Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gordon helps bring home another hero


Sad as it may seem but it was a stark reality for Nelia Holgado – only 6 to 12 months to live with her end stage of mestatic breast cancer which haas spread to her lungs and liver.

Nelia, after being informed that chemotheraphy and surgery did not work to heal her ailment, decided to quit her fight against cancer and expressed her desire to go home. All she prayed for was for someone to give her a plane ticket and a companion to bring her home safely to the Philippines. But she got a lot more than what she asked for. Yvonne Horneffer of the Bicol Association in Metro DC and a Fil-Am Nurse practitioner of the National Institute of Health brought Nelia's plight to the attention of the community.

The Filipino-American Community in Metropolitan Washington D.C. heeded the urgent call and wholeheartedly sent in their donations. The Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC), spearheading the campaign, quickly organized fundraising events in cooperation with various Fil-Am organizations and Filipino church-based groups in the area. In a week's time prior to her scheduled Monday flight, the community raised almost US $ 6,500 dollars (includes airfare donation and some Philippine pesos) , which were handed to Nelia in those 3 fundraising events namely Filipino Mass at the St. Michael in Silver Spring, MD; the Despedida "Salu/Salo/ Dance" at North Star Party Room in Fort Washington, Maryland; and finally the Filipino Mass at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington D.C. Various church-based groups did their own collections during their prayer meetings and mass while others sent in their donations in checks through Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) and turned them over to Nelia as well. Nelia's former employer years ago , Mrs. Ratner, generously paid for the plane ticket. Businessman Carl Abella and Nurse Jeanette Calahong, also officers of the Migrant Heritage Commission and other organizations, offered to accompany Nelia in the long haul flight to Manila.

Nelia Holgado is indeed a "Modern Day Heroine". As a Filipino migrant, she exemplifies the positive Filipino human values of: self-sacrifice, hard work ethic, utmost love for family, and patriotism to her native land, the Philippines. The Ilongga left the Philippines to work as a domestic helper in the United States for more than 10 years. In those ten years, she was undocumented (TNT), yet she was able to provide financial assistance to many of her kababayans in the Philippines through her hard earned dollar remittances. With pride and courage, she is not afraid to go back and die in her homeland for she knew that there are a lot of people that love her and can take care of her specially those whom she supported financially for their school expenses and education.

As a domestic helper in the U.S, she is proud to have helped two family members in their college education: one earning a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications, and the other Bachelors' Degree in Nursing. Now she beamingly smiles every time she recalls how her hard earned dollars prior to receiving them from her employer as already earmarked for a particular family who may have lost a house due to typhoon or who simply needs financial assistance. She is also counting support in the Philippines from those people and families whom she had sent balikbayan boxes full of goodies from the United States.

The National of Institute of Health doctors whom she was given free treatment under their medical trial programs gave her few months to live as her breast cancer has reached the end stage and all treatments possible given. But she faced this impending death with courage and bravado for she has shown deep faith in God always saying:" Diyos lang ang makakapagsabi kung kailan ako mamatay."

Nelia Holgado during her last few days in the United States is very thankful to the MIGRANT HERITAGE COMMISSION and all other individuals and organizations in the Washington DC area who helped her emotionally and financially . She was not ashamed to admit that she wanted to go home for the remaining days of her life and be with her family and that she has no money and no savings for she was unemployed during her cancer treatment. She prayed to God for help and she smiles when she intimated in mixed English/Tagalog at the St. Michael's event that: " I did not know that there is an organization like the MIGRANT HERITAGE COMMISSION who provides services to people like me even if they do not know me and that there are individuals in our community who have shown the sincerity to help their fellow Filipinos in dire need." At the 26 January's despedida, Nelia said "I hope that you continue your good deeds. I may not be able to repay you but God in her own ways will surely bless and help all of you."

Atty. Arnedo S. Valera Co-Executive Director of the MIGRANT HERITAGE COMMISSION thanked Nelia for the opportunity to serve her in the best way they can. "You are our inspiration and our model . For you have shown us the true meaning of respect for the dignity of every human being and the dignity of labor". Your life and the sacrifices you have made to give a better life to your family in the Philippines is the kind of heroism that symbolizes Filipino Diaspora all over the world , Valera said. "Through the MHC's Overseas Migrant Fund Program , we once more have shown that a concerned and united community can effectively respond to these types of dire situations affecting the Filipino migrants in the United States." Rendering services to the migrants, no more no less is a very challenging undertaking. Sincerity and full commitment will always be the guiding principles of the Migrant Heritage Commission. "TULUNGAN, DAMAYAN, KAPATIRAN" iyan ang pamantayan na dapat nating gabay sa pagtulong sa Migranteng Pilipino sa Amerika".

Ms. Grace Valera Jaramillo and Mr. Jesse A. Gatchalian, Co-Executive Directors of the Migrant Heritage Commission together with various community leaders presented Nelia a Certificate of Recognition attesting to her significant contribution to the Philippine Economy and to her family in the Philippines. MHC also announced the launching of MHC's 1-888-MHC-ll96 hotline for those who may need the services of the MIGRANT HERITAGE COMMISSION through its various programs.

The MHC and various community organizations and individuals representing the Fil-Am community in this emotionally filled occasion handed their fund-raising collections to our teary eyed Kababayan. The 3 fundraising occasions (Filipjno mass, dinner/dance, salu-salo) with the Fil-am Community allowed Nelia to spend her last week in the U.S. with mixed feelings of elation and sadness. She can hardly believe the overwhelming outpour of love and care from her kababayans who did not know even her at all and yet were more than generous to give her that much needed financial aid and moral support.

To Nelia's surprise, her close friends in the El Shaddai Charismatic group of St. Stephen gave her a final salvo of praise songs and blessings in her apartment which she shares with 4 other Filipino migrants. A volunteer from MHC and Mabuhay Inc,, Mr. Manny Lopez, Jr., took photos of her final sojourn with her friends and the Fil-Am community for this final week in the U.S. All these beautiful memories she will bring home and treasure for the rest of her life.

Among the many organizations/businesses who responded warmly and energetically to the MHC organized fund-raising events for Nelia were the Fil-Am Ministry and Mother Butler's Guild of St. Michael in Silver Spring,Mabuhay Inc., Alpha-Phi Omega Phils. District of Columbia Alumni Association (APODCAA), Filipino Community of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington D.C., Ilocandia Association, Boholanos of Greater Washington DC (BOGWAS), North Star Catering, Day-by-Day Christian Ministry, Mother Butler's Guild of St. Mary's in Rockville, El Shaddai Charismatic Group of St. Stephen in Washington D.C., BIMAK, Circulo Pampagueno, Ang Bulakenyos, Novo Ecijano Ass'n, Joy in the Spirit of the Lord Prayer Group in Baltimore, Association of Philippine Physicians in America (APPA), Metlife Securities, Philippine National Bank (PNB), Law Offices of Valera & Associates, Ang Bisaya Inc., Philippine-American Foundation for Charities, Inc. (PAFC), Ilocano Society of America (ISA), Alpha Travel, Professional HealthCare Resources, Philippine-American Community Partnership Foundation, Crystal Gardens Assisted Living, PMA, PNA, ABS-CBN News, Manila Mail and Pinoy Chronicle. DJ Jojo Baldonado also volunteered his services for free in one of the fundraising occasions.

Through arrangements made by Ms. Bing Branigin, the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) Chairman, Senator Richard J. Gordon, is meeting Nelia Holgado upon her arrival at the NAIA, Tuesday night. PNRC pledged to take care of Nelia Holgado's medical needs in the Philippines.

A great smile on her face as Nelia Holgado meekly accepts from the Advisers of the Migrant Heritage Commission, former Philippine Embassy official Grace Valera-Jaramillo and Businessman Carl Abella, the donation of the Fil-Am community of approximately US $ 2,400.00 raised during that night of Salu-Salo despedida at the North Star in Maryland on 26 January 2007. Within a week of campaign, a total amount of almost US $ 6,500.00.00 (including plane fare from her former employer ) was raised by the Filipino community prior to her departure.

It was an endless photo session with Nelia Holgado as various Fil-Am groups took turns in having a photo with her.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Gordon to Comelec: We're fighting a war on poll cheating, act fast!

Gordon to Comelec: We're fighting a war on poll cheating, act fast!

Senator Richard Gordon criticized the Commission on Elections
(COMELEC) for system particularly in the implementation of automated
elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) polls.

"We are fighting a war on electoral fraud. To fight a war, we have
to act fast, and act decisively or else we will lose. Our people will
lose. Automated elections should be working by now," said Gordon.

He said that time is running out for computerizing the ARMM
elections and everybody is talking about the 2010 national elections,
but the Comelec hasn't even started cleaning up the mess it has made
of the last elections. "How can we talk about who's going to be
president when we cannot fix how they are elected in the position?,"
Gordon asked.

"We want to end cheating in elections. If we do not modernize our
electoral system now, will we wait until 2013? Until 2016? How long
will it take? If we don't fix this now, people will always question
the elections," the senator explained.

Gordon emphasized that computerizing ARMM in August is vital in
rebuilding the credibility in the nation's democratic system and
empowering the people to choose their leaders.

"The Filipino people will be the big losers here. The Comelec is not
working and instead seems to be delaying the Automated Elections
System for 10 years running. We need to drag Comelec kicking and
screaming out of its tarnished ivory tower to put the law to work," he

Gordon feared that 'we will never have a stable political system.
There will always be winners in an election, but until we provide a
good automated system, the winners will always be questioned."

Gordon is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional
Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, as well as the principal
author in the Senate of the Automated Elections bill. Under the
approved bill, full automation of the elections nationwide would be
implemented in the 2010 national and local elections.

Earlier the senator cited COMELEC's track record of incompetence,
with the botched billion-peso voters ID project, the 1.3 billion peso
MegaPacific deal struck down by the Supreme Court – for which the
COMELEC is still incurring massive expense and has yet to follow the
Supreme Court's instructions to get its money back, the Hello Garci
scandal, and most recently, the involvement of then Chair Abalos in
the ZTE Broadband Deal. --30--

Monday, January 21, 2008

Gordon slams Erap intimidation

(Estrada's recent statement saying that it takes Php 5 Billion to win the Presidency should have galled millions of Filipinos because it indicates the kind of thinking that puts pesos and power before principles. What Estrada is saying is that Elections are bought (one way or the other) and that the ballot box is nothing more than a suggestion box in the eyes of the rich, influential, and powerful. Estrada is saying that your vote doesn't count and that YOU don't count. Estrada is saying that the only thing that matters is money... One question that lies at the heart of the 2010 Elections is whether or not we will vote for the likes of Villar (Php20 Billion) or Roxas (Php 5 Billion) on the basis of their ability to move billions of pesos? Both Villar and Roxas are said to be courting Estrada's favor and are angling to be endorsed as the opposition standard bearer -- whose opposition, however, has yet to be determined. In any case, there is only one candidate who is running on the basis of being the only real leader in the current crop of Presidential candidates and his track record speaks of a brand of leadership that moves people towards achieving great transformations... That's Richard Gordon.)

Gordon slams Erap intimidation
Senator Dick Gordon has slammed Erap Estrada's claim that presidential candidates for the 2010 elections must spend 5billion pesos to win and accused the disgraced former president of intimidation and stifling people's demand for honest government.

Says Gordon: "His message to the Filipino people is that only the rich can win, only the rich can be allowed to win. We are hearing this from a convicted plunderer. He is intimidating Filipino voters, intimidating candidates who aren't rich. He is telling Filipinos to measure a potential president by the size of his pockets alone. He wants Filipinos to elect people who will use their money to win, then use regulatory capture to make themselves even richer, to stifle growth, justice and equity in this country and keep it in the hands of the few. His politics are the politics of the wealthy, not politics of the people."

Gordon again emphasized: "What matters is a candidate's platform, their integrity, transparency, vision and commitment to the welfare of the people, not whether they are rich or not. Do they just dole out cash and keep the people as servants beggars, or does he empower them to make a future for their community, for their family, for themselves? To make that decision all you have to do is look at the candidate's track record: has he empowered people to take charge of their own lives? Has he uplifted and enobled the masses? Has he demonstrated that he has the ability to think out of the box, to find solutions and act on them."

He highlighted the recent downgrading of the Philippines as a free country by an international watchdog, in part because of the pardon given to Estrada. "That sent a message that the rich stick together regardless of the demands of justice. How can we honestly call ourselves a free country when a convicted plunderer, who's only track record is stealing from the Filipino people, gets pardoned for the sake of political convenience? Our people deserve better."

Concludes Gordon: "If we only choose to elect the rich and connected, our people will be condemned to find their fortunes outside out country, we will continue to bleed our brightest and our best to benefit other countries. If we want our nation to be the best, we must elect the bes

Palace choice to Comelec to go ‘through eye of needle’

Palace choice to Comelec to go ‘through eye of needle’
By Veronica Uy
First Posted 16:11:00 01/17/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Senator Richard Gordon vowed Thursday to make Malacañang’s choice to chair the Commission on Elections (Comelec) “pass through the eye of a needle” to get back at the Palace’s secrecy over the shortlist of nominees to head the poll body.

“[The nominee] will pass through the eye of a needle...Malacanang’s continued refusal to heed the public’s clamor for transparency in choosing the people who should pursue electoral reforms and modernized elections only creates more controversy,” Gordon, a member of the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA), said.

Malacañang has refused to reveal the shortlist of five nominees to replace resigned Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. that was submitted by a search committee to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Abalos resigned last year after being accused of allegedly brokering the since-then scrapped national broadband network contract with China’s ZTE Corp.

Aside from Abalos, two more vacancies are expected this year when commissioners Resureccion Borra, now acting chairman, and Florentino Tuason retire. This will bring the total number of vacant Comelec seats to four.

But Gordon said “there is no need to fear that the shortlist of nominees, once divulged, will be politicized. If the chosen nominee is deserves to lead, Malacañang should have nothing to worry.”

Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on Constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws, also emphasized that the CA will reject the nomination of any Palace appointee found incompetent to head the Comelec.

He said the ability to implement the Automated Election Law (AES) for computerized voting and canvassing should be a key criterion in selecting a replacement for Abalos.

Earlier, Gordon, who has been batting for automated elections and other electoral reforms, called on the Arroyo to be transparent in filling up the vacancies in the Comelec and urged the Palace-created search committee to make its shortlist of nominees public.

Gordon wants nominees to Comelec publicized

Gordon wants nominees to Comelec publicized

By Fel V. Maragay

Senator Richard Gordon said yesterday he saw no harm if the five nominees to the chairmanship of the Commission on Elections will be revealed in response to the call of various sectors for transparency in the selection process.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, said the administration is hurting from apprehensions that somebody outside the list may be appointed as Comelec head to replace Benjamin Abalos.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye confirmed that the list is now with President Arroyo. But he said it could not be publicly divulged without her clearance.

Comelec said the list of nominees should be kept under wraps to keep the process from being politicized.

But Gordon countered that Malacañang was fanning the controversy with its continued refusal to heed the public clamor for transparency in choosing the people who should pursue electoral reforms. “There is no need to fear that short list, once divulged, will be politicized if the chosen nominee deserves to lead. Malacañang should have nothing to worry.”

Despite the Palace’s no-disclosure policy, the search committee claimed that the following have made it to the list—retired Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo, former Justice Secretary Artemio Tuquero, chief state prosecutor Jovencito Zuño, Legal Network for Truthful Elections convenor Carlos Medina and former Court of Appeals Justice Raul Victorino.

Gordon vowed that he would see to it that the person picked out by the President as next Comelec chairman should pass through the proverbial eye of the needle before the Commission on Appointments.

As member of the CA, he said he would scrutinize the credentials and qualifications of the incoming Comelec chairman so that all the information that was denied to the public by the Palace would come out.

Gordon emphasized that the CA will reject the nomination of any appointed Comelec chairman found to have fallen short of qualifications. He said the ability to implement the Automated Election Law should be a key criterion in assessing the competence of the appointee.

Harrah's Considering Subic Bay For Major Casino Project

Harrah's Considering Subic Bay For Major Casino Project
January 17, 2008 10:54 a.m. EST

Joseph Dela Cruz - AHN News Writer

Manila, Philippines (AHN) - Harrah's Entertainment Inc., the world's biggest casino operator, is meeting officials from the Philippines for the second time next month to seriously look into the possibility of putting up a multi-billion dollar gaming project inside the Subic Bay Freeport and Special Economic Zone (SBFSEZ).

Senator Richard Gordon, who was a former Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman, told reporters in an interview recently that the idea is to help the Freeport area become attractive to gambling tourists coming from the Asia-Pacific Region.

Gordon said the Philippines should take advantage of Harrah's future plan to expand in the region since it could no longer locate in Singapore or Macau where the issuance of casino licenses is limited to existing operators.

In Macau, there were three licenses issued plus another three sub-licenses, while the Singapore government has only allowed the presence of two operators, Gordon explained.

With world-class casino operators such as Hannah's doing operations in the Philippines, the whole of Subic including Clark could easily become a top tourist destination especially with the presence of three airports and two seaports.

According to Gordon, he has already talked to top executives of Harrah's to discuss the prospects of Subic as its most ideal site for expansion in the region. He said prospects were good but another follow-up meeting may be needed to finally lure the company.

He said he is scheduled to leave for Las Vegas next month to meet some of the company's executives.

SBMA administrator Armand Arreza, in the same interview, said inviting world-class casino operators to do business inside the Freeport area is in line with the government's plan to develop casino resorts either within the zone or outside Subic where the same fiscal incentives will also be offered to interested parties.

Harrah's operates eight luxury casino hotels in Las Vegas and manages 40 casinos in three countries. The company is led by Philip Satre and Gar Loveman.

In December 2006, Harrah's entered a $17 billion buyout offer from private equity firms Apollo management and Texas Pacific Group. It went public in 1971 and acquired Holiday Inn in 1980.

Other acquisitions include Rio Hotel and Casino, Inc. in 1999 for $888 million; Caesars Entertainment, Inc. (Bally's Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Paris) for $5.2 billion. Ceasar's was the casino spin-off of Hilton Hotels; It has bought the Horseshoe brand name when it purchased Horseshoe Gaming Holding Co. until 2005 when it sold the casino to MTR; bought the Imperial Palace in 2005 for $370 million.

Saturday, January 5, 2008



A Covenant for a New Philippines

We live in a time of crisis and confusion. We seem to have lost our way as a people and as a nation in this prolonged season of economic challenges and political rancor.

Fear and helplessness have led many citizens to become inured to corruption and injustice. Despair has driven many to hard and lonely work abroad. Many Filipinos no longer feel that they have a voice and a stake in the nation and its future.

We cannot long survive—much less prosper—on this path to self-destruction. We cannot lurch from one scandal and one rebellion to another, and expect to achieve our destiny as a modern, just, and progressive nation.

We need change on all levels of society – not just of men, but in men. We need a far-reaching and all-embracing vision; we need a genuine cause for hope; we need proven and inspiring leadership.

And above all, we need to think, to feel, and to act once again as one nation with one destiny, building on both our brightest prospects for the future and on the noblest traditions of our history.

More than four centuries ago, the great chief Rajah Sulayman led his people out of their old embattled Maynilad to a new settlement they called “Bagumbayan”—a new town, a fresh beginning. For Jose Rizal, Bagumbayan was not only the place of his own heroic martyrdom, but the very home and spirit of his dream of a free and prosperous Philippines. And before him, Fathers Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora shed their blood on that same hallowed ground in the name of freedom and democracy.

We now invoke that spirit in our quest of an even newer Bagumbayan—the 21st century Philippines our heroes could only have dreamt of, but which our people have long deserved and which we can yet build.

Bagumbayan is no longer just a place. It is we, the Filipino people, and all that we dream of being and becoming as a nation. And if it is to be, then we must make it happen.

Today, fortified by an abiding faith in God and in the Filipino, we pledge ourselves and join together in this Covenant for a New Philippines—one founded on moral courage, not political expediency; on the rule of law, not of brute power and feudal privilege; on inclusiveness and social justice, not protection for a few; on enterprise and industry, not handouts and quick profit; on education and skills development, not mendicancy and fortune-seeking.

We commit ourselves to finding and supporting new Filipino leaders—men and women with the vision, integrity, and competence to lead us to another Bagumbayan, our new Rajah Sulaymans, Gomburzas, and Rizals. And like these heroes, we shall not fear to do what is right and to break new ground—to value ideas over money, principles over popularity.

All of us who share this dream must courageously face the challenges of our times. Thus, in this act of union and cooperation, we declare:

First, that we must be RESPONSIBLE for ourselves, for our fellow Filipinos, and for our country. We must change our attitudes, and transform ourselves to become horizon-chasers with duty, dignity, and determination;

Second, that we can REINVENT GOVERNMENT to faithfully perform its prime duty to serve and protect the people;

Third, that we can fortify LAW AND ORDER through self-discipline, vigilance, and respect for the rule of law;

Fourth, that we can build a STRONG AND GROWING ECONOMY if we all work, save, and invest in order to prosper;

Fifth, that we must prioritize EDUCATION as the key to national development to compete and lead in the new global economy;

Sixth, that we must provide adequate access to HEALTH CARE for all our people, especially the needy;

Seventh, that we must create JOBS for our people, so that they will not need to seek their fortunes abroad, but rather devote their talents directly to their country and their families;

Eighth, that we must assist our people in securing decent HOMES to live in and LAND to work and build on, so they can be dignified and productive citizens;

Ninth, that we must strengthen and reinforce the FAMILY as the foundation of our nation to develop proper values and virtues in individuals and build solid character; and

Tenth, that we must protect and preserve the ENVIRONMENT for our posterity.

We must have the Vision grounded on Values and empowered by Volunteerism to achieve Victory. These are the ideals upon which we lay the foundation of our movement for change. We are the instruments of a movement dedicated to transform the Philippines into a Bagumbayan, a new Philippines.

We invite every patriotic Filipino to join us in this shared struggle. Let us embark together on this grand mission to reclaim, rebuild, and reconsecrate what Rizal—111 years ago today—bid farewell to as “our Eden lost,” but which remains our birthright and our redemption: Bagumbayan.

Where our heroes have fallen, there shall we rise, reborn.

To these noble ends and principles, we hereby affix our names and signatures this 30th day of December, 2007.