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Atty. Jojo M. Liangco



Responsibility and hope
We Filipinos should not forget our values as people. Reading the news and social media postings of many, including the news that we hear from relatives, friends, and loved ones in the Philippines, it is undeniable that many have accepted the extrajudicial killings (“EJKs”) linked to Operation Tokhang and the government’s war on drugs as a “necessity” and a part of life in the Philippines.
Recently, majority of the members of the House of Representatives also voted to resurrect the death penalty.
The blame should not only be put against the incumbent president, Rodrigo R. Duterte, who during his campaign for the presidency and after he was sworn in as president vowed to “kill them”--- them referring to drug lords, drug pushers, and drug users. For almost nine months now, President Duterte continues to rally his supporters to support his drug war.
I am puzzled and perplexed by the way the Filipino people have accepted and tolerated the president’s iron-fist approach. I also wonder why many continue to believe that this approach will work and be effective in moving the nation forward. Countries like Thailand and Colombia tried the same approach before and came out unsuccessful despite the number of casualties that ended up six feet underground.
Have we forgotten the age-old Filipino proverbs “Kapag may buhay, may pag-asa” and “Hanggang buhay ang tao ay may pag-asa” which were handed to us by our ancestors many generations ago. Both of these proverbs tell us that while there is life, there will always be hope.
There is also the Filipino maxim that says “Kung buhay and inutang, buhay rin ang kabayaran” which implies that if a life was borrowed, the debt should also be paid with life.
This may sound like a good justification for the death penalty--- as in the law of retaliation during the ancient and barbaric times--- commonly referred to as “an eye for an eye.” However, if we analyze and reinterpret the maxim in this modern and civilized world, what we will see is a profound balance sheet and accountability approach.
The equivalent of accountability or responsibility in Pilipino is “pananagutan.”
Pananagutan goes deep into who we are because it is related to our “pakikipagkapwa-tao” (how we treat others).
Following the mantra of “Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko,” that popular Philippine public service television show in the 1970s hosted by Rosal Rosal and Orly Mercado, Filipino service providers and community-based agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area have adopted “Kapwa Natin, Pananagutan Natin” as their service principle and purpose statement during the 1990s.
Pakikipagkapwa-tao is one of the more important core virtues of being a Filipino. The meaning of kapwa is shared identity which on a certain level leads to shared responsibility and solidarity.
Hence, kapwa natin, pananagutan natin may mean caring for one another and in the larger context this helps promote a community of caring and responsible people.
How do we reconcile the concept of community and responsibility if we tolerate and accept EJKs as part of life in the Philippines? The same goes to accepting the death penalty if the penal punishment makes a grand return in the Philippines. Remember, the Philippines made a pact with the community of nations years ago against the imposition of the death penalty?
Let us not forget that we Filipinos are also responsible for the more than seven thousand deaths attributed to the drug war (if the Philippine government is indeed responsible for those deaths)--- because we are responsible for the lives of our “kapwa” and the families that the departed have left behind.
The Philippines cannot move forward as a nation if there is no accountability as to the more than seven thousand lives lost and the continued killings going on in the name of the war on drugs.
As long as there is life, there will always be hope. And for hope to grow and hopefully reach others in the community--- including the nation’s leaders--- there must be pananagutan first to protect and care for the lives of our fellow human beings--- our kapwa.

Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.


Remembering Rizal during Trump’s travel ban

The Trump administration is not the first to order the exclusion of a group of people from entering the United States. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first law to be implemented to bar a certain ethnic group from coming to this country. Although the United States of America was founded and has emerged as a great nation because of the contributions of immigrants and refugees, U.S. history tells us thatthis country has also made unfortunate mistakes of blaming immigrants about the woes suffered by the U.S. As a consequence, policies that restrict immigrants and immigration came about due to strong anti-immigrant attitudes and sentiments that prevailed over truth and reason. There are even incidents of hate crimes due to anti-immigrant sentiments and xenophobia. When President Trump signed the executive order (“EO”) “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” on January 27, 2017, the EO did not only bring fear among Muslims and refugees but to non-Muslims as well because the order had consequences that affected almost everyone who wanted to enter the U.S. Even those who wanted to visit the U.S. as tourists and those who have been in this country for many years as legal permanent residents and naturalized citizens were also alarmed.

The so-called “port of entries” in the international airports as well as those located in our borders again became symbols of America’s closed doors. The EO brought the message that so-called “outsiders” are not “welcome” and that those who dared to proceed will be subjected to interrogations. There was chaos in many U.S. airports after President Trump signed his immigration EO and after the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol started to enforce it. Many travelers were stranded, some were arrested and put-on-hold, and there are those who were rejected outright and deported. The EO also came as a surprise to airport officials who did not fully understand the order and the sudden changes it brought concerning the rules and protocol for people trying to enter the U.S. It was good that concerned citizens reacted quickly to protest, including many immigration lawyers and human rights advocates in the U.S. who rushed to the airports to provide assistance to those who were affected and detained. At this time, there’s an order from the Federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that put a stop on the enforcement of the Trump EO. This was not the case though when Filipino national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, first entered the United States in 1888. No federal appeals court, protesters, and lawyers came to rescue Dr. Rizal and his fellow ship passengers from prejudice after they were detained in San Francisco, California. Rizal’s diaries and letters to his friends and relatives in Laguna about his travel experience in the U.S. showed his brilliance as a political analyst. Rizal was held (“quarantined”) in his ship for six days before he was allowed to disembark. What Rizal saw in 1888 is similar in a way to what we are now witnessing in 2017.

His observation as to why he and his fellow passengers were detained was stated in a letter to his parents--- “Here we are in sight of America since yesterday without being able to disembark, placed in quarantine on account of the 642 Chinese that we have on board coming from Hong Kong where they say smallpox prevails. But the true reason is that, as America is against Chinese immigration and now they are campaigning for the elections, the government, in order to get the vote of the people, must appear to be strict with the Chinese, and we suffer. On board there is not one sick person…” The prejudice and restriction against the Chinese people that Rizal witnessed during his visit in San Francisco is the same prejudice that Muslims and refugees are facing today. Yesterday’s “smallpox” is today’s “terrorism.” Rizal’s sharp mind can help explain how President Trump won the last election. Restrictions against immigration and blaming immigrants get votes. The government must appear to be strict and President Trump succeeded in portraying the past U.S. administration as weak on the issue of immigration. Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.


The complexities of political colors

The Filipino people were united in toppling the Marcos dictatorship during the 1986 EDSA Revolt. Fast forward to February 25, 2017 and we witnessed the anti-dictatorship movement gather at the People Power Monument in EDSA while supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte downplayed the EDSA commemoration by organizing at the Quirino Grandstand. The colors that stood-out prominently in both venues mirror the current social order in the Philippines. “Fighting colors” are more common in collegiate sports and cheering competitions than in politics. College teams in the Philippines carry their respective colors with pride (i.e. Ateneo Blue Eagles, La Salle Green Archers, UST Golden Tigers, UP Maroons, and San Beda Red Lions). In Philippine politics, the most common and often used colors by political parties and candidates after World War II were red, white, and blue. This was an easy choice because these are the colors of Philippine flag. Regardless of party affiliations, candidates want to present themselves as “pillars of patriotism” and “promoters of nationalistic ideals.” Before Martial Law was declared, the two main political parties (Liberal Party andthe Nacionalista Party) were very much alike in their party emblems and political platforms. Both were also represented by the elite who tried to maintain the status quo.

The only group that challenged the then elite-dominated government was the underground Communist Party of the Philippines (“CPP”) who had strong support among the students, workers, peasants, and the urban poor. The CPP carried the color red which in the Philippine context is associated with protests and uprisings. Red is the fighting color of the revolutionary Katipunan, the Pulahanes, of many millenarian movement, of progressive trade unions like the Kilusang Mayo Uno, and of the militant youth groups Kabataang Makabayan and the League of Filipino Students. During the time of Martial Law and the New Society Movement (Kilusang BagongLipunan), then President Ferdinand Marcos took the political colors of the two-party system and consolidated them into one--- he also consolidated a faction of the Philippine elite. With the people silenced by violence and fear, the only consistent challenge to Marcos again came from the

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