished, “Mother Theresa, Missionary of Charity.”
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Two of the most intelligent presidents the country ever had turned out to be the most corrupt.  So much for intelligent people running the government.  How about those with a lame mind “ampaw” (rice crispies) as President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III called them last March 13 when he advised voters to elect someone with substance.  “In essence, who really has substance and who is ampaw?” he asked the students at an open forum at the Hope Christian High School in Manila. “With ampaw, you might be happy for a while but after 10 minutes, you’re hungry because there’s nothing in it,” P-Noy said in Filipino.  “Ampaw” is a pejorative for people lacking in substance.
But P-Noy is also the target of his critics who questioned his qualifications to run the country during the 2010 presidential elections.  They claimed that in his nine years in the House of Representatives and three years in the Senate, his legislative record was zero; that is, none of the bills he authored have been enacted into law.  “A real ampaw,” they said.
Actually, before P-Noy raised the issue of ampaw presidential candidates, his critics have already been calling him “ampaw” for what they believed was his incompetence in governing the country. His disappearing acts during crises further exacerbated public perception of his incapacity to deal with the country’s problems.  
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The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is up nearly a percentage point from last year. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the nationwide average rate for a 30-year loan rose to 4.15 percent from 4.12 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage increased to 3.24 percent from 3.22 percent.
What’s more, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s latest forecast predicts the average rate on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will hit 5% by the end of the year.  I kind of don’t see that happening now that the Real Estate Market seems to be flattening out, but who knows with stocks at its all time high, investors might shift from Stocks back out to Realty?
But borrowers who missed the boat and didn’t capture an extremely low rate aren’t the only ones who may be in mourning. Lenders miss those low rates, too. 
That’s because their disappearance means the number of people refinancing is way down, forcing lenders to consider ways to drum up business. So now, they’re often more willing to consider borrowers with less-than-perfect credit or those who don’t have a 20% down payment. With a thinned herd of applicants, they’re also able to focus on providing better service. 
Rising rates are encouraging lenders to rethink their lending guidelines and bring in more business.  They haven’t had to do that reassessment of their guidelines [until now] because they were so busy with the refinance volume.  And possible government s watchful eyes  lingering down on lenders being too aggressive with their issuing of loans.  This is really the reason for the lending guidelines being the way it is, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac needs to be staying away from government intervention and start doing business with home borrowers again.
Credit standards are loosening 
For homeowners who had lost their homes due to the “Great Recession” the lenders are doing much more to help them get into homes now.  It’s not all pickles but we are getting more and more borrowers able to qualify for homes after a Foreclosure, Short Sale or even Banktruptcy.
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It is bad enough that China had grabbed the Panganiban Reef in 1994 and the Panatag Shoal in 2012.  It is bad enough that China is building artificial islands in the Spratly Archipelago to be used as naval and air bases.  But for China to loot the Philippines of her natural resources, it has to stop!
And what is very sad is that corrupt government officials are in cahoots with these looters.  Where is President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III’s “matuwid na daan” (straight path) mantra?  Where is his “Walang korap, walang mahirap” (No corruption, no poverty) slogan that he’s been trumpeting these past four years?  And when would the raping of our Inang Bayan (Motherland) ever stop?
These are the questions that President Aquino should – nay, must! – address.  And if he is truly the “honest and incorruptible” leader that his spin meisters have been telling his “boss,” the people, then he should put a stop to this wholesale plunder right away!  But by the looks of it, the criminal pillaging of our patrimony goes on.  Hundreds of Chinese ships loaded with ores, such as black sand (magnetite), leave Philippine ports -- from Cagayan in the north to Zamboanga in the south – destined for China.  
Out of the rubbish of this massive destruction of the ecological system of our land arose a mysterious character – Cedric Lee -- who controls the black sand business in the Philippines through his Colossal Mining Corporation, which is the biggest iron and black sand concessionaire in the Philippines.      
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Q. “I love my husband dearly.  I am willing to do anything for him despite the many hardships I go through. Right now, I am the only one earning for the two of us because he still has visa problems. We hardly make both ends meet, and we are beset with huge debts. Sometimes I get so weary working. Nevertheless, I know these problems are temporary and just like other couples we will be able to make it through. I am just thankful I have found a faithful husband. My mom, however, tells me I spoil my husband because I do not allow him to just get any menial job because of his high educational degree. I would rather have him work at home for some computer or internet jobs rather than earn daily wage which would not even suffice for his own food and transport. Mom tells me we are both guilty of pride. What do you say to this?”
A.  It seems to us that you are struggling not only because of financial needs but also because of the pressure from your mom. Moms are moms because their love and care for their children last for a lifetime. We can imagine your mom suffering on the inside whenever she sees her daughter exhausted from work to be able to provide for the needs of her husband. It is so natural for her to be defensive of her daughter. Although unsolicited, her advice was meant to help you ease your load. She just probably wanted to drive the point that your husband can still help you earn money in one way or another by perhaps doing extra things for neighbors such as maybe fixing broken things and the like. And this is not demeaning and something to be ashamed about. Any wages from the sweat of your brows is something to be proud about. All your mom probably wants to see in your husband is for him to exert effort to help her daughter. Some people say the children cannot comprehend the love of their mothers until they become parents themselves. So just thank your mom and assure her that you are not complaining and that you love what you are doing. Ask her to pray for you as a couple because her prayers matter so much.
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Q:    “I admit that I had been unfaithful to my wife but I never abandoned my family. My wife always suspected that I have affairs but never caught me. Naturally we fight fearlessly. Our pastor tried to intervene so we can to put our lives back together again, but I am not sure if I really want to stay with her. She claims that she loves me but she does not respect me.  Even in front of our children and even our Pastor she would nag, scream and become fuming mad at me. I swear if there were no other people with us she would have smacked me or have eaten me alive and I would have been a battered husband. I know that I have been in error but how could I love and trust her?
A:  Love is a decision. You have to decide to love your wife no matter what. Trust follows after love. When love overtakes you, trust becomes inevitable. Both are results of mutual devotion to God and to one another. If you draw near to God, you will be infused by His love then it will be effortless to love especially your spouse. Try to spend more time with God first and learn to dwell in His presence.  Once you do, it will be easy to love your wife. 
Please remember that love is never a one-sided affair. It takes two to love. You cannot just receive it. You have to give it to feel its real essence. It is unconditionally given to the other person - no buts, no ifs. The Bible says, husbands, love your wives as your own bodies (Ephesians 5:25).
Honestly, if you still care for the welfare of your family and you want it to remain intact, the change should start with you. You must make the first step of humbling yourself:  admit your faults to your wife ask her forgiveness and make it up with her. This way you do not only honor your covenant, you also honor God. The book of Malachi reads in chapter 2:14, “You ask why He no longer accepts the offerings you bring Him.  It is because He knows you have broken your promise to your wife you married when you were young. She was your partner and you have broken your promise to her, although you promised before God that you would be faithful to her”.
  If you want her to respect you, you have to show an example and mind you, respect is always earned. Give her the respect by staying true to your vows to her and making her secure in your love. Once she feels that you love her, she will respond by loving you back. Remember love begets love - you reap what you sow.
You must be questioning why does it seem that we are picking on you when you were asking for advice for yourself? Our answer is: please take time to ponder if God is dealing with you instead.  God loves you and your family so much and He has a great plan for you.  Being the head of your family, you are the spiritual head who will guide your family to truth and righteousness. You will see that the moment you make a decision to stand up to your role as a husband and father as God designed you to be, you will be amazed how the whole situation will turn around for good.
Therefore, we advise you to come to terms with God first. Spend time with Him. Talk to Him.  Listen to His voice. He is your Father.  He will guide you through His Spirit. He will teach you what to do. Read His word, the Bible and He will speak to you. God bless you!
You may call or write to us at our address above-stated or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or you can channel your feedbacks or problems through Philippines Today. God bless you all!
                                             REV. DANTE & CYNTHIA VELUZ
                                                   Authors & Conference Speakers
           On Marriage and Relationships and 
               Certified Marriage Specialists
                                           JESUS IS ALIVE FELLOWSHIP (AG)
                                        414 Tennessee Street, Vallejo, CA 94590
                                  Sunday Bible Study, 9:30AM; Worship, 10:30AM
                                      For prayers, (707) 334-4043, (707) 553-1285 
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