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Mar 31st
Home Columns Op-Ed Page The Challenges of Advocacy
The Challenges of Advocacy PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Op-Ed Page
Friday, 07 December 2007 04:55

The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Friday, December 7, 2007

In one of the most touching moments of a career in investigative journalism, friends and supporters called and emailed expressing their unqualified backing for work that ebbed and flowed with the news subjects themselves. Sometimes it's rewarding, sometimes edifying, sometimes ugly, sometimes disgusting, but the news had to be reported truthfully and accurately. The community deserves to know regardless of the consequences.


Take no care who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are.                            

                               -- Shakespeare, Macbeth


The columnist is a member, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and the National Press Club of the Philippines-USA.

SAN DIEGO - Just two minutes prior to the scheduled hearing of my case on Monday, December 3 before an immigration judge, an American-Filipino (is that an AmFil or Amerinoy? - an American married to a Filipino) guy named Jimmie Sober wrote an email to me, volunteering to help.

His had been the latest in a trickle of warm wishes from friends and supporters who saw their support for me as a validation of my practice of watchdog journalism in San Diego.

"I feel very strongly there are people who'd like to muffle you, and that's not right!", said Vina M. Phelps, a watchdog herself who hounded San Diego county officials tirelessly until they relented and thumbed down the community's umbrella organization by drastically cutting its financial grant.

Chula Vista-based businesswoman Carmelita Larrabaster "CL" Vinson understood my work; she knew the risks: " I respected you as a human being who have chosen a very challenging career: Journalism. I will pray for justice. May God grant wisdom and guidance to all concerned".

Col. Frank Quesada, a well-known advocate for Filipino veterans and a newspaper columnist himself, wrote from his home in Las Vegas, Nevada: "God's truth will always prevail come what may. You are on the side of truth".

Popular community leader Amy Saroca had only optimism: "we hope for the best outcome for you, though, whatever it is".

Poet and newspaper editor Maya Teague of Oxnard, California, after sending her prayers, wrote: "It is never easy to navigate the Filipino communities. However, one's voice or pen can not be repressed when the truth needs to be told".

Journalist Malou Mariano of Long Beach, California chimed in: "Speak your truth quietly and clearly".

On the other hand, Vilma M. Crisologo of San Diego, a keen observer of local events, gave her wise counsel: "Let your dogged attitude and faith sustain you".

A newspaper colleague and editor, Jacqueline Conclara of San Francisco, said: "I admire you for your courage and honor."

Their messages have strengthened me as I continued to face challenges in my advocacy to lift the veil of darkness that has covered the Filipino community in San Diego by the seemingly deliberate acts of omission and commission by those in positions of public trust. 

But back to Jimmie Sober.

I didn't get to read his message until later in the day, meaning after the hearing when new developments came up that rendered his offer superfluous. Might it have been so timed as to make me wish it had been sent days or weeks earlier?

I don't know and I refuse to fathom his reasons.

One of his explanations was that he had heard about a petition being circulated to remove me from the United States, which was a well-known fact I've discussed in several articles I wrote to put an end to various speculations.

"The last event in my life that I wish to happen would be your deportation," Jimmie wrote. "Your departure would most certainly be a loss for this great nation," he added.

But it isn't so much about the petition that concerned me as in the manner that the idea was sold to the public and to most of the unsuspecting signatories.

"I did sign a document once, in a rush, without realizing at the time that it was intended for this hearing," Jimmie explained.

"I regret and retract my signing of the document for the purpose of your deportation which I oppose," he stressed.

Jimmie appears to be full of remorse. I am so grateful that he had opened his eyes and mind this time. Compare that with the scheming, supposedly God-fearing bible preacher named Aurora Cudal who made the ill wish "may he rest in hell!' for me. The poet Fred Burce Bunao quickly retorted: "Ladies first".

Evidently, Jimmie must have been sweet-talked into signing a piece of paper that was later attached to a cover letter and submitted to immigration authorities as a petition.

Two months earlier, in September, Arlito Reclosado, a COPAO official, complained that his name, his wife's and a friend's, were included in another petition to the Maria Clara de Pilipinas Sorority (MCPS) which asked that its award of recognition on me be withheld.

They were made to look like they were against the award and their names and signatures appeared in the document.

"Hindi kami nag-pirma diyan sa boycott ng MCPS. Yung pinirmahan namin ay para doon sa meeting," Reclosado explained. (We didn't sign our names in that petition to boycott MCPS. We signed up during a meeting).

I mentioned this incident only to highlight the fact that there appears to be a conspiracy to deliberately mislead the community. So many things are being said and done that are calculated to promote the vested interests of several groups.

The recent past is replete with examples.

During the years that Aurora Cudal was president of COPAO (Council of Philippine American Organizations) in 2003-2004, the organization had a "Purry Garavillar" as COPAO secretary even though that person was non-existent.

The name was actually an alias of the real Priscilla Garrovillas, aka Precy Garrovillas, yet it was in official documents filed with the State Attorney General's Ofice.

It would seem like inadvertence, as the official explanation claimed. For two years?

However, Garrovillas got an appointment for a grant project secured by COPAO that paid her $9,600. It stands to reason why "Purry Garavillar" had to be made up, and that is, to avoid a conflict-of-interest situation.

That was one of the worst deceptions ever pulled by COPAO that I exposed. The community has remained quiet about that and continues to patronize Garrovillas and COPAO.

In March last year, Mabuhay Alliance's Faith Bautista teamed up with COPAO's incumbent president Rita Andrews to raise $200,000 ostensibly for disaster victims in the Philippines.

But the fat-salaried Bautista had another motive. She said then: "I am also helping COPAO change their (sic) reputation to a better one". From that time on, nothing has been heard from either Bautista or Andrews. Did they raise some money and pocketed it?

Clearly, Bautista was implying that COPAO has gone down the drain of notoriety, specially in the wake of the disappearance of $27,000 and the 50 check forgeries that all happened under Cudal.

Take all those incidents, and many more, and one gets a clear view of why COPAO, Mabuhay Alliance,  their supporters and their blind followers wanted to ship me out of the US.

Incidentally, Jimmie Sober was also among the 50 signatories that included the ABC trio of Andrews, Bautista and Cudal; the self-described "publishing morass" Rudy Liporada; Purry Garavillar and others who tried to pressure MCPS in September.

Why Sober's sudden change of heart now?

The challenges of advocacy and friendship are far too complicated to grasp. # # #

PHILIPPINE VILLAGE VOICE - Redefining Community News
BREAKING NEWS -  Commentary
Issue No. 95 / News Without Fear or Favor /

 . . . A community service of San Diego's Philippine Village Voice ( or at 619.265.0611) for the information and better understanding of the public. . . . 


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Last Updated on Saturday, 08 December 2007 10:40

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