Items filtered by date: Saturday, 05 August 2017

NaFFAA stands with transgender service members

Washington, DC“President Trump's latest order banning transgender individuals from serving in the military is a complete affront to America’s standing as a beacon of equality and inclusion,” said Brendan Flores, National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) National Chairman. “Individuals who love their country should be able to serve it proudly and honorably, regardless of how they identify.”
President Donald Trump announced last week on Twitter that the “United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military” due to the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” entailed. According to a 2016 study by the RAND Corporation, there are an estimated 1,320 to 6,630 transgender service members.


Viva Tarroza-Taft, member of NaFFAA’s Board of Governors and U.S. Army (Retired), added: “This is a major setback to the progress made on behalf of LGBT military personnel. There are thousands of transgender individuals already serving honorably and effectively in the military, and this action pushes them back into the shadows. When members of our brave military are forced to hide and are subject to discriminatory retaliation, it impairs military readiness.”


Jason Tengco, NaFFAA’s first openly gay Executive Director, concluded: “Rather than deeming transgender individuals as a ‘disruption,’ we should work to educate each other about how heteronormative language and systems can allow for bigotry and intolerance to spread. NaFFAA looks forward to uplifting our global Filipino LGBT diaspora - everyone from Jake Zyrus to Geena Rocero - and advocating for our community's diverse segments.”

SMASH Milpitas Anniversary

Smash Milpitas celebrated its first anniversary on July 29 in Milpitas, CA. Smash Gyms is a locally owned and operated training facility that offers quality fitness classes in a wide range of different disciplines and arts such as boxing, kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, and wrestling. Rudi Ott (left), Lou Noble greeted visitors and guests during the celebration.DSC09538


Pistahan Parade and Festival celebrates 24th year

San Francisco, CA — On its 24th year, Pistahan Parade and Festival at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco continues to deliver excitement and entertainment, create memorable experiences and bonds among communities, expand horizons, and above all, inspire pride across the generations of Filipinos in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pistahan is expected to draw tens of thousands of people throughout the weekend of August 12 and 13, 2017.

This year's theme is Pride and Progress in SOMA Pilipinas. To that, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee comments— "The Pistahan Parade and Festival is particularly special, as it will take place in the heart of SOMA Pilipinas, San Francisco’s newest designated cultural district." – It is indeed a fitting theme since Pistahan, organized by Filipino American Arts Exposition (FAAE), is one of the key events in the neighborhood and as the community celebrates one year of the historic official designation of SOMA Pilipinas as a Filipino heritage district.

A key component of the festival is the Pistahan Parade, taking place on Saturday, August 12, 2017. Catch the opening at 10:00 AM with the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the San Francisco Civic Center and which will then proceed and continue along Market Street towards 4th Street. Ever-growing through the years, it has now become one of San Francisco's traditions. It promises to awaken your senses with the sounds of music from marching bands and visual feasts from diverse Filipino dances and the many colorful and fun floats to parade through Market Street.

Among those featured at the parade will be an authentic jeepney from Washington state, a brigade of Star Wars stormtroopers, and a Human Philippine Flag contingent consisting of Filipino American college students representing the next generation of cultural torchbearers and community leaders. On the sports side, SF Giants Super Fans gather to form another contingent with Lou Seal as mascot. This year's Pistahan Parade's Community Grand Marshall is Judge Ben Reyes, recently appointed by Governor Brown and is the first Filipino American named to the Contra Costa County Superior Court.

There will be a stage on Market Street at 5th Street, where parade contingents will do a short performance in front of distinguished judges for an opportunity to win, among others, Best Choreography, Best Spirit, Best Overall Contingent. The Pistahan Parade is a great way to kickoff the Pistahan weekend and to showcase the diversity of the Filipino American community in the SF Bay Area.

Yerba Buena Gardens will offer festival goers a variety of fun and interesting activities, from enjoying world-class performances at the Main Stage, including performances of contemporary and traditional Filipino dances, delighting in the voices of talented singers, sampling Filipino cuisine, to being tempted by the many exciting and interesting products the many festival vendors will bring. "Philippine Caravan" includes exhibitors coming all the way from the Philippines to showcase a variety of uniquely Pinoy food items, snacks and goodies.

In addition, the festival has organized seven interactive pavilions which are sure to attract the diverse tastes and interests of the public: Art, Culinary, Dance, Health, Innovation, Leadership, Sports .

Al Perez, FAAE President: "I am so proud to be a part of the Pistahan because it is a true embodiment of the Filipino bayanihan spirit. The whole event is organized by an all-volunteer group of amazing, dedicated individuals who are passionate about preserving and sharing our heritage and traditions. I would like to invite everyone to come out and check out the Pistahan Parade along Market Street and celebrate our Pinoy Pride!"

The Filipino American Arts Exposition would like to invite the public to participate in the Festival. Here are ways to get involved:

Pistahan is currently looking for Philippine-inspired arts & crafts vendors and community booth exhibitors.

For booth applications click to our website at For more info, contact:
Al Perez, President, Filipino American Arts Exposition, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 415-625-EXPO (3976)

Musicians, vocalists, choirs, dance groups, martial artists, spoken word artists, hosts, comedians, and other entertainers are encouraged to apply. Please go to our website at, click on PERFORM AT PISTAHAN, and compete the short questionnaire.

Support THE premiere Bay Area Filipino event and connect with the largest Asian ethnic group in California! Take advantage of our many branding and marketing opportunities. For details contact: Al Perez, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 415-625-EXPO (3976).

Get your contingent together and show your Pinoy Pride! Prizes will be awarded to the best contingent, best costume, best choreography, best spirit and more! Individuals and couples can come dressed in their best ethnic Filipino attire to be a part of the Lead Banner Contingent and for a chance to win the "best dressed" award. To participate, fill out the form online: > Get Involved > Join the Parade.

Volunteers are needed in the weeks leading up to the event, and on the day of. Join the dynamic Pistahan Volunteer Crew, share your unique talent and skills, give something back to the community and meet lots of cool people who are passionate about promoting the best of Filipino culture. Fill out the short Volunteer Survey at > Get Involved > Volunteer.

24th Annual Pistahan Parade and Festival
An international Celebration of Filipino Culture


Saturday, August 12
10:00 am – Opening Ceremonies
11:00 am – The Pistahan Parade begins at the San Francisco Civic Center and will continue along Market Street towards 4th Street, then disembarks at Mission Street.

Saturday, August 12 and Sunday, August 13
11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission St @ 4th St, San Francisco


German diplomat, wife charged with violation of labor laws

NEW YORK -- Two Filipina domestic workers filed a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act against a German diplomat and his wife.
The complaint against Pit Koehler and wife Mareike Koehler was filed before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on June 28, 2017 by Sherile Pahagas and Edith Mateo Mendoza.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs states the Koehlers violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for breach of contract, nonpayment of overtime and spread of hours compensation, as well as failure to provide a statement with every payment of wages, which is a violation of New York Labor Law (NYLL).
According to court documents, Pahagas worked for the Koehlers from November 2012 to October 2014, and Mendoza from January 2015 to June 2016. They alleged their contracts stipulated $10 per hour for between 35 to 40 hours of work per week, and that they would receive overtime pay in excess of 40 hours. Instead, they were forced to work between approximately 90 to 100 hours per week, earning close to just $4 per hour and received no overtime compensation. At the time they were hired, Pit Koehler was working at the UN.
“The overwhelming demands of their work, which included a grueling schedule caring for four children, cooking meals, cleaning the home, and even shoveling the snow, endangered their health and well-being,” the documents state.
Pahagas was hired in 2012 through a website called At the time, she was working as a domestic worker in Hong Kong. She was interviewed via video call for a domestic worker position in Westchester County, where the Koehlers live. The defendants offered her employment and agreed to sponsor her for a visa to enter the United States.
Her work schedule was Monday through Friday, from approximately 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturdays, from approximately 8 a.m. to 1 a.m., totaling around 102 hours a week. Sunday was her day off and she could leave the residence.
“Defendants did not permit Ms. Pahagas any breaks during her working hours. (Her) principal duties included: daily deep cleaning of the six-bedroom, six-bathroom house and 2-car garage, vacuuming, laundry, dusting, ironing, grocery shopping, cooking and preparing daily meals/snacks for the family as well as occasional meals for guests and visitors, chauffeuring members of the Koehler family, caring for the defendants’ children, all of whom were under 10 years of age, as well as shoveling snow and scrubbing the outdoor fence, and various other tasks defendants requested of her,” according to court papers.
She was paid around $345 per week, which the Koehlers transferred directly to her bank account.
Pahagas has complained the couple were not complying with the conditions of her contract; they said they could not afford to pay her more. She spoke to defendant Mareika Koehler who “responded in anger,” states the complaint. When she got pregnant in 2014, Pahagas resigned.
Like Pahagas, Mendoza was hired through Her chores and work hours were not much different from those of Pahagas. She was paid $350.70 per week, which was transferred directly to her bank account.
In December 2015, Mendoza fell very ill. She was not allowed a day off to see a doctor. She was given a one day off from work on her birthday January 12, 2016. Mendoza’s illness continued to worsen through February, and she took six days off to see a doctor and recuperate.
“When she returned to work, defendants were very upset and told Mendoza her leave was unreasonable, according to court papers.
In June, she was fired because she missed work again on account of her recurring illness.
“What happened to Pahagas and Mendoza is not unusual,” said Martina Vandenberg who runs the Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center in a statement. “The abuse of domestic workers by diplomats is widespread.”
“For decades, diplomats have abused domestic workers with complete impunity. In capitals around the globe, diplomats have exploited their immunity to thwart accountability. Trafficked and exploited domestic workers abused by diplomats now have allies. And dozens have filed complaints in civil and criminal courts,” she said.
Pahagas and Mendoza, members of the advocacy group Damayan Migrant Workers, are being represented by Reena Arora of the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project.
The Koehlers were given by the court up to 21 days to respond to the charges.


Federal government officials are not Trump's employees: they don't deserve rebukes

Judging from press reports, covered by print and audio media, President Trump has ventured into the scolding process.
Foremost of all, it was his appointee, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general who was his most talked-about subject. Likewise, the 45th president of the United States didn't stop at the now known extraordinary flogging made public.
Trump touched on the general notion of anticipated loyalty that he has underscored since he took over as chief resident of the White House.
Not every American agrees with Jeff Sessions on anything, this space's columnist has observed. It is remarkable that even the so-called conservative media have sided with the “beleaguered” attorney general.
What has been known are reports that the highest member of the Department of Justice, tried his level best to abide by what the top executive has expected of him. Yet, what did the former senator from Alabama see in return?
Trump subjected Sessions to a well-known process of elimination without letting him know. It was widely known that Sessions carried on with his duties.
Why didn't Trump quietly ask for a resignation from his appointee? Instead, Trump attacked Sessions, his longtime supporter, identified as his staunchest ally.
Pro-Trump observers of the past 100 Days of the Trump presidency have been vocal in saying he is enjoying just a few detractors. Not so, as recent events have unfolded.
Returning to the loyalty issue: news reports have advanced how he immediately indicates an explosive style of government.
Are there concrete instances where he always returns that same loyalty?
Trump's particular derision of Sessions has stirred some Conservatives into the very response needed. The outcries from them have been one of saying how they will not stand up to a president who has shown his bold resistance to the Constitution; defies what has deemed logical; ignoring completely America's existence as a nation of laws.
The president is not a lawyer.
Yet, he ought to know basic requirements in the course of casting aside under the rules demanded of all lawyers.
Therefore, it is easy to see how many members of the party Trump represents will continue to react and respond in the unprecedented hit on the attorney general by the very man who lauded him and became an active voice in the presidential campaign that ended in his successful quest of the presidency.
Fast forward to another member of the Republican party. Senator John McCain, a war hero, an American hero, went to Congress very recently despite his post-operative condition.
The most-loved senator from Arizona delivered a veritably impressive address covering the proper manner of legislating. He was out in the open; with dialogue; with discussions; with amendments. Senator McCain rose as a truly highly-admired American hero, whom Trump identified as a non-hero, because he was “captured.”
He climaxed his presence by delivering a single contradictory vote on the Republican proposal to take away the Affordable Health Care Act otherwise known as Obamacare, all done in his opposition to those who would cast away affordable health care from tens of millions of Americans.
Senator McCain joined his colleagues, Senators Lisa Murkowski (from Alaska) and Susan Collins (representing Maine) who said 'no' to those who would take away the aforesaid affordable health care, ostensibly announced as one to reduce the taxes of the tens of thousands of the wealthiest Americans.
It does not require anybody's guess that the foregoing would include the Trump family and others who have appeared to be opposed to the Obamacare act passed as law in Year 2010.
Owing to the action taken on the aforementioned health care act, it demonstrated the strength of America's bipartisan heritage.


Can he deliver?

If there is one man who can steer the Trump presidency to steadier waters, newly appointed White House chief of staff John Kelly could be it. There is little question that the current administration has been sailing very rough seas for the past six months.
The retired general from the US Marines – he has four decades of service behind him – cuts an impressive figure and it certainly looks as if he is precisely what the doctor ordered for President Trump, who has little to show after more than six months as POTUS.
One reason that Mr. Trump’s administration has seemingly been going nowhere is the fact that he has too many advisers who can come and go to the Oval Office as they please. There are other factors, of course, but at least Secretary Kelly is expected to bring the discipline he learned as a marine to good use.
Nowhere was this more clear than when he was able to convince the president to get rid of the Mooch as head of the White House communication team.
From Day One, it was clear that Anthony Scaramucci had no business being communications director for Mr. Trump. No one expected him to be a diplomat, but no one foresaw his becoming so openly antagonistic to so many members of the president’s cabinet either.
Scaramucci could never have gotten along with a professional soldier like Kelly and his 10 days as communications director must stand as one of the shortest terms of office of any high official in modern times.
We can only hope that the calming influence the new chief of staff has will rub off on everyone in the White House, including and especially Mr. Trump.
Unfortunately, there are limits to how much Secretary Kelly can accomplish, given Mr. Trump’s management style. At the very least, he should be able to end the free flow of visitors to Mr. Trump. Now, anyone who wants to see the president for whatever reason will have to pass through the general. This may not sit well with those who consider themselves so close to Mr. Trump as to be his virtual alter ego like strategist Steve Bannon, son-in-law Jared Kushner, or even oldest son and namesake Donald Trump Jr.
Anyone other than someone with a lot of military experience would easily wilt under the pressure cooker situation at the White House, which is why John Kelly is the perfect executive to take care of the day-to-day business of handling the official affairs of Mr. Trump.
What we do not want to happen is for the president to refuse the necessary discipline that comes with his appointment of Mr. Kelly, thereby forcing his second chief of staff to quit.
Unlike Reince Preibus who was more politician than administrator, and was therefore doomed to fail, Secretary Kelly does not look like the type who will try to please anyone and everyone that heads for the Oval Office.
We can only wish him well and hope he helps the president become a true chief executive of our great country.


They did it again

The Philippine National Police – and by virtue of the principle of command responsibility, President Rodrigo Duterte – did it again. The PNP committed what appears to be nothing less than cold-blooded murder. In fact, what happened to Ozamis City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., his wife, son and nine associates was not simple murder, but a massacre.
It does not matter if the now deceased mayor was a mafia-style drug lord, which is what the Duterte government is saying in so many words. Because Parojinog was guilty as sin, he and his clan had forfeited their right to live. This is now the logic that has become prevalent within the PNP, and we all have a right be afraid of what comes next.
Using that logic, in the early morning hours of Sunday, this week, ostensibly to serve a warrant, the PNP killed everyone in the household of the Ozamis mayor.
The first obvious question: why was a warrant being served at 3:00 in the morning?
Standard procedure, is it? I think not.
I have never been involved in law enforcement in any way, shape or form, but I’d like to think that I still have some common sense. Granting for the sake of argument that Mayor Pajorinog and his group had indeed fired at the policemen serving the warrant, wasn’t the reaction of the cops a severe case of overkill?
Not only were they a larger force with superior firearms – a grenade was hurled at the house of the mayor, which almost certainly caused some of the fatalities – but the advantage was completely theirs. They had the place surrounded, after all.
The PNP team could have used tear gas, or they could have waited until morning by which time the mayor and everyone inside the house would have realized that they had no choice but to surrender.
All news reports state that not a single cop was killed or injured by the supposed shooting coming from inside the mayor’s house. So was there really a need to eliminate everyone inside?
Let me state that I do not know any of the victims of the heinous crime committed at the start of this week by the very force that has a sworn duty to protect and to serve. I wasn’t even aware of the existence of the late mayor and his cohorts. All I know is what I’ve read in the papers, and heard and seen on TV as well as online news.
Like everyone, I have too many questions about what happened, and I doubt if those questions will ever be answered.
There is a bothersome trend that has emerged with this week’s killing of the Ozamis mayor. He was the third mayor who had been tagged by the president as narcopoliticians to be shot to death by the PNP.
Previously, Datu Saudi Ampatuan mayor Samsudin Dimaukom died in a shootout with the police. But the worst of the killings of Mindanao mayors accused of being involved in the illegal drug trade has to be the case of Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa, who was already detained in a prison when he was executed gangland style by a PNP team.
That team, quite incidentally, was suspended but was recently reinstated by the PNP brass, supposedly because of the country’s shortage of cops.
So what is the ordinary citizen supposed to make of all this?
Literally thousands of Filipinos have been killed in the name of President Duterte’s war on drugs, yet the drug menace has not been eradicated. If anything, it’s only gotten worse, as proven by the massive shabu haul that came out this week. Reportedly, more than 600 kilos of shabu worth some P6.4 billion had come in from China by passing through legitimate channels.
The shipment passed through the Bureau of Customs, leading some lawmakers to conclude that corrupt customs personnel were in cahoots with the drug lords.
That wholesale importation of shabu may have been unearthed by the government, but doesn’t it prove that the drug lords remain as active as ever? Why else would they dare to bring in illegal drugs if they were not certain that they could distribute the same, and continue to earn billions?
In the weeks and months to come, more local government officials suspected of being involved in the narcotics trade are likely to be killed. No longer will anyone be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
As long as the president points to anyone as being a narcopolitician, his or her days are numbered. This is known as Duterte’s Law.

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