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Home Columns San Diego Happenings Exposing the Scams and Scandals Is Not New
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Columns - San Diego Happenings
Wednesday, 25 July 2007 06:30

The News UpFront: (Commentary) as of Wednesday, 25 July 2007

~~ Six years ago last month, the mainstream San Diego Weekly Reader featured the trail-blazing investigative news coverage by this reporter in a cover story devoted to the scams and scandals in the Filipino community.

THE QUINTESSENTIAL AMERICAN DETECTIVE'

Exposing the Scams and Scandals Is Not New

By ROMEO P. MARQUEZ

SAN DIEGO -- Exactly six years ago last month, the regional mainstream newsmagazine San Diego Reader (audited circulation: 173,125 copies) published a full-length story detailing my efforts at exposing the scams and their notorious practitioners in San Diego's Filipino community.

The 35-year-old weekly, which carries at least 200 pages per issue, is popular for its well-researched, confrontational, investigative pieces. The second-largest in San Diego County, it is a "showcase for San Diego's best writers and photographers," according to one website.

What I was doing at the micro level must be big and important enough to have attracted the paper's attention, for the article about me written by M.G. Stephens became the cover story of its June 14, 2001 issue and ran through 15 more pages.

No local journalist had been given such wide exposure, by the mainstream at that, which highlighted his work. "Sinister Hero", the paper headlines on its cover. Inside where the story begins, it was sub-headlined: "A Filipino writer takes on his community."

My practice of investigative journalism focusing mainly on community issues began earnestly in 1993 when, fresh from more than 11 years as foreign correspondent with the Hamburg-based Deutsche Presse Agentur, I came to San Diego.

I had tried to fully engage in it when I was the associate editor of another paper but held on once it became clear to me that the lure of money was more important to my principals than rendering public service.

I moved to yet another paper which had no identity of its own due mainly to its lack of focus. Once in as editor-in-chief, I promptly recast its image as a fearless and no-nonsense newspaper and wrote stories that otherwise would have been relegated to the dustbin of history, ignored, forgotten and untouched.

As early as over a decade ago, I was already courting the ire of some people and before I could count the years defining the paper's niche, I had reached that point in 1998 when upholding my principles made peace with my conscience than succumbing to pressure from spineless employers.

So I severed my ties and never looked back. I wasn't going to be one of the boys, them (the publishers, editors and reporters of most of the Filipino community newspapers) who were at the beck and call of this itinerant individual who dispensed the advertisements and held their throats.

Within 10 weeks of my resignation, I put up the broadsheet Diario Veritas (the Truth newspaper) mainly through the help of my family. Close friends supported the paper by guesting as writers and some who also believed in my vision contributed advertisements to defray the cost of printing.

When it debuted, Diario Veritas bannered the incredible story of the Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal, surfacing -- of all places -- in front of a fishmarket (Seafood City in National City), thanks to the leadership of the Council of Philippine American Organizations who blew hot and cold on the issue.

That was June 1998, nine years ago, and at that very early date, the supreme liar in the Filipino community was already rubbing elbows with the perfidious high and mighty, lying left and right while preening herself as a spiritual model of some mystical deity with a forked tongue.

Rizal's bust was the second major bare-faced lie by this person. She had marketed the idea of erecting the bust by pretending it was a community effort when it was not. And for standing up for the egregiousness, the community organization was rewarded with a $1,000 donation.

Desperate for recognition, she probably thought Filipinos in San Diego were so hungry for a leader that she could easily pass herself off as a PhD (is that phony doctor or pizza home deliverer?). But that's as erroneous as saying Filipinos in San Diego were all stupid.

The true PhD (doctor of philosophy) holder is M.G. Stephens, the British writer who patiently tagged with me wherever I went for a couple of days while doing his interview. Stephens has published 18 books, including the memoir Where the Sky Ends (Hazelden) and the reissue of his novel The Brooklyn Book of the Dead (New Island Books in Dublin, Ireland).

When he was done, Stephens wrote in the June 14, 2001 issue of the Reader a long and detailed story about me and how I was pursuing the type of investigative journalism that was pretty much an unknown thing in the Filipino community.

Towards the end of his story, which is generally regarded as the first of any Filipino in San Diego, Stephens had referred to me as "National City's Philip Marlowe". I must have done something magnificent to deserve the recognition, coming as it did from a novelist like him.

The allusion was a perfect description of the journalism genre that I believe I pioneered in San Diego's Filipino community since over 10 years ago. This time, though, I am firmly determined to continue with that tradition in my modest monthly newspaper, the tabloid-sized Philippine Village Voice which has taken from where Diario Veritas had left off.

Philip Marlowe is America's favorite detective, a creation of American author Raymond Chandler, whose literary career ran from 1935 through 1960.

In the latest book celebrating Chandler's works, Philip Marlowe is described as "the quintessential American detective: cynical yet idealistic; romantic yet full of despair; a gentleman capable of rough violence."

I am no detective, however. But as an investigative journalist, my work parallels that of a detective. The field of journalism is replete with examples of powerful men and institutions brought down by a hail of stories by dedicated journalists whose commitment to journalism is resolute and unflinching.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post are examples. Their efforts at exposing the Watergate scandal, the corruption and the cover-up spelled the doom of Richard Nixon who quit the presidency post haste.

A recent story much closer to home is of the disgraced former San Diego congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, now in jail for accepting millions of dollars in bribes. But years before the San Diego Union-Tribune exposed his corrupt ways, I was already documenting similar cases in the Filipino community.

Topping my list is a former Filipino lawyer and National City councilman who mulcted money from clients and constituents. I wrote in-depth stories without letup, not minding the slings and arrows coming my way. The concerted efforts to ostracize me during that time did not faze me either.

When the mainstream papers and broadcast stations picked up the story, it became apparent that the truth as I have seen and reported it was being validated and upheld. That was when this person chose to quit his practice and his elective position.

In the case of the Union-Tribune, it won the Pulitzer Prize for its investigative reporting of Cunningham. In my case, the Filipino community simply ignored the journalism feat I pulled singly and on my own, half-accepting what I had clearly proven that the Filipino councilman and lawyer was capable of doing what he did.

I mention these incidents not to seek recognition. It's my way of highlighting the fact that good and honest journalism is not a monopoly of the mainstream.

Some people in the Filipino community are apparently being swayed by my self-appointed enemies that my journalism is driven by personal rather than professional motives, which is wrong of course.

I thought this is the best time to cite hitherto-unknown stories to convince the doubting Thomases in the Filipino community about my commitment to truthful and responsible journalism.

I still believe the sure way to empower the community is to let them know that there are crooks in their midst who mask themselves through clever recitations of passages from the bible, sweet talks, angelic smiles and feigned concern.

"Cynical yet idealistic; romantic yet full of despair; a gentleman capable of rough violence". That's Philip Marlowe. We can all be like him.

BREAKING NEWS - Commentary
Issue No. 48 NEWS WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOR

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



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Last Updated on Thursday, 25 October 2007 07:48
 

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