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Category Archives: NEWS!!!NEWS!!!NEWS!!!

Dinagyang’s New York trip on despite visa problems

“Outstanding people have one thing in common: An absolute sense of mission.”
— Zig ZiglarBy Alex P. Vidal
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NEW YORK CITY
 — The participation of a tribe from Iloilo City’s Dinagyang Festival in the 120th Philippine Independence Day parade here on June 3 was nearly canceled after tribe members encountered visa problems in the US Embassy in Manila.
This was revealed by Joji Juele-Jalandoni, former president of the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI), who called up this writer morning May 26 to convey the message that “everything is set and ready after the problem has been resolved.”
Jalandoni, from Victorias Milling Company in Negros Occidental, said if the problem was not fixed on time, only the nine-day “Iloilo City Trade Mission and Investment Forum” from June 1 to June 9 would be held without the Dinagyang tribe in the parade to be represented by 2018 grand champion, Tribu Panayanon, of the Iloilo City National High School.
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Jalandoni said another tribe from Guimaras’ Mangghan Festival, Hubon Manguguma, will represent the Philippines together with Tribu Panayanon in the biggest Filipino-American Independence Day parade in the East Coast that is expected to attract some 100,000 audience on Madison Avenue.
“They (Dinagyang and Manggahan contingent) will arrive on May 31 (US time),” confirmed Jalandoni, a registered nurse in New Jersey, who is responsible for bringing the two festivals from Iloilo City and Guimaras here.
Problems hounded Tribu Panayanon after only 11 members were given travel visa by the US Embassy, Jalandoni said.
“They have to recruit warriors from Tribu Salognon who already have the visa in order to complete the team, thus the problem was resolved,” she explained. “It’s not nice to see only 11 warriors dancing during the parade.”
Tribu Salognon is the 2016 grand champion and represented the country in the New York parade’s 118th edition.
The first-ever trade mission, to be led by Iloilo City Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III and Mrs. Gina Sarabia-Espinosa, will fly to New York via Hong Kong on May 29 (Philippine time) and will arrive in the US on board Cathay Pacific on May 29 (US time).

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The Espinosa couple, accompanied by Iloilo City Tourism Officer Junel Ann Divinagracia, Executive Assistant Enrique “Rex” Aguado and Local Economic Enterprise Office (LEEO) chief Ariel “Aye” Castaneda, fashion designers Jackie Penalosa and Bo Parcon, journalists Florence Hibionada (The Daily Guardian), Tara Yap (Manila Bulletin), and Herbert Vego (Panay News), West Visayas State University (WVSU) College of Mass Communications dean, Dr. Carmencita “Menchie” Robles, among others, will grace the opening of Ilonggo fashion and jewelry exhibit at the Philippine Center Gallery on 556 Fifth Avenue on June 1.
The Ilonggo trade missionaries are tasked to “introduce” Iloilo City to New York City, Washington DC and Fairfax, Virginia through roadshows showcasing the creations of Ilonggo jewellers, fashion designers and property developers.
Espinosa will host a UP Alumni event on June 2.
The annual parade, spearheaded by PIDCI, will blast off at 12 noon on June 3, followed by cultural presentations.
The city mayor and several representatives from the private sector will hold the Trade and Investment Forum at the Philippine Center.

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Famed NY-based Ilonggo entertainment producer Jhett Tolentino will spearhead the group in a Broadway tour at seven o’clock in the evening on June 5.
An investment forum at University of North America, Fairfax, Virginia will be held on June 6.
This will be followed by a Childhood Education Study in Washington D.C. in the morning and Investment Forum in the evening at the Philippine Embassy on June 7.
The Iloilo contingent will tour Washington D.C. on June 8.
The will cap their US visit with a Philippine Independence Day Ball in the evening at Hilton, East Rutherford, New Jersey on June 9.
Members of the Iloilo Trade Mission depart to the Philippines on June 10.

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I hope there will be no regrets

“When we lose one we love, our bitterest tears are called forth by the memory of hours when we loved not enough.”

–Maurice Maeterlinck

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey — If Iloilo City in the Philippines is a human face, the condemned Iloilo Freedom Grandstand sitting on the area of the 600-square meter Sunburst Park, serves as the face’s mouth.

It has been one of Iloilo City’s most prominent landmarks facing the “eagle” building on J.M. Basa Street for more than 50 years now.

In the name of development, it will soon disappear and relocated to Muelle Loney, adjacent to the waterfront area of Customs House Plaza, Sunburst Park’s old name.

Because of its intrinsic value, many Ilonggos have considered it as part of the metropolis’ tangible past.

Owing to its cultural and practical values and especially that it’s not an eyesore, some Ilonggos are sad that after the face of

“The Most Loyal and Noble City” or “La Muy Leal Y Noble Ciudad de Iloilo” has undergone a major surgery this year, its mouth, a reminder of the metropolis’ culture and complexity, will no longer be found under the nose.

In one of his “farewell” visits in various places in the Philippines, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, accompanied by President Carlos Garcia, set foot at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand on July 10, 1961 and delivered a nostalgic speech.

This event will forever be etched in the memory of the Ilonggos.

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We just hope that there will be no regrets after the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand has been demolished.

It can’t be denied that the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, renovated by the late Rep. Raul Gonzalez Sr. several years back, has brought character and certain charm to the neighborhood that Ilonggos had lived in ever since the late political maverick former Senator Rodolfo Ganzon gave it a sparkling name nearly 50 years ago.

Once it’s gone, there is no more chance to restore or save one of Iloilo City’s most memorable historic sites.

Once a major bureaucratic decision has been made with finality, no one can be certain what will be valued in the future.

Once a piece of history is destroyed, it is lost forever like a member of the family who passed away.

The memory of the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand has taught us about the history that happened before we were born; it’s imposing image has promoted the respect for those who lived in different times and different political and social climates not only in the city and province of Iloilo but also in the entire region.

It has cultivated pride of our past and heritage making the Ilonggos unique in the world.

 

 

 

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What has the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand done to deserve death?

“It is not the honor that you take with you, but the heritage you leave behind.”

–Branch Rickey

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey — What have I done to deserve death? Did I humiliate the Ilonggos?

Did I commit a heinous crime against humanity?

Did I play host to scandalous and violent activities?

Did I pose a threat to national security?

Did I obstruct traffic and the pedestrians’ right of way?

Did I pillage the environment and natural resources?

Thus would have been the valid laments of the condemned Iloilo Freedom Grandstand in Iloilo City in the Philippines if it could only speak and protest its imminent extermination.

Instead of being “rewarded” for bringing pride and honor to the Ilonggos since it was built some 60 years ago, the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand faces demolition in the modern era when men are equipped with scientific knowledge and expertise to build and renovate.

Instead of being preserved and restored to its old glory for helping showcase and sustain the Ilonggos’ spirit, aesthetic and ingenuity in the global village, the grandstand will be blown to bits in the age of technology when innovation and state-of-the-art infrastructure are at fever-pitch.

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The Iloilo Freedom Grandstand has been known to be the Ilonggos’ version of Munich’s Allianz Arena, Rome’s The Colosseum, Milan’s San Siro, Barcelona’s Camp Nuo, Portland’s Providence Park, New Zealand’s Forsyth Barr, Poland’s Stadion Energa, Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana, Boston’s Fenway Park, and Hungary’s Pancho Arena.

It is a source of their hope and pride, not shame and scandal.

Where is our gratitude?

But, wait a minute.

Proponents of the move to dismantle the grandstand and transfer it to Muelle Loney facing the Iloilo River, will argue that the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand will not be actually wiped off the face of the earth.

It will only be transferred to pave the way for expansion and improvement of the Sunburst Park, where the present Iloilo Freedom Grandstand on J.M. Basa Street stands.

From its present location where it faces the giant eagle in a building across the street, pedestrians, and passing vehicles to Muelle Loney, where it will face the river, the boats, and the fishes.

In simple explanation, it will be “demoted demographically.”

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The Iloilo Freedom Grandstand is a legitimate asset. Demolishing it doesn’t make sense.

Preserving it is one aspect of paying homage to our heritage with which we can interact and adapt.

The grandstand, which has survived the test of time, has specific historic context.

It should have been meticulously and exactly preserved.

Since it has become part of our character and identity over the years, the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand must be lived in, interacted with and maintained by the public.

The outdoor structure, conceptualized after the Ilonggos’ right to elect their local officials commenced in 1950, has changed with us, thus recording a piece of each generation’s story from circa fifties to Internet Age.

Ilonggos are morally and patriotically obliged to respect this community resource and preserve it for future generations.

Owing to its colorful history, the preservation of the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand can help strengthen the community’s future.

The Iloilo Freedom Grandstand’s imposing presence in a piece of property of the former Customs House Plaza, would have helped create vibrant, cultural downtowns that will further draw art, festival, tourism, and other activities which in turn draw investment, revenue, and economic growth for Iloilo City aside from solidifying a community’s past.

 
 

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Sleeping cops shouldn’t be shamed

“Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.”

–Stephen Covey

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey — I agree that some cops in the Philippines caught sleeping while on duty be meted with disciplinary action, but I don’t agree that they should be berated like kids in front of a national TV.

Sleeping while on duty is indeed a serious offense amid threats from the communist rebels to attack police stations anywhere in the country.

It constitutes negligence and lack of discipline especially if those caught dozing off were not in proper uniform and in terrible shape physically.

They could be disarmed by bad elements and even killed while in dreamland.

They can’t also respond to calls for police assistance from victims of crimes at night time.

Sleeping precinct commanders should be sacked and replaced with those energetic and strong enough to withstand drowsiness on night shift.

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I have misgivings though with some police officials who give their junior officers the dressing down in front of TV cameras.

Not all the sleeping beauties are useless or bad cops.

Sleeping is a human foible. Even Hercules and Don Juan fall asleep.

Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson had also been caught sleeping in cowboy and crime movies, but they always emerged as outstanding lawmen and ten feet taller than the bad guys they had killed.

Police officials can always conduct a surprise visit in various precincts even without the media coverage and fanfare.

They can always throw the books on erring subordinates without the need to insult and embarrass them in media.

While most of these police officials are motivated by call for duty, protocol and professionalism and their wrath seem to be valid, some of them have hidden agenda.

When they retire several months or years later, they don’t only become civilians, they become candidates in elections for a public office.

If they can shame subordinates for the sin of sleeping, they must, first and foremost, do the same to the rogue cops, the real bad eggs in uniform notoriously engaged in illegal drugs and illegal gambling.

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When Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) committed crimes, some of them were sentenced to death in foreign courts even if their guilt wasn’t established beyond reasonable doubt.

In most cases, the Philippine government wasn’t able to save wrongly convicted OFWs from the death row.

Either news of the sentencing in court reached late in Malacanang, or there was lack of coordination and miscommunication among labor attaches and other concerned officials.

If the OFWs are the victims of crimes perpetrated by their employers, the chances that they can get support from Malacanang through our embassy are also sometimes nil.

Especially if embassy officials face a blank wall like in the case of 29-yar-old Joanna Demafiles of Sara, Iloilo whose body was found inside a freezer in a Kuwait apartment recently.

As of this writing, efforts by Lebanese authorities have been undertaken to capture the suspects, a couple and Demafiles’ former employers, who fled to Lebanon after abandoning the apartment in 2016.

Demafiles had been identified through her fingerprints, according to RP officials in Kuwait. Her family is demanding justice. They wanted her body back in Sara, Iloilo.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2018 in CRIME, NEWS!!!NEWS!!!NEWS!!!

 

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Bizarre Dinagyang crime stories

“In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.”

–Hunter S. Thompson

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey –– After witnessing the cold-blooded murder of a plainclothes cop from Arevalo district during the  1990 Dinagyang Festival final night in Iloilo City in the Philippines, I became convinced that there should be a gun ban when the Ilonggos celebrate the feast of Señor Santo Niño every year.

The cop (I can remember him only as “Ben”) was gunned down while answering the call of nature on the rear tire of an owner type jeep where I was sitting and parked on corner Valeria and Ledesma Streets in the City Proper, a stone throw away from our News Express editorial office.

“Ben” died on the spot from multiple gunshot wounds fired by an unknown assailant at past seven o’clock in the evening.

I was holding my friend Emmanuel “Boyet” Carillo’s state-of-the-art camera (which was burned in a fire that gutted their house in Kalibo, Aklan weeks later), thus I was able to take some photos as “Ben” sprawled on the pavement bathing in his own blood.

The case has remained unsolved.

We also support the move of the Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6) and the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) to prohibit glass bottles and cans during the revelries.

Glass bottles and beer or soft drink cans can become deadly if used by drunken revelers as weapons.

Senior Inspector Shella Mae Sangrines, ICPO spokesperson, said in a recent press conference they did not want revelers to carry illegal weapons, drugs and other harmful contraband, thus they would inspect all backpacks.

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The police may also check belt bags aside from backpacks.

Drug dealers and gang members carrying deadly weapons and illegal substances will eschew backpacks now that the police have announced what type of bag to be strictly perused during the festivities.

Some thugs who use backpacks are not really members of drug syndicates, terror groups and street-level fraternities engaged in riot.

Some of them are small time robbers or pickpockets.

One afternoon during the 1998 Dinagyang Festival, I “saved” a 17-year-old out-of-school teenager from being lynched by an angry mob near the Ledesma Street gate of Mary Mart Mall in Iloilo City.

“Randy” was being punched and kicked by male and female attackers while tightly embracing his backpack.

I intervened and was able to stop the carnage. When I checked the victim’s backpack, it contained several Nokia and Philips  analog cellular phones.

He was a “snatcher” cornered by some of his victims.

I negotiated with the maulers and helped them recover their cellular phones right away. I escorted the “snatcher” away from harm after he promised to go straight.

Since I was into sports, I encouraged him to train as amateur boxer in the YMCA gym. After a series of bouts in our weekly boxing tournament at the Iloilo City Freedom Grandstand, I introduced him to the late then City Administrator Angelo “Bebot” Geremias and brought him to Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu thereafter where he won a bronze medal in the inter-city youth slugfest.

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Drunkenness should also be regulated if not avoided during the Dinagyang revelry.

In the 1994 Dinagyang, the grandson of a prominent Filipino-Chinese tycoon hogged headlines when he was “drugged and molested” by two gay hairdressers who befriended him at the Freedom Grandstand, the main judging area for ati dance competitions.

“Anthony”, who once worked with former Sen. Joselito “Lito” Lapid as stuntman in an action film shot in Cebu, alleged that he passed out and wasn’t able to go home after a drinking session with the two hairdressers while waiting for announcement of winners Sunday evening.

He woke up the following morning in the sidewalk of J.M. Basa Street without a shirt. His other personal belongings went missing. He confessed to police he suffered a “swollen penis” and was treated in the hospital.

When one of the hairdressers was stabbed dead by an unknown suspect in Brgy. Tanza-Baybay in the City Proper weeks later, “Anthony” disappeared in Iloilo City.

“Anthony’s” cousin, “Jaguar”, who owns a resort in Boracay in Caticlan, Aklan, got mad when police coaxed him to cooperate and pinpoint his cousin’s whereabouts.

I accompanied the cop who went to the cousin’s office, a lending firm, in downtown, City Proper. The cop managed to enter and talk to “Jaguar” briefly before being rebuked.

I was left outside “Jaguar’s” office after being denied entry by “Jaguar’s” secretary.

“Anthony” hasn’t been seen again.

 

 

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No knee-jerk reaction on Defensor’s transfer to PDP-Laban

“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

–Franklin D. Roosevelt

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey –– When big names in Philippine local politics jump from one political party to another, it is normally greeted with derision and mockery from the deserters’ hitherto party mates and rivals.

They are tagged as “opportunists” and dismissed as “balimbings” (fruit with scientific name Averrhoa carambola) or turncoats.

Such was the misfortune that befell politicians in Iloilo City led by Rep. Jerry Trenas and Mayor Jose Espinosa III, who abandoned the Liberal Party (LP) for the administration’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) last year.

Political rivals took turns in lambasting “ingrate” Trenas , Espinosa and some of their ilk in the city council.

Their political enemies also utilized the social media to ridicule their move to leave LP and embrace President Rodrigo Duterte’s political party.

It’s always an earthshaking event for their detractors; the kind of opportunity to skin them alive in public their detractors would never allow to slip away. Politics 101.

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Not in Iloilo province.

When Governor Arthur “Art” Defensor Sr. disclosed last year that he, his son, Iloilo third district Rep. Arthur “Toto” Defensor Jr. , and 4,000 other local officials from their district will take their oath as the newest members of the PDP-Laban on January 18, 2018, nobody from the governor’s political rivals–or potential political enemies–raised a whimper.

Team Defensor’s scheduled “mass oath taking” would be administered by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez at the Pototan Astrodome in Pototan town, 30 kilometers north from Iloilo City.

No admonition even from Iloilo fourth district Rep. Ferjenel “Dr. Ferj” G. Biron, Rep. Defensor’s rumored rival for governor in 2019.

Rep. Biron, who admits he has big respect and admiration for Gov. Defensor despite his loss in the 2013 gubernatorial race, probably didn’t want to sully the Defensors’ significant date with political history.

It would be awkward for the lawmaker from Dumangas to criticize the Defensors’ transfer from LP to PDP-Laban if he was eyeing LP’s official nomination for the top capitol post.

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Some provincial board members and municipal mayors who have remained loyal to LP also didn’t find it necessary to rebuke the Defensors’ decision to transfer even for the sake of “check and balance” and, to some extent, publicity.

They probably got Gov. Defensor’s message loud and clear: he needed the President’s blessings for Toto Defensor’s candidacy in 2019.

From the very beginning, the governor never hid his cards and was even excited to immediately lay them on the table without beating around the bush: he wanted the congressman son to be the administration’s standard-bearer in 2019.

Defensor would have been chided both by allies and detractors as hypocrite if he did not admit his decision to walk away from LP to PDP-Laban had something to do with political survival.

 
 

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I didn’t execute a CHR affidavit on Capitol raid  

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does it permanent.”

–Mahatma Gandhi

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey — I did not regret it when I “ignored” the request of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the Philippines for me to execute an affidavit to narrate what I saw when fully armed assault cops raided the Iloilo Provincial Capitol to forcibly remove then Governor Niel D. Tupas Sr. and two other members of the provincial board on January 17, 2007.

I knew it would be useless to join the fray because the Philippine National Police (PNP) would anyway exonerate those involved; the PNP bigwigs were not stupid to pin down their underlings.

It was enough and necessary that I decided to instead chronicle the event in my newspaper articles weeks after the violence.

The cases against the cops have been dismissed; my articles will remain intact on-line and in printed newspaper files for future generation.

When historians remember that ugly episode, they will be horrified to know that despite “overwhelming” pieces of evidence, the case has been whitewashed.

Being in the right place at the right time, I knew I hit a jackpot as a community journalist nevertheless.

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Then PNP chief Director General Oscar Calderon tasked Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Director Edgardo Doromal to investigate the allegation of “overkill”.

As expected, Doromal cleared the Iloilo Regional Mobile Group (RMG) team despite video footage aired on national television showing the mostly rookie cops pointing guns at civilians and some reporters inside the Iloilo capitol.

Doromal’s report claimed it was Tupas’ supporters led by his son, then Iloilo Provincial Board Member and future Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr., who initiated the scuffle.

The Civil Disturbance Management (CDM) group only reacted accordingly to the situation, insisted the PNP report.

What I saw, which was also witnessed by others reporters and capitol workers caught in the melee was the opposite: the 65 assault cops smashed the glass doors in the back, forcibly entered the capitol like they were looking for Osama bin Laden.

Inside the 2,248 square feet, six-storey with 37 offices capitol , they didn’t know where to proceed; they pointed their guns at terrified civilians and reporters on their way to up to the next floors where they engaged Junjun Tupas and his sister, Tweety Balleza, in a loud scuffle.

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Then Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada was in the front line outside the capitol negotiating with the leaders of other PNP teams to calm down and not to enter the capitol.

Visayan Tribune publisher Johnny Dignadice, then 72 years old, and I were among those nearly mistaken as Bin Laden’s cohorts.

We saw long firearms being aimed right before our eyes.

Family members, some lawyers, and staff members stayed with Gov. Tupas and his wife Myrna in the governor’s office.

The tumult simmered down when Junjun Tupas waved and presented the fax copy of a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Court of Appeals.

The raiders failed to evict Tupas and Board Members Domingo Oso and Cecilia Capadosa.

The raiding cops were cleared even if Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, who ordered Tupas’ dismissal, admitted “there were very disturbing footage of the clearing operations.”

Among those who constantly communicated with the Tupas family and monitored the ruckus in Manila were future President Noynoy Aquino, and Senators Mar Roxas and Chiz Escudero.

These national political figures condemned the raid.

 

 

 
 

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