Opinion & Community

Kzoo doctor detained by ICE after 40 years in US

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Even as the issue of immigration has been central to the government shutdown in Washington, a respected doctor at Kalamazoo’s Bronson Methodist Hospital who has been living in America for nearly 40 years finds himself in jail after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took him from his home in handcuffs.

Lukasz Niec is an internal medicine doctor putting in long hours as a hospitalist for Bronson. His co-workers describe him as the model of what a physician should be.

And now, he is sitting in a jail cell in Calhoun County with no idea of when — or if — he will be free to return to his patients and his family.

“In 1979, my parents were both doctors left Poland and took two suitcases and two small children, my brother was five and I was six and they came here for a better life for their kids,” said Iwona Niec-Villaire Saturday as she sat next to her sister-in-law.

Now, the siblings are in their mid-40s, she is an attorney, he is a doctor — they have been in America for four decades on a permanent green card.

“He doesn’t even speak Polish,” Niec-Villaire said.

On Tuesday, as Niec was enjoying a day off with his tween girls at his home on the lake in this exclusive neighborhood near Kalamazoo, three ICE officers came to his home, told him he was being taken into custody and took him to jail.

“The question I get asked all the time is ‘Why do you think this happened?’ I just really don’t know,” said Niec-Villaire.

ICE will not comment on the case and has held no hearings. A bond hearing may not come until February, and it is unlikely it will be granted, according to immigration law experts.

“Until this gets heard, which could be up to six months, he could be stuck in a prison cell and not helping and being with his family,” said Niec-Villaire.

The only spot on Niec’s record is two misdemeanor convictions when he was 17, one for destruction of property less than $100 and receiving and concealing stolen goods.

He pleaded to these charges more than 25 years ago under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act that allows young first offenders to avoid a criminal record if they never offend again.

But ICE — a federal agency — does not honor that state plea agreement, something Niec did not know when he took the plea, according to family.

“These misdemeanors were just an adolescent making mistakes and learning from them,” Niec-Villaire said.

She said she and her brother are as American as anyone can be.

“He cannot back to Poland, a country he doesn’t know, he has no family at, both our parents passed away in the United States, he doesn’t know anyone, he wouldn’t know where to go,” Niec-Villaire said.

Now, Niec awaits his fate in jail.

“We did go see him on Wednesday, he was shaking, in an orange T-shirt, just kind of shell-shocked,” Niec-Villaire said

His wife says their two daughters need their dad.

“He’s an excellent physician, he’s loving, he’s caring, he’s an honorable husband and he’s always helping others,” said the doctor’s wife of two years, Rachelle Burkart-Niec.

Bronson’s administration would not comment on the case, but dozens of doctors and other employees are sending letters of support.

“He’s been, just completely the model physician that you want a physician to be,” said Dr. Hussein Akl, , also a doctor in Bronson Internal Medicine. “The only danger I can see him on is when he’s swinging his golf swing.”

Others who worked with Niece say they are dumbfounded and outraged.

“He’s exactly the kind of person our immigration policies should be encouraging to prosper here, he’s been here for 40 years, this is a ridiculous situation,” said Dr. Michael Raphelson who specializes in palliative medicine.

More than 25 people gathered at the home Saturday including friends and family.

“He’s just a good guy, I mean, he just is,” said Brent Richmond, a friend of Niec for 25 years, as he fought back tears.

Marc Asch, an immigration attorney in Kalamazoo said in the last year, ICE has broadened its scope meaning that cases the agency would not have gone after previously are now fair game.

“These days there’s less discretion being exercised in who they go after, they’re being more aggressive, generally speaking,” Asch said.

Asch said the government may not even have a solid case and it could likely end with Niec being able to stay in America — but that could be a process that takes months or even years.

It is also possible that ICE is targeting affluent immigrants of European descent to avoid the appearance of racial profiling.

But those who love Niec are not interested in becoming examples.

“He’s the person I call, whenever anything goes wrong or right and now I can’t do that and it’s breaking me up,” said Niec-Villaire. “This is a man that is needed in the community, not detained in Calhoun County Jail.”

Watch the video: http://woodtv.com/2018/01/20/kzoo-doctor-detained-by-ice-after-40-years-in-us/

Yes, Scarlett Johansson was calling out James Franco in her Women's March speech

Scarlett Johansson commands the stage at the 2018 L.A. Women's March (Jae C. Hong /AP)
Addressing the 500,000 Women’s March attendees gathered in downtown Los Angeles Saturday and even more onlookers livestreaming it at home, Scarlett Johansson began her speech with a pointed barb aimed squarely at James Franco.

“How could a person publicly stand by an organization that helps to provide support for victims of sexual assault while privately preying on people who have no power?” said Johansson, one of the 300 original signatories of the Time’s Up letter calling for an end to abuse and harassment of women everywhere.

She paused. “I want my pin back, by the way.”

Speculation on social media immediately pointed toward Franco, since the “Disaster Artist” director/star was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women on Twitter after wearing a Time’s Up pin to the Golden Globes. Franco has denied the allegations.

A rep for Johansson confirms that her comments were meant for and referring to Franco.

Johansson went on to deliver a rousing and surprisingly personal speech about learning to trust her own instincts. “Suddenly I was 19 again and I began to remember all the men who had taken advantage of the fact that I was a young woman who didn’t yet have the tools to say no, or understand the value of my own self-worth,” she said.

“I had many relationships both personal and professional where the power dynamic was so off that I had to create a narrative that I was the cool girl who could hang in and hang out, and that sometimes meant compromising what felt right for me.”

Now, Johansson told the crowd, she refuses to compromise her own voice and instincts — a sentiment echoed in multitudinous ways by peers including Natalie Portman, Constance Wu and Viola Davis in a day filled with disparate speakers united by common goals of empowerment and visibility.

“No more pandering. No more feeling guilty about hurting someone’s feelings when something doesn’t feel right for me,” she said. “I have made a promise to myself to be responsible to my self, that in order to trust my instincts I must first respect them.”

Kerber and Keys set up quarter-final, Berdych fires up

QUARTER-FINALS. Angelique Kerber (left) and Madison Keys (right) will battle it out in the last 8 to take a step towards the Grand Slam title. Photos by Greg Wood/AFP (Keys) and Paul Crock/AFP (Kerber)

MELBOURNE, Australia – Angelique Kerber and Madison Keys set up an enticing Australian Open quarter-final on Monday, Januarry 22, with one roaring through and the other having to dig deep to stay in the title hunt.

Dangerous Czech Tomas Berdych, a two-time Melbourne Park semi-finalist, also powered into the last 8, demolishing Italy's Fabio Fognini 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.

His reward is a clash with either Swiss maestro Roger Federer or unheralded Hungarian Marton Fucsovics for a place in the semi-finals on Wednesday, January 24.

Germany's Kerber is the only Grand Slam champion left on the women's side of the draw, and she was given a big fright as she chases her second Melbourne Park crown after beating Serena Williams in 2016.

After crushing Maria Sharapova in the last round, she came up against gritty Taiwanese veteran Hsieh Su-wei who stunned the 21st seed by taking the first set on Rod Laver Arena.

At one point Kerber was serving to stay in the match, but she bounced back to win 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

"Credit to her, she played unbelievable. I was running everywhere," said Kerber, who had a poor 2017 after starting the year as world number one.

"I was just trying to focus on every point."

Hsieh, ranked 88, was always going to be a threat after knocking out world number 3 Garbine Muguruza and the dangerous Agnieszka Radwanska en route to the 4th round.

The win set Kerber up with a clash against American Keys, a semi-finalist in 2015 who has found a new lease of life under the guidance of former great Lindsay Davenport.

Seeded 17, she flattened French eighth seed Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-2 in just 68 impressive minutes.

"I feel like I'm playing just solid, consistent tennis," said Keys, a US Open finalist last year. "I think today was a good example of that. I think I served well. I think I returned well."

The 22-year-old added: "Right now I'm definitely really enjoying my job."

Whoever wins that match will have a potential semi-final against world number one Simona Halep, although the Romanian first has to get past Japan's Naomi Osaka on Margaret Court Arena.

How she backs up will be keenly watched after her third round epic, where she was pushed to 15-13 in the 3rd set by American Lauren Davis.

The final women's match sees sixth seed Karolina Pliskova take on fellow Czech Barbora Strycova, seeded 20.

Enjoying it

Berdych, a semi-finalist in 2014 and 2015 at his most successful major, easily beat Fognini with the 32-year-old saying: "I'm really enjoying every single moment on court.

"I'm feeling good and healthy."

He is now in his 7th Australian Open quarter-final with Federer, who knocked him out in the 3rd round last year, looming.

The defending champion takes aim at an incredible 14th Australian Open quarter-final later when he faces one-time training partner Marton Fucsovics.

The Swiss maestro, 36, has made at least the last 8 every year since 2004, bar a hiccup in 2015, with the odds of him doing so again heavily stacked in his favor.

Fucsovics has never beaten anyone ranked higher than 13th and is making his tournament debut.

Novak Djokovic is also in action in a night match as he looks to reach the last 8 in Melbourne for a 10th time, with a tough test against talented Chung Hyeon.

The glasses-wearing South Korean, ranked 58, upset 4th seed Alexander Zverev in five sets in the round of 16 and Djokovic is wary.

"He's playing great. He's fit. He doesn't have too many holes in his game," he said.

The winner will face either Austrian 5th seed Dominic Thiem or American surprise packet Tennys Sandgren. – Rappler.com

Malacañang on Duterte's alleged investments: Prove documents authentic

HIDING SOMETHING? President Rodrigo Duterte is particularly sensitive to allegations of corruption. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang demanded to be shown bank certification vouching for the authenticity of documents cited by VERA Files' report on P100 million worth of investments supposedly not declared by President Rodrigo Duterte and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio in their Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Networth.

"I challenge them. Come up with the certification from the bank that the statements are genuine, then we will comment," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said on Monday, January 22.

He was speaking at a Malacañang press briefing after VERA Files published its report which, using documents from Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, alleged Duterte hid huge sums of money transfers and investments.

These supposedly hidden investments include those worth P55.13 million and P41.72 million.

On Monday, Roque said, "How could I comment when the documents are not authenticated? The whole story hinges on bank documents which they could not have obtained copies of."

However, President Duterte himself had already issued statements responding to the same documents when they were used by Trillanes during the 2016 elections.

To dispute the allegations of corruption and hidden wealth, Duterte signed a Special Power of Attorney, which allows his lawyer to "request and receive" from the BPI Julia Vargas branch "bank certificates for BPI Savings Account No. 2433-0695-39" in order to "show the current balance as well as the fact that at no time since the opening of the aforesaid Bank Account was there a deposit either singly or collectively of Two Hundred Eleven Million Pesos."

Though Duterte insists the SPA is sufficient as a "waiver," it does not allow BPI to show his bank transaction history, which would have clearly proven Trillanes' accusations false, if indeed they were.

A year and 9 months after the accusations were first made, Duterte is yet to issue a waiver explicitly allowing the release of his bank accounts' transaction history.

Will Duterte issue a waiver given the accusations of the Vera Files report?

Roque still insisted the May 2016 Special Power of Attorney is sufficient.

"The President has said that during the elections, he has already issued a waiver. It's there," said Duterte's spokesman.

Accusations of hidden wealth directly counter the President's projected image of a man of modest means who hides nothing from the public.

While Malacañang denies the authenticity of the bank documents from Trillanes, the Office of the Ombudsman has said documents it received from the Anti-Money Laundering Council are "more or less" similar to Trillanes' documents. (READ: AMLC's bank records on Duterte show P1B flow of money)

But the AMLC later on denied providing the Office of the Ombudsman with such documents.

Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, a group allied with Duterte, filed a complaint with Malacañang against Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang, who is in charge of the probe into the Duterte family's bank transactions.

The complaint accused Carandang's allegedly "illegal and unlawful disclosure" of Duterte's and his family's bank transaction records, which they alleged are "falsified and spurious." – Rappler.com

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Revilla urges SC to stop plunder trial, allow him to post bail

Former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to stop his trial at the Sandiganbayan and allow him to post bail in the plunder case involving the alleged misuse of P224.5 million worth of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Revilla, through veteran lawyer and former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, questioned on January 15 the ruling of the Sandiganbayan First Division last December 7 denying the former senator’s motion to allow him to file a demurrer to evidence as well as the December 28 resolution junking his motion for reconsideration.

A demurrer to evidence is a motion seeking to dismiss a case on the ground of weak evidence from the prosecution.

As a result, the Sandiganbayan set the presentation of evidence by Revilla’s camp on Jan. 25, 30, Feb. 1, 6, 13, 15, 20, 22, 27 and March 6 and 8.

According to the former senator, his rights to due process, to be presumed innocent, to be informed of the nature and cause of accusation against him and to a fair trial have been violated when his motion and subsequent appeal were junked by the anti-graft court.

“At every stage of the proceedings, the petitioner (Revilla) would ask and remind the Sandiganbayan of the violation of those rights, fatal to the continuation of the proceedings and the detention of the petitioner, meriting no more than an equivocal response from the Sandiganbayan, which would continue the proceedings,” the petition stated.

“With the final ruling of the Sandiganbayan that ‘there is a need for the petitioner to present their (his) evidence,’ the anguishing reality that brings the petitioner before this Court is that he is in peril of losing his liberty, reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment), as the Sandiganbayan may ‘play fast and loose’ not only as to what ‘acts’ constitute the offense of plunder but also as to what evidence was offered by the prosecution and admitted by the Sandiganbayan—in short his fate lies entirely in the Sandiganbayan’s hands,” it added.

Revilla had insisted before the Sandiganbayan that the prosecution failed to prove he received P224.5 million in kickbacks for channeling his PDAF allocations to bogus non-government organizations of businesswoman and co-accused Janet Napoles from 2006 to 2010.

However, the Sandiganbayan ruled that there is a need for Revilla to present evidence to back up his claim.

In the same petition, Revilla asked the SC to hold oral arguments and allow his temporary release from detention.

Revilla is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

‘In high spirits ’

For his part, former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said Revilla is in high spirits that the SC will rule in favor of the petition, saying he joins his former colleague in praying for his freedom.

"Ako ay magdadasal na lang na sana ma-grant ng Supreme Court ang lahat ng hinihingi ni Senator Bong. He is still in high spirits," Estrada said after attending his PDAF scam trial at the Sandiganbayan on Monday.

Estrada said he has been visiting Revilla in his detention center at least thrice a week since the anti-graft court allowed him to post bail on the same plunder charge.

Estrada said his last visit was on Sunday, when Revilla informed him of the SC petition.

He claimed security measures at the Custodial Center have been stricter following the entry of a "babaeng detainee," referring to Sen. Leila de Lima who is detained on illegal drug charges.

"(Revilla) is complaining of the strictness sa kanyang mga bisita, hindi masyado pinapapasok. Dati kasi hindi sila masyadong mahigpit, ngayon mahigpit na dahil daw dun sa isang babaeng detainee," Estrada said. — with Joseph Tristan Roxas/RSJ, GMA News

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Palace stands by termination of Miascor’s service contract

Malacañang on Sunday dismissed the appeal of a ground cargo handling service provider at Manila and Clark international airports whose contract was terminated following alleged incidents of pilferage.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said there was nothing to appeal since the contract between the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and Miascor Groundhandling Corp. (Miascor) had already expired.

“There is nothing to appeal as government has no existing contract with Miascor Groundhandling Corp. The Manila International Airport Authority’s lease and concession agreement contract with Miascor has already expired,” Roque said.

 

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday ordered the termination of Miascor’s contract following the recent pilferage of the luggage of overseas Filipino worker Jovenil dela Cruz at Clark International Airport in Pampanga province.
National interest
Roque said the MIAA decided not to renew its contract with Miascor “because of many cases or instances of pilferage, both in Ninoy Aquino International Airport and Clark International Airport.”
These include the theft of jewelry belonging to the wife of a diplomat from Turkey and the alleged involvement of a Miascor supervisor in illegal drugs, he said.
“We have to look at the bigger picture: Our national interest is of paramount importance,” he said.
In a statement on Thursday, Miascor said it would “formally issue an appeal to the President to kindly reconsider his position on behalf of [its] almost 4,000 regular employees and their families who will be affected.”

 

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Ex-DOH chief Ona says he would not have OK'd dengue vaccine

DENGVAXIA. Former DOH Secretary Enrique Ona attends for the first time the Senate probe into the dengue vaccine controversy. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Former Health Secretary Enrique Ona faced the Senate blue ribbon committee for the first time on Monday, January 22, where he slammed the Aquino administration’s implementation of the now-controversial P3.5-billion dengue vaccination program.

The vaccination program is facing scrutiny after the vaccine's manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur revealed that there are potential health risks in using the Dengvaxia vaccine.

Asked by committee chair Senator Richard Gordon if he would recommend the use of vaccine if he were still DOH chief, Ona said he would not do so citing “red” flags.

“This should have not been implemented the way it was done – meaning, targeting almost a million children – because the basis for the issues that were being raised were still a big question mark,” said Ona.

“Ibig pong sabihin dapat pag-isipan po nang husto kung i-implement po ‘yun.(This means they should have thought hard before implementing it) If I were the Secretary of Health, I would not implement it in that extent,” he said.

Ona was the Aquino administration's first health chief, in office from June 2010 to December 2014. The program was implemented in 2016, with former president Benigno Aquino III saying it was Ona who introduced it to him.

During the hearing, Ona also reiterated his previously issued statement and blamed his successor Janette Garin for the "major health nightmare."

Ona also said he did not talk to Garin about the program – something that the latter refuted.

Garin said Ona called her twice in 2014 to attend his meetings with manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur in his office. At the time, she was still an undersecretary. Garin also said Ona even asked her to call for a press conference.

“Lastly your honor, in relation to the dengue vaccine. Sinabi po niya di po kami nagkausap. (He said we did not talk about it). Your honor, I beg to disagree, when I was undersecretary of the Department of Health, two meetings po 'yun pinatawag ako sa (that I was called to the) office of the Secretary to join him in meeting Sanofi Pasteur," Garin said.

"I am not saying these are bad meetings. [These are] updates on clinical trials and even Secretary Ona was happy with presentation. Sinabi sakin mag-arrange [ako] ng presscon. (He told me to arrange a presscon). I even had a picture in my phone, I'll try to look that up and present to this body,” she added.

Garin also said it was Ona who first brought the vaccine matter to former president Aquino’s attention, similar to the former chief executive’s previous statement.

“Ang nagdala po sa akin kay Pangulong Aquino para pag-usapan ang bakuna ay si Secretary Ona himself. When he asked me to accompany him, it was initially Usec Gaco binitbitt po ako,” Garin said.

(It was Secretary Ona himself who tagged me along to talk about the vaccine to President Aquino.)

Aquino earlier told the Senate panel that he was made to understand that the vaccine had undergone all the necessary local and international processes to determine its safety and efficacy for mass use.

At the time, Aquino said no one, including his own health secretary, told him about their concerns about the dengue vaccine.

Ona also denied Aquino’s statement that he met with Sanofi officials in China in November 2014 with Ona.

“That is a complete surprise to me. Kung yun ang sinabi niya (if that was what he said), I was not in Beijing on that month and it was only in August 2014 when I was in Beijing. I don’t recall any,” Ona said.

Less than two years later after the launch, Sanofi said Dengvaxia could cause a more severe case of dengue when administered on a person who have not been infected with the virus prior immunization. (READ: Conflict between Garin and FEC emerges in Dengvaxia probe)

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III suspended the program after the announcement, but not before more than 830,000 school children received the risky vaccine. – Rappler.com

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Disaster officials facing fund depletion for Mayon evacuees

Legazpi City, Albay — Disaster management officials here have already sent a notice of fund depletion to the national government in anticipation of a prolonged stay of displaced families in evacuation centers after Mayon Volcano again showed increased activity like lava flow.

Dr. Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO), said they have already forwarded the letter to the national government in order to expedite the downloading of funds from the national to the local government units.

Not enough – Army soldiers prepare relief goods at Guinobatan City for distribution to people in areas in Albay who were displaced by the continuous activity of Mount Mayon. Some officials are concerned that the relief funds may run out soon. (Ali Vicoy|Manila Bulletin)
“We have already sent the letter and we were told that the Office of Civil Defense has already made an advance notice about our financial situation to the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council),” Daep told The Manila Bulletin yesterday.

But Daep said they also made an advanced notice even that what the local government units (LGUs) could shoulder is only the 10-day period of the evacuation.

The evacuation started the night of January 13 and the LGUs have started funding the relief items the following day.

Based on the data, the Provincial Government of Albay has been spending P200 a day for every family. There are currently more than 7,000 families still staying in more than 30 evacuation centers in Ligao City, Tabaco City, Guinobatan, Daraga, Sto. Domingo, Camalig, and Malilipot.

“We are actually spending more than P1.4 million a day just for the food of the evacuees. If the Mayon activities continue for weeks or even months, imagine the fund that we need just for the food,” said Daep.

The 10-day fund of the local government units comes from the savings from the Internal Revenue Allotments last year.

Once the notice of depletion is made, it is the time that the national government must come in to take over the funding on the needs of the evacuees.

Leni calls for aid

Meanwhile, Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo made a call yesterday for donations for relief efforts intended for her fellow Bicolanos forced to evacuate because of Mayon Volcano.

Robredo, who was born and raised in Bicol, appealed for help from Filipinos listening to her weekly radio program, “BISErbisyong Leni,” on RMN-dzXL 558.

“Dapat alalahanin din natin ‘yung hirap na pinagdadaanan ng apektado ngayon. Araw-araw dumadagdag ‘yung evacuees. Kasi tumitindi ‘yung danger zones, kaya talagang my forced evacuation (Let us remember the hardships of the affected individuals have been going through. Everyday there are more evacuees. Because of the worsening activity in danger zones so there is forced evacuation),” she said.

Alert Level 3 remains in effect over Mayon Volcano as it continues to be in a high level of unrest.

Almost 40,000 individuals had been displaced since January 18. The number had been reduced to 27,643 evacuees, who are temporarily staying in classrooms that served as evacuation sites in Albay.

Aside from the food items, other basic needs include medicine, repairs of toilets and other basic items for shelter.

“This is also the time that other non-government agencies such as Red Cross would come in to help,” said Daep.

Foreign assistance

Compared with past eruptions when foreign aid poured in for the evacuees, there has not been that kind of help coming in yet.

The reason, according to Daep, is that they have not formally asked for assistance from their usual donors.

“We told them that we can still shoulder the expenses,” said Daep.

But he said they expect that the assistance would come in the coming days, especially that they have already sent a notice of fund depletion.

As of yesterday, he said at least two foreign aid groups have already coordinated with them to check on the needs of the evacuees.

“We have not formally asked for their help because we told them that we have funds for 10 days. But once we made the request, I am sure that they will be there to help,” said Daep.

Right now, he said the regional office of the Department of Social Works and Development has already prepositioned food items for the evacuees. (With a report from Raymund F. Antonio)

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Fil-Am novelist and UST alumnus calls award to Mocha Uson ‘an insult’ to alumni

A University of Santo Tomas (UST) alumnus and Filipino-American novelist-poet called the awarding of the Thomasian Alumni Award for Government Service to Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux "Mocha" Uson "an insult" to all alumni of the university.

"The recent Thomasian Alumni Award recognition of Mocha Uson, a known propagandist and “purveyor of fake news” at a time when Freedom of the Press is under attack in the Philippines is an insult to all UST Alumni who believe in upholding one of the pillars of strong democracies—VERITAS," US-based Bino A. Realuyo, author of the novel "The Umbrella Country", said in a statement.

Uson was given the award by the University of Santo Tomas Alumni Association Inc. (USTAAI) on Sunday during the grand alumni homecoming.

Realuyo is a UST alumnus and was one of 75 UST High School alumni who received the 75th Founding Anniversary Award in 2003. He was cited for his outstanding achievements in literature.

Uson's efforts to evoke her idea of change, which she said UST recognized in giving her the award, "resulted in the death of many Filipinos" and ignored other alumnae and alumnus worthy of the award, Realuyo said.

"I am sure there are many unsung and worthy alumni of UST whom you can honor and recognize. Mocha Uson is certainly not one of them," Realuyo said.

The recognition of Uson, whom Realuyo branded a political propagandist, ran opposite to the respect of the truth that UST teachers and staff instilled in him.

The move was demoralizing enough for Realuyo, a former contributor to GMA News Online, to return the award he received from the university.

"I am demoralized by your recognition of Mocha Uson. As a protest of your decision to support a political propagandist who thrives in attacking the highest ideals of Philippine democracy, I am returning the award given to me," he said.

Within two hours of Realuyo's post, Uson on her wall shared a picture of her Gawad Thomasian Alumni in Government Service certificate and medal with the caption "PAALALA: Ang amplaya ay kinakain hindi inuugali."

Prior to this, the assistant secretary reposted a video of herself receiving the award with a paragraph commending the USTAAI for their supposed impartiality on the political affiliation of UST alumni.

Uson, an avid social media user prior to being appointed to her government post, also addressed her bashers on Twitter and called their continued tweets a proof of the continued "freedom of expression" in the country.

"Ako po ay lubos na nagpapasalamat sa UST Alumni Association. At tulad nga ng sinabi nila tayo po ay patuloy na magsusumikap pagsilbihan pa ang mamayang Pilipino," she said.

The University of Santo Tomas Central Student Council (UST-CSC) on Sunday also condemned the awarding of Uson for her role in spreading "politically-motivated propaganda against known members of the government's opposition."

"We express dismay over this event as Mocha Uson does not, in any way, embody the ideals of a real Thomasian, and with all due respect, Ms. Esther Margaux "Mocha" Justiniano Uson does not deserve an award that was supposed to be meant solely for outstanding alumni," the UST-CSC added.

The USTAAI defended its bestowing the award on Uson, saying the sole criteria for the award is "to be a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas and in government service." 

It added that the award "is envisioned to inspire and challenge the recipients to lead the Thomasian core values of Compassion, Competence, and Commitment." —Rie Takumi/KG, GMA News

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