September 30, 2009

Da who is depressed!

Congressman Mikey Arroyo rails at Facebook

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 14:22:00 09/30/2009

MANILA, Philippines — Pampanga Representative Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo on Tuesday pushed for tighter regulation of the world’s leading social networking site, Facebook, after he claimed to be a victim of a “malicious attack” by one of its members.

“My picture was posted on Facebook with a caption saying I was shopping for wine at the height of [Storm] ‘Ondoy.’ [This] is another malicious attack on my person. It is so depressing,” Arroyo wrote in an e-mail response to the Facebook post which has appeared in several blogs. (Click here for the rest.)

Ay, kaluoy. Maybe he should see a psychiatrist to treat his depression?

Btw, the photo he refers to was taken on Sunday, the day after Typhoon Ondoy ravaged the metropolis, not on Saturday. Sorry, wrong excuse pa din.

Does he think this is China or Iran, where Facebook is regulated? Maybe his mother should just ship him there. I would if I had a son like him.

September 29, 2009

Donating from outside the Philippines

(Photo courtesy Voltaire Domingo/NPPA Images. Pls. do not download this w/o the photographer's permission.)

THOSE who are living outside the Philippines and wish to donate to the disaster relief efforts for victims of Typhoon Ondoy, pls click here.

Also, La Salle alumni abroad may want to course their donations through DLSAA-Metro New York. You can make your donations online. (Yes, Ateneans are welcome, too!)

September 28, 2009

And amid the relief efforts...

(Photo courtesy Panjee Tapales via Facebook. Feel free to repost this guys.)

Desperate times (meaning low ratings), call for desperate measures!

* * * *

While over in the Mequeni Republic, click!

Da who?!

Guess who was seen buying liquor at Rustan's Supermarket along Katipunan Ave., QC on Sunday, while our kababayans were still stranded all over the metropolis, or up on the roofs of their flooded homes - cold, weary, and hungry - bec. gov't rescue teams were so slow in getting to them? (After all 13 lang nga ang rubber boats ng NDCC w/c were deployed only at 10 pm on Saturday evening! Galing mo Gibo!)

Click here to find out who da who is!

On leaving home

I told Ignacio that the only times I truly regretted moving out of my parents' home was whenever I got sick. I mean, who doesn’t miss being cared for by Mama (or in my case, Lola), and having to be spoon-fed lugaw when you hardly have the appetite to eat? But even then, you eventually find someone else to tuck you in bed and feed you when you’re ill, or you can have your favorite Chinese restaurant deliver any congee combination available on their extensive menu. Hah! (Click Something Like Life for the rest.)

September 23, 2009

Just folks

IF you're not doing anything between Sept. 25 and Oct. 8, I suggest you drop by Galerie Astra at the LRI Design Plaza along Reposo St. in Makati and browse through the works of four new artists, among whom is my friend, the madcap evil genius and anti-basura revolutionary Gideon Javier.

Here's a short write-up of the four artists:

Irwin Fernandez

Irwin works for a software company that provides information services and technology for financial markets. Painting serves as a respite from his structured working environment. His influences are graphic novel artists, classical and contemporary figurative artists; both foreign and local. He strives to harness the discipline of fine art, under the guidance of Mr. Gig de Pio, in channeling these influences and personal nuances when drawing or painting. This otherwise daunting experience continues to be fulfilling and fruitful. For this, he is very thankful to Mr. de Pio.

Susan Hao

Susan, a Filipino-Chinese, has been a licensed agent and trader to various brokerage firms since 1988. She is presently with Accord Capital Equities Corporation. Without prior experience in drawing or painting, Susan enrolled herself at the Ayala Museum art workshops. For this stockbroker, she will forever be grateful to her mentor Mr. Gig de Pio, because without his guidance and patience there may never have been a Susan Hao - the artist.

Gideon Javier

Gideon Javier is the principal of an interior design and construction firm. He has been a frustrated artist since childhood when he was forced to turn down an apprenticeship by a family move from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Los Angeles, California. In 2005, his wife enrolled him in an art course at the Ayala Museum which led to an apprenticeship under Gig DePio.

Gideon shies away from realism one side and abstract on the other, looking instead to capture the moment in a few strokes. In a previous century he would have called this impressionist. He is grateful to Gig for allowing his to stray down this path.

Gig de Pio

Born October 22, 1951 in Balamban, Cebu, Gig Mario Completo de Pio - a former professor at the University for the Philippines College of Fine Arts in Diliman - taught Materials & Techniques of the Old Masters, Anatomy, Figure Drawing & Painting from Life. His oeuvre based on his study on entropy - " the ultimate law of nature" - is a testimony to its natural consequences in art and its uses in the creative process. " With gestalt perception, there can be order in chaos viewed from without, not from within a system". From scratches and smudges on canvas or paper can emerge the magical flutter and flurry of a masterpiece.

Gig de Pio has a gift of capturing not only the likeness but also the presence of a sitter deftly from life. He is one of the very few master portraitists in the country today.

September 19, 2009

Vicki Belo sues lawyer for FB status updates

NGEK! Yep, I'm not joking, guys. And you read it first on this blog.

Cosmetologist Dr. Vicki Belo has sued lawyer Argee Guevarra for his status updates on Facebook purportedly maligning her person. Thing is, the doktora isn't even on Argee's list of FB friends, but her manager somehow managed to get herself added to Argee's list. Ikaw naman kasi Argee, masyado ka din celebrity. Kala mo fan sya anu? Oh well.

This is history-in-the-making folks! You gotta hand it to the doktora, she loves to thrive in controversy. I'm giving way to Argee's press release on this issue w/c I've edited here for publication. The doktora's handlers are free to comment or give their side on the issue. (Btw, personally, I haven't seen those FB status updates that are being referred to even if Argee is also an FB friend. But then I really am not in the habit of looking at all my friends statuses.)

Facebook user welcomes Dr. Vicki Belo's libel suit as 'first of its kind' in the world

FACEBOOK user and activist-lawyer Argee Guevarra today welcomed the libel suit filed by the Belo Medical Group and Dr..Vicki Belo against him at the Office of the City Prosecutor in Taytay, Rizal, Philippines, for his status updates and shout-outs in his private Facebook account.

Guevarra, who acts as counsel for Josefina Norcio over two botched butt augmentation procedures performed by the Belo Medical Group using the banned substance Hydrogel, was sued for libel over status update posts in his Facebook account where Guevarra called for a national patients’ boycott of Belo Clinics and for referring to Dr. Belo as “Reyna ng Kaplastikan, Reyna ng Kapalpakan” (Queen of False Pretenses, Queen of Incompetence).

Dr.Vicki Belo is a celebrity doctor previously involved in a video sex scandal. She operates upscale plastic and cosmetic surgery clinics frequented by this impoverished nation’s elite and owns various offshore clinics and booking offices in Thailand, South Korea and the United States. Dr. Belo, however, is not licensed by the Philippine Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (PAPRAS) to perform cosmetic surgery procedures. She presides over a multi-million dollar empire consisting of plastic surgery clinics, beauty salons and manufactures health and beauty products.

The suit is the first Facebook libel case in the world where the complainant does not even belong to the defendant’s network of Facebook friends. A previous Facebook libel case was, however, filed in UK where businessman Mathew Firsht sued a former school friend over a false personal profile on the site that included private information about him and untrue allegations about his sexual orientation.

The libel suit against Guevarra was commenced vicariously through Dr. Belo’s general manager who managed to add herself to Guevarra’s network of 1,472 friends.

Guevarra, a political activist previously jailed by the Arroyo regime for his participation in two failed uprisings, similarly faced a Php 300 million ($6 million) libel suit from former First Lady Imelda Marcos 13 years ago after Guevarra wrote in his erstwhile column in BusinessWorld, a series of commentaries accusing the former strongman’s wife of widespread plunder during the reign of the Marcos dictatorship. The libel suit was eventually dismissed.

Guevarra welcomes the libel suit as an opportunity to invite public attention to the hazards and dangers of cosmetic surgery clinics performing surgeries with untrained, unskilled, incompetent and unlicensed medical practitioners and advertising such services as safe and hopes to ring alarm bells at the Health Department against the proliferation of such colorum clinics which is destroying the country’s medical tourism industry and earning for the country the moniker of being Asia’s No. 1 Chop Shop. More than this, Guevarra seeks to defend himself all the way to the Supreme Court in order to elicit jurisprudence regarding internet-based libels.

For his part, Atty. Guevarra’s counsel, Atty. J.V. Bautista, a U.P. classmate of Dr. Belo, laughed off the libel suit and pointed out its material defects – “The libel case filed by Dr. Belo needs a serious facelift before it could even be dignified in any court of law. The pleading itself reads and looks like a failed surgery on the laws of libel:

First, the venue is improperly laid. It should not have been filed before the Taytay Prosecutor Office and instead filed before Makati City Prosecutor’s Office which is the place of the offended party (Dr. Belo) and where Facebook, Philippines holds Office. The filing of the case in Taytay may have sinister motives. What is so special about filing the case in Taytay?

Second, the libelous statements were printed and published by Dr. Belo’s own general manager and upon the authority given her by Dr. Belo’s estranged husband and Belo Medical Group Corporate Secretary Atom Henares, which should make said general manager a co-respondent of Atty. Guevarra. In effect, Dr. Belo should be suing her own general manager;

Third, the alleged defamatory statements are privileged communication and are per se, not libelous. Said statements of Atty. Guevarra fall under constitutionally protected exercise of free speech;

Finally, the analogous libel case of Alfonso Yuchengco/Pacific Plans vs. Philip Piccio, arising from a blog written by Mr. Piccio against Pacific Plans was ordered dismissed by the Department of Justice which ruled that there is no such thing as internet libel since Art. 355 of the Revised Penal Code strictly provides that libel can only be committed by means set forth therein (writing, printing, radio etc.) and does not include the internet. Furthermore, criminal statutes are construed strictly in favor of the accused.”

The preliminary investigation is set on Sept. 24, 2009 at the Taytay Hall of Justice, Taytay, Rizal before Asst. City Prosecutor Cheloy Garrafil.

September 15, 2009

Oras na! Laban na!

Noynoy-MAR 2010!

We take the good w/ the bad

JUST a few minutes after we rejoiced that the MV Irene crew had been freed, we found out that one of our favorite actors, Patrick Swayze passed away, after a 20-month bout with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.

I had been looking forward to the second season of The Beast, an excellent TV show where he plays an undercover FBI agent but read that Patrick was just too sick to carry on another season. He made a few memorable films like Ghost (which I actually hated for being uber-cheesy) opposite Demi Moore as her dead husband trying to contact her through a psychic played by Whoopi Goldberg, and To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar where he sashayed as a drag queen w/ Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo.

But we will forever remember him as the sexy dance instructor in Dirty Dancing, a coming-of-age film for many of us who grew up in the '80s. Nobody puts Baby in a corner," he said, as he sweeps Baby (Jennifer Grey) away from her family and twirls together in front of the other resort guests in a grand finale to the tune, Time of My Life. (Embedding disabled so just click on the song title.)

Here's a memorable scene from another favorite Swayze starrer, To Wong Foo:

And here's Patrick with his wife Lisa Nieme at the World Music Awards in 1994. He was such a graceful dancer.

Keep on dancing Patrick.

Free at last!

Somali pirates release Greek ship
BBC News, Sept. 14, 2009

Somali pirates have released a Greek-owned ship hijacked five months ago and freed its 21 Filipino crew members, officials and pirates have said.

"The MV Irene is free. All 21 crew are safe and sound," maritime official Andrew Mwangura told AFP news agency.

Reuters news agency cited a pirate as saying the hijackers acted after receiving a ransom of $2m (£1.2m). (Click BBC News for the rest.)

Thank you all, for signing the online petition to free Bob Casas and the MV Irene crew, and for your prayers. According to my friend Gemma Casas, Bob's sister, the Pinoy crew are all in Mogadishu receiving medical care and will be flown back to the Philippines either tomorrow or Thursday.

(UPDATE 12:53 pm) As per Gemma, her brother called his wife at around 1 am today and said the entire crew is now in Amman, Jordan. I know Gemma is also very thankful to David Cohen, former deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Interior, for putting up the online petition. Great job David!

Manila gets hooked on the fro-yo craze*

BLAME it on the health-consciousness wave.

Many Metro Manilans are now ditching sinfully sweet, caloric-laden desserts, and reaching out for the frozen yogurt.

Yogurt, which has been around for over 4,000 years and consumed in great quantities in certain cultures, has always been praised by nutritionists for its health benefits. While its origins sound a little unpalatable—it’s made by fermenting milk with bacteria, hence the sour taste—yogurt is said to be rich in protein, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. It is also supposedly fat-free and has very low sugar content. (Click BusinessMirror for the rest.)

*This is an expanded version of an earlier blog entry.

September 14, 2009

What a waste!

ON Nov, 25, 1996, the Subic Bay freeport in Zambales, Philippines, played host to the 4th Apec Leaders Summit. It was a crowning achievement of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, then headed by administrator Richard Gordon, who showed off how the Philippines was able to transform a former U.S. military naval base, into a commercially viable center for business and tourism.

The Philippine government wasted no expense in renovating a conference site called Summit Hall where the 18 heads of state including U.S. President Bill Clinton, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed, Brunei Sultan Bolkiah, Indonesian Prime Minister Suharto, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, among others, would be able to meet and thresh out issues to further push cooperation among their countries. About 21 luxury villas costing $1 million each, where the leaders would be able to retire after their meetings were done for the day, were built as well.

(18 heads of state including U.S. President Bill Clinton, far right, wave to photographers for the usual group photo to mark the leaders' summit of the Association of Pacific Economic Cooperation - Apec - forum. Photo from the Apec web site.)

(Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Phil. President Fidel V. Ramos compare their barongs. Photo from the Sydney Morning Herald archives)

About $12 million was reportedly spent to renovate the Summit Hall and nearby Crown Peak Garden Hotel. Both are located in the Upper Mau area of the freeport.

I was on vacation in Subic for the weekend and was surprised to see this:

(This is the Apec Summit Hall now - rundown and decrepit.)

(The sign says "Subic Summit 1996" with the logo of Apec in the middle. It's a shame that the SBMA failed to maintain the Summit Hall. It would've been a good venue for conferences and important meetings. Another waste of resources.)

(Don't ask us any questions, we'll tell you no lies, these two stone carvings seem to be saying. These figures are the only remaining vestiges of the splendor that was once was the Apec Summit Hall.)

I don't remember any head of state actually staying in the Villas built for them, which has since been renamed into Triboa Bay Estates, and were being sold to private individuals at a cost of P50 million each. (One of those villas were said to have been donated to a head of state (wink!) after the Summit was over.) Apparently there have been no takers for most of the villas that the last listings from real estate brokers put the villas at P30 million.

I recently read a report by Home Guaranty Corp., a government-owned corporation which has apparently taken over Triboa Estates/Apec Villas, stating that the 3rd bidding for the repair/rehab four of the villas were declared as failures in 2007 and as such were up for negotiated procurement. Tsk, tsk.

September 08, 2009

Revisiting the Chiong rape slay case

BACK in July 2005, I was assigned by ABS-CBN Publishing's Metro magazine to do a story on Chiong sisters rape slay case in Cebu, because one of those convicted of the case is a scion of the late President Osmeña. To this day, it still is the most exhausting/exhaustive story I've ever worked on, primarily due to the number of people I interviewed, w/c included the respective mothers of Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong, and Paco Llarrañaga; their respective friends; a case investigator; and lawyers. Due to then Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez' pussyfooting (aha! I'm finally able to use the word!), I was unable to interview Llarañaga himself, who is now back in the news because his transfer to a Spanish prison was recently approved by the Department of Justice.

I am publishing here the piece I did for Metro to give the public a glimpse into the complexities of the case, and cannot help but be moved again by the intense suffered by both families. As I was unable to interview Llarrañaga himself, I cannot ascertain whether he committed the crime, or not. Based on the legal documents and interviews I conducted with people connected to both families and to this case, however, and with the limited time available to me to put together that story back in 2005, I can only say that there seems to have been lapses in the investigation process itself, while the evidence presented by both prosecution and defense are riddled with loopholes.

Chiong/Larrañaga case (Metro) Aug. 2005

September 07, 2009

Living in queues

THE next time a foreigner asks me what life is like in the Philippines, I will say it’s all about lines. And not just one line, it’s two, three, four lines, in succession and people not being sure about being in the right queue. And don’t forget the windows, too! So many windows to go to, without proper signs to guide the people if they’re lining up at the correct window.

Yes, folks, this piece may not be about relationships, but it is “something about life” in the Philippines, where our day isn’t complete unless we’re standing and queuing for something.

If I sound a tad bitchier than usual, it’s because this morning I decided to do my patriotic duty and went to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to register as a voter. I wasn’t able to vote in the last two elections because of work and so my name has been purged from the voters’ list. That’s what the Comelec staff told me, anyway. Of course, one of my friends later informed me her brother had been dead for years and yet his name still keeps popping up on the voters’ list in their barangay. (Click Something Like Life for the rest.)

* * * *

Madali lang magpa-rehistro, says Comelec commissioner Sarmiento in his PSA. As these photos will prove, it isn't so. A friend of mine who recently registered in the very same district said his ordeal took five hours.

(The first queue to the Comelec window where you have to submit your photocopied IDs. Another line to left is where they release the voter's registration form. There's another queue to the window in an adjacent building, offering photocopying services at P4 for double-sided paper. Buti pa yung sa photocopying, there's a clear sign what service is offered there. At the Comelec local office, you basically just have to ask the other people in the line what they're lining up for so you'll know if you're in the correct queue.)

(People filling up their registration forms, in triplicate pls.)

(Another queue before entering our Comelec District office.)

(The crowd inside the Comelec office itself where an applicant's biometrics are taken.)

(You put your right hand in, you put right hand out...Mama's fingerprints are digitally captured, after which, her photo was taken. The last step is affixing one's thumbprints on the paper registration form.)

To be fair, there are some areas in Metro Manila where the registration is fast. I suppose it depends on the management of Comelec supervisors of their respective districts. My niece who is a new voter, for instance, took only 30 minutes to register. The Comelec district office in their city set up a satellite office in her subdivision's clubhouse and brought w/ them four computers to take the registrants' biometrics. I don't know how large her municipality is, but I would assume Quezon City, which has a denser population among the cities of Metro Manila, deserve more computers to aid in the registration of its voters right? Needless to say, those computers better be working. Erg.

September 04, 2009

Pls. sign this petition!

BOB Casas is the brother of my friend and media colleague Gemma Casas. He is one of the 23 Filipino crewmen of the bulk carrier ship MV Irene who continue to be hostages of the Somali pirates who seized their ship off the Gulf of Aden on April 14, 2009.

May I request you dear readers to kindly sign this petition urging the officials of the Philippine government, foreign governments, as well of international organizations to do everything in their power to free these hostages.

If you have a blog or web site, pls. publish a link to the online petition as well so we can gather more signatures, faster.

Thank you.

September 02, 2009

Commercial muna...

Kapitan Kidlat caught lying through his teeth. The smartest things he can only say is, "talk to my lawyer when he gets back from abroad," and "sue me." Under intense grilling, he shows himself as nothing but flippant, arrogant, and inarticulate. Even his mother will bop him on the head for this poor performance. Who the hell wrote his script anyway? Go back to acting school, hijo.

Dontcha just love Winnie Monsod?!?!

Meanwhile, check out Manolo Quezon's blog for more on Kidlat's Foster City home.

September 01, 2009

The ultimate sacrifice

(Sen. Mar Roxas announces his support for Sen. Noynoy Aquino's presidency in 2010 at a press conference in Club Filipino this evening. Photo copyright Stella Arnaldo)

I JUST came home after attending the press conference of Sen. MAR Roxas at the Club Filipino this evening.

Like many who have supported his bid for the presidency in 2010, I feel a tad depressed. I sincerely believed his record as a government official - having been the secretary at the Dept. of Trade and Industry - and the number of legislative bills he has been able to shepherd into laws, speak volumes of his mettle as a leader.

But this evening, he announced that he was bowing down and putting "country above self," and supporting his friend since birth, Sen. Noynoy Aquino, for the latter's bid for the presidency in 2010. Not the one to be insensitive to public sentiment, MAR put aside his own interest to respond to what the citizens want. There was a public clamor for Noynoy, and so MAR stepped aside. And he is a better man for it. This is the ultimate sacrifice for any politician, and harks back to the same sacrifice Doy Laurel made in 1986 when he agreed to run as VP under Cory Aquino.

(Sen. Mar Roxas with Sen. Noynoy Aquino behind him, as the leave the Club Filipino. After Mar finished his speech, Aquino appeared from nowhere and went up to him to shake his hand. This showed everyone that they will be a force to reckon with in 2010. Photo copyright Stella Arnaldo)

MAR has vowed to support Noynoy and stand beside him through this tough race where they are pitted against the "festering evil around us." So it is almost a certainty that it will be a Noynoy-Mar tandem for 2010. While I admit to having certain doubts as to Noynoy's preparedness for the job as president, I have been saying all along that the Opposition must be united in 2010 to fight the common enemy, the Palaka/administration of the presidentita. With Tita Cory's death reawakening the Filipinos' hope for change and getting themselves more involved in the political arena, Noynoy can very well harness this to help him win the presidency next year. And if this is the only way to beat the b**ch, then I am now 100% behind this tandem.

Hopefully, all the other opposition candidates will make the same sacrifice that MAR has made and support this formidable team. They have to come together and chase the evil one out of Malacañang.

And so it begins.

Country Above Self by Sen. Mar Roxas