Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Most recently, 216 Congressmen signed a resolution “Urging the Administration of President Benigno C.Aquino to Allow the Burial of the Remains of Former President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani”.

It is premised primarily on the following:

1.      That the Libingan ng mga Bayani was established for military personnel;
2.      That Marcos was a well-decorated soldier, a veteran of World War II and a survivor of the Bataan Death March; and
3.      That he gave invaluable service as a soldier, writer, statesman, President and Commander-in-Chief.

First let me reiterate what I had written earlier (Marcos: To Be or Not To Be @LNMB, The pantheon of heroes which was later named Libingan ng mga Bayani was established not just for military personnel who were not “dishonorably separated/reverted/discharged,.or not convicted by final judgment of a crime involving moral turpitude” but also for acclaimed national artists and other non-military personnel approved as heroes, and most especially for Presidents worthy of “emulation and inspiration by the present generation and generations still unborn.” (Republic Act No. 289)

Marcos, who built his political career as allegedly the most decorated soldier in history – dwarfing by comparison even the combined medals of Sergeant York of World War I and Audie Murphy of World War II, indeed on its face deserves to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

But more than 20 years after his death, and 5 Presidents succeeding him, not one of the latter dared to bury him at the national pantheon.

President Cory Aquino did not even allow the remains of Marcos to be brought anywhere in the Philippines. She was familiar with Marcos’ atrocities, his deceptions and his dishonorable and brutal dictatorial regime. She saw her husband killed by soldiers under Marcos’ command. Understandably, she sympathized with tens of thousands of Martial Law victims and their relatives who vehemently objected.

President Fidel Ramos allowed the remains to be brought back to the Philippines but only to Ilocos Norte and DEFINITELY not to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Being a West Point graduate and a decorated soldier himself, he could have understandably decided to bury Marcos at the LNMB.

President Joseph Estrada pledged and, in fact, announced he would allow  Marcos to be buried at the pantheon. But after listening to all sides and having to focus on the responsibilities of governing, he never got around to approving and implementing what he pledged.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who had the opportunity to do it for almost a decade did not even consider it nor did she encourage a discussion on it. In fact, her way of governing mirrored that of Marcos so much so  that you would think the latter was her idol.

President Noynoy Aquino is now being urged to do what his predecessors did not dare do. In deference to the signatories of the resolution coming from a co-equal branch of the government, he referred the matter to Vice President Binay. It is not clear whether the Vice President is to study it and make recommendations or is actually empowered to decide. It is also unclear as to when  the decision be made – during Aquino’s term or when (or if) Binay gets elected as President?

If his decision is in the negative, is it binding on the Marcos family? Will the family respect it and finally put the issue to rest and correspondingly the soul of Marcos to peaceably rest as well?

If Congressmen Salvador Escudero, Imelda Marcos, Gloria M. Arroyo, J.V. Estrada and the other signatories of the resolution are really serious, why don’t they author and sponsor a bill that would mandate the burial at the LNMB? They can incorporate different conditions and qualifications completely disregarding heroism as well as despotism. They can even change the title and remove “Bayani” in it. They are lawmakers. Instead of acting like one, they have become petitioners “urging” Noynoy’s Administration to accept Marcos as a hero and to top it all, forcing it to rewrite history.

Was Marcos a well-decorated soldier?

John Sharkey of the Washington Post who did an extensive research on the matter did not think so. Jeff Gerth and Joel Brinkley of the New York Times after perusing the War files in the National Archives found out that Marcos’ claims were “fraudulent” and “absurd”. Historian and scholar Dr. Alfred McCoy, while researching a book World War II in the Philippines, discovered the fraudulent Marcos files among hundreds of thousands of documents involving real heroes and fraudulent claimants during World War II.

Army Captain Ray C. Hunt who directed guerilla activities in Pangasinan said, “No way.” The “List of Recipients of Awards and Decorations issued from December 7, 1941 through June 30, 1945” was compiled by the General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters in Tokyo after the end of the war. Another list of some 120 Americans and Filipinos who were awarded during the Bataan campaign was transmitted to the War Department by General Jonathan Wainwright on April 12 shortly before his surrender. MARCOS WAS NOT on any of the lists.

Many of Marcos’ medals were obtained for heroic actions in Kiangan, Mt. Province while serving in the 14th Infantry under the Command of Colonel Manriquez and Adjutant Captain Rivera. Both attested to fact that Marcos was a non-combatant and just a Civil Affairs officer. They knew of no award that Marcos could have received or had been entitled to.

For 40 years Philippine War records were not available to the public. It was only in the 1980s that many of the documents were eventually accessible to legitimate researchers and scholars. Led by Colonel Bonifacio Gillego assisted by a team from the Movement for a Free Philippines, a study was made on “Marcos: FAKE HERO”. The study was written by Col. Gillego and was published by the Philippine News and the We Forum which Marcos shut down and its Editor and staff writers indicted for “sedition” punishable by death.

After an exhaustive analysis of the medals which Marcos supposedly received, Gillego came up with the following conclusions:
1.      Eleven awards were given in 1963;
2.      Ten were given on the same day (12/20/1963);
3.      Three awards were given in one AFP General Order (12/20/1963);
4.      One award was given in 1972 when he was already President;
5.      Eight are really campaign ribbons which everybody involved in Bataan and the resistance movement (including my barber’s uncle), is entitled to receive;
6.      Awards are duplicated for the same action at the same place on the same day;
7.      One is a Special Award given by the Veterans Federation of the Philippines; and
8.      Three for being wounded in actions which his own Commandant swore could not have happened.

Most importantly, like the other researchers, he found no records in the War Archives that would support the awards supposedly received by Marcos. On the contrary, fraudulent and false claims as well as anti-guerilla propaganda files involving his father and his group were uncovered.

I intend to write in more detail the writings and research made by the above-mentioned authorities plus my own findings and analysis regarding Marcos’ war exploits to belie the Congressmen signatories’ premises. They will be in my next and future columns. We just cannot allow Philippine History to be rewritten at the expense of the real heroes of World War II.

Philippine News which published Gillego’s article, “Marcos – the Hero of Kiangan Who Never Was”, wrote, “In an effort to authenticate his report, Gillego contacted Manriquez and Rivera, residents in the East Coast to attest to the veracity of his article. In the presence of TWO WITNESSES, Manriquez and Rivera signed every page of Gillego’s story.”

The TWO WITNESSES to the signing, I am very proud to say, were acknowledged and genuine national hero BENIGNO “Ninoy” AQUINO and lucky ME. J

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

EASTER: Reconciliation, Resurrection, Rebirth, Renewal

Christianity is all about Truth, Faith, Love, Justice, and Charity.

Perusing the files and historical documents that I have in my possession, I pretty much decided to write in some detail about the fake medals of Marcos. This would be a follow-up of some articles that I had already written earlier and also in response to  the Marcos family’s insistence and the majority of the Philippine Congressmen’s resolution urging P-Noy to approve the burial of Marcos as a hero at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

It would still be consistent with our Christian Faith because I would be  reminding the Filipino people the truth about a historical distortion that could be perpetuated if left untold and unchecked. It would also be in the interest of justice and for the sake of new and future generation of Filipinos.

But somehow, this Holy Week reminded me about my priorities in life. Yes, I would still be Christian. Yes, I would still be writing about Truth, Faith, Love, Justice and Charity. Yes, I should instead be writing about the week’s celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, most specifically, EASTER – its factual origin and its meaning. It would be positive, loving, faithful, informatively truthful and most especially charitable as I postpone to another day my planned Marcos essay.

Easter’s Origin       

My readings tell me that the feast day of Easter was originally a pagan celebration of renewal and rebirth. It honored the pagan Saxon goddess Eastre. When the Saxons were converted to Christianity by early missionaries, and since the feast fell around the same time as the traditional memorial of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, the latter was merged with the pagan celebration.

The other pagan roots of Easter actually date back to ancient times. It has something to do with Nimrod, the grandson of Noah (known for the Global Flood and the ARK). When Nimrod died, his wife, Queen Semiramis deified him and created a religion in his name. Semiramis’ had an illegitimate son, Tammuz. She convinced her people that the latter was actually Nimrod reborn. Since the people were “looking for the promised savior, they were also persuaded to believe that Tammuz was that savior, even that he had been supernaturally conceived.”

Semiramis herself was worshipped as the goddess of fertility. As such, she was called in several places as “Ishtar, Ashtur and yes, EASTER.”

As Christians, we are very familiar with the events during the last days of Jesus Christ’s mortal life leading to  His resurrection starting from Palm Sunday when He rode triumphantly into Jerusalem where He was greeted warmly by the crowd; Holy Monday when He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and freed the animals to be slaughtered; Holy Tuesday when the Pharisees tried to trap Him into making a blasphemous remark; “Spy Wednesday” when Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus by revealing to the chief priests  where Jesus could be captured; Maundy or Holy Thursday when the Last Supper was held; Good Friday when the  crucifixion happened at the top of the Calvary hill outside the walls of Jerusalem and correspondingly His death; and Holy Saturday or the eve of Easter which marked the end of the 40 day Lenten season.

We Christians, by Faith, believe and know that these events actually happened. They were recorded in the books of history, the Holy Bible, and in religious ancient archives. It is indeed hard to imagine how a finite and mortal being could possibly endure the pain and suffering that Jesus endured on the cross.

This is why in certain Christian nations like the Philippines, some people display their Christian faith by reenacting Jesus Christ’s suffering. They actually undergo crucifixion and flagellation like Him as public penance or penitential acts.

My mother used to say, “Everyone in the course of their lives will have a cross to carry. It could happen early, in the middle, or later in one’s life, but it will happen.”

My father followed this up by saying, “There are no such things as failures. There are only suspended successes.”

This is true not only because we were created in God’s image but more so because we are encouraged, motivated, inspired and actually “destined” to mirror His life as true Christians. Who was it who said, “Destiny is not a matter of chance but a matter of choice. It is not to be awaited; it is to be achieved”?

Easter Sunday 

While it is true that part of the mortal life of Jesus Christ was about pains, sorrows, and sufferings, it was as true that it was full of wondrous and glorious moments, a happy and joyful ending, and an absolutely and infinitesimally bright future.

How else would you describe the numerous miracles, the inspirational sermons, the knowledge transfers, the networking, the wedding receptions, the unlimited supply of wine, bread and fish, the life stories of various people touching His life, and of course, the Resurrection and the Ascension?

His story should also be our story. Cleansing ourselves through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we atone for our sins; we carry our crosses and expect a rebirth and renewal of our lives, not unlike the resurrection of Jesus Christ, for a joyous and happy ending.

Yes, Easter really means Reconciliation, Resurrection, Rebirth, and Renewal.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tackling the Deficit and Joining the Tax Debate

As I write this article, I am also doing several tax returns. Some call it multi-tasking. I describe it as plain taxing. Somebody has to do it in our family. For years I have been tackling tax issues, targeting deductions, tagging tax tips, creating tables and most recently putting them all in my Tablet.That's talking about technology! This one I did not have to “take it from my barber”.
Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) just came up with his proposed Budget Plan in his capacity as Chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee. Since the U.S. Constitution requires that all appropriation measures emanate from the House and given the corresponding mandate that Republicans got in the last elections, they must now have to come up with a budget plan. I assume that such a plan is both Ryan’s and the Republicans’.
The debate has been framed: “Proposition: Resolved: That the Ryan Budget Plan should be passed into law.”
The positive side claims that it is “brave, radical, and smart.” It is supposed to be smart because it proposes the “kinds of cuts necessary to bring federal expenditures in line with tax revenues”. It is alleged to be radical because it “goes where Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich never did by terminating the entitlement status of Medicare and Medicaid.” It is also being proclaimed as “the boldest tax reform proposal since the 1980s, proposing to lower top individual and corporate rates to 25 percent and end deductions.”
The main goal of the Ryan plan is to reduce the budget deficit and eventually to eliminate the $14 Trillion debt. There is no question as to this goal. The issue is more on how to reach it. Ryan is supposed to be daring and bold by targeting the poor, the disabled and the elderly. Cutting the programs that benefit them would, according to him, bring America to the “Path to Prosperity”.
Whose prosperity? The only ones guaranteed with more money in their pockets are the wealthiest Americans. Not only was it cowardly not to ask the rich Americans to share more of the burden at this point in history, Ryan even proposes to reduce their taxes. In fact, he wants to make permanent the Bush tax cuts which largely contributed to the deficit in the first place. He also included in his plan new tax cuts for the rich. That’s taking things which the poor, the elderly and disabled currently have and “bravely” giving it to the rich – the exact opposite of Robin Hood. It is brutal and ruthless. It is easy to go after the weak and the defenseless. Asking the rich to go back to what they were already doing before should not be hard either.
Balancing the budget should always be our economic goal. To do it, you have to deal with both the revenue side and the expense side. While one may want to touch entitlements, it is not necessary to make it worse by making our society’s titled elite feeling “entitled” to an additional reduction of taxes.
Aside from letting the tax cuts for those earning more than $250K expire, a genuine tax reform has now become necessary. Ryan wants to reduce the number of individual tax brackets which is currently 6 and to lower the top rate for individuals and corporations from 35% to 25% but remove deductions and credits.  Obama wants also to eliminate many of the deductions taken advantage of by the top 2%.
Without reducing the tax rate, removing or reducing deductions and credits and simplifying the tax return might be an acceptable path. Something like the 1040EZ might be a good model. A predetermined standard deduction or the mortgage interest deduction for one family home whichever is higher, subtracted from the adjustable gross income would equal the taxable income.
Based on my computation using 2009 figures for 138 million returns published at the IRS website, income tax revenues would more than double. For corporations, removing the tax loopholes and certain deductible corporate expenses as proposed by the Fiscal Commission headed by former Senator Alan Simpson would also increase revenues.
Extending the retirement age is also an acceptable proposal in order to increase revenue base. After all, the life expectancy for Americans is now a lot higher than when the retirement age was originally set. Just do not think of reducing the pension of the retired. They have earned it as a vested right that cannot be waived.
Defense spending should definitely be cut. A substantial portion of the budget is spent on defense. Avoiding future wars and disengaging from the current ones would surely bring the necessary consequence of reduced defense costs. Hence, a decreased deficit.
Propositions are usually debated on the basis of benefits, necessity, and practicability. While the Ryan plan aims to benefit future generations eventually and speculatively, it benefits more the wealthy Americans who actually need the least immediately. It seeks to reduce the deficit at the back of the poor, the disabled and the elderly.
While it is necessary to eventually payoff the country’s debt, it is as mandatory to convert certain spending into equity by looking at education, innovation and infrastructure development as investments for the future. Current interest rates are low but the return on investment on science, technology, innovation and infrastructure when securitized as assets are exponentially high.
Ryan and the Republicans control and represent only 1/3 of the legislative process. The Democrats control the Senate. Given the fact that it would take at least 2/3 votes to override any veto by the President, it is next to impossible to pass the Ryan plan into law. Ryan knows it and the Republicans know it.
Besides, current quantitative analysis now shows that the assumptions and projections made in the Ryan plan are faulty, disputable and virtually impossible. Examples are the projection of an unemployment rate of 6.4 percent rate in 2012 and 2.8 percent in 2021. Even the Heritage Foundation which was the original source has already modified the projections.
On the basis of practicability, the Ryan plan as proposed would not become law.
My involvement in politics started in the struggle between Democratic Capitalism and Communist Socialism. While the difference has focused on who controls the means of production, for me the battle has always been which system benefits humanity the most.
I chose the side of Democratic Capitalism because I thought it would guarantee individual human rights, democratize wealth and capital, and most especially, it would create a “human and just society – based on human dignity, built on justice and dedicated to progress – where every man may develop and fulfill himself according to his ability and in the service of his fellow men.” (CSM Manifesto)
As a young boy I learned of what the late Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay said, “Those who have less in life must have more in law.”
As a young adult, I heard the Pope assert, “preferential option for the poor”.
All my life, I was taught, “To whom much is given, much is required.”  This should apply to taxation for the benefit of current and future generations.
America is great because of its compassion and caring for its citizens. Will it continue to be so?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Philippines’ PG and America’s PG

In the outskirts of Manila, Philippines is a street named PG or Pitong Gatang. A hit song was written about it years ago and it was sung by a Filipino cowboy singer named Fred Panopio. Facebook friend Lady A. Liza Julao uploaded it most recently. I listened to it again as I remember my barber humming it a few days back.

 The lyrics of the song included the following:

               “Dito sa Pitong Gatang, sa tabi ng Umbuyan
                May mga kasaysayan akong nalalaman
                Ito ay hindi Tsismis, napag-uusapan lang
                Yo de le hi ho, walang labis, walang kulang”

Translated in English,

               “Here in Pitong Gatang, beside Umbuyan
                I know of several stories
                This is no rumor mongering, just talking about it
                Yo de le hi ho, not more, not less.”

In the suburbs of Washington, D.C. is a county named PG or Prince George’s. A place where many Filipinos gathered and lived for some time so much so that the latter have become a political and cultural influence in the community. Within the area, are several PGs ala Pitong Gatang where Filipinos converge in barbershops, coffee shops, the Philippine National Multi-Cultural Center, senior citizens’ hall and karaoke bars where relevant issues are discussed and news heard. It is also the source of the latest Pinoy jokes and funny stories.

No wonder that a lawyer and banker in the Philippines named David Valderrama who came to Prince George’s several years ago, was elected as the first Filipino elected Member of a State (Maryland) Assembly in mainland, U.S.A. In a district where Black Americans are the majority (65%) and the Asians are less than 5%, winning an elective position is indeed a feat. The tribute while credited to Valderrama himself is really as much a tribute to the political acumen and involvement of the Filipino community and the Pitong Gatangs where issues were ventilated and political strategies were hatched.

No wonder that when Valderrama retired, it was not difficult  for somebody like her daughter, Kris Valderrama to take his place. Filipinos of the new generation this time joined that of the old to rally not only behind her but her advocacies as well. She is now on her second term. In the last campaign her jingle started with the following lyrics:

               “Valderrama, her advocacy
                Best for children, public safety
                Equality, good education
                But most of all, job generation”

The existence of Pitong Gatangs in Prince George’s and the deep involvement of Filipinos in Maryland politics are not the only emotional attachments between the Philippines and Maryland. The Tydings-McDuffie Law which granted Philippine political independence in 1946 was authored by Senator Millard Tydings of Maryland. The song “Philippines, My Philippines” is sung to the tune of “Maryland, My Maryland” although the lyrics were changed. When Philippine democracy was restored and a new Senate was elected after Marcos’ dictatorial regime, U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer of Prince George’s, Maryland hosted a luncheon in Congress honoring 
Senator Raul S. Manglapus and U.S. Congressman Steve Solarz in recognition of their respective roles in the fight for Philippine freedom and democracy in the United States .

“I love my own native land
 Philippines, my Philippines
 To thee I give my heart and hand
 Philippines, my Philippines

The trees that crown thy mountains grand,
The seas that beat upon thy strand
 Awake my heart to thy command,
 Philippines, my Philippines
I used to sing it as a young boy. Never did I realize that it was patterned after the song, “Maryland, My Maryland”. The lyrics, of course, are different
“I see the blush upon thy cheek,                                                                    
For thou wast ever bravely meek,                                                                        
But lo! There surges forth a shriek,
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,                                                                    
Maryland! My Maryland  

There is another attachment which made us proud during the last few years. During the American occupation of the Philippines and since the Kennedy years, we have seen and witnessed how American educators and Peace Corps volunteers went to the Philippines and taught Filipino children Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. In the last decade, we have seen with pride something in the reverse. Many Filipino Math and Science teachers have come to the United States to teach in middle and high schools. In fact, over a hundred of them came to teach in the Prince George’s County School System.

Then the economic and financial crisis occurred in the United States. The real estate market caused by the mortgage debacle reached crisis level as well. Since real estate taxes fund the school systems, the latter became a problem. This has resulted in  the need to layoff teachers including temporarily hired professionals like the Filipino teachers.

Prince George’s County is populated mostly by Black Americans. The latter are behind compared to other ethnic groups in Math and Science. President Obama who is Black proclaimed in his State of the Union Address that the United States should “out-educate, out-innovate and out-build” the global competition.

You need more good teachers to out-educate. You need students educated in Math and Science to produce greater innovation and inventions. Infrastructure development requires good engineers who usually emanate from good students in Math and Sciences.

Educating the children is a PG (Parental and Governmental) obligation. Math and Science are necessary tools in every child’s full development. The teachers of these  subjects assume the role and the responsibilities of the PG (Parents and Government) as surrogates in most hours of the day.

Maryland’s PG (Prince George’s) should not disregard the importance of the Filipino teachers. It should find a way to retain them.

My barber and friends in Pitong Gatang (PG) call me “Sir Ben”; Facebook friend Lady A. Liza Julao calls me “Sir Benjamin”; and here I am discussing issues involving a seemingly royal place like Prince George’s (PG). I feel KNIGHTED! Should this merit an invitation to the ROYAL WEDDING?:):)