Items filtered by date: Monday, 06 November 2017

Duterte seeks to reopen talks with Left

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte wants to revive the collapsed peace talks with the communist underground movement, but under terms that may cause the Left to balk and say, “No, thanks.”
Under the Duterte administration, the talks had actually reached a fifth round when the communists suddenly decided to scrap further communication. Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison even said that there will be no resumption of talks as long as Mr. Duterte was president. Each side blamed the other for attacks that undermined the talks.
In a press briefing in Davao City on Tuesday, Oct. 31 where the president arrived after a two-day official visit to Japan, he said he wanted to “continuously talk” with the Left. The president appeared to change his mind from his earlier stand that to continue peace talks with the rebels would just be “a waste of the people’s money.”
He offered New People’s Army (NPA) rebels a package of jobs and houses on one condition – surrender.
“ I am addressing myself to all the soldiers of the New People’s Army. Mag-surrender na lang kayo ngayon at ibaba ninyo ang inyong baril o i-surrender ninyo,” he said, “May trabaho kayo naghihintay. I am building, all throughout the country, almost 5,000 sa National Housing Authority.”
On Wednesday, Nov. 1, Labor Secretary and chief government peace negotiator Silvestre Bello III said President Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte had already set the stage for the resumption of peace talks on a national level by meeting with the Left from Davao.
Mayor Duterte recently created the Davao City Peace Committee to negotiate with the NPA in her city.
President Duterte said he was supportive of the move of his daughter.
On May 27, Mr. Duterte said he longer wanted to talk with the communists after a series of attacks on soldiers and a Presidential Security Group convoy in various parts of the country.
Backchannel talks with the National Democratic Front were also scrapped.
But on Tuesday evening, Mr. Duterte said he was “not ready to give up” the peace talks with the communists.
“Fifty years in the making, then you are another 50 years. We can talk continuously with the left. I am not about ready to give up everything and anything in the, in the altar of peace for our country,” he said. “I do not fight them with money or… I’m just saying na kung mag-surrender kayo, ayaw na ninyo gusto ng patayan, or pumatay ng kapwa mo Pilipino, mag-surrender ka na. Bigyan kita ng bahay automatic, at bigyan kita ng trabaho.”
Secretary Bello said he was hopeful on the resumption of the peace talks.
“The prospect of a resumption (peace talks) is very bright. We are just waiting for the final instruction from the President,” Bello said in a GMA News TV interview.



Eric, belongs one of the families of parol makers in Las Pinas. Being a part of the fifth generation, he and his siblings went on with the business as the demand for lanterns go up as as early as August every year. Las Pinas is the original parol capital of the Philippines having the tallest grass endemic in the area. The craft started during the Spanish era to highlight the Bamboo Organ in St. Joseph Parish's yuletide festivities. Photo by Gilda C. Pasion-Balan 



Indonesian linked to Maute group nabbed in Marawi

An Indonesian national who was allegedly with the pro-ISIS Maute group has been arrested in Marawi City, a television report said Wednesday.
GMA News TV’s Balitanghali reported that the Indonesian, who can speak Filipino, first introduced himself as a resident of Cagayan de Oro and part of the military intelligence.
The report said the suspect was with the Maute during its training in Piagapo, Lanao del Sur, where the terror group recruited child warriors and other fighters.
It further said the suspect claimed that he was able to escape after he killed his two colleagues.
Armed Forces spokesperson Major General Restitutio Padilla said based on initial information, the suspect was trying to escape when he was intercepted and arrested by members of Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT), who then turned him over to the police and military.
Marawi City had been under siege by the Maute group for five months until it was liberated by the government earlier this month. —GMA News


Pinay stabbed by fellow Pinoy outside home in Guam

A Filipina was stabbed by another Filipino expatriate outside her home along Texas Road in Chalan Kanoa, Guam on Sunday, the Saipan Tribune reported.
Josefina Pineda, 52, a former Xtreme Marine Sports operations manager, was pronounced dead on arrival at the Commonwealth Health Center after she was stabbed multiple times by Alfonso Parongan.
Her husband Tony Barit remains at the intensive care unit of the hospital due to head and arm injuries.
Parongan attempted to evade arrest by hiding in the jungle area near Pineda's home but was eventually taken in by police.
Initial probing by police showed that the two had an argument about the suspect's power bill in front of the room Parongan was renting in the victims' compound.
The argument led to Parongan stabbing Pineda to death before causing grievous injuries to Barit. He fled the scene after witnesses stopped his attack on Barit.
A witness managed to take a video on his cellphone of the incident. —GMA News

‘Balangiga: Howling Wilderness’ is a morbid and surreal take on PHL-US war

Controversy crept on "Balangiga: Howling Wilderness" following its premiere at the 2017 Quezon City International Film Festival (QCinema).
To Director Khavn De La Cruz's consternation, QCinema changed the film's rating from general patronage to R13 "without due process." The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) also condemned the slaughter of animals in the film, and said it was a violation of the Animal Welfare Act.
Despite this, "Balangiga: Howling Wilderness" won the Best Picture award in the film fest. This begs the question: Do the good things outweigh the bad?
First, it has to be said that the story contains more lows than highs. Having been set in 1901 Samar during the war and occupation of the United States in the Philippines, this should not come as a surprise.
The story revolved specifically around the aftermath of one of the darker periods in Philippine history: the Balangiga Massacre.
It follows the journey of 8-year-old Kulas, his grandfather, and a child they discovered in the carnage, as they fled Balangiga following US General Jacob Smith's order to kill everyone over 10 years old. American forces were retaliating due to the killing of nearly 50 soldiers by the hands of the townspeople.
The piece of history it's based on is no doubt violent, but the film did a good job of expressing the horrors of that time period in a unique and beautiful way.
The film was a daring experiment in contrast. It began and ended with a dream-like tone, and kept up a quietly haunting mood throughout. The dialogue was minimal, the sound effects unobtrusive, which had the effect of making the carnage unsettling in effect. Scenes were a mix of beautiful shots of the countryside, and gruesome portrayals of the massacre that occurred.
Actual scenes of violence were limited, most of them revolving on livestock, as mentioned by PAWS. Maybe they violated the law, maybe not, but the scenes were definitely sickening.
The slaughter of animals, the display of corpses, the brutality of deaths — all of these served to jerk back viewers from the surreal quality the film takes on. The movie managed to keep the audience at the edge of their seats, anticipating the next horrors, the next struggles the characters will face. At some point, it felt as if their painfully slow journey will never end.
Eventually, you realize there is no end — their struggle began long before the film started, and ended long after the credits rolled. You were just privy to those moments that showed what it was like to be caught in the crossfire.
For all its issues, "Balangiga: Howling Wilderness" deserves applause for at least capturing that. — AT, GMA News


Preparing the red carpet for Trump

Residents of Metro Manila have been feeling it since last week. By it I mean the extreme preparations for the Asean Summit to be held in Manila as well as Bulacan and Pampanga in the middle of this month.
Every time the Philippines takes its turn to host the annual summit, Metro Manila is placed on lockdown. Most economic activities in the metropolis grind to a halt because the main arteries are closed to vehicular traffic. Schools are suspended, as are government offices. Private companies may stay open, but allowances are made for employees who may not be able to make it to work due to the impossible traffic situation.
This year, preparations are even more intense, probably because one Donald Trump is attending the meeting of Southeast Asian leaders.
That’s right. The president of the good old USA will be setting foot on Philippine soil for the first time ever, although his two sons did come to Manila some years back when a real estate project of Century Properties partnered with Mr. Trump’s empire.
Although they have spoken over the phone on one or two occasions, the US and Philippine presidents will be meeting face-to-face for the first time. Their past talks seemed pleasant enough with Mr. Trump praising Mr. Duterte’s tough stance on illegal drugs.
The two leaders actually have a lot in common. Both are in their 70s and do not follow the usual model of national leaders. They like to speak their minds even if what they say is politically incorrect, to put it mildly. Oh, and they also have a huge dislike for media, at least media that does not kowtow to their wishes.
One difference though. Mr. Trump is a dedicated tweeter while Mr. Duterte probably has no clue as to what Twitter is.
At this stage in their presidencies, it would seem that the American leader is in greater danger of being impeached or forced to resign because of the ongoing investigation on the Russia dealings of people very close to him. His popularity has also sunk to an all-time low and could drop even further, to the point that his own Republican Party may eventually have little choice but to disown him.
This is where the contrast is strongest. Despite his tacit approval of the extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the Philippine National Police against suspected drug pushers and users, Mr. Duterte remains not only popular with the Filipino people, his political stranglehold on Congress is practically airtight. At this stage, impeaching Mr. Duterte is impossible for all intents and purposes.
Yet between the two, it is the Philippine president who may not complete his term.
Mr. Duterte himself has stated on several occasions that he does not see himself serving his full 6-year term. He says he is old and tired and was actually forced to run for president by numerous parties, unlike Mr. Trump who has always had his eye on the US presidency since becoming one of the biggest property developers not only in the US but in other countries as well.
The tight Asean summit schedule means that there will be little time for Messrs. Duterte and Trump to have a lengthy and meaning conversation on topics of mutual interest, but they should have a pleasant enough tete-a-tete.
They are almost certain to talk about North Korea and ISIS. Mr. Duterte will again agree with Mr. Trump that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is a madman. The US prez will congratulate his Pinoy counterpart for the total victory of the Armed Forces of the Philippines over the ISIS-allied Maute Group in Marawi.
With Mr. Trump as US president, bilateral relations with the Philippines should go back to normal. It is no secret that Mr. Duterte was not too fond of previous US president Barack Obama, who had expressed displeasure at the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines, what with the EJKs occurring with deadly regularity.
A few months ago, there was an invitation extended to the Filipino leader to visit the White House. That visit was originally scheduled for November, this year. With President Trump visiting the Philippines – albeit for an Asean function -- and meeting host President Duterte, that invite may be extended again, and this time accepted and finalized. Very likely, the Philippine president will head for the US sometime next year for a state visit.
But this will be entirely dependent on both gents remaining presidents of their respective countries.


The Consequences of Political Apathy

I attended the California GOP State convention earlier this month. I am a delegate to the California State Party and am feeling bold about admitting my affiliation tonight. I had the pleasure of hearing Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Leader, Steven Moore of the Club For Growth (one of the most powerful political action committees) and Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, who is hilarious. From the edge of the room echoed my spasms of laughter. It was embarrassing.

Here is the alarming thing that I am not seeing in the press: contrary to expectations, the state and local tax deduction is not likely to rejoin the new tax plan. With the majority of both houses and some happy words about the tax overhaul, the Republican/Trump tax plan looks like it will be passed by Christmas. The promise out of Norquist is that while Republicans are able, they will reduce taxes every year, refining what has been started with the new administration.

In my opinion, lower taxes are the sweetest songs we could hear out of Washington. I believe this with even greater conviction each time I meet a political type. The government is not the best custodian of your money. A government with less money may even translate into a more judicious use of the funds at their disposal. Perhaps even fewer remodelings of freeway entrances in the Bay Area…or high speed trains connecting places with low population density.

But there is a problem with this tax overhaul in Washington D.C., a problem for California. We have been largely forgotten. High tax states, all Democratic (of course), stand to lose the local and state tax deduction. While this is a problem for the high tax brackets, it is these same tax brackets that make up the bulk of tax revenue. These high earners will be incentivized to move to lower or no tax states for tremendous tax savings. It would place California at a competitive disadvantage. If this phenomenon plays out (which it does already), it would impair revenue for the entire state. Everyone would be affected. That would be one less high speed train that the politicians could build.

In terms of membership, California is the largest Republican party in the nation. And yet, we have only 14 members of Congress. Out of a potential 55 slots—53 in the House of Representatives and 2 Senate seats—California Republicans account for only 14 House seats and no Senate seats. When they caucus, there is only a small voice to argue for California’s interests. And so the Republican agenda migrates away from policies that would better serve California. The largest state in the country is under represented in the Capitol.

Conventional wisdom attributes this to the profound Democratic leaning of the state. However, political apathy may be equally accountable. When election turnouts can trend as low as 9% in some off-cycle races, it certainly speaks to the lack of civic involvement by the population.

It is understandable. Much of the population is transient and, if not transient, transplanted. It takes a while to connect with civic issues. It takes some time to feel a sense of ownership over political events. It may even take a lifetime to understand that the ability to vote for your leadership is a sacred privilege. Maybe then, California will have fair representation within both parties instead of just one.


‘Trolls and fake news don’t rock’

I have noticed the proliferation of fake news and trolls these days. This is a development that I find very disappointing and threatening. It should bother all of us.
We are witnessing change that is not good. It does not make us better as a people because fake news and trolls have lowered the standard and level of discourse. The inflammatory words have no use in a civilized debate. The lies do not only mislead but also destroy people and democratic institutions.
The standard of a democratic governance, the principle of check and balance among the branches of government, the level of “civilized discourse,” and of course the credibility of instutions are facing their strongest threats so far because fake news and trolls influence not only the press and the media but also public opinion.
I just hope that what history has taught us--- that strong democracy can overcome even the worst political cancer and enemies--- still remains true.
Remember how the United States survived the Watergate Scandal? Watergate reminds us about the danger and potential of the executive branch (the presidency) to abuse its power on a vast scale.
Then President Richard Nixon used the instruments of the government to destroy political opponents and although he was reelected with a large margin over his Democratic rival, the American people saw and heard enough to conclude that he had to go.
The Filipino people have the same experience during the regime of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Marcos was the first president of the Philippines to be reelected in 1969 but two four-year terms for him were not enough to satisfy his greed and itching for power.
Marcos wanted more and he wanted vast powers which led him to destroy the already weak democratic institutions in the Philippines by declaring martial law and imposing an authoritarian rule in the country and on the Filipino people.
His regime perpetrated a political system that concentrated all the government’s power in his hands. Marcos was not accountable and responsible to the constitutionally-created institutions of his country. He exercised power and made decisions arbitrarily and without regard to existing laws through the many proclamations and presidential decrees that he issued.
Fast forward to 2017. I hope that presidents Donald Trump of the U.S. and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines will not follow the tracks and the roads that Nixon and Marcos took by continuing to attack the mainstream media and labelling them as sources of fake news and alternative facts.
There are more than enough fake news sources and trolls in cyberspace that we do not need more. People need to learn and hear the truth so that important issues and concerns can be properly tackled and discussed.
Civilized discourse which is essential to genuine democracy doesn’t need trolls who sow discord and quarrels by upsetting and provoking people with inflammatory words and threats.
Trolls and fake news have no use in a productive society. If we allow trolls, fake news, and hate groups to dominate the discourse, our democratic institutions are in peril. And it can be much worse in developing countries where dictators and autocrats have a history of keeping private armies and vigilantes who perpetrate extrajudicial killings, murders, disappearances, and human rights violations and abuses.
Truth should always prevail and it must be available, not only to promote healthy and productive discourse but also to inform the citizenry about the affairs and concerns that affect their present and their future--- including their choice of leaders and elected officials.
Let us begin with the affirmation that there is nothing cool, acceptable, and awesome with trolls and fake news. Distorting truth and propagating lies is not cool. Sowing divisiveness instead of meaningful discourse is not acceptable either.
In short, trolls and fake news don’t rock!

Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336. You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at


Antibiotic Stewardship

At the 103rd Annual Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons last week in San Diego, California, I met several surgeons from the Philippines who flew in to attend the ACS Congress. As a Fil-Am surgeon, I always enjoy and savor meeting my colleagues from my native land. One of them happened to be an old friend, Dr. Enrique T. Ona, former Secretary of Health of the Philippines. This yearly continuing surgical education event attracts hundreds of surgeons from all over the world.

One of the hot topics at this international convention was Antibiotic Stewardship, a vital global program ACS is spearheading that could save humanity as a whole from deadly superbugs that could wipe out civilization, if not prevented or contained, an issue I have discussed in a previous column.

According to the World Health Organization, “antibiotic resistance is one of the major threats to human health, especially because some bacteria have developed resistance to all known classes of antibiotics.”

Improper use
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that “30 percent to 50 percent of prescribed antibiotics in hospitals are administered in settings where an antibiotic is unnecessary or is ineffective against the pathogenic organisms…. Increased and inappropriate antibiotic use leads to increased risks of antibiotic resistance, as well as contributing to clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infections.”
Pandemic of superbugs
While terrorism is holding peace hostage around the world today, a more rampant but under the radar killer is on the loose and becoming more widespread, wiping out lives, as the medical community helplessly battles this pandemic situation of super bugs resistant to all drugs we currently have. Being at the mercy of these powerful and defiant microorganisms is a most scary situation. And they seem to be ahead of us.

Pneumonia and wound infections killed hundred of millions of people globally before penicillin was discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, Professor of Bacteriology at St. Mary's Hospital in London. Today, these conditions and hundreds of other infections respond well to penicillin and the other more sophisticated antibiotics, savings hundreds of million of lives every century...until now, with the explosion of super bugs!

Scary statistics

At least 2 million Americans develop drug resistant infections a year and more than 23,000 of them die, 10 million deaths a year worldwide. This translates to $100 trillion sacrificed gross national products. Most of these scary infections occur in hospital settings, but they are also noted in the general community. These could be the commonly known conditions, like pneumonia or wound infection, but this time caused by drug-resistant bacteria, and hence, deadly. It is like retro-transporting us back to the early 1900, the pre-penicillin era.

Lessons from the past

While two of the most devastating outbreaks of the Black Death (plague) that wiped out more than half of the population of Europe in the 14th Century killing about 75 million, leading to the final demise of the Roman Empire, was caused by two different strains of infectious agents from the black rats, one drug resistant infection today could kill much more around the globe.

Just like us, humans, bacteria are active living microorganisms, with survival “instinct,” and when exposed to the drugs that aim to kill them, have the capacity to adapt by mutation and replication to become resistant to the drugs, When they become super bugs, they are untouchable killers, unless we develop new drugs effective against them.

Who to blame

We cannot blame the bacteria, who simply want to survive just like all living things. We, humans, healthcare providers and lay people, who abuse antibiotics, are to blame. Whether prescribed indiscriminately or purchased over the counter by self-medicating individuals, the widespread abuse of antibiotics make the bacteria mutate and grow resistance to them.

Currently, there are at least six common pathogens that are drug-resistant, Klebsiella pneumoniae, E. Coli, and MRSA, and 3 global diseases: HIV, TB and malaria. There are many others. Unless science discovers fast ways to fight and kill these resistant superbugs with new drugs or methodology and we, the people, do not abuse their use, any and all of them will continue to kill humans and other animals with impunity around the world.

Bacteria are on ALL surfaces

These microorganisms are on our skin, on our entire body. They are also all around us, in all surfaces, in our kitchen (which has more bacteria than our bathroom), all over our home, and in all public areas, like escalator hand rails, door knobs, cabinets, microwave oven door handle, countertops, tables, chairs, etc.. Paper money and coins are loaded with bacteria. If bacteria are on our skin and everywhere, why do we not always get infected? The reasons are factors like our skin integrity. If our skin is intact, the bacteria cannot invade us, except though our mucus linings (in our eyes, nose, mouth, ears, anus). This is where personal hygiene is essential. Touching our face contaminates it with bacteria. The other factor is the type and dose (number) of bacteria. Even if we have a skin abrasion or cut, if we thoroughly wash the affected area right away, the dose of bacteria will be so reduced our immune system can handle them to prevent infection. If the dose is not reduced, then we get skin infection. This is why all wounds must be washed clean immediately after sustaining them.

Simple hand-washing

On the prophylactic side, the simple habit of washing our hands religiously, at least 8 times a day (after going to the bathroom, before and after eating or working around the house or outside) can prevent contamination and infections, eliminating the need for antibiotics. This practice can also prevent viral infections, like common cold, for which some misinformed or uninformed individuals might opt to take antibiotics. Viral infections do NOT respond to antibiotics. This is just a waste of money, and worse, it will “encourage” bacteria in our body to develop antibiotic resistance. When treated longer than necessary, even bacterial infections commonly sensitive to specific antibiotics will increase the risk of the bacteria developing resistance. Skin sanitizers, preferably with skin moisturizer, in liquid, gel or foam, are helpful in minimizing infection. Those with sixty to 95 percent alcohol are most effective

Antibiotic Stewardship is also our individual responsibility as a member of society. Let’s all help prevent a super bug pandemic that could wipe us out of this wonderful world.

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CPR Can Save Lives

Because an emergency can occur anytime, Care Indeed regularly offers CPR classes on site so its employees can have the knowledge and skills to act quickly and confidently in an emergency. Heidie Payne (sixth from left), an EMS Certified CPR/ AED and First-Aid instructor licensed to teach these skill sets in all 50 states in the United States, conducts Care Indeed's CPR trainings. For more information about Care Indeed, go to, or call .
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