Wednesday, October 28, 2015

LYDIA A. BALLARD: The Master Multi-Tasker

In the ‘70s and ‘80s, there were significant events worth mentioning both in the Philippines and in the United States. Unbeknownst to many, these events have actually affected the course of both Philippine and U.S. history.

Even more unknown were the roles that patriots played in these events as they portrayed theirs behind the scenes. Invisibly and humbly delivering efficiently and effectively, they were never officially recognized nor rewarded. This tribute is my long-delayed but most heartfelt attempt to honor the contributions of one of them.

LYDIA A. BALLARD was a writer, author, editor, publisher, human resource developer, conference and events planner/organizer, advocate and lobbyist for causes, woman entrepreneur, executive officer for non-profits, administrator, a political propagandist and a PR woman – all rolled into one.

I can say this with absolute certainty and complete honesty because I was a living witness and beneficiary to what she could do and to what she actually did, as she became part and parcel of these historical events.

In the decades mentioned above, Marcos was ruling the Philippines as a dictator with the friendly support of the U.S. government. The abuses of the regime gave birth to the Movement for a Free Philippines (MFP) led by former Senator and Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul S. Manglapus. Senator Ninoy Aquino, Constitutional Convention Delegate Boni Gillego who exposed the Fake Medals of Marcos, Asian Institute of Management (AIM) President & Dean Gasty Ortigas and many more Filipino patriots living in the U.S. and Canada, later on joined him. MFP is dubbed historically as the 20th Century Propaganda Movement not unlike the Propaganda Movement of Rizal and Lopez Jaena in the 19th Century.

Helping behind the scenes was Lydia Ballard who was active in writing position papers and in lobbying the U.S. Congress and the Administration to change its favorable policies towards Marcos. She made sure that the political community in Washington as well as the Filipino-American community in the U.S. was well informed about the Marcos abuses and the wisdom of restoring democracy in the Philippines.

Having worked with and observed Lydia displaying her writing and editing skills as well as her expertise in advocacy and lobbying, I recruited her to be my deputy as I started performing my duties as the first Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce (APACC). She was also my deputy when I became the Executive Director of the Asian American Fund concurrently.

President Ronald Reagan called APACC the “fastest growing ethnic business organization in the country”. Although most of the credit has been given to me as Executive Director, and Ronald Hsu as APACC National President, the truth is that Lydia deserved the biggest credit. She ran the office. She planned and organized the national conferences in the different cities. She organized the events and the seminars in those conferences. She wrote most of the articles, edited the newsletters and published them. She issued press releases and articulated our views.

She knew APACC’s goal as she did MFP’s. The latter focused on political freedom. The former was fighting for economic justice on behalf of the socially and economically disadvantaged minorities in the United States. Before our being, there was minimal participation of Asians in the multi-billion dollar minority business development programs of the Federal and State governments.

Then U.S. Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher created a Minority Business Development Advisory Council (MBDAC) chaired by former Secretary of Commerce Maurice Evans to review these programs and come up with new policies. I was lucky to be appointed as a member of the council representing the Asian business community. Most of the programs that we came up with are still in existence today

In APACC's seminars and conferences, Lydia made sure that these minority business policies and programs were made known and taken advantaged of by Filipino entrepreneurs and other Asians.

These programs which included the 8-a program, the small and minority business financing and loan programs, research grants, manufacturing, marketing and minority contracting set-aside opportunities, woman-owned business development programs and many more brought prosperity to a lot of Asian businesses and other minorities as well.

I remember Lydia and I following up the approval of certain Filipino-owned companies of their 8-a status as well as obtaining their first Federal contracts as a minority.

Only a Master Multi-Tasker like Lydia, coupled with her dedication, compassion, and utmost competence with extra-ordinary skills could possibly accomplish what I described above.

Her contribution to the eventual restoration of democracy in the Philippines was borne out of love for country and nation. She did it without compensation.

Her contribution to rendering economic and social justice to minorities that included Filipino Americans was also borne out of love for country and nation. She did it with minimal compensation.
Lydia was a great gift to all of us from God. For what she did and became, she was as great a gift to God. We will miss her dearly!    

Friday, October 23, 2015

Philippine Judiciary vs. UN Opinion

The so-called discussion on the Opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention bothers me.

First, I still have to see the full text of the Opinion. I searched online, visited the websites of the Office of the Human Rights Council and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and read the Annual Reports and Opinions rendered by the HRC and the Working Group, respectively. I failed to get a copy or the full text of the Opinion anywhere.

Second, it all started when, in a news conference last week, Lorenzo G. Gadon, a lawyer of Mrs. Arroyo, shared an e-mail by international lawyer Amal A. Clooney, who brought Mrs. Arroyo’s case to the UN Working Group for Arbitrary Detention.

The email says in part, “The UN opinion finds that the detention of former President Arroyo was arbitrary and illegal under international law because the Sandiganbayan court failed to take into account her individual circumstances.”

“As a result of the Government’s violations, the Working Group recommended reconsideration of Mrs. Arroyo’s application for bail in accordance with the relevant international human rights standards and to accord Mrs. Arroyo with an enforceable right to compensation,” Amal Clooney also messaged GMA’s lawyer.

The email is obviously self-serving. Amal Clooney was the lawyer who took the case to the UN Working Group on behalf of GMA (Arroyo). 

Third, I expected that Amal Clooney should have at least attached a copy of the Opinion to her email so lawyer Gadon could read it in full and show it to the Press at the conference. It was not done.

Yet, the Philippine Press ate and swallowed the email quotes of Amal Clooney as if they were the actual Opinion of the UN Working Group.

Reactions and reporting were completely based on this self-serving email of Mrs. Clooney. ABS-CBN, I understand, tried to obtain a copy of the Opinion by calling the Secretariat of the UN Working Group but was unsuccessful.

Let's assume that the Opinion says it the way Mrs. Clooney emailed to GMA’s lawyer. The opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is precisely that, an opinion. It does not have the force and effect of law. It is not enforceable and cannot mandate the Philippine Courts to subscribe to its opinion, which admittedly followed in full the opinion of Clooney, who in turn followed in full the opinion of GMA’s lawyer. In short, its opinion is as strong and as persuasive as your opinion and mine. At the end of the day, the Philippine judicial process rules as decisions are made based on facts, evidence, the Constitution, laws, and jurisprudence.

The Working Group was set-up under Human Rights Council resolution 1991/42. The same Council in resolution 1997/50 specifically states, “Deprivation of liberty is NOT arbitrary if it results from a final decision taken by a domestic judicial instance and which is in accordance with domestic law.” In fact, experts of the UN Working Group are advised to consider the independence of the judiciary of the State Party before rendering their opinion. They are required to be discreet and objective.

Sandiganbayan is the same court that detained, tried, and eventually convicted former President Erap Estrada for the similar non-bailable offense of plunder. The judicial process happened under the watch of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who could not impose her will to an independent judiciary.

As opined by Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje Tang, "We have our own judicial process. That has to be observed and the 1st division of the court has precisely observed this process in place. I don't think the court has violated any international law."

"The court has always observed all the processes that are in place in the country. She (GMA) filed a petition for bail that was heard. Evidence was presented. After due evaluation, the court came up with its resolution.”

Tang said the decision would stay unless there is a radical change that can serve as a ground for change in the resolution. 

There is the difference – One is a Court Decision. The other is an Opinion. The former is enforceable while the latter is not. Not even the political branches of the Philippine government – Congress and the President can interfere or influence a judicial decision.

I suspect that the moves of GMA’s lawyers seem to be part of a PR campaign that would justify the granting of bail to GMA by the Supreme Court. After all, the majority of the current SC justices are appointees of former President GMA. 

The question is basically this: “Which should prevail, the Rules of Court as promulgated by the Philippine Supreme Court or the Opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention?”

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


My last week’s column/blog entitled, “In Aid of Leni Robredo’s Discernment”, tackled each of the concerns of the Congresswoman.

To my surprise, the article generated the second largest readership in the history of my blog per Google BlogSpot’s counter.

One major concern discussed was her low poll ratings or her winnability as indicated in the Pulse Asia and SWS surveys which seem to be accepted as a good indicator of one candidate’s favorability or approval by the voters. This is despite the fact that the numerical data relied upon is not that many (a sampling less than 2000) but scientifically chosen.

I discussed my analysis using the 2013 Official election returns published by the COMELEC. At least in this case, the numerical data used is composed of real number of voters who actually voted and counted as well as amounting to millions.

Based on the analysis, I concluded: “What this meant was that the Visayans led by Roxas and Drilon delivered to deserve the 2016 Presidential endorsement and the Senate Presidency, respectively.  It also meant that the Bicolanos led by Robredo and LP followers delivered to deserve and reserve the Vice Presidential seat for their region in 2016.”

I further opined, “Based on this analysis, there is a desire by the Filipino voters for Daang Matuwid to continue.”

Leni Robredo eventually decided to accept the offer to be Mar Roxas’ VP candidate. I witnessed her proclamation at the Club Filipino via Live Stream. I am uncertain whether my column/blog contributed to her positive response but I am certain that my prayers and those of the readers’ did.

In the Presidential race, it is now shaping up to be a battle between and among Mar Roxas, Grace Poe, Jojo Binay, and probably, Rody Duterte.

In the Vice Presidential race, it looks like it will be a competition among: Leni Robredo, Chiz Escudero, Gringo Honasan, Antonio Trillanes, Alan Cayetano, and Bongbong Marcos.

Mar Roxas is from the Visayas region (Capiz and Negros Occidental). Grace Poe is also from the Visayas and USA (Iloilo and Fairfax, Va.). Jojo Binay is from Metro Manila (Makati), and Rody Duterte is from Mindanao (Davao) but his roots are from the Visayas (Southern Leyte and Cebu).

The above-mentioned analysis says that the next President should come from the Visayas. Well, the probability of that happening is very high considering that Roxas, Poe, and even Rody could claim their roots from the Visayas.

The same analysis says that the next Vice President should come from Bicol. Guess what? Robredo, Escudero, Honasan, and Trillanes all come from Bicol. In fact, the wife of Cayetano also come from Bicol. Again, the probability that the next Vice President would come from Bicol is also very high.

The most important part of the analysis is that there is a desire by the Filipino voters to continue the Daang Matuwid principles and programs as espoused by the PNoy Administration.

How would this continuance be guaranteed? That the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates should be those who, according to PNoy, would be in the best position to do it. And they are Mar Roxas for President, and Leni Robredo for Vice President.

Mar Roxas is from the Visayas and anointed by PNoy as Daang Matuwid’s and LP’s standard bearer. Leni Robredo is from Bicol and is also chosen and committed to pursue and implement the Daang Matuwid programs.

For Daang Matuwid to continue as desired by the Filipino voters, Roxas and Robredo must be elected President and Vice President, respectively.