I mean this blog to be the repository of my commentaries during my 16-year stay in San Diego, California where I published my own newspapers. The articles reflected the times and circumstances when they were written. They have an immense historical value if only for the fact that they serve as records of those valuable moments.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Remembering 9/11: Triumph of the Human Spirit

Pictures of those who died on 9/11 in New York's World Trade Center are arranged to form a huge collage that resembles the American flag. (All photos by Romy Marquez in New York City, 9.11.05).

Visiting the Sacred Spot Called 'Ground Zero'


NEW YORK CITY - Bent but unbowed, the human spirit soared higher than the world's tallest buildings put together, ever more determined to overcome the terrorist attacks that have rallied a nation than sundered it.

Nowhere else is that much evident except at the very scene of the horrific tragedy itself - at Ground Zero in New York City's Lower Manhattan district.

The pain and grief have somewhat subsided among the hundreds of families whose kins perished in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, only to be taken over by a firm resolve to reign triumphant over man's worst adversaries.

Where once stood the World Trade Center's Twin Towers is now an open pit hallowed by the flesh and blood of 2,749 people, among them Filipinos, who died a gory death in the horrendous crash of two planes that levelled the North and South towers to the ground.

A makeshift cross from steel gathered from the ruins of the Twin Towers.
"All we are is dust in the wind" - as the song goes - is an apt description of what had become of the many lives snuffed out in an instant.

But the dust is of the martyred ones and the invisible spirit that makes it soar is of those who perished, whose survivors come to Ground Zero in celebration of their lives and times.

From among the thousands - relatives, friends, tourists and plain kibitzers - who thronged here, tears flowed out incessantly today, Sept. 11, 2005, as reminders of the attacks hovered everywhere in New York City and beyond, enriching the sanctity of Ground Zero as an unexpected burial ground.

Bells pealed, taps sounded and the eerie moments of silence called four times - at 8:46, 9:03, 9:59 and 10:29 a.m. marking the times the planes slammed the edifice and the times they collapsed - was punctured only by sobs and the sound of clasping hands.

Among those in the multitude were the families and kins of Filipino vicims who were either passengers of the planes or employees working at the Twin Towers.

A timeline of all the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

                                                                 * * *
Details of the events on Sept. 11, 2001 in New York and Washington, D.C.

Time heals.
 But for three Filipino families, the pain and anguish over the loss of loved ones in the horrific Sept. 11, 2001 attacks remain intact.

For Renee Gamboa, a medical doctor, the event was a grim reminder of a promise her only son had been unble to redeem.

"I'll be back in two weeks," Dr. Gamboa recounts Ronald Gamboa as telling her over the phone a week before the catastrophic day.

Ronald had gone on vacation in Boston and was on his way back to Los Angeles with his three-year-old adopted son, David, aboard the United Airlines plane.

In the phone conversation, Ronald was reassuring her that he would be just in time for the 38th wedding anniversary that Dr. Gamboa and husband Ranulfo, also a medical doctor, had prepared at their residence in Louisville, Kentucky.

That brief talk proved to be the last that Dr. Gamboad had with him.

Ronald and David both died that September morning four years go.

"I wish they (the authorities) would have known it (the attack). There were warnings not listened to," Dr. Gamboa said.

                             * * *

Cielita Peralta remembers her son, Carl Peralta, as a conscientious employee who worked diligently at Cantor Fitzgerald as an investment broker.

Carl, 37 and single, had his office at the 104th floor of the 110-storey World Trade Center's North Tower, almost at the bullseye of the plane that had slammed the building.

He had three other siblings, namely, Cielo, Oskar and Judy.

Cielita's husband, Oscar, and the entire family who live in New York's Staten Island, paid their respects at Ground Zero.

Unlike many of the grief-stricken families, the Peraltas managed a smile during the brief interview.
 The former Quezon City, Philippines residents said they don't have any complaints about how the government responded to the crisis during the initial months.

Ciellita took note, however, of a plan to construct in Ground Zero an International Freedom Center as a museum documenting man's atrocities against humankind.

She shared the sentiments of other people tha the proposed project as intended as a tourist destination.

Asked about the government compensation, Cielita quipped: "Hindi mabibili ang buhay. Ang iba nga diyan, pag namatay, patay lang! Hindi na ako magre-reklamo".

New York City without the Twin Towers as viewed from Ellis Island.

                                                           * * *

The 50-year-old Hector Tamayo worked as a project engineer at the WTC's South Tower.

He was among those who died in the attacks.

A native of Aklan in the Philippines, Tamayo lived in New York for the last 20 years.

"His memory stays with us forever," says Kevin Nadal, a nephew.

Tamayo left behind a wife and two kids who were too shy to be interviewed. The family, however, obliged to be photographed for the Philippine Village Voice.

The New York Stock Exchange on Wall St.

(This story was originally published in the October 2005 issue of the Philippine Village Voice in San Diego, California and in other print and online publications in San Francisco and Los Angeles. By Romy Marquez).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Is NaFFAA Already Dead or Still Dying?

Editor's note: A year has gone and the many questions posed to officials in 2009 are still awaiting answers. In the hope of finding some new information, we turned to its website. Not helpful either. From the last time we visited last year, the sections and pages were under construction, explaining that "our website is being updated". Well, as of today (Sept. 2, 2010) the same rejoinder is there: "Our website is being updated, please be patient while we make some changes." The "changes" don't seem to be forthcoming. "The die is cast" on NaFFAA. Or is it already dead?
With NaFFAA in dire straits, Greg Macabenta could hardly smile.

- The self-anointed "voice" of Filipinos and Filipino Americans across the United States is reeling under, so admits its top official in what may be a distress call to members and officers. The candid admission could be a dire warning of worst things to come. The well from which it draws sustenance appears to be drying up, mostly because of a combination of factors, including involvement in monetary scandals, dwindling public and corporate support due to widespread perceptions of improprieties, absence of accountability and lack of transparency. The happy days of frolicking from one choice city to another seems to be coming to an end for the paper-giant called the NaFFAA or National Federation of Filipino American Associations. Its demise may just be a matter of time.

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Will NaFFAA Survive to Be the 'Voice' For Filipinos in America?

Member, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) and Asian-American Journalists Association (AAJA).

SAN DIEGO - The much-vaunted but largely inutile "giant" of America's Filipino community organizations appears to be limping its way to extinction, no thanks to several money scandals it's currently embroiled in and a drying well of public and corporate support.

On the brink of bankruptcy or already bankrupt, NaFFAA or the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, which loops a claimed 500 member-organizations into its fold, is on tethers, a victim of the recession and shrinking financial assistance.

"Our funds have begun to run very low for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the scarcity of corporate funds," said Greg B. Macabenta, NaFFAA national chair, as he urged members to pay up dues while bewailing the difficulty of having a quorum for their telemeetings.

Macabenta didn't say how much money NaFFAA was surviving on and for how long it could manage to stay afloat, nor did he say how flat broke it was. When asked, he did not respond to queries from this reporter.

This is the first time that an official of the federation has publicly acknowledged dwindling support from traditional sources -- a fact attributed by its staunchest critic, journalist Bobby Reyes of Los Angeles, to perceptions of financial improprieties and lack of accountability and transparency.

 The most-recent transaction that put NaFFAA under minute scrutiny involved a community organization in San Jose which had allocated huge sums of taxpayers money to fund NaFFAA's conference in that Northern California city.

The deal -- Reyes dubbed it "Menorgate" (from community organizer Ben Menor) -- generated several lawsuits and highlighted the lingering suspicion of wrongdoing by NaFFAA's top officials.

"There is one urgent matter that needs to be attended to by all the regions and I appeal to the regional chairs to attend to it immediately. This is the matter of membership dues," Macabenta wrote in a letter dated August 5.

His statement reflected the ongoing hard times, a far cry from the heady days when big business, politicians and other favor-seekers showered it with largesse in hopes of capturing a huge market of voters and consumers it bragged to represent.

Its "global" conferences were no more than public boasts of its vaunted strength as "the Voice of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans throughout the United States" and an avenue to network with corporate sponsors and individuals wishing to do business with an estimated four-million Filipino Americans with a spending power of about $80 billion.

When the NaFFAA articulates a position on pressing issues, the "voice" becomes a mild echo of a few, the sound so narrowly limited to its own box of ill-defined concerns. One example was the fight for equity for Filipino veterans where it cast its support with a group led by a lobbyist denounced by a San Diego congressman as a scam artist.

Reyes has been keeping track of NaFFAA's movements, particularly of its unpublished financial outlays, since it was founded in 1997 by newspaper publisher/editor Alex Esclamado and some friends.

"The NaFFAA used to receive donations in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from major foundations such as the Bank of America (BA) and Wells Fargo Bank (WFB) but hints of financial impropriety ended the grants," according to Reyes.

"For instance, the Wells Fargo Foundation gave the NaFFAA $300,000 in 2002. The grant was secured by Greg Macabenta, then a NaFFAA national executive officer, whose company, the Minority Media, was paid commissions that were not reflected in the NaFFAA financial statement for 2002," Reyes wrote in his top-rated MabuhayRadio.com website.

As of this writing, Macabenta, who owns two publications and an advertising company based in Daly City in Northern California, has not responded to questions emailed to him.

In a published statement, however, Macabenta implored his officers and members, thus: "Because of the hard times, we need to hunker down and focus on our bedrock objectives, namely, the continued survival of NaFFAA and the continuation of our mission of advocacy, within our means."

To dramatize the financial ill-health of the federation, Macabenta said it had to downsize its office in Washington, DC "to a room at the ACA building". "We have been unable to pay our office rent," he stressed, and "also need to cover our payables to our administrative assistant, Les Talusan, as well as utilities".

A regional chair, Ed Navarra, wrote in exasperation: "Maybe Greg (Macabenta) should hold a press conference and announce that NaFFAA be dissolved! It will be a wake up call, wouldn't it?"

The federation's money troubles were graphically illustrated in the case of its former executive director, Doy Heredia, during the time of Macabenta's predecessor, Alma Q. Kern, of Seattle, Washington.

A NaFFAA co-founder in Philadelphia, Ernesto Gange, narrated how Heredia struck a deal with another former NaFFAA chair, Loida Nicolas Lewis, to recover wages totalling $20,000 that had not been paid by NaFFAA.

"Doy (Heredia) contacted Loida about his unpaid salaries. Loida proposed to Doy, and he agreed, that Loida will pay him $20,000, to settle the whole account, and forget the difference. Loida paid Doy the sum of $10,000 down money and she paid the balance of $10,000, a few months later," Gange wrote.

From Gange's email, it seems quite evident that efforts to expand NaFFAA's membership base and increase collection were not so eagerly pursued.

"I suspect that in the previous years," Gange said, "the Executive Director (Heredia) did not go out and raise money and collect the memberships dues (was) because he was dependent on Loida.

"It was Doy who told us in Seattle, that, when the national office is low in cash, he just called Loida and the bills were paid. The ex-o did nothing to get the membership involved because he did not need them then, as long as Loida paid him, it is okay," he added.

The NaFFAA maintains a physical presence in Washington, DC, to lobby and project an image of bigness as the sole unifying entity representing the many disparate organizations in Filipino American communities.

Its ambitious goal to get all Filipinos together under one huge umbrella has remained elusive largely because of leadership problems.

Now that NaFFAA has fallen on hard times, the questions that require immediate answers are: will it recover from widespread distrusts and survive the lean economic situation?

"For a public organization to survive, one needs The Community to be informed and to be involved (a national organization is not just made up of a few select group of people)," said Dr. Joy Bruce, a former regional chair and a popular community leader in Florida who runs the non-profit National Alliance to Nurture the Aged and the Youth (NANAY), an active member of NaFFAA since 1998.

She continues: "The members need to feel that they belong, that they are listened to, that there are benefits attached to membership, that they are making a difference, that they can connect, that they have the power to transform-- and that they are not ostracized just because they happen to disagree with the authority or the national officers".

Indeed, explained Reyes, "One does not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what went wrong with the NaFFAA.

"When many of its national executive officers refused to do the tenets of accountability and transparency," Reyes adds, "corporate and individual donors stopped giving good money after bad. And Filipino Americans started to treat the NaFFAA as if it were the plague."

Concludes Dr. Bruce: "NaFFAA has had long-standing problems that never seemed to be resolved, because the solutions applied have always been the same, only packaged in a different way.

"Perhaps it is time to look at NaFFAA in a different light now, and make it more pro-active, more practical, and more community-friendly".

(This article was originally published in the Philippine Village Voice in San Diego and the website MabuhayRadio.com based in Los Angeles, California in August 2009.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Edna Concepcion's Dog and Pony Show

Cast of characters: From top left: Edna Concepcion, husband Dante Concepcion, Marilyn C. Mesina and Rea Concepcion. Second row, from left, Priscilla Garrovillas, Rudy Liporada, Rita Andrews and Betty Bael. (All photos by Romy Marquez except Bael's which was lifted from her website).

- Edna Consing Concepcion's tall tales came tumbling down and with the wreck, her honesty and integrity also splintered. She testified to her own lies in a court of law, perhaps little realizing she wasn't in a dog and pony show that's popular in the Filipino community. Edna, a noted figure in the Filipino community, claims to have founded a few community organizations, including the Philippine American Business Improvement District which exists mostly in her imagination.

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Edna's Dog and Pony Show

SAN DIEGO - "Mga walanghiya!", Edna Consing Concepcion barked as my brother and I walked past her, husband Dante and daughter Rea on our way to the vehicle in the sprawling parking lot just across from the three-storey structure housing South County's Superior Court in Chula Vista.

The scene was surrealistic. A few minutes earlier, she had exposed her fears to Judge Laura J. Birkmeyer: "I fear that he will . . . possibly harm me". Maybe it's my towering six-foot hulk that had frightened her tiny self. At this moment, however, she threw all caution to the wind. Bristling with anger, she aggressively pursued me.

It was quite a reversal, a far cry from her friendly demeanor. About 10 months ago, the Concepcion family had praised me in this wise: "A man of conviction you are, Romy. Thank you for showing and living it. Proud of you . . ." The card was signed by her, Dante, Rea, Darrell and Marilyn.

Nothing much has changed since. I am still my old self, still standing by the same principles that continue to attract both plaudits and contempt in the community. But Edna is rescinding her approbation in a fiery outburst of hatred.

Her changing behavior, blowing hot and cold when the season is ripe for it or when she's throwing tantrums, is the best characterization of her. Prim and proper as the Belgian nuns at St. Theresa's College, her alma mater, in Manila always reminded them to be she's not. Not today.

Unsure and insecure, she always surrounds herself with dutiful friends. It amazes me how she could rein them in like a shepherd would a herd of goats. Perhaps it's her sweet-talking ways that make bullshit sound like genuine platitudes, hence they oblige her.

This building houses the Superior Court of California on Third Avenue and H Street in Chula Vista. (Image lifted from the website of San Diego Jail Bail Bond Company).

Well, today (Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007) Edna tried to bullshit her way into the Superior Court of California, bringing with her a collection of characters, thought-less jesters and kibitzers who could hardly qualify, in her own words, as "prominent" members of the community.

"Inconsequential" would be a better adjective. But if "prominent" meant involvement in scandals, then Edna was right.

There's Rita Andrews, president of COPAO, whose smirk had worsened to a permanent frown after $27,000 had disappeared and 50 checks had been forged in COPAO. I caught a glimpse of her laughing loudly, her mouth wide open in delight.

Priscilla "Precy" Garrovillas alias Purry Garavillar, the former COPAO secretary who made good money in COPAO alternating between her two identities, was there too, except that I don't know under what false name she came in. Wearing polka dots, she must have thought that the event would bring in more money for her, as some sage say.

There's Rudy Liporada, the self-described  "publishing morass"  who came without  the indescribable thing (perhaps a bag of water) on top of his seemingly sick head. He's the gay, err, I mean guy, who had tried to purloin a community newspaper in Oxnard and brought it to San Diego. "Kupitbahay", I might as well call the paper. He must be under the impression that he was attending a cookfest to promote his kitchen utensils except that his backers from Kalusugan Community Services were not there.

Present, too, was Beatrice "Betty" Bael, the wife of former Philippine Consul General Edwin Bael whose employers -- Philip Abramowitz, Daniel E. Korenberg and Steven James Rodriguez -- had pleaded guilty to charges related to visa fraud scheme that victimized their clients and are scheduled to be sentenced in December and January.

Incidentally, Edna calls Betty Bael  "THE goddess of fine art". I don't know what it was for or if it's a BS, Bael can explain it, but the praise assured her attendance in Edna's events. I just hope the glorification would not make Roman and Greek goddesses any cheaper.

Tony Pizarro made it to the hearing but left hurriedly before it started, probably after realizing that he was being used as one of the props in Edna's debut as director, choreographer and main character actress in this presentation. 

And, of course, Edna's husband Dante, daughter Rea and the Concepcions'  sympathetic roomer Marilyn C. Mesina who looked like they were soaked for days in Datu Puti vinegar. There were two others whose names escaped me.

All of them crowded the cramp sala of Judge Birkmeyer. They giggled and talked endlessly until the judge walked in and the burly sheriff deputy called for order. Promptly, the judge proceeded with the day's business. Almost an hour later, it was our turn, Edna's and myself.

Edna had filed for a restraining order basically to stop me from writing any more stories about her beloved baby, the organization called Philippine American Business Improvement Districts (PhilAm BID) which zoomed to consciousness for its questionable deals with the giant Microsoft Corp.

She had found the time to go through all the trouble of petitioning the court but not the few moments to answer my questions relating to PhilAm BID. For example, how Microsoft ended up being a PhilAm BID member with a $5,000 donation instead of the regular $2,000 fee.

Her plea did not worry me that much. Simply stated, it had no basis in fact and in truth. Rather, it's her effrontery to spin egregious lies and elevate them to a court of law, essentially mocking the entire justice system. That's what goaded me to fight it.

Edna had narrated incidents where I supposedly stalked, harassed and threatened her. The weeks I visited Chicago in July and enjoyed chatting with friends over cups of coffee were also mentioned by Edna. I didn't tell her I was out of state at that time because I wanted to catch her lies.

At the hearing, she must have thought that she was attending a meeting of COPAO or some other organization. She was parading her supporters and was already introducing her husband as blah blah blah when the judge stopped her. All the judge wanted to know was the number of witnesses she would present.

Then Edna proceeded in her testimony, embellishing and fantasizing events that never happened. She was hallucinating, to be more accurate; acting out parts, groping for consistency. I thought for a moment that her medical treatment had impacted her mentally or how else to explain the brazen lies and the fabricated stories?

The moment of truth soon came when daughter Rea took the witness stand. She was on the verge of tears and occasionally wiped her eyes dry. 

Before she told her story, she reminded her mother (Edna) that she had taught her to be honest and truthful and that she had faith that Edna's court declarations were true. So even if she repeated them at this hearing, she would not be lying because her mother had told her truth.

But Edna was not only dishonest; she invented the stories that I stalked, harassed and threatened her. Rea was caught in a dilemma. She wanted to help her mother but at the same time, she did not want to lie. What parent would encourage a child to forsake the truth?

Marilyn Mesina was in the same predicament. Hostage to Edna because she lived in her house in Chula Vista, Marilyn had very little choice but to uphold some of Edna's testimony.

In the end, Marilyn told the judge "I wouldn't say so" when she was asked if she had observed me stalked Edna, much less heard me threatened her. It was just her feeling, she said, that someone seemed to be following Edna around.

It didn't take long for Judge Birkmeyer to see the truth. It was obvious that Edna was weaving tales, falsehoods, even saying she was a "recovering from cancer" patient to win sympathy and showing off her squad of supporters to say she enjoyed popular support. 

It all failed. The judge denied her petition.

Indeed, Judge Birkmeyer was no pushover. Neither was she easily mesmerized by a parade of questionable personalities who gave life to what may be rightfully called Edna's dog and pony show.

It was. As Wikipedia explains: "The term (dog and pony show) has come to mean any type of presentation or display that is somewhat pathetically contrived or overly intricate, or put on for purposes of gaining approval for a program, policy, etc."

Need I say more, huh, Edna?
(This was originally published in Philippine Village Voice, San Diego in October 2007 and online at MabuhayRadio.com based in Los Angeles, California).

Friday, August 20, 2010

The 'MPs' of San Diego's Filipino Community

~ The controversy is not about to die down, especially now that individuals and organizations with serious issues about them try to portray themselves as models of virtue and correctness. This is the height of hypocrisy that must be exposed to the community. The honest-to-goodness leader of MCPS versus the humbugs in COPAO and Mabuhay Alliance?

This plaque of recognition awarded by Mrs. Lucy Gonzales (now deceased) on behalf of the Maria Clara de Pilipinas Sorority fueled so much controversy in the Filipino community of San Diego mainly because of the opposition by those whom its recipient, Romy Marquez, has exposed for alleged wrongdoing. Mrs. Gonzales stood firm on the decision and handed the award during the MCPS ceremony in September 2007.

The 'MPs' of San Diego's Filipino Community

"I don't think we should be in the business of putting lipstick on pigs, trying to create perceptions that are not well-founded." - General David Petraeus, commander US forces in Iraq, in Esquire magazine, Sept. 2007


SAN DIEGO - The above quotation comes to mind in the wake of this furor over a recognition that the Maria Clara de Pilipinas Sorority (MCPS) has bestowed for an article -- the least controversial of all -- that I wrote last year.

As most everybody now knows, some officials and members of the Council of Philippine American Organizations (COPAO)and Mabuhay Alliance have combined their extraordinary talent for raising money and re-channeled it to get support to put a squeeze on MCPS.

It's hard to believe that COPAO's Rita Andrews and Aurora Cudal, and Mabuhay Alliance's Faith Bautista, could still find the time to engage in such frivolous pursuits when their own backyards are teeming with problems.

COPAO is on the brink of dying and Andrews must have thought it needed a dose of "buhay" from Mabuhay Alliance to keep it afloat.

If COPAO and Mabuhay Alliance could team up like that against MCPS, why can't they join forces in the search for the greedy culprits within COPAO who are responsible for the 50 check forgeries and the disappearance of $27,000?

They could start from the grudging admission by Cudal that her name was signed in 43 of the 50 checks. They could also take a cue from police investigators who asked her to provide signature specimen, which she gave a hundred times.

They could further look into why Andrews and Cudal broke open the sealed boxes of documents. They could explore the reasons why COPAO rushed to censure its vice president for finance and the treasurer but not Cudal, the COPAO president when the scandals occurred.

I mean the many questionable activities in COPAO should be enough to make them busy the whole year round. Some of those in Mabuhay Alliance should also start inquiring about intimations of hanky-panky in the networking agency although for now I can't say that with complete certainty.

The Board of Supervisors had cut down its money grant to COPAO, from a high of $18,000 to an all-time low of $5,000. That to me is an indication of COPAO's eroding government support. It isn't a coincidence that the cutback would come when $27,000 had vanished.

COPAO's recent history is replete with disgraceful conduct. Remember when it falsified the name of an officer to enable her to collect salary from a grant project for two years? Remember the unauthorized money transfers from one pocket to another? The housekeeping chores are endless.

There are also strange coincidences that had happened in 2004 when a COPAO official went on a cruise in the Bahamas. Then there's this trip to Manila soon after the COPAO official had made a substantial monetary donation to an obscure college that guaranteed a honorary degree. That was the year $27,000 disappeared into thin air!

But because these issues cause a lot of headaches and heartaches within the seemingly happy COPAO family, they had to look for something to pin the blame on for their misfortune.

Wait, COPAO also had to enlist a disgruntled Mabuhay Alliance employee who's been consistently missed out for an award. She covets the award like she lusts for . . . whatever.

So the ABC team (Andrews, Bautista and Cudal) and their cohorts took a crack on MCPS, hoping it would cave in and grant their sanctimonious wish to reconsider and withdraw its recognition.

"The opinion," wrote Andrews and Bautista, "is that MCPS's recognizing him (Romy Marquez) . . . will make many community members uncomfortable because he is unpopular for publishing articles that many have disagreed with or found offensive."

The letter dated Aug. 17, 2007, was sent to Mrs. Gonzales together with another letter dated July 19, 2007, showing the names and signatures of 48 others, including Cudal, Fred Gallardo, Daughlet Ordinario, Jimmie Sober, Denny Milligan, Jay Ruiz, Rudy Liporada, Priscilla Garrovillas, Normita Atangan and Josie Robles.

Well, as I said before, I am not in journalism to be popular. It's a job I've been into all my life. Surely, the shenanigans I have exposed would feel uneasy to find their names publicized in my stories for consciously committing wrongs against the community.

As a journalist, I don't engage in "putting lipsticks on pigs" as General Petraeus puts it.

The ABC team and their followers must be expecting me to write the way some individuals within their folds write. But they are not journalists; rather, they are graduates of schools of cosmetology and had trained in beauty parlors, the reason they always beautify or fabricate their stories.

I am not like that, no sir!

My journalism is to inform, to explain, to enlighten, to give light . . . to enable the community to know developments, official decisions, activities, how officials perform, etc. that impact them. So whether or not the stories are painful, distressing, unpalatable, disgusting, annoying -- so long as they are truthful -- I have no choice but to report them.

COPAO is particularly piqued because I would not let them off the hook. They want me to cease writing about the check forgeries and the missing $27,000. They want me to stop exposing the crooks and scam artists among them. So they would do it again and again and not be held responsible?

Mabuhay Alliance must also be feeling the heat. And who else would be so troubled except its most traveled employee who crisscross our paths in her dizzying climb up high society?

Right now, I believe COPAO is desperately trying to look relevant. Nothing wrong with that so long as the organization gets rid of another coPAo - the crooks and opportunists of Philippine American organizations - that breeds faster than rabbits and spreads just as fast.

Because of the MCPS recognition, the community has witnessed the birth of the "morals police" with the ABC team leading them. That's so ironic! Just take a look at who's leading the charge.

I believe the MPs underestimated Mrs. Gonzales. They probably thought she would not see through their real motive, which was to rebuke me and my work, and consequently, perpetuate moronism and retardation in the community.

The MPs also raised another issue they vaguely referred to as "sexual escapades". To quote them: "Some of his writings are, in the words of today's youth, so 'gross' and detestable that even adults would be shocked and would shudder with disgust about what he has portrayed".

Indeed, if they are, in the words of Mrs. Gonzales: "Why are they reading it if it's gross?"

As I earlier stated, I am not in the business of "putting lipsticks on pigs". I write as honestly and truthfully as I can.

I agree with the MPs that most of my articles are "explicit and graphic" . . . specially in telling how 50 checks could be forged over two years without anybody noticing, how a bible-preaching liar could make an excuse of not knowing what the right hand signs and the left hand pockets, how $27,000 could evaporate without a trace. True, my stories were "explicit and graphic" in that respect.

Did it ever occur to the MPs that one of them had her "sexual escapades" and is actually embarrassing to men as well? What's good for the goose is also good for the gander, is it not?

And who are you, Ms. Andrews, Mrs. Cudal, Ms. Bautista to make a judgment? Are you all full vestal virgins?

None in COPAO has the moral superiority to impose a moral standard on people and on the community without compromising their own personal interests and conflicts. Please take a look at the mirror and while there, look seriously at what you're doing.

The ABC team, perhaps blindly, is taking the cudgels for somebody whose "sexual escapades" would make them cringe: She who invites sex in empty rooms while potential home buyers walk around appraising model homes; she who never quibbles about sex in a car parked at hamburger joints; she who indulges in sex in a store and office; she who shares half the cost of a room in a cheap motel so the sex would go on; she who lies to her family so she could get out of town for a whole day of sex?

The new MPs should take a serious look at what they're advocating for, and on whose behalf. One perfidious, inconsequential woman to be made an example of all women is not only corrupt, it is, as they said, not "worthy of emulation by our youth".

But does she typify some of those in COPAO and Mabuhay Alliance? Just asking.

If the MPs could muster the courage to ask and confirm all the "sexual escapades" and get candid answers, then I would perhaps reconsider my position. Until then, they are no more than sulking hypocrites and voyeurs.

(Originally published in San Diego's Philippine Village Voice in September 2007 and in online website MabuhayRadio.com in Los Angeles).