Friday, June 15, 2012


D.C. – based Poverty Warriors

It would be remiss of me to write an article about battling poverty in the Philippines without mentioning two groups in the Washington, D.C. area that are deeply involved.


When there was a major natural calamity engulfing the Philippines, the Washington Post called me and followed up with an email. It was interested in interviewing someone other than a Philippine Embassy official about groups helping their countrymen.

I immediately told the Post to call Nap Curameng who is one of the leaders of CFC ANCOP – a group that has been in the forefront of helping Filipino victims of calamities.

I understand that they connected.  ANCOP is actually more than just responding to calls for emergencies but all year-round it is known for “answering the Cry of the Poor”.

The focus of their programs had been the poor child, his family, and his community. They believe that “educating the poor child and his family would restore hope and faith towards transformation of the whole community. Education can likewise give poor families a chance to break out of the cycle of poverty and provide equal opportunity in order for all to enjoy the bounty and blessings provided by God.”

They also have health and nutrition and community development programs geared towards transforming child, family and whole communities.

Nap Curameng is an effective management leader. We worked together during the successful political campaigns of David Valderrama, the first Filipino elected to the State Assembly in mainland, U.S.A. Nap was in fact the campaign manager and I was Dave’s political strategist and adviser.


Its leader is Tessie Calderon Alarcon. Its mission is “to uplift the spirit and well-being of the poorest of the poor, the abused and the desolate through feeding, community and economic development, gift giving, educational scholarships and classroom building, and calamity relief and emergency medical assistance programs.”

Tessie is one of the most admired Filipinos in our area. Hers is a life of commitment and dedication. Backed by her loving husband Pablito Alarcon, she led and inspired others to join her in making Feed the Hungry, Inc. an internationally recognized organization. Recipient of the Presidential Award called Lingkapil (Lingkod sa Kapwa Pilipino) in 1998, she also received the Dakila Award of Washington, D.C. for outstanding community leadership; the Chicago Hall of Fame Award, World Bank/IMF Filipino Association Outstanding Member Award and was even chosen as one of the Twenty Outstanding Filipinos Abroad (TOFA). The achievements of Feed The Hungry, Inc. and her inspiring leadership merited a Headline and Front Page coverage by the most read Asian paper in San Diego, California, The Asian Journal USA.


Outside of the previously mentioned organizations, I firmly believe there exist abroad several groups that have been proven to be effective in assisting their countrymen. Yet, they have the capability of leveraging both their political and economic powers to win any battle including the reduction, if not eradication, of poverty.

I am referring to the associations formed according to their hometowns. Many of them have been in existence for several years helping their town mates in the Philippines without fanfare or public recognition.

The political impact of these groups in their respective towns have been silently recognized but not maximized. Their economic impact is felt but not leveraged.

Also belonging to these associations are the public high school alumni groups formed according to when they graduated. They usually have projects benefiting their high school and town.

As I have discussed in an earlier article, under the Constitution, the enabling law on People’s Initiative, the Local Autonomy Act and the Administrative Code, the people are empowered to amend the Constitution; make, repeal, and amend National laws, Provincial Resolutions, City and Municipal Ordinances, and Barangay Resolutions through people’s initiative.

Working with their relatives, friends, classmates and neighbors, these hometown associations can virtually pass laws that would focus on poverty alleviation.  A major portion of the “pork” or local development fund could be allocated to match, double, triple or even quadruple the funds raised by the hometown organizations abroad.

The leverage could extend not just with the government but with the local Church, the Gawad Kalinga, ANCOP, Feed the Hungry, Inc. and other similar groups.

If all these associations networked into a national federation, you would have a Philippines composed of local instrumentalities with real political and economic powers freed from the culture of corruption and impunity engulfing Philippine society today.  

This is real People Empowerment, which could be utilized both in the Philippines and in the United States.

I suggested this to a friend who is active with a group called NaFFAA (National Federation of Filipino American Associations). The group is supposed to be a national organization. Majority of the Filipinos and Filipino associations are located in Southern California. But the sad reality is that NaFFAA has virtually ZERO presence there.

This realization, however, brings hope. Perhaps, NaFFAA under a new leadership or a new national organization under a new name could aim to form an effective and efficient network of associations that include these hometown organizations.

Any effort towards this end should have the cooperation and encouragement of the Philippine Embassy and all the consulates.

Somebody once said, “Organization determines everything.” Another one also said, “There go my people and I must follow them, for I am their leader.”

In this Battle Against Poverty, we need efficient and effective Organization, Leadership, Planning and Control.


Next and Final: Individual Commitment and “Little Miracles” (Technology): The Future Is Better Than You Think.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


BGM Hobnobbing With Future Pope Chito Tagle 
“You cannot preach Christianity to an empty stomach.”

As a young student, I was part of a group called Christian Social Movement (CSM) and another one named Laymen’s Association for Post Vatican II Reforms (LAPVIIR).

In the first group, I was lucky to get exposed to intellectual giants like Sen. Raul Manglapus, Fr. Horacio de la Costa, Fr. Francisco Araneta, Fr. Jose Blanco, Justice Jose Feria, Dean Jerry Montemayor, Trade Secretary Jose Concepcion, Banker Hadji Kalaw, F. Sionil Jose, Mrs. Teresa Nieva, Zenaida Quezon Avancena and many others. CSM’s ideals were based on the Papal Encyclicals Populorum Progresio and Rerum Novarum. Until today, I can still recite its credo:

“I believe in a just and human 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.”

Our youth arm called YCSP (Young Christian Socialists of the Philippines) launched several projects, the most noted of which was the “Congress Vigilantes” which monitored the movements of Congressmen and Senators in and out of Congress by YCSP students armed with cameras and notepads. It drew support even from the wives of some legislators who were caught going to “day clubs” or sleeping during sessions.

We also demanded government reforms and conducted lie-down pickets blocking the gates of Malacanang. Even City Hall was not spared by our Operation: Basura showing our concern not only for what we saw and heard but also for what we “smelled”.

In the second group, we pushed for the accelerated implementation of the Vatican II Reforms. Working with us were priests, seminarians, nuns, students, business people, farmers, jeepney drivers, and many other sectors of society.

Our 89-day and night picket at the Pro-Cathedral predated the present Occupy Movement. Within the period, I was chosen to represent the YCSP in the world conference of the International Union of Young Christian Democrats being held in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Since the Italian Christian Democrats financed my trip, I had to pass by Rome for some meetings. Arranged by Dean Jerry Montemayor, I was able to meet with the Vatican State Department and discuss our concerns as expressed in our on-going lie-in pickets.

Also during this period, our research showed that the Archdiocese of Manila was the 5th richest diocese in the world and the 4th largest contributor to Rome. Yet, poverty was everywhere and the Cardinal/Archbishop of Manila had a Rolls Royce; the diocese owned most of Escolta, substantial shares of major corporations, and in control of at least 3 banks. So, a major demand accompanying the faster implementation of the Vatican II Reforms was precisely to pour in more money for poverty alleviation.

We eventually saw priests saying masses facing the parishioners with dialects the latter could understand, the elimination of 1st class, 2nd class, etc. of wedding, baptismal, and funeral ceremonies. Of course, more money was spent on the poor people through the Catholic Charities.

In a capitalistic society, money begets more money. So it is safe to assume that the Catholic Church remains as rich as ever. To the institution on whom “much is given, much is required.” Consistent with the principle we enunciated at the start, the Church’s commitment to poverty alleviation should, therefore, be greater than ever.

The same responsibility goes to the other religious organizations but since about 80% of the Filipinos are Catholics, most of the targeted poor are assumed to be cared for by the Catholic Church. If the other religious sects provide assistance to their own members, then we should expect less poor people.


When you donate to your Church you get certain rewards. Materially, the donation is tax deductible. Spiritually, you feel good hoping that you get rewarded in the Great Beyond at the end of your material life. As what happened to many, you get back your contributions a thousand fold.

Of the private sector-run anti-poverty warriors, Gawad Kalinga is one that attracts many of us. Personally, I like its leader and many of its members and supporters.

Gawad President Tony Meloto was an American Field Service (AFS) International Scholar at a time of social and student unrest in both the United States and the Philippines.  Exposed to the best and worst of America during turbulent times and nurtured as a teenager forced to assume social responsibility, academic excellence, and international diplomacy, he definitely broadened his horizons dreaming to make a difference in a “dog eat dog” world.

I should know. I was an AFS student too during those challenging times. We heard Robert Kennedy popularizing the quote of George Bernard Shaw; “Some people see things as they are and say, why. I dream of things that never were and say, why not?”

Tony Meloto was and continues to be a dreamer. He was a better and more effective and efficient planner, organizer, leader and controller.

Any one who inspires and motivates somebody like Jane Singson Fields must be a good leader. The latter was a warrior not only for a politically free Philippines but most especially an economically democratic and poverty-free Philippines.

Any one who inspires and motivates an outstanding Rotarian like Ernie Delfin to form one of the first E-Rotary clubs in Asia called Global Kalinga e-Rotary Club, must be an outstanding leader. Combining Rotary’s and Gawad Kalinga’s goals and anti-poverty programs with the ability to reach both beneficiaries and benefactors worldwide in real time via the wonders of online communication, Ernie converted into reality what many could not even dream of a decade earlier.

Okay, as my barber would say, “You are biased. Tony Meloto was an AFS Student like you. Jane and Ernie are your personal friends.”

Consider what Gawad Kalinga commits: “Through creative leveraging resources, every peso you give is multiplied at least four times over because of the sweat equity of the beneficiaries themselves, volunteer services, and donations in kind, like land and land development, provided by corporations, government and other partners.”

In past governments, only 80% of your tax contributions go to programs that serve you. In Gawad Kalinga, your contributions even increase 400%.

Study GK’s Programs such as Feed the Families for Life; Nurture the Young; Provide Basic Healthcare; Build Infrastructure; Empower the Residents; and Care for Environment.

Directly or indirectly, they are all proven tools or weapons in our Battle Against


Next Series:  Community Organizations,  Individuals; "Little Miracles" (Technologies)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


“The Corona impeachment is over. But abject poverty is still a sad reality to millions of our countrymen. Let’s all help our fellow countrymen NOW.”

This quote came as a comment from EQ, someone who had obviously monitored my articles on the Corona impeachment trial.

I responded by saying that in fact, I plan to devote a whole article on it and by way of introduction, I wrote:

Poverty alleviation requires Commitment. But the amount of Commitment is always commensurate to the amount of Responsibility that one has. Likewise, the degree of Responsibility is commensurate to the degree of Power that one possesses. Correspondingly, the amount of Power is commensurate to the amount of Resources available to enforce that Power to meet that Responsibility in order to fulfill that Commitment. Rightly appealing NOW denotes and connotes urgency and necessity because, as we write and speak, many of our countrymen could be losing their lives due to sickness, hunger, poverty.”

GOD the Almighty is All-Powerful. He is the Creator of all beings and all the resources on Earth and the whole Universe. So with all the resources available to satisfy the needs of every human being and with strong preference for the poor, He should be made responsible in fulfilling the commitment and obligation to uplift the economic conditions of the poor.

In fact, to Christians, GOD sent his only son Jesus Christ to save all of mankind. Endowed with awesome powers He could feed big crowds and serve them unlimited bottles or jars of wine in an instant.

It would have been easy just for GOD to create everybody equally: no rich, no poor. Furthermore, no fortuitous events, no natural calamities – earthquakes, floods, typhoons, tsunamis, fires, famine, disease, hunger.

Yes, but as EQ said, “abject poverty is still a sad reality to millions of our countrymen.”

Why? Didn’t somebody say GOD only helps those who help themselves?

Poverty is an economic but a finite, material and human problem – not a spiritual one. Finite beings and human institutions should assume the responsibility of solving it.


The highest institution that requires a greater commitment because of its powers and resources is the government.

The Philippine government estimates that 26% of the 95 million Filipinos are poor.  That means 24.7 million of our countrymen are not earning enough to provide food, clothing, shelter, healthcare and most especially education for their family and children. You can just imagine their Net Worth in a SALN declaration!

The PNoy Administration claims that in order to reach 4.8 million families composing the poorest 20% of the population, it allocated P34.4-B ($800-M) in its Budget for its Cash Transfer Program.

Expressing Aquino’s views, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said: “Education is the great equalizer for the poor.” According to him, the scheme will also help ensure that healthier and better-educated children will improve the work force in the future,

“Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” If there is no corruption, there is no poverty. I have always appreciated the logic and the rationale behind this slogan during the presidential campaign of PNoy, which I fully supported.

Numbers tell better stories. In a study, which I wrote about in an earlier article, about P300-B is lost to corruption in the government budget yearly. Indeed, if there is no corruption, and if the entire savings are used to finance poverty alleviation programs, “healthier and better-educated children who will improve the work force in the future” is assured. The savings amount to 8.7 times the allocation to service the poorest 20%. The government can increase the beneficiaries; increase the services; or better, both. Compute and sustain it over a period, poverty could be a thing of the past, sooner than we think.


Profit or stock corporations use Money, Manpower, and Machinery to capture a targeted Market. The main objective is to make a profit for its investors/stockholders. But providing employment for the needed manpower services would provide income to support the families of the employed. That helps reduce poverty. Allocating part of the profits to finance social programs, as part of corporate social responsibility should be of help too.

My last job in the Philippines was as Director for Personnel of GUEVENT, a conglomerate that included Volkswagen, Toshiba, Avis, Radio Wealth, Magna Services and a dozen other companies, employing over 7000 people. I was also concurrently the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of Magna Services Corporation, which was one of the most profitable among the group. I remember instituting an employee profit-sharing plan. I felt very sad leaving the job because I had to escape with my family from the Marcos dictatorship.

By assuming dictatorial powers, Marcos also assumed virtual control of all resources and therefore, the full commitment and responsibility to alleviate the conditions of the poor. He had more than a decade to do it. He failed miserably!

Why? CORRUPTION! That’s why PNoy’s slogan continues to resonate!


Part II will feature The Church, Gawad Kalinga, and other organizations

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Philippine Causes: Playing the Washington Game

Two weeks ago I received a letter from former U.S. Ambassador John Maisto inviting me to attend a dinner in honor of President Benigno Aquino III. It is hosted by the U.S. Philippines Society in cooperation with the Embassy of the Philippines in Washington, D.C.

My initial reaction was one of honor and pride to see the Philippine President again after a series of good news in the economic and political fronts. The impeachment and conviction of Ex-CJ Renato Corona, was indeed a victory not only for the President and his campaign for transparency and accountability but most especially for the Filipino people who support him in his campaign to cleanse the Philippine bureaucracy of corrupt public officials.

The dinner-event would also launch the U.S. Philippines Society “whose vision is to elevate the Philippines’ profile in the United States, to promote trade and investment, build shared strategic and political interests, and strengthen educational, cultural, tourism, and people-to-people ties, with an emphasis on educational exchanges.  This vision was built on the rich historical ties between the Philippines and the United States to help bring that unique relationship fully into the 21st century, at a time when U.S. policy interests are increasingly focused on East Asia.”

Led by Ambassador John Maisto as President and U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte and PLDT Head Manny Pangilinan as Co-Chairs, the Society is indeed destined not to fail with the current leadership and hopefully guaranteed financial backing. Of course, a strong presence like that of the Society in Washington, D.C. helping the Philippine Ambassador promote Philippine causes, is indeed an idea that is unique in one sense, and replicative in another sense.

Reading the letter further, attached was a sponsorship form for those who would like to attend. To be in the Chairman’s Circle, you have to donate $75,000; Founding Member - $50,000; Patron - $25,000; Corporate Circle - $15,000. I no longer continued to the next page. I concluded I was not in that league.

A few days later, I received a Facebook message and an email from an old friend from Philadelphia, Ernie Gange, that he would be attending the VIP Reception and Dinner for President Aquino. He would like to see me at the dinner. He will be with Ed Navarra, President of NaFFAA (National Federation of Filipino American Associations.

I went back to the Sponsorship form and read the second part. If you pay $5,000, you would be considered a Friend and would have 4 invitations to the VIP Reception and 4 Invitations to the Dinner. If you pay $1,000, you would be a Supporter and would have 2 tickets to the VIP Reception and 2 to the Dinner.

If you pay $250, there is no indication of what you would get but, if the ABS-CBN news were to be believed, the ticket holder would get the chance to shake the hands of PNoy. But as I explained to Ernie Gange, if there are 4 people paying $250 each, that would total $1,000 making Ernie a Supporter meaning 2 could go to the VIP Reception and the other 2 to the Dinner. That is probably the case for Ernie, Ed Navarra, and 2 other people.

I wrote him back to say that I will not be going but we could meet for lunch or for coffee before the Reception or the next day if he was staying for the night.

Before Ernie could answer, I received from the Philippine Embassy’s Press Office an Open Letter to the Filipino American community from Ambassador Cuisia. Part of the letter says:

 "The Society has provided me with the event sponsorship levels and response form that are attached for your convenience. I am also reminded that the Society is fully dependent oncontributions from members and friends to cover the costs of the gala dinner and to successfully carry out the programs planned throughout the year."

“If a Filipino American in Washington, D.C. has $250, $1,000, or $5,000 to spend or invest on a Filipino cause,” my barber asks, “what would you advise him to spend it on?”

I thought about it deeply and said that depending on the person’s circumstances, I would do any, some or all of the following:

1.              If unemployed, charity begins at home, so I will use it to buy groceries for my family;
 2.              If employed and can afford to spare the money, I will send it to a relative who is in dire need of money in the Philippines;
 3.              If employed and can afford to spare the money with no immediate family needing assistance, donate it to my favorite charity in the Philippines;
 4.              If Nos. 1-3 do not apply, contribute to the campaign of a U.S. Senator or Congressman who is committed to supporting Philippine causes; or the Advocacy or Lobby group of a national Filipino organization like NaFFAA that fights for Philippine causes in Washington, D.C.
 5.              If Nos. 1-4 are not acceptable, support the activities of my professional or trade association - 501 C (6); charitable or religious group – 501 C (3); or social welfare organizations – 501 C (4).
 6.              If I want to invest in stocks but still help the Philippines and expect some return, buy EPHE shares. $250 will buy 9-10 shares; $1,000 – 37-40 shares; $5,000 – 185 – 200 shares.


This is also known as MSCI Philippines Investable Market Index Fund. Whatever you invest in this Fund are in turn invested in several publicly listed Philippine companies in different sectors or industries such as Telecommunications, Real Estate, Power, Banking and Financial Services, Oil & Gas, Retail, Shipping and others. My analysis is that all the companies covered by the Fund are all good companies projected to grow even more prosperous. Please do your own research.

The last time I invested in a Fund was when Cory Aquino became President and the Philippine Fund was established. Although I made money I had to sell my shares upon the advice of my broker because of the several attempted coups during her administration.

EPHE is my second attempt. This time I am convinced that investing in it is like investing in the future of the Philippines. The Philippines has become the fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia. It is second only to China in Asia. It is worth betting on our own country in this period of our history. We now see serious efforts to cleanse the government of grafters and corrupters.  Business and investor confidence is way up.

Although I am not going to the dinner, there are other ways that we could support the efforts of the Philippine Government to affect or influence U.S. policies. The importance of the role of Filipino-Americans residing in Washington, D.C. should not be underestimated.

As I mentioned to Ernie Gange:

 1.     There are at least 92,331 trade and professional associations and 1,280,739 charitable and philanthropic organizations;

 2.     In 2010, there were 1,695 new applications for 501(c)(6) status and 59,945 applications for 501(c)(3) status.

Most of these organizations are represented in Washington, D.C. Many even have offices here. The Filipino organizations should be tapped to work with some of these organizations. We support their causes and they support ours.

I used to be Acting Executive Director of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), the largest and oldest (founded in 1947) minority association in the country, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce (APACC) and the Asian American Fund.

I remember negotiating cooperative agreements with the Blacks like NAREB, the National Business League (NBL), and National Black Chamber of Commerce; the Hispanics like the Latin American Manufacturers Association (LAMA), and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and the American Indians like the National Congress of American Indians and the American Indian Trade and Development Council.

Ambassador Emmanuel Pelaez worked with us in getting all the powerful American Indian Tribal Chiefs and leaders and the Ambassadors and commercial attaches of the Asian embassies together in Washington, D.C. to promote common concerns and agenda.

I was part of a law and lobby firm that represented several countries, multi-nationals and powerful associations. We know how the game is played in Washington, D.C. Even the poorest nations are represented here.

Of course, in this digital age, the role of individual Filipinos, be they digital natives or digital immigrants in using social media to promote Philippine causes should be recognized as we do columnists, bloggers, reporters and editor/publishers. Call center owners might just be inspired to allow a few calls to the U.S. Congress for a just cause. :):)

I received another Facebook message from Ernie Gange the other day. He asked me if I could be a consultant to his group for 100 pennies a year. I will give my response to him when we meet.

It is not about the money. It is about the future of our country.