Monday, October 30, 2006

Pinay Power

The history of Filipinos in America, from the arrival of the first Luzon indios in Morro Bay, California in 1587 to the coming of the Manilamen in Louisiana in either 1763 or 1830 to the immigration of Sacadas to Hawaii in 1906, is the history of Filipinos in America. It is not the history of Filipinas in America.

There were thousands of Filipino men who served as mariners on board the Spanish galleons that plied the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade from 1565 to 1815. Many of these mariners chose to remain in Acapulco rather than return back to Manila and many thereafter boarded other commercial ships that traveled throughout the Americas and Europe.

Many of these men jumped ship and later lived in communities like the ones established in the Louisiana bayous in the 1800s. Throughout this 319 year period (from 1587 to 1906), there is no record that any Filipino woman ever served as a mariner on any of the galleon ships nor were any among the first 15 Sacadas who arrived in Honolulu in 1906.

This thought came to mind while attending the Filipina Women's Summit from October 27-29 at the Philippine Center in San Francisco.

Considered a "valued stakeholder in the Filipino American community", I joined other Pinoys who were invited to join Pinays "Coming Together as a Community" to discuss "How to Advance Filipina Women in the US," a project of the Filipina Women's Network ( of Marily Mondejar.

The goals of the conference were to determine how best to develop the "leadership pipeline" of Filipina women and how to bring the Filipina voice to the national leadership table "to ensure the debates on policies being developed are equitable and inclusive".

An observation I shared with the delegates to this conference is that Pinays have advanced more in the political and economic spheres in the US than their Pinoy counterparts.

Under US presidents before Bill Clinton, the only Pinoys in the White House were cooks and stewards. Newsweek once reported that under US President George H. Bush, the residents of Kennebunkport, Maine, would always know when the President was in town by the large number of Filipinos who were shopping for food at the local groceries.

A Korean American White House official told a Filipino community forum in San Francisco in 1989 that "the last persons the President sees before he sleeps at night and the first persons he sees in the morning when he wakes up are Filipinos." How proud we must be, he said. ["We want to go through the front door, not the back door!" Dennis Normandy told him].

This changed under President Bill Clinton when he brought in Maria Mabilangan Haley as his White House Director of Personnel, Irene Bueno as his Assistant Director on Domestic Policy, Dr. Connie Mariano as his White House Physician, Kathleen Flores as his Director for Asian Outreach, Irene Natividad as a Fannie Mae Director, Mona Pasquil as a Special Assistant in the White House Political Department, and Gloria Caoile and Tessie Guillermo as members of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans.

Haley was thereafter appointed as a Director of the Export-Import Bank, the first Fil-Am to ever go through and receive a US Senate confirmation. Dr. Mariano was later promoted by Clinton to be a Rear Admiral of the US Navy.

Aside from being professionally competent and politically astute, they were all Filipina women.

This trend was not just with a Democrat. With Republican President George W. Bush, we saw the rise (and fall) of Susan Bonson Ralston, as a Special Assistant, with perhaps more power and influence than any previous Filipino in the White House. And, of course, there was the appointment of the White House Executive Chef Cristeta Commerford [Hail to the Chef].

In the economic sphere, there are role models like Loida Nicolas Lewis (CEO of TLC Beatrice), Josie (Josefina Almeda Cruz) Natori (CEO of the Natori Company) and Lilia Calderon (CEO of Calderon Capital). [The Pinoys have Dado Banatao.]

At the national empowerment conference of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) held in Honolulu recently, the three top officials elected by delegates from throughout the US were women: Alma Kern (national chair), Rozita Lee (national vice chair) and Joann Fields (National Youth Chair).

I would say, without fear of contradiction, that our Filipina women can mentor our Filipino men anytime of the day, 24/7.

The trend continues. Even now, a Filipina woman - Hydra Mendoza - is poised to be elected to the San Francisco School Board, Joanne Del Rosario (youngest sister of the former RP ambassador to the US) is set to win in the Colma Town Council race, and Lisa Normandy should also secure a seat in the South San Francisco School Board. Let's support them on November 7 to ensure their victories.

Let's not forget our men. Mike Guingona and Adelman Angeles are running for the City Council of Daly City, Fel Amistad for the San Mateo County School Board, and Henry Manayan as Mayor of Milpitas. They deserve our support.

If you live in the Tenderloin or South of Market districts of San Francisco, please vote for Rob Black for Supervisor. His election will end the tyrannical rule of Supervisor Chris Daly who unjustly destroyed the community programs of the West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Center ("The Dream of Ed De la Cruz"). Join Browns for Black.

If you live in San Jose, please vote for Cindy Chavez for mayor. She has been a true and loyal friend of the Filipino American community throughout her political career.

For California statewide office, I encourage readers to vote for Jerry Brown as Attorney General. When he was the state's governor, Brown appointed more Filipinos (and Filipinas) to statewide commissions than all the previous state governors combined. He also appointed Ron Quidachay and Mel Recana as Superior Court judges. Join Browns for Brown.

Vote on November 7.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Century of Filipinos in America

"With much reverence, Wells Fargo celebrates 100 years of Filipino presence in the United States" announced the full-color back page ad of the souvenir magazine of the Filipino Centennial Gala Dinner & Ball held on October 21 at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. The theme of a century of Filipino immigration to America ran throughout the evening's gala program - in the speeches, messages and proclamations. They were all well-intentioned but they were also historically wrong.

According to the organizers, the Filipino century in America began with the arrival of 15 Filipino contract workers ("Sacadas") in Hawaii on December 20, 1906.

But there has been a Filipino presence in America since October 18, 1587 when "Luzon indios" first landed in Morro Bay, California while serving under Spanish Captain Pedro de Unamuno aboard the Spanish galleon, Nuestra Senora de Buen Esperanza. This historical fact was documented in H.R. Wagner's Unamuno's Voyage to California in 1587, published in the Quarterly of the California Historical Society (July 1923), which translated to English the ship logs of Unamuno. There is also a bronze marker in Morro Bay commemorating this historical event.

In his official message in the souvenir magazine, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom acknowledged this historical event: "Since 1587," he wrote, "the arrival of the first immigrants from the Philippines to what is now Morro Bay" has shown the rich diversity of California.

But Mayor Newsom was incorrect in referring to them as "immigrants". They were more like tourists without visas who were exploring the new land for their Spanish overlords in 1587. Unfortunately, the "California indios" discovered their presence and kicked them out, killing one unnamed Luzon indio in the process.

One official at the Gala, who recognized the Morro Bay Luzon indios' arrival , explained that the celebration was about 100 years of "continuous immigration" of Filipinos to America. If that is the criteria, then the arrival of the Manilamen in Louisiana will satisfy that definition because the mariners (sailors) who settled there continuously arrived in American ports, jumped ship, and settled in Filipino enclaves in America.

The Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), in its website (, recognizes 1763 as the year the Manilamen arrived and settled in the marshlands of Louisiana. This contention was based on the book, Filipinos in Louisiana, written by Marina Espina, a former FANHS national president, who in turn based it on a book, Dixie, which was written in 1977 by Larry Bartlett. In it, he wrote:

"The year was 1763, and the schooner had unloaded its cargo at the Spanish provincial capital of New Orleans. Then its crew of Filipino sailors jumped ship and fled into the nearby cypress swamp...."

Espina accepted Bartlett's thesis and reported that she found evidence of Filipino mariners jumping ship off Acapulco, Mexico during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade. According to Espina, they then crossed the Gulf of Mexico and migrated to the bayous of Louisiana and other gulf ports. There they established Saint Malo and six other Manilamen settlements: the Manila Village on Barataria Bay; Alombro Canal and Camp Dewey in Plaquemines Parish; and Leon Rojas, Bayou Cholas, and Bassa Bassa in Jefferson Parish.

Based on this contention, at its Hawaii national conference in June of this year, FANHS celebrated the 243rd anniversary of Filipino presence in the United States.

While there is no doubt that Manilamen settled in the Louisiana bayous, there is a genuine dispute as to when they first established the first Filipino settlement, Saint Malo Village, in the St. Bernard Parish swamplands outside New Orleans.

On March 31,1883, Harper Weekly published an eyewitness account of a Filipino village in Louisiana written by noted American writer, Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904). Hearn lived in New Orleans from 1876 to 1887 and wrote extensively for Harper Weekly about the diverse communities of people who lived in Louisiana.

In Saint Malo: A Lacustrine Village in Louisiana, Hearn wrote of a community of about 100 "cinnamon-colored" Manilamen (no women) who lived by fishing and catching alligators. They spoke Spanish and a Philippine language, most likely Tagalog as he referred to the men as "Tagalas" from the Philippine Islands. The Tagalas sent money back to their families in the Philippines and urged their townmates to join them so that they could replenish their settlements.

According to Hearn, the swamp dwellers had regular contacts with the city of New Orleans, where some of their families lived. They even formed an association there called La Union Philipina.

The Manilamen of Saint Malo were even credited with starting the dried shrimp industry in Louisiana, employing the methods commonly used in the Philippines. Saint Malo was destroyed by a hurricane in 1915 while Manila Village, the last of seven Filipino villages, was washed away by Hurricane Betsy in 1965.

When he interviewed Padre Carpio, the oldest Manilaman of Saint Malo, Hearn learned that his village had been in existence for a little more than 50 years.

A little more than 50 years from 1882, when Hearn visited Saint Malo, would place the date of the founding of the oldest settlement in Louisiana at about 1830, which would mean we should be celebrating our 176th anniversary, give or take a year, in 2006.

While Espina contends that the settlers of Saint Malo were sailors who jumped ship in Acapulco, this would be unlikely if they came after 1830 because the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade ended in 1815.

It is more likely that the Filipinos who settled in those seven villages were mariners who jumped ship off New Orleans as there were, even then, hundreds, if not thousands of Filipinos working in commercial ships traversing the globe. In an editorial that appeared in La Solidaridad in February of 1892, Graciano Lopez-Jaena noted the existence of Filipino mariner communities in European ports as well as in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and New Orleans.

Illustrados like Lopez-Jaena studied in Spain but how did they get there from the Philippines? One of them, Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, returned to Spain in 1888 by way of the United States in a ship route that took him from Manila to Hongkong to Yokohama and then to San Francisco (May 2-4, 1888) where he then took a train to New York and a ship from there to London and then on to the continent. Many Filipino illustrados, like Rizal, may have passed through a similar route to get to Spain. It is likely that many of them may have decided to study in the United States.

Some of them studied in New Orleans where a local newspaper in 1883 printed an announcement of the formation of the Hispano Filipino Associacion de Nueva Orleans.

We can celebrate our 419th (from Morro Bay in 1587), our 243rd (FANHS-Espina from 1763), or our 176th (Lafcadio Hearn's account - about 1830). But the 100th anniversary of Filipino presence in America?

We not only have shortchanged our history, we are also undermining our numbers in America. In Mayor Newsom's message, he states that there are "now over two million Americans who identify their ancestry as Filipinos". Mel Orpilla's essay in the souvenir magazine claims that there are "two and a half million Filipinos" in America, based on the 2000 US census which reported that there are about 2.43 M Filipinos in the US.

But that 2000 Census figure did not include the estimated .5-M Filipinos who were out of status in 2000 who never bothered to register for fear of discovery by immigration authorities. It has also been six years since the 2000 census. Adding at least 40,000 new legal immigrants a year and the increase in TNTs would put our actual numbers in the US at 3.5 million.

Let's get our history and demographics right.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Second Look at Susan Ralston

It was initially a choice between Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao or (then) Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta when AsianWeek editors a year ago discussed who they considered to be the most influential Asian American in the White House. They concluded that it was neither. In their view, the one Asian American who commanded the personal friendship and respect of President George W. Bush, more than anyone else, was Susan Bonzon Ralston, the Filipino American Special Assistant who resigned on October 6.

It was not surprising then that AsianWeek's front page cover story this past week was Ralston's resignation, with the headline "No More Asians in the White House, Special Assistant to the President Quits."

When my column last week about Ralston ("Falling on the Sword") appeared on the Internet, before it was published in the newspaper, it drew criticism from Filipino American Republican leaders who believed that it presented a "one dimensional" picture of Ralston.

Interestingly enough, the piece was also attacked by one reader ("a Democrat with conservative leanings") for being "too kind" to her. While some Republicans thought it was wrong for me to mention Ralston's father in the piece, another reader thought it was "a transparent attempt to elicit sympathy for her." A columnist just can't win.

I reported that Ralston resigned after the House Government Reform Committee (HGRC) released emails of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff including 66 of his contacts with the White House, more than half of which were with Ralston who worked for him before he recommended her to Karl Rove.

One of Abramoff's clients was the Northern Mariana Islands which opposed the labor reforms that had been initiated by the Interior Department's Office of Insular Affairs headed by Allen Stayman.

A month after Ralston began working in the White House in 2001, she met with Abramoff lobbyist Todd A. Boulanger who provided her with a binder about the North Mariana Islands which recommended the firing of Stayman.

Among the emails released by the HGRC was a February 21, 2001 email from Ralston to Boulanger where she wrote: "Thanks for breakfast. I showed KR the binder. . He gave the binder to Mehlman to read cover to cover and to be prepared." [KR is Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, now the head of the Republican Party, was then the White House political director.]

In July, 2001, Ralston emailed Abramoff promising that Stayman would be "out in four months." According to the Los Angeles Times October 15, 2006 Sunday edition, "the promise was fulfilled."

Yet, when Filipino American delegates to the 2004 national conference of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) pressed Ralston to use her White House clout to help the Filipino WW II veterans fight for equity, she refused to do so, claiming that she doesn't do "policy."

As my Republican friends have since pointed out, it didn't end there. Perhaps because of the criticism she received at the Chicago NaFFAA conference, especially from then NaFFAA National Chair Loida Nicolas Lewis, Ralston later agreed to help NaFFAA on the veterans issue.

Two weeks after the NaFFAA conference in September of 2004, Ralston arranged for NaFFAA chair Lewis and NaFFAA Chief of Staff Armando Heredia to meet with White House Domestic Policy Adviser Allan Gilbert and his assistant, Matthew Smith, to discuss the Filipino veterans issue.

When the American Coalition for the Filipino Veteran (ACFV) learned of the meeting, the veterans lobby group requested that a Filipino veteran leader be included in the meeting. According to the ACFV, both Lewis and Heredia agreed that Mr. Franco Arcebal, a WWII Filipino veteran who was tortured by his captors during the war and who is the ACFV vice-president of membership, should attend the White House meeting.

When the request was made to Gilbert's office to include Acerbal, who had flown in from Los Angeles for the meeting, it was denied. Eric Lachica, ACFV Executive Director, emailed Ralston: "We just spoke at 9 A.M. with Sandy w/ Mr. Alan Gilbert's Domestic Policy office. She said that you turned down Mr. Franco Arcebal from attending today's 2 PM meeting of Ms. Loida Nicolas-Lewis and Armando Heredia of NaFFAA w/ Mr. Gilbert on Filipino WWII veterans bills."

Ralston quickly replied: "I did not make the decision. I only helped to arrange the meeting since I am not involved in this issue. Please discuss w/ Matthew Smith and
Alan Gilbert. I am NOT attending the meeting. Eric, your threats, such as the one to protest the Administration, do NOT help your cause and only make it more difficult for the White House to have any kind of constructive dialogue w/ you and your group."

Despite that initial disappointment, the ACFV was later able to forge constructive and productive contacts with Ralston. When they heard of Ralston's resignation, ACFV national president Pat Ganio and ACFV Executive Director Lachica said that the veterans were "saddened and disappointed."

According to Ganio, Ralston had later arranged for meetings of ACFV officials with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi, with the White House staff and a key National Security official to obtain Bush's support for the Filipino Veterans Health Care bill, for Senator Daniel Inouye's pension bill and for the U.S. grant-in-aid to the Philippine Veterans Medical Center.

"Our Fil-Am community leaders lost an irreplaceable and helpful contact in the Oval Office. She will be sorely missed by us," said Ganio.

The qualities that got Ralston her White House job were the very same reasons she stepped down. Aside from her professional competence, it was her loyalty and sense of gratitude - two virtues held in high regard in the Filipino community - that caused her to resign.

Ralston was grateful to Abramoff for recommending her to Karl Rove where she ended up as the right hand of President Bush's "right hand man." The alleged favors she did for Abramoff were probably done because of her "utang na loob" (debt of gratitude).

She was loyal to Rove and to President Bush, refusing to say anything or do anything that may cause them any damage. She was even willing to "fall on the sword" for them.

Although Ralston may have resigned, she is not out of the woods yet as she is still being investigated for her failure to report the gifts of concert tickets and games that she received from Abramoff. Earlier in August, Roger Stillwell, a former Interior Department official, pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge for not reporting that Abramoff had given him tickets to football games and concerts.

According to Rudy Pamintuan, Ralston's personal friend and the chair of the White House Initiative for Asian Americans, there is an exception for gifts from long-time friends made before joining the government.

The Filipino community (and the Asian American communities) lost a major asset in the White House. Whatever may be said about Ralston's head (her judgments), they cannot say about her heart (her loyalties). We wish her well.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

NaFFAA and the New Math

It is estimated that there are more than 5,000 Filipino community organizations in the US. According to former Philippine Ambassador to the US Raul Rabe, the explosive growth in the number of Filipino organizations can be attributed to the new math practice of "multiplication by division" based on the old phenomenon peculiar to Filipino community elections where there are no losers, only winners and those who were cheated.

There are even divisions within divisions as splinter factions splinter into more factions.

So how do you deal with the new math and the old phenomenon? That is the challenge facing the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) which seeks to "promote active participation of Filipino Americans in civic and national affairs and in all other aspects of mainstream America".

Many critics rightfully ask why, if the mission is to promote active participation in mainstream America, is the NaFFAA spending so much time on the Philippines?

They point to NaFFAA's successful challenge in the Philippine Supreme Court of a Comelec ruling that barred dual citizens from being able to vote in Philippine elections and its support of various Philippine initiatives like Gawad Kalinga and Gilas as examples of NaFFAA's preoccupation with the Philippines.

In his email, Prof. Cesar Torres asks: "if your focus is just on the Americans, why are you gallivanting in Cebu, in Sydney?"

Any analysis of the nature and composition of Filipino community organizations will reveal that most of them are based on Philippine affinities whether clan, hometown, province, school alumni, professional, or humanitarian assistance.

Because their preoccupation is with the Philippines and how to improve their affinities in particular and societal governance in general, then those have to be addressed by NaFFAA if it seeks those groups' involvement.

At its founding in Washington DC in 1997, NaFFAA dedicated itself to the twin objectives of empowering Filipinos in America and working for the progress of the Philippines.

These are not diametrically opposing objectives and are in fact intertwined. As Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto pointed out in a speech in Las Vegas recently, the image of Filipinos in America as "third class citizens" is directly related to the image of the Philippines as a poverty-mired slum-filled Third World nation.

As the economics and the politics of the Philippines improves, so too will the image of Filipino Americans.

The image of Filipinos in America received its biggest boost in 1941 when Filipinos showed their courage in the heroic defense of Bataan and Corregidor and in 1986 when the Filipinos toppled the corrupt dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos with People Power.

Filipinos in America remit more than $7-B annually to the Philippine economy and send hundreds of medical missions to various parts of the Philippines in dire need of medical assistance.

By securing the right to vote in Philippine elections, Filipinos in America can directly choose and elect Philippine leaders who can point the country to a more progressive direction.

NaFFAA has held all its empowerment conferences in the US: in Washington DC in 1997 and 1998, in New York in 1999, in Las Vegas in 2000, in San Jose in 2002, in Chicago in 2004 and in Honolulu in 2006. The "gallivanting" in Manila and Cebu in 2003 and 2005 and in Sydney in 2007 is a NaFFAA project -- the Global Filipino Networking Convention, which began in San Francisco in 2002, the day after the NaFFAA empowerment conference in San Jose.

The Global Filipino Networking Convention is based on two principles. The first is to understand that we are part of the Global Filipino community, part of the Diaspora that has transported and transplanted more than 8 million Filipinos to more than 150 countries all over the world.

Just as Filipino Americans join in coalitions with other Asian Pacific Americans to have greater political clout, so too will Filipino Americans join Filipino Australians, Filipino Canadians and other Filipinos abroad to have greater clout in the Philippines. Instead of just dealing only with 3-M Filipinos in the US, the Philippine government will now also have to deal with 8-M global Filipinos.

The second principle is that "networking" is the way of uniting our disparate communities. In our first convention in San Francisco, we brought groups together who had been in existence for decades who did not know of the existence of other groups who were neighbors. They did not need to join NaFFAA, they could attend the convention and network with each other and build friendships that may lead to future alliances and common projects.

NaFFAA took the lead in initiating this Global Filipino convention in 2002 which moved to Manila in December of 2003 and to Cebu in January of 2005. Coinciding the 4th Global Filipino Networking Convention with the 7th NaFFAA National Empowerment Conference in Hawaii in 2006 was seen as a fitting way to mark the centennial of Filipinos in America, which was also the centennial of the Global Filipino Diaspora. It made sense to combine the conferences with a common theme: "100 Years of the Filipino Diaspora: Hawaii and Beyond".

It will probably be another 100 years (put it in your calendars now) before another Global Filipino convention and a NaFFAA empowerment conference are held in the same place and date as just occurred in Honolulu. Next year's global convention will be held in Sydney, Australia in September of 2007 and the next NaFFAA empowerment conference will be held in Seattle in September of 2008. Filipinos in the Middle East are vying to host a Global Convention in Dubai in 2009.

Meanwhile, as Philippine News reporter Jun Ilagan noted in his story, "In an unprecedented move, Filipino Republicans and Democrats blurred party lines and set the groundwork for the immediate formation and mobilization of a coalition group that would work to educate FilAm voters and solidify the community nationwide as a major voting bloc."

The landmark decision to form the coalition group crystallized when the two party groups met at a conference workshop during the 4th Global Filipino Networking Convention and 7th National Empowerment Conference held September 28 to October 1 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village here.

Gloria Caoile, who heads the Democratic group, and Perry Diaz, top honcho of the National Federation of Filipino-American Republicans, decided to do away with the original workshop agenda, and buckled down to discuss the issue of political empowerment for FilAms.

"We were supposed to discuss the usual issues affecting our community in that worksho," Diaz said. "But early on, we decided that these issues are meaningless unless we FilAms start commanding attention as a solid political unit that can actually cast the swing vote, just like other non-Filipino organizations in the country. This is the true political empowerment."

Multiplication by division plus addition without subtraction is the new math that was the by-product of the Honolulu conference.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Falling on the Sword

When Ed Navarra learned on October 6 that Susan Bonzon Ralston had resigned from her post as a special assistant to President George W. Bush, his gut told him that she was being made a "scapegoat".

"Someone has to fall on the sword for the emperor and I guess it's Susan," Navarra noted sadly.

Navarra, the Midwest Region chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), immediately dashed off an email to President Bush to express his personal "regrets and dissatisfaction" with Ralston's resignation from the Bush administration. "Her departure," he wrote, "has left a void in our quest for empowerment especially in the Filipino American community and in the Asian Pacific American communities as well."

It was Navarra who had personally invited Ralston to be the keynote speaker at the 6th NaFFAA National Empowerment Conference in Chicago on September 12, 2004. In her speech to the NaFFAA delegates, Ralston talked about how privileged she felt to work on a daily basis with Pres. Bush "who is always working for the interests of the American people." But unlike the other speaker, Gen. Antonio Taguba (of Abu Ghraib fame), Ralston refused to talk about the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill supported by NaFFAA.

When asked at a press conference before her speech if she would be willing to use her White House influence to advocate for the Filipino WW II veterans, Ralston demurred, declaring "I don't do policy."

Documents released last week by the House Government Reform Committee (HGRC) disclosed that Ralston was very much involved in policy, but with Presidential Adviser Karl Rove and with superlobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The question Navarra may be asking now is the identity of the "emperor" that Ralston fell on the sword for.

Was it Rove? In testifying before the Grand Jury investigating Karl Rove's involvement in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, Ralston testified that Rove's 2003 phone conversation with Time reporter Matt Cooper (where Rove disclosed Plame's CIA identity) was not logged in the Rove's White House records because it was coursed by a switchboard rather than a direct line.

Ralston's explanation may not be considered credible because other White House switchboard calls had been logged in but it nonetheless provided Rove with enough of an excuse to plausibly deny recalling his 2003 meeting with Cooper. Her explanation provided the "shadow of doubt" that Rove desperately needed to avoid being indicted along with Vice-President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Was it Abramoff? Ralston had worked as his Executive Assistant when he worked at Preston Gates and later at the Greenberg Taurig law and lobbying firm, where she served as the assistant director of governmental affairs. When Karl Rove asked Abramoff to recommend a Special Assistant to work with him at the White House in 2001, he offered Ralston. On Abramoff's say so, Rove hired Ralston as his assistant in "overseeing the strategic planning, political affairs, public liaison, and intergovernmental affairs efforts of the White House."

Abramoff was later indicted and convicted of fraud and conspiracy charges and of using White House contacts to advance his clients' interests. He is cooperating with government investigators. Last week, the HGRC released the 66 emails of Abramoff to the White House, half of them to Ralston. The report also noted that Abramoff's lobbying team had contacted Ralston 69 times.

The HGRC reported that Ralston had passed along inside information to Abramoff at a time when she accepted his tickets to sporting and entertainment events including concerts of Bruce Springsteen and Andrea Boccelli. The White House Counsel is investigating Ralston for those undeclared gifts.

The charge of Navarra, a Republican, that Ralston was being made a "scapegoat" was echoed by California Rep. Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, who told the press that he suspects the White House is making Ralston a scapegoat.

"There is a lot that we don't yet know about the assistance that Ms. Ralston
provided Mr. Abramoff from inside the White House, but the vast majority of lobbying contacts and meals with White House officials documented in the report were with White House officials other than Ms. Ralston," Waxman said. (Could Pres. Bush be the "emperor"?)

Before emailing Pres. Bush, Navarra contacted Ralston's father, Dr. Tom Bonzon, to inquire about his daughter. He replied that Susan was "doing just fine, feeling quite relieved."

"She won't grant interviews and considers the matter of her resignation closed," Dr. Bonzon wrote. "She thanks everyone that expressed care and concern. She will most assuredly go on with her life - with firm conviction that in almost 6 years in the WH, she did her best to serve President Bush and the country."

"Tita and I hope that maybe, just maybe Susan will now have time to consider raising a family a viable option - something she could not do while in the WH - working 16-18 hours a day. The media, especially the bloggers, are busy on this news item. We hope the buzz dies down soon."

Given that Ralston is embroiled in the Karl Rove, Abramoff, and White House Counsel's ethics investigations, the buzz-die wishes of her Filipino American parents are unlikely to be granted.