Items filtered by date: Thursday, 18 May 2017

Cardiac Arrest Awareness with FFAC

The executive members of the Friends of the Filipino/American Community (FFAC), a not for profit political action committee (PAC) of the greater Northern California met with Philippine Consul General Henry S. Bensurto Jr. and his staff at the San Francisco office on May 11 to discuss and advocate for Hotels in the Philippines to have in their establishment a life saving device known as a "Defibrillator". Defibrillation is a treatment for life-threatening cardiac dysrhythmias, specifically ventricular fibrillation (VF) and non- perfusing ventricular tachycardia (VT). A defibrillator delivers a dose of electric current (often called a countershock) to the heart.

Each year, many Filipinos die from sudden cardiac arrest during their stay at the Philippine hotels because the device was not available during the cardiac event that could otherwise have saved their lives.

The key to survival is timely initiation of a "chain of survival", including CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Because of recent technological advances, a portable lifesaving device, called an "automated external defibrillator" or "AED" has recently become an important medical tool. Trained non-medical personnel can use these simplified electronic machines to treat a person in cardiac arrest. The AED device guides the user through the process by audible or visual prompts without requiring any discretion or judgment.

FFAC will work closely with the Consulate General Office (CGO), the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Health (DOH) to bring this very important issue to the forefront and advocate to become a law that having an AED will be a standard of operation (SOP) in all the hotel industries in the Philippines.

In attendance for FFAC was former Union

Vice Mayor Jim Navarro, Atty. Ben Reyes, Atty. Cesar Fumar, Evelyn Centeno and

Rose Pavone. 


PG&E, CA Fire Safe Councils Join Forces to Combat Wildfire Risk

San Francisco, Calif.—Even though the drought emergency is over, the damage has already been done. The drought and bark beetle infestation have killed more than 100 million trees in California, and U.S. Forest Service scientists expect elevated levels of tree mortality to continue into this year in some areas. That’s why Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is working with local Fire Safe Councils, providing nearly $2 million in project funding to reduce the threat of wildfires.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers, employees and the communities we serve. While most California counties received significant rainfall this winter, the tree mortality crisis will linger for years. And, as the Governor points out, the next drought could be around the corner. That is why we’re taking extraordinary measures to protect our electric infrastructure, and help local Fire Safe Councils dedicated to making communities more fire safe,” said Kevin Dasso, PG&E vice president of Electric Asset Management.

This year, PG&E will be funding 43 local Fire Safe Council and other 501(c)3 projects in 21 counties. Projects include fuel reduction, shaded fuel breaks, emergency access and chipping programs. This is the fourth consecutive year PG&E has funded local Fire Safe Council projects to help residents protect their homes, communities and the environment from wildfire. Many are focused on creating fuel breaks and emergency access to help CAL FIRE and local fire departments safely fight wildfires when they do occur. 

"The drought in California has been declared over, but the ongoing threat of wildfires due to hot weather and rapid brush growth from the heavy rains, is now facing many communities in the state. The California Fire Safe Council (CFSC) is a leader in encouraging statewide fire prevention programs, and values the continuing collaboration and financial support that PG&E provides to California communities to implement fire prevention programs. It allows these communities to meet their fire prevention needs to protect lives, homes and properties," said Jerry Davies, Chairman of the California Fire Safe Council.

Working to Reduce Wildfire Threat


PG&E is working hard to reduce the threat of wildfires. The company inspects all of its overhead electric lines each year and also inspects trees along power lines in high fire-danger areas twice a year. As a result of these inspections, PG&E removed more than 236,000 dead or dying trees last year to prevent them from contacting power lines, starting wildfires or contributing to other public safety risks. This is in addition to the 1.2 million trees that PG&E works each year.  

The company also created a dead tree wood clean-up program to help its customers. PG&E will manage the wood on property or haul away wood from dead trees felled by the company to protect power lines, at no cost to the homeowner, in qualifying counties where tree mortality is high. The wood is being sawn for use as lumber or chipped for use in biomass facilities to generate renewable energy. 

As part of its summer fire detection patrols, PG&E will fly five planes over routes in the daytime, which is when fires are most likely to spark. Last year, PG&E detected and reported more than 140 fires, supporting a quick response to fires before they spread. 


Why the VIP treatment for a plunderer?

I am not a lawyer but I see something terribly wrong with the way Janet Lim Napoles is being treated by the Duterte regime, specifically the Department of Justice, but also by the president himself.
When President Rodrigo Duterte opined months ago that maybe Napoles was not as guilty as had been presumed – presumptions based on mountains of evidence – it seemed that it would only be a matter of time when she would be cleared of charges.
This hasn’t happened yet, but the initial steps have been taken, and they have to disturb anyone who still believes that the guilty must be charged and convicted in a court of law, and the innocent set free.
To recall, Napoles and her brother (who remains in hiding) had found themselves an obscene but highly profitable gold mine in the pork barrel allocations that congressmen and senators had been granting themselves for decades.
Since all the country’s lawmakers had given themselves millions every year to dole out to their pet projects, these pork barrel allocations had been a source of graft and corruption.
In many cases, the projects – usually public works -- were overpriced and the results substandard. The lawmakers would award the projects to favored contractors, who then built the low grade roads, bridges, school buildings, basketball courts, waiting sheds and the like, making huge profits in the process.
Naturally, the lawmakers received their share of the pie. Under the table and tax free, of course.
This went on for the longest time, until Napoles came up with one bright idea: Why build projects at all? Why not create ghost non-government organizations concocting impossible-to-audit projects to receive pork barrel funds?
The millions – billions actually – would be shared between the lawmakers who doled out the funds to the NGOs, and Napoles.
Improbable as it seems in this 21st century, this is exactly what Napoles and her cohorts did. But as the saying goes, the truth will eventually come out, and when it did a good number of congressmen and senators were found to have been active and willing participants to the scheme.
In the case of three senators – Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla – the amounts doled out and the kickbacks they received were sufficient enough for them to be charged with plunder, meaning they gifted themselves with more than P50 million in rebates. That’s roughly $1 millon in today’s exchange rate.
Estrada and Revilla are now incarcerated, while the court allowed the 90-something Enrile to post bail owing to his advanced years and frail health.
Napoles, meanwhile, was also incarcerated not only for her role in the plunder of pork barrel funds, but also because she had kept a former employee and distant relative imprisoned inside a rest home for Catholic priests in an exclusive Makati village. Benhur Luy was that Napoles employee who revealed the scam after he had been rescued by the NBI.
In my book, if a guy says he was kept against his will, and if his close relatives say he was kept against his will, then in all probability he was kept against his will. A court therefore convicted Napoles for illegal detention.
Under the Duterte regime, the law seems to have become ultra-selective. Janet Napoles has been getting special treatment for unknown reasons, although any fairly intelligent person can guess why. She was recently cleared of the illegal detention charges by the Court of Appeals, at the behest of the Justice department.
We can see where this is going. Sooner or later, she will also be cleared of the plunder raps she is now facing. Naturally, the senators will likewise be set free. This is justice, Duterte style, ladies and gentlemen.
Having amassed billions of pesos, most of which remains unaccounted for, Napoles still wields a lot of clout. And with so many congressmen having been in her payroll in the past, they would rather that their names be kept out of public scrutiny. For this reason, they will do anything to keep Napoles happy.
Very recently, the pork barrel queen requested that she be kept in a cell separate from the hoi polloi criminals she is imprisoned with, citing threats to her life.
Request granted, of course.
It isn’t only now that VIPs get preferential treatment, of course. For the longest time, rich criminals are treated like kings and queens because their jailors are aware of what they can do. They can be generous to their captors, which is the case with too many wealthy crooks to mention.
As for the poor, they don’t even get their day in court. The policy now is to shoot them rather than spend government funds for their capture, detention, trial and incarceration.
Such is the Philippine judicial system, circa 2017.

L.A. City Atty. files lawsuit to benefit Filipino caregivers

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announces lawsuit he filed which could result in
millions of dollars in restitution and back-wages to approximately 200 primarily Filipino
caregivers because of alleged wage theft over the past four years. 
Advocates of Workers' rights, from left: LA City Deputy Atty. Miguel Bahaman, PWC Associate Director Lolita Lledo and LA City Deputy Atty. Ben Delfin have worked diligently for three months to gather evidence and testimonies to file a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Health Alliance. 
Los Angeles, CA -- In a precedent setting case to enforce the right to minimum wage and
overtime pay for domestic workers and protect immigrant workers against wage theft, Los
Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced on Wednesday morning, May 10, that he has filed a
lawsuit against Canoga Park-based homecare provider Emelyn Nishi and her companies
Health Alliance Nurses Corp., and Hand Homecare Provider, Inc. This lawsuit could result in
millions of dollars in restitution and back-wages to approximately 200 primarily Filipino
caregivers because of alleged wage theft over the past four years.
     "Stealing wages from hard-working men and women is reprehensible," stated City Attorney Feuer. "No worker should be forced into poverty because an employer denies them their basic rights to a minimum wage and overtime," he added  "My office will aggressively combat wage theft and fight to ensure all workers are paid what the law demands."  
     Caregivers with the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) that launched a public campaign
against this employer have since assisted the California Labor Commissioner’s office to
start an investigation that is still on-going. They then organized to bring the case forward
to the City Attorney’s office in an effort to enforce their rights as domestic workers and
send a unified message to other agencies to end wage-theft in the homecare industry.
“We felt vindicated that the city attorney found that there were lots of violations in terms
of our wages. We were not paid overtime. We hope that the case will be decided in favor of
the caregivers who are fighting for dignity and the right to be paid what they are owed,”
said Rufina Tubo, a former caregiver of Health Alliance and member of PWC.
     The suit alleges that Emelyn Nishi and her companies Health Alliance Nurses Corp., and
Hand Homecare Provider, Inc., charged between $170 and $250 per day for 24-hour
in-home domestic care to families. However, these employees allegedly were paid only
$100 to $125 per shift, equating to as little as $5.50 per hour or less. According to the
lawsuit, defendants allegedly pressured their employed caregivers to falsify time records to
avoid overtime payments, and routinely threatened them with termination or blacklisting
within the industry.
     At the press conference held on Wednesday, Pilipino Workers Center Executive
Director, Aquilina Soriano Versoza explained that “(In 2016) the overtime provision of the
California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was made permanent in Sacramento (SB1015-
Leyva), ending finally and for good, over 75 years of exclusion from overtime protections
for nannies and caregivers. Today, with this case, we are seeing our rights becoming a
reality. Today we see the dignity of homecare workers being upheld and uplifted.”
The lawsuit seeks an injunction against further alleged unlawful, unfair and fraudulent
business acts as well as restitution to all current and former employees who were not paid
minimum wages or overtime. In addition, defendants could face civil penalties up to $2,500
for each violation.
     This case is emblematic given the scope of domestic work in California as well as the
epidemic of worker exploitation throughout the for-profit homecare industry. More than 2
million households across CA hire domestic workers, whether it be for housecleaning,
nannying, or in-home support, with nearly one third of those homes hiring for supports and
services for seniors and people with disabilities.
     This case emerges as the California Domestic Workers Coalition, a statewide alliance of
domestic worker organizations, shifts its focus toward statewide rights enforcement and
worker education. Director of Enforcement Strategies Sarah Leadem shares, "The
collaboration between the caregiver leaders of Pilipino Workers Center and the City
Attorney of Los Angeles provides a powerful model that domestic workers across the state
may follow to exercise their rights and defend their dignity."
     Both the City Attorney’s office and the Pilipino Workers Center are encouraging anyone
who has been a victim of wage theft to reach out to protect their rights. To the City
Attorney's Office by e-mail at 
 or by phone at  and to
Pilipino Workers Center for ongoing accompanying and support. PWC's EMPLEO Pinoy
workers rights hotline is 1 (877) TULONG1.
     The Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) is a non-profit organization and worker center located
in Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles, that works to address the immediate needs of
Filipino workers and their families and build their leadership to take collective action on
issues that most impact them. The Pilipino Workers Center is a leader in the California
Domestic Workers Coalition. For more information about the Pilipino Worker Center
please visit: .

Can I get back after a deportation order?

Question: I committed a crime and was deported from the United States about 3 years ago. I’m wondering if I can get back to the United States? There are those that are encouraging me to come illegally to the US as I will never be able to return to the United States.
Answer: There are several parts to this question. First of all, it is possible to get back legally to the United States. However, there are several different factors here. First of all, I would need to know about what type of crime you committed. Some crimes have waivers. Some do not. Some are aggravated felonies. Each particular kind of crime gives me information as to how I can help you and what can be done. For example, if it were classified as an aggravated felon, I might determine whether you had a jury trial or whether you plead guilty or nolo contendre. 
I might then determine whether you were properly advised of your immigration consequences and whether you knowingly made a guilty plea or not. We might be able to then do a motion to vacate or reduce the judgement so that you are not considered to be an aggravated felon. Afterwards, I might be able to make the necessary motion to reopen or various other motions to vacate a prior immigration or deportation order (since the crime leading to the deportation might have disappeared.)
Alternatively, I might determine you are not an aggravated felon, and therefore, do not need to do criminal relief and/or vacate the crime. Rather, I would determine if the particular crime allowed for a Waiver of that crime and if you had a qualifying relative. If so, then we could get the Waiver prepared along with the various petitions to get you back to the US. 
Finally, I might determine that you are not inadmissible on the crime and no Waiver is needed. 
Question: How about the prior deportation order? What can be done?
Answer: Again, some of the actual procedures will differ depending on the actual case and what needs to be done. However, there have what is known as a Permission for Re-entry to the US This is an entire application upon which will have a legal brief, declaration, affidavit and other types of evidence. If approved, then the deportation bar will basically disappear. Normally, you would be given a 10 year bar to not being able to return to the US. This has nothing to do with the crime or Waivers. Rather, it has to do with the actual deportation order itself. Thus, if the Permission to Reapply is granted, the 10 year deportation bar is removed and you are permitted to come legally back to the US (with the proper petitions) even though you had a deportation order.
Thus, there is no reason to await for 10 years before you start the process. In fact, you can actually start the Permission to Reenter a day after you are deported. You can even start it while you are still in the country with a deportation order. 
Question: So, after that I can just return?
Answer: Still yet, it is not that easy. Once the Permission to Reenter is made and approved and any Waivers of Inadmissibility are done and completed, there must be a visa petition upon which you qualify to come back to the U.S. Thus, in most cases, there are three separate petitions needed in order to eventually come back. However, if done properly, all three could take as little as about 1 ½ years instead of the 10 or 20 years.

The politics of impeaching a president

We hear the word impeachment mentioned more frequently in both the United States and the Philippines these days although it is very remote at this time that the sitting presidents of both countries will be impeached. 

In March, an opposition lawmaker filed an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte calling for the president’s removal from office citing high crimes, betrayal of public trust, and abuse of power as the basis for his impeachment complaint. 

The justice committee of the Lower House recently dismissed the impeachment charges against President Duterte for “insufficiency in substance” related to the president’s alleged role in the state-sponsored killings and the Davao Death Squad, as well as his administration’s alleged inaction to uphold the country’s sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea, Panatag Shoal, and Benham Rise. 

For now, President Duterte will not be the subject of an impeachment trial unlike former president Joseph Estrada who was charged with plunder and perjury during an impeachment trial in the Philippine Senate in December 2000.  However, President Estrada was ousted from office in January of 2001 during a popular uprising in Metro Manila after his aborted impeachment trial.

Will President Duterte suffer the same fate?  

I doubt it.  Not at this time.  President Duterte enjoys strong support from lawmakers of both houses and if the social survey results are correct, it appears that he still holds a high trust rating among the people. 

But the rising death toll as a result of the extrajudicial killings going on in the Philippines will surely hurt his popularity later on.  Like the failed social experiments and painful experiences in Thailand and Colombia, the Filipino people will soon realize that mass killings simply do not work and that there are more creative and productive solutions in dealing with the drug menace without killing the poor, the voiceless, and the powerless.   

History has taught us that the rule of law is vital to progress and a country will not move forward without it because those in power will be the first ones who will engage in corruption and acts that are detrimental to the best interests of the nation if the rule of law is absent and missing.

The rule of law is the world’s best hope for building peaceful and prosperous societies according to former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.  Even Philippine CJ Maria Lourdes Sereno spoke about the dangers of lawlessness and impunity which she said represents a breakdown in governance. 

I hope that President Duterte will find it alarming that 45 of the 47 members of the Human Rights Council expressed deep concerns about the human rights situation in the Philippines.  I hope also that he will listen to the Council’s call for his government to investigate the extrajudicial killings that have been going on since he took office and since his war on drugs started.  

  In President Donald Trump’s case, unlike President Duterte, his trust rating has been very low since he took office.  But like President Duterte, President Trump enjoys strong support from his Republican party mates and allies in both the House of Representatives and the Senate (unlike President Richard Nixon who resigned before the House could vote on the impeachment resolutions against him when his political support was completely eroding and collapsing and the Democrats enjoyed the majority vote on his impeachment).    

Many legal and constitutional experts assert though that the conduct of the U.S. president poses a danger to the nation’s democratic system of government. 

It is alleged that the firing of FBI Director James Comey obstructs the investigation on the claimed Russian connection and influence in the results of the 2016 presidential election--- and the taped conversation with former-director Comey they allege may be classified as a form of intimidation and obstruction of justice. 

Will a Trump impeachment complaint prosper?  Like in President Duterte’s case, impeaching President Trump is tough and remote for now--- but there is a stronger possibility after the 2018 mid-year election if the dominant party in Congress changes. 

Until next week.

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.  You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at



Restorative Justice comes to Bay Area Community Schools

On May 30, 2017 from 6pm to 8pm, in the multi-purpose room of Daly City’s Thomas R. Pollicita Middle School, Dr. Loretta Johnson of the American Federation of Teachers will be flying in from Washington DC to lead a panel discussion on Restorative Practices.  Dr. Johnson will be joined by local educators, particularly members of the American Federation of Teachers local 3267 and American Federation of Teachers local 1481, Daly City Councilmember Ray Buenaventura, as well as student activists from the community.  The school is located at 550 East Market Street in Daly City and the event is open to the public.
It sounds like a complicated social science but Restorative Practices is simply incorporating a child’s emotional landscape into the way a school manages its culture.  When I was in public school, managing emotions was considered the domain of my parents.  That left a lot of room for imperfection in the school environment.  Students were left to manage situations like bullying, cliques or general exclusion and insecurity on their own.  School was for academics and sports, not matters of the heart.  Decades later, during the Obama Administration, a new mandate has risen around thinking through the public school environment—a mandate that includes social and emotional factors into the student culture.  After all, the majority of a student’s waking hours are spent at school.  There is a lot of emotional exposure that happens outside the parental domain.
The primary focus of implementing Restorative Practices in Bay Area schools is Restorative Justice.  This involves resolving disciplinary behavior differently, through group discussions and community involvement.
“Schools and teachers do not want to be part of a system that criminalizes students at an early age,” said Melinda Dart, President of the American Federation of Teachers local 3267.  “Schools need to build positive environments just to get everybody there every day,” she continued, referring to the notion that driving high attendance is one of the key factors in the success of a student population.
“Unjust disciplinary consequences can make kids feel alienated,” said Dart.  These would include classic school punishments like suspension or expulsion.  Restorative Justice uses a softer approach to discipline that would include empowering the victim and teaching empathy to the bully.
The evening discussion on May 30th attempts to bring the community into the broader discussion of rolling out Restorative Practices into local schools.  Including the community in the solution, in fact, is one of the five pillars of the restorative discipline.  The others include healthy relationships between educators and students, conflict resolution, restoring positive relationships, and reducing harmful behavior.  In order to achieve all this, teachers must undergo training.  In the Peninsula, the schools furthest along in adopting Restorative Justice are three in the Mission Corridor of Community Schools—Pollicita Middle School, Jefferson High School, and Woodrow Wilson Elementary, all in Daly City.  Woodrow Wilson Elementary will have a program geared to younger students called Soul Shop.
By taking the perspective that “the bully is not a happy, well-adjusted individual,” and focusing on changing that person’s trajectory before it develops further is expected to reduce crime before the criminal is formed.  To accomplish such a thing, the educators driving the program need the support of the community.  So come hear Dr. Johnson if you live in the area.  It will be a nice way to start the short week after your Memorial Day break.



Supreme Court Tacitly Allows New Limits on Aliens’ Rights


By Attorneys Lorella T. Hess & Nancy E. Miller

Most aliens in the United States are entitled to a hearing before an Immigration Judge if the government seeks to remove them, however those who entered the country illegally and have been here for a short time are subject to a process called expedited removal.  As its name indicates, the expedited removal process is designed to move quickly.  Usually the alien is not even able to consult an attorney and the final decision is made by an immigration officer during one interview.  

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to review a case which raised questions about whether aliens caught up in the expedited removal process have certain constitutional rights.  In that case, Castro v. D.H.S., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that families in expedited removal proceedings, who had applied for asylum, could not seek habeus corpus petitions to challenge their detentions in court.  A writ of habeas corpus (Latin for “you have the body”) requires the government to bring a prisoner into court and justify the legal basis for his or her detention. 

Immigration law scholars and human rights organizations filing amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs argued that the Supreme Court should take up this case because the Third Circuit’s decision threatens the rights of many people already inside the United States.  There are two main reasons for concern.  First, serious flaws have been documented in how the expedited removal system actually operates.  Also, the scope of that system is being expanded by the Trump administration, which plans to apply expedited removal over a much wider geographic area and to include aliens who have been present in the United States for up to two years.

For well over a century the Supreme Court has held that “even aliens shall not be . . . deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”  Constitutional due process protections—which include the right to a hearing—apply to “all persons” within the United States.  The only exception is that aliens arriving at a port of entry, even though they are in fact geographically inside this country, are subject to the legal fiction that they were stopped before the border and have not yet entered the U.S. 

The Third Circuit’s Castro ruling classified women and children apprehended several miles inside the United States (who had avoided a port of entry) under the legal fiction that they had not yet entered, and then also held that they did not have the right to challenge their detention with habeas corpus petitions.

Habeas corpus scholars submitted another amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to take up this case, arguing that the right to file a habeas corpus petition “turns on the extent to which the government exercises control of the petitioner’s person and not on [the petitioner’s] status as a citizen, noncitizen, or alien seeking asylum.”    

Indeed, the very same Supreme Court decision which established the legal fiction that, for due process purposes, an alien at a port of entry has not yet arrived in the United States, also acknowledged that such an alien “may by habeas corpus challenge the validity of his exclusion.”

However, because the Supreme Court did not agree to hear the Castro case, the Third Circuit’s holding stands and is binding throughout that circuit, which includes Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.  

Other U.S. Courts of Appeals have ruled differently in the past, and their rulings remain binding within their circuits.  California is in the Ninth Circuit.  The most recent rulings from the Ninth Circuit on this issue affirm the entry fiction as traditionally understood, and safeguard constitutional protections for people who have crossed the border into the United States, even if they have done so illegally.

The Third Circuit’s ruling could affect those in other Circuits.  Recent arrivals apprehended in the Ninth Circuit could be moved to the Third Circuit and held in detention there, where they would be subject to Third Circuit law and thus unable to file habeas corpus petitions to challenge their detentions.  The asylum seekers in the Castro case were taken into custody in Texas (in the Fifth Circuit) before being moved to detention centers in Pennsylvania (in the Third Circuit). 

For this reason, it is important to try to prevent DHS from moving recent arrivals from the Ninth Circuit to a Circuit where the law is more harsh.  Legal  motions need to be filed to prevent such moves.  Those subject to expedited removal due to their recent arrival in the United States, or their loved ones, should immediately consult a knowledgeable and experienced immigration lawyer to determine what help is available for them.



May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month An Orthopedic Surgeon Weighs In


By John H. Velyvis, M.D

With more than two-thirds of U.S. adults overweight or obese, and over 17 percent of children and adolescents, National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is the perfect time for all Americans to rededicate ourselves to the health benefits of an active lifestyle.  

The risks of being overweight or obese include chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, stroke, and some forms of cancer.  

While having a family history may make you more likely to develop any of these conditions as you age, there are several ways you can delay, improve and even avoid these diseases entirely. These include eating a healthful diet, staying within your recommended weight range and being active. 

As an orthopedic surgeon, I’ve cared for thousands of patients who suffer from osteoarthritis—the progressive deterioration of healthy cartilage in a joint. Almost half are overweight or obese, leading to increased wear and tear on their hip and knee joints. When you consider that every additional pound of body weight adds 5 pounds of pressure on each knee joint, it’s easy to see why excess weight compounds the problem.        

That’s why my first recommendation to these patients is often to lose weight to relieve the increased stress on their joints. I also urge sedentary patients to step up their activity levels. Just like any other part of the human body, cartilage needs to be used to stay healthy. Stronger muscles can also stabilize joints, reducing pain and inflammation.      

It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a new fitness regimen. Once you have the okay, remember any activity is better than no activity. Start slowly and don’t put yourself at risk. Build up your endurance gradually, making sure to stretch both before and after workouts. Most injuries I see happen when people aren’t physically ready for an activity. 

If you find it hard to exercise because of joint pain, doctors have a number of treatment options that can help relieve your symptoms, including physical therapy, medications and injections. If your pain continues, the next step may be minimally invasive surgery to diagnose and treat the problem.  

Should the pain start to affect your quality of life, partial or total joint replacement surgery may be your best choice. Joint replacement, the gold standard of treatment for advanced osteoarthritis for 40 years, is now better than ever with the introduction of robotic technology. 

What’s happening now with joint replacement is similar to what’s happened in the auto industry. Cars have been around for decades, but as the technology improves, so does the quality.   

Today’s joint replacement surgeons can now use the latest robotic-assisted surgical techniques to ensure the precise placement of joint implants, crucial to their long term success. Implants have improved dramatically, too, with newer models providing more natural results and lasting a lifetime.  

Better technology means even people with debilitating osteoarthritis don’t have to sit on the sidelines anymore. They can reduce their risk of serious disease and enjoy a more active lifestyle that helps get them in shape for life.    

For the rest of us? No more excuses. Let’s all commit to improving our health with a more active lifestyle during this year’s National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.   

Dr. John H. Velyvis is Medical Director of Robotic Orthopedic Surgery at Seton Medical Center in Daly City. Recognized as one of the most experienced orthopedic surgeons on the West Coast using robotic-assisted technology, Dr. Velyvis received his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from Harvard University and his medical degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. On days when he’s not seeing patients or performing surgery, Dr. Velyvis is often found on one of his favorite tennis courts.

  • Published in Health

National smoking ban


Providing a smoking area within

the same building with one ventilation system

is like designating a urinating area

in a swimming pool.


HealthJustice Philippines, a vigilant think tank and advocacy group with legal expertise in tobacco control and health promotion and a Bloomberg Awardee for Global Tobacco Control, sent out a press release May 12, 2017 praising “Davao City Vices Regulation Unit for its strict enforcement of smoking ban and apprehension of 4,487 violators since its formation last month.”

“We commend the local government of Davao City and its Vices Regulation Unit for strictly enforcing the provisions of its pertinent local ordinances and national and international laws banning smoking in public spaces. Davao City has been recognized by no less than the World Health Organization for its landmark tobacco control ordinance, and since then it has continued setting a sterling example in crafting and implementing tobacco control measures for cities across the country and the whole world to emulate,” said Mary Ann Fernandez-Mendoza, president and trustee of HealthJustice.

“We hope that President Duterte will soon sign the ‘smoke-free’ Executive Order that will not only strengthen the enforcement of existing smoking bans, but also direct local governments to pattern their anti-smoking ordinances after that of Davao, which includes a ‘no smoking indoors’ policy,” she added.

*        *        *

Cebu in the 1990s, expanding on its existing ban on smoking in public establishments then, proposed its laudable goal to make Cebu city a smoke-free city by year 2006. I was among its staunchest supporter and stated then that achieving this would earn Cebu the enviable distinction of being one of the healthiest cities and tourist spots in the world. Unfortunately, wisdom, health, and medical science were no match to the power of money and political correctness.

I remember that there were some brainless city legislators who wanted to amend the ordinance to allow smoking after 9:00 P.M. and for the creation of smoking areas in shopping malls, restaurants, etc.

Did these obviously ignorant officials think that active and passive smoking would only cause cancers, cardiovascular illnesses, and lung diseases before 9:00 P.M., and that smoking after 9 PM would be safe? Did they honestly think that the smoking areas (within a building) will prevent the 4000 harmful (200 of them cancer-causing) chemicals in tobacco smoke from getting into the ventilation system and expose and hurt everyone in the premises, including non-smokers and children?

What in this issue was NOT clear?  I bet even the kids in the kindergarten can see how ludicrous these proposed amendments are. 

Unless the designated room is air-tight and totally excluded from the main building (of shopping malls, restaurants, stores, hospitals, public libraries, theaters, the workplace, etc.), and has a ventilation system of its own, it would be ineffective and useless. Providing a smoking area within the same building with one ventilation system is like designating a urinating area in a swimming pool. This is the same scientific and medical principle why the smoking ban in commercial airplanes also includes the toilets, besides all the cabins and the cockpit. A simple common sense.

The issue is crystal clear. Smoking and second hand-smoking or passive smoking maim and kill millions in countries around the world, the Philippines included. Spraying poison in the air, as in passive smoking, adversely affect everyone in the area. 

The simplest, totally cost-free, and medically effective solution is to allow smoking ONLY outside of, and a distance from, public buildings. What could be more obvious? A national smoking ban, while unpopular and controversial, would provide an immeasurable boost to people’s and the nation’s health.

While I abhor smoking and inhaling secondhand tobacco smoke for health reasons, I defend the right of smokers to smoke. That is their constitutional right…so long as the exercise of that right does not offend or hurt the people around them and infringe upon the rights of others. After all, non-smokers have rights too: not to be exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke. Where there is a conflict, the right of the non-smoker prevails. This is an accepted legal tenet.

What is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke is the fume that one involuntarily inhales after someone who smokes exhales it (called mainstream smokes), or the fume that goes directly to the atmosphere from the burning tobacco (cigarette, pipe or cigar) called side stream smoke. When non-smokers breathe in these smokes or fumes from other people’s cigarettes, cigars or pipes, this is involuntarily inhalation called passive smoking. As stated earlier, tobacco smoke contains about 4000 chemicals, 200 of them known poisons and carcinogens. Smoking around people is similar to spraying known poison gases into the atmosphere, victimizing and posing even greater health hazards to non-smokers.

Does passive smoking cause cancer?

Yes, active and passive smoking cause cancers, besides bronchitis, premature births, smaller babies with higher risk for impaired mental development, respiratory illnesses among children, emphysema, heart attack, and stroke. In the United States, cancer victims of smoking, and family members of smokers who died from cigarette-related illness, have sued cigarette manufacturing companies, and have won millions in awards. While they vehemently denied it before, cigarette companies today have admitted in public that tobacco causes cancers and other lung illnesses. The courts have likewise ruled in a similar fashion in favor of victims of passive smoking (as in the airline stewardess’ case). In 1986, the Surgeon General of the United States reported that involuntary (passive) smoking can cause lung cancer in healthy non-smokers. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has now classified secondhand smoke as a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).

If we, as a people and as a nation, are really serious in eliminating all the smoking-related killer diseases that snuff out more than 240 lives a day, yes, a day, not a month, causing the loss of loved ones and family devastation, promulgating a national smoking ban truly makes sense.

But don’t hold your breath. History shows that majority of our elected politicians, leaders we voted for to protect us, do not have balls and the wisdom and the will to eliminate this vicious serial killer amidst us. The illnesses and deaths from tobacco far exceed the morbidity and mortality from illegal drugs.

Let’s see if President Rodrigo R. Duterte can extinguish this political insanity that is holding the people’s health hostage. 

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