Friday, December 24, 2010


As the curtain starts to fall on 2010, we look back at the momentous events that made us proud; that made us laugh and made us weep.

They are capsules of time filled with heroes and villains, celebrations and tragedies, success and failures. They are mostly tied by the common thread of Filipinos taking destiny in their hands, and carving their niche in history.

We’ve counted down the top 12 newsmakers of 2010 that have left their mark with Filipinos in the Metro DC region and across the world.

12. Supreme Court acquits Vizconde Massacre suspects (December). The Supreme Court ordered the release of Hubert Webb and six other suspects from the National Bilibid Prisons, saying they were convicted with weak evidence.

“The prosecution filed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the accused,” the high tribunal said. They were earlier found guilty by a Paranaque court – a verdict affirmed by the Court of Appeal – for the murders of Estrellita Vizconde, 47, and daughters Carmela, 18 and Jennifer, 7, in June 1991.

Once described the “trial of the century” the acquittal has fueled public distrust of the Philippine justice system – why it took 15 years for the Supreme Court to resolve the case; and why the suspects were convicted if the evidence was insufficient?

Following the furor, the Justice Department is reinvestigating the case but concede they can’t touch Webb and his co-accused under the principles of double jeopardy.

11. US Congress votes more funds for Filipino veterans (June). Lawmakers approve the use of $67 million from Department of Veterans Administration (DVA) savings to replenish the $198 million Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund.

It provides for a one-time, lump-sum payment of $9,000 for Filipino World War II veterans in the Philippines and $15,000 for those living in the US.

The original sum was computed in the belief there were only 18,000 surviving veterans; as of October 1, the DVA reported that it has paid out $207 million, with 2,800 veterans claims still pending.

10. Charice makes it to Glee (June). The 18-year-old singing sensation was cast as “Sunshine Corazon” in Glee, Fox’s top-rating musical show. The diminutive singing sensation is clearly on a roll – her debut album “Pyramid” certified a “gold album”.

Last May, she appeared with Justin Bieber in the Oprah Winfrey Show. Charice’s expected to reprise her role in Glee’s 2011 season. According to reports, Charice will be launching her own line of perfumes in January.

9. Senate votes down DREAM Act (December). After hurdling the House of Representatives, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act – better known as the DREAM Act – met a brick wall from Senate Republicans.

President Obama said it was his “biggest disappointment” in an otherwise prodigious lame-duck session.

Hundreds of young undocumented Filipino students would have benefitted from its passage, according to the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA).

“Although we fell short of the required number of votes in the Senate, the fight for justice will continue,” said NaFFAA legislative director Jerry Clarito.

8. Snowmaggedon (February). It’s a word thrown into popular lexicon by President Obama to describe the blizzard that shut down the nation’s capital for three days.

It was actually preceded by another storm, a “Nor’easter” just days earlier, producing a double whammy that dumped up to 6 feet of snow in some areas (75 inches at Dulles Airport).

A week later, many roads were still impassable and it took as long to restore power to many areas of Northern Virginia, DC and Maryland.

7. “Lola” throws “apo” to her death (November). What triggered Fairfax, VA resident Carmela dela Rosa, 50, to throw her 2-year-old granddaughter Angelyn Ondoc from a 5-storey walkway at Tysons Corner is still unclear.

From most accounts, Dela Rosa doted on her 1st grandchild. But her court-appointed lawyer revealed that she was also struggling with depression, apparently so severe that she once had to be rushed by ambulance from her home, but left largely untreated.

She is being held without bail on murder charges and is set to appear in court January 4.

6. Pinoy nurses protest hospitals’ English-only rule (June). Filipino nurses Hacelle Natano, Corina Capunitan-Yap and Anna Rowena Rosales, and Fil-Am staffer Jazziel Granada are suing the Bon Secours Hospital in Baltimore after they were fired last April for speaking Tagalog during a snack break.

Months later, a larger group of 52 Filipino nurses sued Delano Regional Medical Center in California for pressuring them to resign allegedly because they spoke English with a Filipino accent.

Both groups charged discrimination, prompting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to launch an investigation.

More hospitals are adopting the English-only rule and these cases could impact the thousands of Filipino nurses in US healthcare institutions.

5. Ex-cop, 8 Hong Kong tourists killed in Luneta hostage drama (August). Dismissed police major Rolando Mendoza took a bus-load of tourists from Hong Kong, and held off Manila policemen for 10 hours in front of historic Quirino Grandstand.

When Mendoza started shooting some hostages, the police mounted a botched rescue seen around the world and roundly criticized by the public.

The incident strained relations with China, prompting the government to launch an investigation led by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. The probe body blamed the Manila police chief, the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Manila, the lone hostage negotiator and many others, including reporters and broadcast stations that aired events live, which Mendoza apparently watched during the crucial moments of negotiations for his surrender.

4. Filipino teachers win $1.8-M suit in Louisiana (April). About 200 Filipino teachers in Baton Rouge county won a suit against a California-based recruiter who collected thousands of dollars in illegal fees and holding them in virtual servitude.

Administrative Judge Shelley Dick also said Fil-Am recruiter Lourdes Navarro of Universal Placement International (UPI) was not licensed to conduct business in Louisiana.

At least two of the victims in Caddo Parish are waiting for resolution of a similar complaint from Metro DC. In all, some 360 Filipino teachers were allegedly victimized by UPI.

In July, the DC-based American Federation of Teachers gave the teachers its coveted Democracy Award for courageously standing against UPI.

3. Filipino WWII veterans, widows sue gov’t for exclusion in lump sum benefits (June & October). Two separate law suits were filed in California claiming the federal government discriminated against some Filipino veterans, widows and their dependents after thousands of applications for the $198 million Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund (FVEC) were rejected because their names couldn’t be found in the official US Army roster, the so-called Missouri List.

The law establishing the fund also excluded widows and dependents of veterans who have died but otherwise could have qualified to receive the payments.

The fund sets aside $15,000 for veterans in the US and $9,000 for those in the Philippines.

2. Pacquiao pummels Margarito enroute to record 8th title (November). Pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao outclassed a bigger, heavier Antonio Margarito enroute to winning his 8th world title in as many weight categories at the Cowboys Stadium in Texas.

The man Filipinos dubbed “the people’s champion” improved his record to 52-3-2, 38 of them by knock-outs.

Perhaps more significant, the victory unleashed a sea of euphoria among Filipinos all over the world, and reinforced Pacquiao’s standing as one of the greatest boxers of all time. Based on his fight purse, he is considered today’s top boxing draw.

In recognition of his achievements, he was given the Philippine Congress’ top award. He said he will devote the time before his next bout serving as congressman of Sarangani. His priority – building the province’s first national hospital.

He is scheduled to face Shane Mosley for the WBO Welterweight title in Las Vegas in May.

1. Noynoy Aquino wins landslide in PH’s 1st automated polls (May). Millions of Filipino voters all over the world gave Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III – the only son of democracy icons Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino and former President Corazon “Cory” – a clear mandate in largely peaceful elections.

Filipino-Americans mounted a spirited campaign for the former senator, who was not even recognized as a contender until his mother passed away from cancer – the ensuing grief quickly transforming into a protest against the unpopular and scandal-ridden President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

It was also the country’s first automated elections. It was preceded by widespread fears that Mrs. Arroyo would try to derail or tamper with the polls.

The White House and State Secretary Hillary Clinton reportedly sent signals warning against any tampering of the elections.

Filipino voters came in droves to school precints and most results were known within hours instead of the days they usually took counting votes manually. The outcome was quickly embraced by the electorate, aided in part by the relatively quick concession of Aquino rivals.

The election was as much a victory of President Aquino as it was of the Filipino people who placed their trust on a democratic, peaceful transition of power.

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