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Archive for the ‘Philippines’ Category

A Friend of the Sorianos Speaks

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This is an email I received from Lovely Aseron two days ago. The facts are disturbing and I think everyone following this story, and the general public, should know this. My clarification–not justification–on certain details is in red.

Hi, I’m a friend of the Soriano family. My fiance, Edu Abalos, is a first cousin of Romulo Soriano. I would like to clear up some things about this article and the other one before it:

1. Kuya Mulo (Romulo Soriano) and his family weren’t on their way to Manila. He was driving Ate Malou to the Provincial Hall where she was expected to report together with her colleagues at work in Provincial Health Office (PHO). They were assigned to go to Balayan to give assistance to the typhoon victims there.

Got this news of their supposed trip to Manila from an ABS-CBN report.

2. Mayor Dimacuha was at the site just after the bridge collapsed.

3. Lolit Cos or whoever she is wasn’t the one who found Ate Malou. The Badjaos found her and rescued her on their own.

The Badjaos did save her. But my source at the Batangas Police Provincial Office told me that she was spotted by one Lolit Cos first who alerted the Badjaos to rescue her.

4. The praise for the Coast Guard is an exaggeration. The family had to go to them, use connections, and suffer numerous delays before help was given to them.

*** Searching for Kuya Mulo and Nico was primarily a family effort. Lives were at stake, but the government never made them feel that searching for Kuya Mulo and Nico was of utmost importance and a priority. The family had to rent boats and even borrow a private speedboat from Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), through the effort of Kuya Mulo’s aunt who works for COA-PPA. When Nico was found in Tingloy, the male relatives on board the borrowed speedboat from PPA brought the body to PPA Batangas. While the other relatives were waiting, a police officer approached them. He went and said how the PNP found a boat and escorted the body of Nico from Tingloy to Batangas City. It was an outright lie. The aunt who personally borrowed the speedboat from PPA told him, “you’re mistaken, I borrowed the boat from PPA, not you. My nephews are the ones bringing the body from Tingloy, not you.”

*** Although Ate Malou was a government employee, and the reason the family left the house that morning in the first place is to drive her to work (on a Saturday, if I might add), we never felt the help of the government. Vice Governor Leviste went to Wawa and the hospital to visit Ate Malou, his promise that they will help in searching for Kuya Mulo and Nico were nothing but empty words. He specifically said that certain government agencies have been put on alert. However, when the family went to Mabini because of an unofficial report, from a friend, of a body found there, they were surprised and disappointed upon their arrival that the Coast Guard and Barangay officials were not aware of the situation. the barangays near the coast should have been informed since Kuya Mulo and Nico might have been anywhere. Governor Vilma Santos went to the home of the Soriano family after the burial. When asked where she was during the ordeal, she said the bridge was not within the jurisdiction of her office.

*** It is frightening that trying times like the one that happened is a continuing manifestation of how our government can not be relied on.


Written by nealm

14 November 2009 at 3:11 PM

Nicolo’s Body Recovered, Car Found; Romulo Still Missing

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I have a confirmed report from a Batangas Police Provincial Office source that as of 3:42 pm Manila Time (GMT +8) today, 3-year-old Nicolo Soriano‘s body was recovered near Tingloy, an island-municipality across the Batangas Bay, a linear distance of about 15 miles (about 25 kilometers) from the site of the collapsed bridge and 32 hours after the incident. His remains is now at the San Fernando Funeral Homes in Batangas City.

Meanwhile, their white Honda Civic car was found underwater near RK Village, a few hundred meters from the disaster site, and search and recovery operations continue for the missing Romulo Soriano.

Maria Lourdes Romulo Soriano or Malou, the survivor, is still confined at Saint Patrick’s Hospital in Batangas City. According to the same source, Malou was heard crying for help by one Lolit Cos as she was  floating among the flood flotsam near Wawa, a seaside community in the city. She then sought the help of a Badjao (known for their swimming and sea-fearing abilities) whose name’s phonetic spelling (he couldn’t spell) is Karsani Bartapa to retrieve her from the raging water.

There is also an unconfirmed account that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) did an inspection of the bridge a week prior to the collapse and found it to be structurally sound.

So many questions, so few answers.

But kudos to Karsani and the tireless, nameless Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine National Police rescuers and other volunteers. They are our heroes. [d]*

Written by nealm

1 November 2009 at 9:50 AM

A Bridge That Broke Its Promise

with 20 comments

Bridge of Promise by bobit (goaguila)

Typhoon Santi (Mirinae) washed away a four-decade-old, 20-ton-capacity steel Bridge of Promise at 7:30 a.m. today, when the Signal #3 typhoon was leaving Batangas City.  A family in their white Honda Civic car was crossing the bridge on their way to Manila when it actually collapsed and plunged into the murky Calumpang river. One of the three passengers, Malou Soriano, 39, a Provincial health worker, was rescued almost an hour later a few hundred meters downstream after people saw her hanging to a tree and was rushed to Saint Patrick’s Hospital in downtown Batangas City. As of this writing, search and rescue is still on-going for her husband, Romulo, 40, and her son, Nicolo, 3.

When I went to the site, the trusses appear to be intact hinting at the questionable structural integrity of the weakened bridge piers in the middle of the span which witnesses saw were the first to succumb to the raging water.  One driver told me that he felt the “weird shaking” of the weakened bridge yesterday before the storm’s onslaught prompting him to drive faster across the bridge for fear it would “give in”. I saw a Coast Guard rubber boat plying the river once downstream and twice upstream when I was there for  about an hour. No frogmen/divers in sight, neither were there any frantic rescuers. Only curious onlookers, mostly with their camphones, a guy with “Official Photographer” emblazoned on his shirt, and other rubbernecks. Talks were aplenty about premonitions, hindsights, and how corrupt politicians and disasters don’t go together. I asked if anyone saw the Mayor (Eddie Dimacuha). None in the crowd could answer me. “How long do you think they (the government) could rebuild this?” I asked a couple of guys next to me. “If not for Shell (which uses this bridge to transport their crude and refined oil), this bridge would not have been built,” the guy in white shirt retorted.  I disagreed. It’s election time, duh.

We are a nation of resilient people. But the worst disaster that we have yet to recover from is corruption. We didn’t need Ondoy, Pepeng and Santi to know this. I pray for Malou’s recovery and Romulo’s and Nicolo’s rescue. I pray for our enlightenment.

P.S. I searched online in vain to validate the details on the bridge and what not. I am an amateur blogger so the facts on the bridge are not fully vetted, except for the details of the disaster and the family which are in the news. [d]*

Written by nealm

31 October 2009 at 10:05 AM

And The Winner Is…

with 6 comments

Juan de la Cruz! or Joe Blow! or Jane Doe! (Of course, I would have been twice merrier if it was me!)

Finalists' Screenshots Mosaic Wall

Finalists' Screenshots Mosaic Wall

Of all the brilliance and luminosity of the bloggers and pundits at the 2009 Philippine Blog Awards Awards Night last October 9th, nothing shines brighter than the light of freedom. And the true winner that night is that one person who our blog post finds.

More than the luster that each award recognizes, it is the power of the word to forge minds, form opinions, and sometimes force changes that makes these ceremonies meaningful.

To the 2009 PBA winners, congratulations (especially to Jim Paredes of Apo Hiking Society fame who won in the Best Personal Blog-Nationwide Category)! Thanks to you, my dear readers and good friends, who  continue to appreciate my work.

This could have been a photo of that trophy!

This could have been a photo of that trophy!

P.S. I just wish they have a separate category for celebrity bloggers. Enough said. [d]*

Written by nealm

13 October 2009 at 6:32 PM

Flippin’ Over Flippish

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It can’t get any better than this! You get to show your love by voting for The Digitizer and get the chance to win a Nokia 2330 Classic? Talking about quid pro quo (scratch my back and i’ll give you a back rub!).  Here’s the email I got fr0m the Flippin’, I mean, Flippish Team :

Greetings from Flippish.com!

As one of the finalists of the Best Personal Blog category, we are excited to inform you that your blog is also part of the Flippish Viewers’ Choice Award!

This time, the viewers get to decide on who wins, by voting for their favorite personal blog. On top of that, they also get a chance to win a Nokia 2330 Classic if the blog of their choice gets the most hits!

The winners of the Flippish Viewer’s Choice Award and the Nokia phone will be announced during the live webcast of the Philippine Blog Awards

Spread the love, spread the link! Check out on October 9, 2009, 6pm only on Flippish.com. http://www.flippish.com/nokia-voting-page/ for details.

Good luck and bye-bye!

-Flippish team

Go ahead, click on the banner to vote for The Digitizer and click on its thumbnail picture on the list (so I’ll get the hit, too).Thank you.

P.S. Can’t w8 4 us 2b txtm8s soon! 🙂 [d]*

Written by nealm

5 October 2009 at 4:47 AM

2009 Philippine Blog Awards’ Luminous Finalists

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I have yet to earn a cent from blogging, but who cares when your peers recognize your work?

This is what I posted for my Facebook status update after I learned that The Digitizer is among the 20 finalists in the Best Personal Blog Nationwide Category (announced yesterday, September 23rd) :

FB screenshot

Win or lose, it is an honor just to be listed among luminous bloggers by stellar bloggers!

Felicitations to all the finalists! I’ll try to visit each finalist out of curiousity, respect, and yes, even peer envy. 🙂

2009 Philippine Blog Awards

Best Personal Blog

ai’s cracker
Brief Stories
Cerebral Insights
Excuse My French
Funny is the New Sexy
Life with Ria
Platonic Trip
room for squares
Succulence Unleashed
The Casual Observer
The Digitizer
The Free Lancer
writing on air

For the complete list of all the Finalists in the Nationwide Categories, click here.

Congratulations to all the luminous finalists!


Written by nealm

24 September 2009 at 3:34 PM

Serving Justice, Saving Souls

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J. Reuben Clark Law Society-Philippines:  A Year of Dispensing Legal Service with the Energies of their Soul

When I lived in California, a lawyer acquaintance of mine once tried to sell a prepaid legal service membership to me. It wasn’t cheap but what really made me fish for my credit card was when he finally unleashed the deadliest blow in his verbal arsenal: a person living in the United States is more likely to get sued than be hospitalized. If reality was the bait, well, it bit me instead. That they have a mature culture of people valuing, asserting and enforcing their rights complemented by a relatively efficient and modern legal and prison systems so they can maintain peace, order and the American way of life was apparent to me. It is no surprise, then, that huge amount of taxpayers’ dollars are siphoned off from local and federal coffers to keep them well-oiled, and that an average American pays more for his insurance premiums than most people in the world especially in areas where potential personal liabilities are high. All it could take is one nasty lawsuit with a brassy lawyer as prosecutor and you could lose a life’s worth of savings and would still owe another lifetime’s worth of debt. Paying a premium for a 24/7 access to quality legal service did not only seem the most sensible thing to do, it gave me peace of mind to sleep well at night (but not trust toward cunning lawyers, though).

In the Philippines, however equitable and sufficient are the laws, the wheels of justice turn grindingly slow that the Supreme Court itself put up the “Justice on Wheels” system in 2004, “a mobile court system as a means to bring justice closer to the poor by providing a fast and free solutions of conflict through conciliation, mediation and adjudication,” said Honorable Adolfo S. Azcuna, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. These are fully-airconditioned, custom-built buses configured into a courtroom in the front and a mediation room in the rear with a Presiding Judge, a Clerk of Court, a Prosecutor, a Public Attorney, a Court Stenographer, a Docket Clerk, a Process Server, a Driver and a Security Guard. Its priority is to hear the cases of those who have been on detention for more than the maximum penalty of their particular cases. They are aimed at decongesting the overcrowded detention facilities—some of which were holding up to five times their designated capacities—and the heavy caseloads of some Family Courts.

Justice, or the lack thereof, is all in the hands of a lawyer. For the J. Reuben Clark Law Society-Philippines Chapter members, they had their work cut for them.

The author with Atty. Mhe-Anne Ojeda, JRCLS-Philippines Secretary General
The author with Atty. Mhe-Anne Ojeda, JRCLS-Philippines Secretary General

Established on May 21, 2008, the J. Reuben Clark Law Society – Philippines Chapter is the 65th in the world to have sprung up from the original chapter out of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The members are lawyers, law graduates and associates who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of other faith who support their Mission Statement :  “We affirm the strength brought into the law by a lawyer’s personal religious convictions. We strive through public service and professional excellence to promote fairness and virtue founded upon the rule of law.” Founded in 1973, the school is named after J. Reuben Clark (J.D.)—he was a prominent attorney in the Department of State, and Under Secretary of State for U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and as the Second Counselor in the First Presidency to President Heber J. Grant. In 1930 he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.

The public thrust of this society is its Pro Bono Legal Services Program or by providing legal assistance to members of the Church and others who could not otherwise afford it. It aids local Priesthood leaders, consistent with the welfare principles of the Church, with an organized program of legal resource to members whom the leaders determine to be in need of legal assistance and do not otherwise have the financial capabilities to obtain such assistance. It becomes the conduit of opportunities for its lawyer-members to serve bringing them personal and professional satisfaction. However, this program is not administered by the Church but through the voluntary efforts of the JRCLS members.

Barely a week into its creation, JRCLS-Philippines’ ground-breaking foray into public service is its successful defense of an active LDS single mother to a then 11-year-old daughter who was an Immigration Facilitator for four years at an immigration consultancy. On March 15, 2008, she was arrested in an entrapment arranged by the Public Employment Service Office while conducting an immigration consultancy seminar in a Southern Tagalog town. She was then charged with “Illegal Recruitment in Large Scale/Syndicated Estafa” and was held in jail without bail. Her arrest was aired on local radio and was touted a victory against illegal recruiters. After getting her first and only visit from her company-hired lawyer, this sister was abandoned and languished in jail for a little over two months in a remote town with roads not passable to small vehicles before JCRLS-Philippines learned of her case. A committee composed of Attorneys Rodrigo Reyna, Robert Cauilan and Ernie San Juan was tasked to respond to this pro bono case and to formulate its own course of actions involving the sister’s Bishop and a Priesthood holder (who visited her company) from her ward, the  Relief Society President (who provided accommodation) and two Priesthood holders of the branch in the town where she was incarcerated, and a Priesthood holder from a different ward (who drove, alternately with his cousin, the committee members to and from that town at his expense and using his own vehicle). A month after her first visit from JRCLS-Philippines, she was free on bail, and the complaints were subsequently dismissed. She was faithful and maintained gospel standards through out her ordeal as kind-hearted Priesthood leaders, members and friends feverishly did the legwork providing transportation, food, lodging, bail and other expenses while volunteer lawyers Attorneys Rodrigo Reyna, Robert Cauilan and Ernie San Juan dispensed legal services with the “energies of their soul”.  As everyone involved did their part diligently while putting their trust in the Lord, the JRCLS Pro Bono Legal Services program was properly dispensed with, embracing perfectly the welfare principles of the Church with favorable results.

This and other stories will define the legacy of J. Reuben Clark Law Society – Philippines Chapter for years to come as it sees its membership grow from 33 to 57 when it recently celebrated its first year anniversary with a two-day conference held at Buendia Chapel in Makati City, Metro Manila and at Dasmariñas, Cavite. Among its activities were the symbolic visits to the American War Memorial Cemetery in Fort Bonifacio Global City in Makati where the late prophet Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Philippines for missionary work on June 1961 and to the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite, the house in which Emilio Aguinaldo declared the independence of the first Philippine Republic on June 1898. Noted were the keynote addresses of President Keith R. Edwards, Philippines Area President, Attorney David Berrett, Area Legal Counsel Office of General Council-Asia, for the opening and closing programs respectively, and the address of Judge Maria Elisa Sempio-Diy, a Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge.

President Edwards exhorted the JRCLS members to be “spiritual advocates” reassuring that “advocates bring harmony to the world.” He continued by asking the members, “What is it that God wants from lawyers as his advocates? : to live justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God,” citing Micah 6:8. Furthermore, he encouraged the attendees to exercise wisdom as King Solomon did. “Wisdom requires a price to be paid. If we’re going to gain wisdom, we need to ask for an understanding heart, to help us understand our priorities and its cost,” he counseled.

Attorney Berrett’s  introduction on the origin and definition of the word “advocate” prepared the listeners for his discourse on the issues of Justice, Mercy, and the Atonement, and how the lawyer’s advocacy of their client or a Priesthood leader’s advocacy for the members mirrors, to a certain extent, that of the Savior‘s advocacy with the Father. “When individuals were in my law office, the concern was for their temporal welfare. When individuals were in my Church office, the concern was for their spiritual welfare,” he shared. He concluded that if we agree to accept the Savior’s fee agreement, He will plead his case before the Father and we may obtain justification and sanctification and may stay in the presence of God.

Having been enlightened by these discourses on the true nature of these noble advocates, I am comforted to know that there is a breed of lawyers that look after their clients’ welfare as the Savior would. Brigham Young’s statement on corrupt lawyers is as true today as it was more than one and a half centuries ago: “When a lawyer comes into the Church, if he happens to have a little common sense left, and will take to ploughing and cultivating the soil, there is a chance for him to make a man for himself; but if he follows his former customs and habits, the chances are against him, he may ruin himself, lose the Spirit of the Lord, if he ever possessed it, and go back into midnight darkness.” (Journal of Discourses 11:125). Now that most of these lawyers actually grew up in the Church with more than enough sense to get out of their comfort zones to serve, they take to plow the hearts of men and cultivate the soil of justice with devotion, humility and pure love of Christ. Like a city set on a hill, the JRCLS-Philippines members shine their lights of good works before men. For in their selfless acts of serving justice to those who may have been denied of it, they transcend their roles from advocacy to saving souls of men, including their own.

Now that can surely make you sleep tight at night. [d]*

Written by nealm

23 September 2009 at 3:22 AM