Monday, October 28, 2013

RODNEY GARCIA: A Renaissance Man

The term Renaissance man suggests “an individual talented in many spheres of human endeavor, including but not limited to art, science, sports, war, philosophy and music.”

Historically, Filipinos like Jose Rizal and Raul Manglapus have been described as Renaissance men because they possessed talents as writer, author, playwright, sportsman, poet, musician, philosopher, linguist, revolutionary/war hero, and socio-political reformer. This is aside from being a doctor in the case of Rizal and lawyer in the case of Manglapus.  Both are recognized as patriots and heroes.

In these modern times, in the advent of the Digital Age, we could probably see the emergence of more Renaissance men and women.  This is due to online and digital apps that allow greater access and faster acquisition of global and local knowledge in addition to their God-given talents.

But in our midst and in our community, we are proud to have met and witnessed a man who could be described as being a Renaissance man.  His name is Rodney Garcia.  Like Rizal and Raul, Rodney was also a writer, author, playwright, poet, musician, philosopher, and a socio-political reformer.   Although not a known linguist like the two, his English as the international language was perfect and his Tagalog flawless as he communicated his views and feelings through songs, poems, essays, and plays.

A few days ago, Rodney joined the two Renaissance men in a re-birth or renewal of life at God’s Kingdom.  Our prayers go with him in this journey.

During my tenure as President of the Philippine American Bar Association (PABA), Rodney was the association’s General Counsel.  As such, I called him the “lawyer’s lawyer.”  In fact, I gave full support in his campaign to succeed me as President of the organization.

When I heard about Rodney’s demise I got reminded of the story that I told the audience that included engineers during our induction.  I said,

“When Engineers die, they usually go to Heaven.  One day an Engineer died but was mistakenly brought to Hell.  Satan was very happy because the Engineer built the electrical wiring and put up air conditioning in Hell.  Later on, St. Peter realized his mistake and called Satan to return the Engineer.  Satan refused saying that there is nothing that St. Peter could do.  St. Peter told Satan, ‘I will sue’.  Satan’s immediate response was: ‘where will you get your lawyer?  They are all here.’

Well, that was years ago.  I am sure that St. Peter is happy to receive Rodney in God’s Kingdom.  Rodney would be as glad to be the General Counsel there too and pursue cases against Satan. He would be as efficient and effective as he was with PABA, the Philippine Nurses Association, Philippine American Foundation for Charities , Inc. and other non-profit organizations that benefited his services.

Rodney was a great gift by God to humanity.  His God-given talents were used for the service of God’s children on earth – be they hungry children, men and women; be they domestic workers; be they victims of injustice.

He is immortalized not just for his charitable services, but also for the foundations that he helped build; the books, plays, and songs that he wrote; but most importantly, for the children that he helped bring up.

Rodney has three children with wife Ella Puno.  First daughter Karla is a very talented dancer.  She has appeared in Broadway plays and was, in fact, a finalist in the “So You Think You Can Dance” TV Show.  She has currently a modeling job for a dance magazine and is seen in SMASH as part of the ensemble dancers.

Second daughter Jitter works with the Wall Street Journal in New York.  She is also an event planner.  She used to write blogs for Living Social.

Son Rocky is an aspiring musician.  A good Saxophone player who was a scholar at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., he has been accepted by Berkelee School of Music in Boston.  It is the school that he has been yearning to attend. I have seen and heard Rocky play.  Once at a concert, and at another time in the Filipino American Multicultural Center.  So talented, he reminds me of Bill Clinton playing the Sax. In the Washington Post’s young musician tournament where 6,000 contestants participated, Rocky won third place.  The ten finalists played at the Kennedy Center.  American Idol Champ Jordan Sparks was one of the Judges.  I understand that “she even wanted to toss her shoes on stage because Rocky’s playing was so compelling.”

Indeed, Rodney will forever be remembered through Rocky, Karla, and Jitter!

Tina and I visited Rodney when he was at the Mt. Vernon INOVA Rehab Hospital.  It was the same place where I had my rehab after I had a stroke that paralyzed half of my body.  Like Rodney, God saved my mental capacities and sharpness for a reason.  Like me, Rodney was as determined to use his brains to plan his recovery.  We left him happy and hopeful.

When he moved to Mother’s Touch assisted living, he sent me the following personal message:  “Ben, please come and meet me at Mother’s Touch.  I want to discuss something important with you... I plan to do something drastic.”

Tina drove me to Mother’s Touch one weekend.  He was obviously doing better because he even discussed with me a couple of the court cases that he was handling at the time.  Sometimes these cases can stress you!  

He told me about his decision to move to the Philippines – either to Cebu or to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental.  He had a nurse friend in Cebu and professor/author friend in Siliman University.  I offered my views, expressing no objections but since the move would not happen until July 2014, I thought it could still change.  But having a fixed plan that included recovery was a good sign.

Before we left, he said that he would temporarily move to a friend’s house. It was in that place where he spent his last days.

In his years in Metro Washington, Rodney was always “giving back” to the Filipino community.  In his sickness, it was time for the community to “give back” to him.  Never have we seen the group so united and so helpful to him during his hours of need.  He died knowing that he was very rich with friends!

For what Rodney has become and for what he has done, he joined the Lord as great a gift to Him!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Juan “Barber” de la Cruz, MPP (Member, People’s Parliament)

My barber was curious when I told him that he could be a Congressman without winning an election and without spending a single centavo. He can, in fact, bestow himself the title, MPP or “Member, People’s Parliament” – like the MPs (Members of the British Parliament). In fact, I said that he could also be a Provincial Board Member, City or Municipal Councilor or Barangay Kagawad at the same time without much effort.  

How? By the simple act of affixing your SIGNATURE!

As provided by the Constitution and statute, the Filipino people, through a system of initiative and referendum, “can directly propose and enact laws or approve or reject any act or law or part thereof passed by Congress or local legislative body.”

This is “after the registration of a petition therefor signed by at least ten per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters thereof.”

Why? The Philippines is a democratic and republican state.  As a democratic state, sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.  It also follows a republican system of government whereby the people may delegate powers to the State. The governmental agencies and institutions are expected to operate within the limits of the authority conferred by the people.

While legislative powers were delegated to Congress, such powers were reserved for the people when deemed necessary and beneficial.  These reserved powers are exercised through the system of initiative and referendum.

Filipino registered voters in the Philippines, in the United States, and other countries are qualified to be signatories to any petition that proposes and enacts laws.  As part of the 10 per centum required, every signatory is actually a lawmaker with real powers.

Most recently, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Reynato Puno proposed that People’s Initiative be used to enact a law that would abolish Pork Barrel once and for all.

Earlier, COMELEC Chairman Sixto Brillantes III also proposed that People’s Initiative be used to pass the enabling law on Anti-Political Dynasty.

In both cases, it is rightly claimed that the current occupants in Congress will never pass any law that will actually have the effect of prohibiting political dynasties and abolish pork barrel. The opportunity was there for more than 25 years.  It is against their self-interest.

This is the opportune time to use this reserved people power without the need to go to the streets.  In fact, it might as well be the right time to institutionalize it as an alternative to Congress.  All signatories to the petition starting with the anti-dynasty and pork barrel laws are automatically qualified to be members of what we may call Philippine People’s Parliament.  That’s about 4500 signatures in every Congressional district, and about 5.5 million signatures nationally or internationally if acquired before the next elections.

The same signatories who are members of the Philippine People’s Parliament can also propose and enact local laws (Provincial Board Resolutions, City or Municipal Ordinances, Barangay Resolutions) in their respective localities where they are registered.  In fact, they can also recall undesirable local officials.

Furthermore, I told my barber that the parliament could also propose amendments to the Philippine Constitution.  The petition must be signed also by three per cent of the registered voters in each Congressional district but this time a total of twelve per cent instead of the required ten per cent in case of laws.  We just have to work harder.

Legislative Work

A read on the Constitution would show that there are 130 provisions.  According to Manolo Gorospe of the Philippine Constitution Association, 82 of them need enabling laws.  In short, Congress for all the billions of pesos spent on them during the last 25 years has failed to pass the necessary laws that would have benefited the Filipino people.

The Philippine People’s Parliament – the institutionalized People Power and alternative to Congress will propose and enact the enabling laws mandated by the Constitution and others deemed necessary.

Regional Groups Abroad

In the United States, I proposed earlier that regional or hometown associations are tapped to recruit signatories or members of the Philippine People’s Parliament.  These groups are very active and productive.  Their concerns are mostly their places of birth.  If they become dual citizens and register as Filipino voters, they qualify under the law not just to vote for national officials but also to sign petitions on initiative and referenda.  They can also influence their relatives and friends in the Philippines to join the cause.

Personal Experience

My interest on this issue dates back many years.  About a year or two before the end of President Fidel Ramos’ term (1996), I had the honor and pleasure of making a presentation on the matter in a meeting with three of the President’s closest advisers namely:  Salvador Enriquez, Jr., then Budget Secretary and later Finance Secretary; General Jose Almonte, then National Security Adviser; and Raul Manglapus, then President of the ruling Lakas-NUCD Party and former Senator and Foreign Affairs Secretary.

The meeting was held at the office of General Almonte and was a very interesting discussion.  I explained my ideas re building the network of signatories to strengthen the party for the future.  All liked it.  General Almonte arranged for me to meet with then Presidential Legal Counsel (now SC Justice) Antonio Carpio in MalacaƱang Palace who was all for it.  Secretary Enriquez arranged for me to meet and run a series of seminars at Club Filipino for some youth leaders and selected members of the National Youth Parliament.   

At the time, I was more interested in institutionalizing People Power through the People’s Initiative.  Others were as interested in proposing constitutional amendments so that the industrialization program of President Ramos would continue.

I also met the founding leaders of the original PIRMA, former Ambassador Alberto Pedrosa and his wife, famous writer Carmen Pedrosa.  They both exemplify and embody the commitment to the use of People’s Initiative in instituting Constitutional reforms.  Their experience would be invaluable to those led by former Chief Justice Puno in their campaign to abolish pork and possibly amend the Constitution.

Sir John de la Cruz, MPP (Member, People’s Parliament)!  Or Mang Juan de la Cruz, Mambabatas! Nice ring to it!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

PNoy’s GPS: Grand Prosecution of the Sleazy

Benigno C. Aquino, III was elected President overwhelmingly in 2010.  His election was in response to a clamor by the sovereign people looking for a leader that gives them hope.  They want a President that would institute honesty as a policy; lead and run the government with humility; and restore the country’s pride and honor worthy of admiration by the community of nations.

To meet this public trust and confidence, PNoy correspondingly devised the country’s road to righteousness under the banner “Matuwid na Daan” (Straight Path).  Although promoted as a slogan, “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (no corruption, no poverty), became a serious undertaking to push honesty in government, thus-pursuing an aggressive anti-graft and corruption campaign.

The culture of corruption must go! So must the culture of impunity that generates arrogance and abuse of power.  The removal of the “Wang-Wang” mentality is the foundation of humility so needed in the alleviation of poverty.  Working for the poor is a humbling experience.  Moral integrity is imperative for survival.

PNoy is following a straight path.  Observers, both local and international, think he is on the right track.  His anti-corruption campaign is recognized as a serious undertaking both in words and in deed.


PNoy is following a GPS for this route!  I call it Grand Prosecution of the Sleazy.  PNoy’s boss, the sovereign people, is fed up with the corrupt, dishonest, abusive, sleazy politicians running their government.  So, when the “Furies, Angels, Offensive Line, and Cory Incarnates” started prosecuting the sleazy on a grand scale, the people expressed their approval of PNoy’s moves but made known their anger towards the corrupt and plunderers.

PNoy’s GPS include going after his predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her cohorts; the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Renato Corona; the first batch of Senators and Congressmen led by former Senate President Juan Enrile; former and current Cabinet Secretaries as well as heads of implementing agencies involved in the pork barrel and Malampaya Fund scams; private individuals like Janet Napoles and company who have conspired with government officials in the malversation and misuse of public funds; another equivalent of Napoles named “Ma’am Arlene” who conspired with some Justices and Judges and whose investigation is underway; tax evaders; smugglers; and many others.

“Follow the evidence!”  A judicial stimulus is a must.  Accelerate the prosecution and administration of justice.

The GPS passes through different routes – Judicial, Legislative, Executive, and private roads as we can see.  Involving highest levels, it is truly a Grand Prosecution of the Sleazy.

It is just the beginning.  More should follow as soon as possible. The people must witness trial and conviction of the culprits.  Detention or imprisonment would show efficiency, effectiveness, and seriousness.  Freezing and refund of funds allegedly stolen or misappropriated by the sleazy would prevent “miscalculation” by the GPS.

Of course, the sleazy will try to divert PNoy and his team.  They will want him to focus on other matters so that his GPS is rerouted, rendering it ineffective, thus – delaying or even giving up reaching his destination.

PNoy’s critics, the naysayers, the “Sexy” and the sleazy will distract and throw “bombshells”.  They will use all legal niceties and the equally corrupt press people in their pockets to offer different views, opinions, and correspondingly, diverting his GPS route.  

PNoy’s boss, the sovereign people would like him to stick with his GPS.  They have his back.  His latest approval rating remained very high since he took office.  He is on the right track!  

Time is limited.  Three and a half years of the scheduled six have passed.  So are the resources.  Both time and resources must be prioritized and accelerated.

More resources should be thrown to accelerating the GPS route.  Increase the budget for DOJ, NBI, and Office of the Ombudsman, COA, and the Judiciary.  Let them increase the man-hours substantially by hiring and/or contracting more incorruptible and smarter legal consultants and prosecutors to cover more ground in shorter periods.  Recruit volunteers among retired lawyers and IBP members from abroad to come to the Philippines on LEGAL MISSIONS not unlike the Medical Missions undertaken by Filipino doctors abroad.

As PNoy relies on the Furies, Angels, Offensive Line, and Cory Incarnates for his GPS, he should not forget his Knights.  

The Knights pursuing the path of Economic Development led by DOF Secretary Cesar Purisima should be recognized and supported.  Their drive to spur economic growth, generate more employment, increase revenues, raise the country’s credit ratings, promote more exports and tourism, accelerate infrastructure, transportation, communications, energy, science and technology development is making our nation the object of admiration and envy by our neighboring countries.

The campaign for poverty alleviation and human development through education and health care; the determination to promote security, justice, and peace; and the adaptation and mitigation to climate change has inspired, motivated, and produced incorruptible Knights to follow “matuwid na daan” (straight path).

The Filipino people overwhelmingly voted for PNoy to do a job.  They have acknowledged good performance so far by electing his Team PNoy in the last elections as well as giving him very good favorable ratings in poll surveys.

Like him, his Knights and the GPS Team, the Filipino people should not get distracted and diverted by his critics and naysayers.  No amount of miraculous, magical, or mind-boggling performances of PNoy would ever convince them.

The 4Hs and more of them Hs

For hope, honesty, humility, and honor, we put PNoy there. Law and by choice has limited his hours as President. Do not be a hindrance to his GPS.  For history, he deserves a helping hand.

Be a HERO!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Operation Samahan: Ideal NGO and Model OS

San Diego is the second largest city of California. Known as a Navy town, one third of the U.S. Naval Pacific Fleet is home ported in San Diego Bay. Additionally, the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, home of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, is located there.

Inevitably, it is also home to Filipino-American Navy officers, enlisted men and their families.  Add the Filipino doctors, nurses, accountants and other immigrants; the Filipino American community has become the largest ethnic Asian group in San Diego County.

No wonder that 40 years ago, the community saw the need to form a platform for coordination, cooperation, and connection.  They organized a non-governmental organization (NGO) whose members are linked to work together volunteering their services to benefit “those who have less in life”.  They called it OPERATION SAMAHAN!
 In this digital/electronic age, we call the platform that gets parts of a whole to work, function, and operate together, as Operating System or OS.  Embedded in the electronic/computer and mobile devices, the most noted operating systems are Microsoft’s Windows OS, Apple’s Mac or IOS, and the Linux-based Android OS of Google.

As a non-governmental organization (NGO), the group’s equivalent OS is OPERATION SAMAHAN, which literally means operating and working together as a group or what I call operating system in English.  

OS was originally established in 1973 because “of the growing concern of a group of medical practitioners and community leaders to meet the health and social problems of Filipino-American senior citizens.  It opened its first clinic in February 16, 1973 – staffed with volunteer Filipino doctors, registered nurses, clinic aides and paraprofessionals.

I am proud to say that I personally know some of the founders and major players of the organization in its early years – building the foundation for becoming what it is today, an ideal NGO worthy of emulation.

Dr. Cesar D. Candari, for example, is one of the founding doctors of OS. In fact, the Asian Journal of San Diego featured in a series the autobiography of the former OS Chairman of the Board. He is immortalized for his achievements in the U.S. but also for his role in fighting for freedom in the Philippines.  He and I were chosen and featured by the Fil-Am Magazine as two of the Twenty Outstanding Filipinos Abroad (TOFA) in the 1980s.  

An early Board Member of OS, successful real estate professional Mauro “Jake” Jacob is also a good friend who was noted to be one of the more courageous freedom fighters during the darkest days of Marcos’ Martial Law.

Dr. Candari, Jake Jacob, and I were officers of the Movement for a Free Philippines (MFP) led by the late Philippine Senator and Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul S. Manglapus. MFP was known as the 20th Century Propaganda Movement that exposed the atrocities of the Marcos dictatorship and fought for the restoration of freedom and democracy in the Philippines.

Another OS personality worth mentioning for purposes of the organization’s history is Romeo G. Cruz.  He was one of the first Executive Directors of OS.  I met him through my older sister Perla Maynigo Torres, who was a registered nurse in San Diego.  Romy and I were Godfathers to Manang Perla’s son Dean in his wedding with Christina Arizpuro.

Of course, my utmost pride goes to my late sister, Perla Maynigo Torres.  A Founding nurse of OS in 1973, she dedicated a major part of her life to the organization like no other.  Committed to the proposition that “our greatest gift is giving back to our community”, OS was a lucky beneficiary of my sister’s talents, time, and dedication.  Perla was in the Board and the organization’s Treasurer until she died of lung cancer.
Operation Samahan Women's Medical Center 
 She helped raise funds supporting the Operation Samahan Women’s Medical Center.  In recognition, a wing of the Center was named after her.

Mary Euleen Maynigo Torres who has a Masters Degree in Social Work, is a hospice medical social worker for Elizabeth Hospice.  The only daughter of Perla Maynigo Torres, she had been working with her Mom in her activities with Operation Samahan for years.  

So I was not surprised that when it was time to replace her Mom on the Board and as Treasurer she, on her own merits, was elected to serve as both.  I could not be prouder of my niece and baptismal Goddaughter.

Currently, Health care is at the forefront and NGOs are facing challenges both in the United States and in the Philippines. Operation Samahan, which is an NGO that provides affordable health care to minorities, stands out as a model and ideal for its historical achievements during the last 40 years.  It also serves as an inspiration for volunteerism, community involvement, and charity giving.  

In its battle for a healthy community, serving not only Filipinos, Latinos, and other ethnic groups in San Diego, OS inspired and produced unsung heroes be they volunteers, activists, sponsors, and donors to a cause unequaled and admired nationwide and worldwide.

The only known Filipino-founded and managed health clinic with multi-locations in California, it is sensing a demand to offer more.  But the changing environment presents certain challenges for expansion in the immediate future and in many more years to come.

I understand that a plan exists to construct a new building to offer more efficient and effective healthcare services to the community that OS currently serves.  This means more rooms for patients, for volunteers and more importantly, more room for “heroes” who would join the cause.

If time and other limitations prevent readers from volunteering their services, I am sure that the current OS Management led by CEO Joel San Juan and Treasurer Mary Euleen Maynigo Torres would appreciate cash donations to the Samahan Clinic.

Operation Samahan is one ideal NGO that the Filipino-American community and San Diego residents should be proud of. It is most deserving and in need of support if it were to fulfill and continue its mission not only for the present but hopingly also for the next 40 years.

I encourage everyone to contribute to its expansion.  BE A HERO!

Get in touch with:

Kirin A. Macapugay, MSW, CFRE
Director of Marketing and Business Development for Operation Samahan
619.477.4451 x. 610  M: 619.917.8412  E:  w: