Monday, July 30, 2007

Connecting the Dots

The free online encyclopedia Wikipedia informs us that Philippine publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer was murdered on November 24, 2000 by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP): “Bubby Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito, were abducted in Makati. They were later killed, and their vehicle dumped.

In 2001, a number of arrests were made One of the accused, police colonel Glenn Dumlao named Cesar Mancao and Michael Ray Aquino as the organizers of the murders. Mancao and Aquino both fled the country. Dumlao later disappeared.

Wikipedia further notes: “The ultimate reasons for Dacer's murder remain a subject of debate. (former Philippine president) Fidel Ramos has publicly accused his successor, Joseph Estrada, of giving the original order — Estrada was mired in a corruption scandal at the time, and according to some reports, believed Dacer was helping Ramos destabilize his rule.

Panfilo Lacson, then a top police officer (now a senator), is also accused by some. Dacer had worked for Roberto Lastimoso, an enemy of Lacson, and according to Dacer's daughter Amparo, Dacer had evidence of crimes committed by Lacson.”

Two weeks ago on July 18, 2007, former PNP Col. Michael Ray Aquino was sentenced to six years and four months in prison by US Judge William Walls in New Jersey for his role in a plot where he obtained secret US documents in an effort to undermine the Philippine government. Before the sentence was rendered, however, US Attorney Christopher J. Christie submitted a 92-page memorandum asking for a higher sentence for Aquino because of “Aquino’s involvement in the abduction and murders of Dacer and Corbito.” Aquino's lawyer had asked for a sentence of less than four years.

The Memorandum, a copy of which was obtained by this writer, noted that PNP Col. Glenn Dumlao had submitted a sworn statement on June 21, 2001 implicating Aquino and Col. Cezar Mancao in the murders of Dacer and Corbito. Col. Dumlao fled to the US in 2001 and was also contacted by US Attorney Christie during the government’s investigation of Aquino. In an interview in 2006 in New Jersey with his lawyer Felix Vinluan present, "Dumlao affirmed that Aquino participated in the abduction of Dacer-Corbito by directing him and others to kidnap and interrogate Dacer and Corbito, and destroy evidence of the crime.”

According to the government's Memorandum, Dumlao voluntarily provided detailed information to the US government about his and Aquino’s participation in the double murders. Col. Mancao, who fled to the US with Aquino in 2001, was also contacted by the US Attorney in 2006. “Likewise," the Memorandum stated, "Mancao voluntarily submitted to several interviews with the (US) government (in the presence of his attorney, Michael Schutt). During those interviews, Mancao told the government, among other things, that he believed that Aquino was involved in the abductions of Dacer and Corbito because Aquino told him that he had ordered others to hide evidence of the crimes.”

Aquino’s role in the murders was as “coordinator” of the “PAOCTF men in charge of abducting Dacer.” The PAOCTF (Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force) was headed at the time by Gen. Panfilo Lacson. The Memorandum noted that Aquino “gave direct orders” to the participants and “was obviously stage-managing the entire operation via cellular telephone that culminated in their slayings.” The memorandum noted further that “in the face multiple investigations for his involvement in, among other things, the KB (Kuratong Baleleng) Incident, the Dacer-Corbito murders, and the State of Rebellion charges, Aquino (together with Mancao) fled the Philippines on or about June 21, 2001” and went to the US on tourist visas.

“Mancao affirmed that he and Aquino ‘heard’ from Lacson that they would be arrested ‘in an effort to destroy Lacson’s reputation and negatively affect Lacson’s possible chances of a presidential bid in 2004’…Lacson later directed Aquino and Mancao to leave the country.”

In the section “Aquino Acts as Lacson’s Agent After Fleeing from the RP,” the Memorandum detailed the activities of Aquino fter moving to New York. When Lacson traveled to the US in September of 2003, Aquino went with him to Florida to meet with Mark Jimenez before Jimenez was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for tax evasion and election fraud.

Leandro Aragoncillo, Aquino’s co-defendant who was sentenced to 10 years for espionage by the same federal judge, acknowledged that Aquino was the one who informed him in September of 2003 about Lacson’s visit to Jimenez, the
Memorandum noted, “belying Aquino’s assertion that he had limited contact with Aragoncillo prior to January 2005.”

In January of 2005, Aquino introduced Aragoncillo to Lacson as a “US Marine who was assigned to an FBI intelligence unit”. Aquino told Lacson that Aragoncillo wanted to provide Lacson with information about “briefings attended by Aragoncillo about the political situation in the Philippines…Specifically,
Aquino wrote that Aragoncillo sought to provide information to Lacson about changing the current RP government with a revolutionary government.”

“Aquino (using his intelligence training) suggested to Lacson that they listen to Aragoncillo and ‘confirm/check’ or vet his information. Foreshadowing efforts to remove President Arroyo, Aquino recommended to Lacson that they use Aragoncillo and his information ‘especially if this will be a catalyst for change in our country’. …Sometime shortly after, Lacson communicated with Aragoncillo.

In turn, Aragoncillo began transmitting classified documents and information, including documents containing national defense information, to both Aquino and Lacson, approximately two weeks later.” Two months later, in March of 2005, Aquino was arrested by US immigration agents for being an overstaying alien. While Aquino was in federal custody,
Aragoncillo visited him, identifying himself to the authorities as an FBI agent. This piqued the immigration officials' interest, causing them to inquire from the FBI about Aragoncillo.

When the FBI conducted its own investigation of Aragoncillo, officials discovered the trail of emails from Aragoncillo to Aquino and Lacson transmitting classified FBI documents.

While in immigration custody, Aquino's bail was set at $50,000 which required a posting of 10% to the bail bondsman. The Memorandum noted that it was Lacson who sent the money to Mancao in Florida to send to Aquino’s family in New York for Aquino’s bailout.

As a result of the FBI investigation, both Aquino and Aragoncillo were arrested by US authorities in September of 2005 and charged with espionage and conspiracy. Lacson was named as an unindicted co-conspirator. Just before the US Attorney Karl Buch was set to travel to the Philippines to depose Lacson, Aquino pled guilty to the charges against him, saving Lacson from the humiliation and legal complication of having to subject himself to a deposition. Like a good samurai, Aquino had fallen on the sword for his Emperor.

The Los Angeles-based daughter of Bubby Dacer, Carina, is not satisfied with the sentence of Aquino. “He only receives orders. Like everyone else who was jailed for my father’s murder, they only took orders,” she said.

The question remains: who gave the orders to abduct and kill Dacer and Corbito?

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Origins of the Fil Vets' Battle for Equity

When the US House Veterans Affairs Committee convened on July 17 to vote to “mark up” the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill (HR 760) to send it to the full House for a vote, the long battle for justice for the Filipino war veterans came closer to victory than at any other time in its history. A counterpart bill (S. 57) in the US Senate was approved last month by the US Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is headed for a floor vote in the Senate.
If the House Veterans Affairs Committee, headed by the equity bill’s main sponsor, Rep Bob Filner, marks up HR 760 and it passes a House vote, and S. 57 passes in the Senate as well, a joint Senate-House conference committee will then reconcile differences in their respective versions.

Once a conference-crafted bill is finalized, both chambers will next vote on it. If it passes both chambers, it will then head to the White House for the signature of US Pres. George W. Bush. If Pres. Bush ignores the recommendation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson and signs the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill into law, the battle for equity will have finally been won.

The 1946 Origins

The battle for equity began in 1946 when the US Congress passed the Rescission Act on February 18, 1946, a law which deemed service by Filipinos in the US Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) as not to be service in the US Armed Forces for purposes of entitlement to US veterans’ benefits. Filipinos considered this a betrayal of the promise made by US President Franklin Roosevelt on July 26, 1941 when he issued an Order drafting Philippine Commonwealth soldiers into the US Army.

But it was not the first betrayal of a promise. Earlier, in September of 1945, US Attorney-General Tom Clark issued an order revoking the authority of Vice Consul George Ennis, the naturalization officer at the US Embassy in Manila, to process the naturalization applications of Filipino USAFFE veterans. A law passed by the US Congress in 1940 granted US citizenship to Filipinos and other aliens who fought under US command anywhere in the world. All they needed to do was apply to a naturalization officer.

The law was amended in 1942 to set a cut-off date of December 31, 1946 and required that the applicants still remain in active duty when they apply. This revocation of authority was applied only to the Philippines and lasted until August 1946 when the US Embassy finally began accepting and processing applications of Filipino WW II veterans was restored.

In four months, some 4,000 Filipinos under US command applied for and were granted US citizenship. Before these 4,000 Filipino USAFFE soldiers applied for citizenship, some

7,000 Filipinos who had immigrated to the US in the 1920s and 1930s became naturalized US citizens after enlisting and serving in the US Army in the 1st and 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiments.

Marciano Haw Hibi

For more than 20 years after 1946, nothing significant occurred in either reversing the Rescission Act or obtaining naturalization for Filipino WW II veterans. It was not until a veteran named Marciano Haw Hibi arrived in San Francisco as a visitor for business in 1964. With the assistance of his immigration lawyer, Donald Ungar, Haw Hibi filed his application for US naturalization as a Filipino war veteran under the 1940 law. After the naturalization examiner denied his application as Ungar expected, Haw Hibi filed his petition for naturalization in the US District Court in San Francisco on September 13, 1967.

Haw Hibi argued that the US government should be “estopped” (legally precluded) from claiming that he filed his petition 21 years after the cut-off date in 1946 because it was the “affirmative misconduct” of the US government in removing the authority of the naturalization officer in Manila to process his application for US citizenship that caused the delay.

Haw Hibi had enlisted in the Philippine Scouts in February of 1941 after this military force was placed under US command. He was captured by the Japanese in 1942 and released after six months of internment. In April 1945, after the liberation of the Philippines by Allied Forces, Haw Hibi rejoined the Scouts and served until his discharge in December 1945. Although the US naturalization officer in Manila was allowed to process naturalization applications in August of 1946, Haw Hibi was by then no longer eligible to apply as he had been discharged in 1945 and a 1942 amendment required an applicant to still be in active duty at the time of his application.

The District Court denied Haw Hibi's naturalization application, which he then appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. After that appelate court denied his appeal, Haw Hibi appealed his case to the US Supreme Court. On October 23, 1973, the US Supreme Court, in a “per curiam” decision (issued in the name of the whole court rather than by individual justices), affirmed the lower courts’ denial of Haw Hibi’s claim.

Affirmative Misconduct

But it was not a unanimous Court decision. Three U.S. Supreme Court justices - William O. Douglas, Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan - ruled in favor of Haw Hibi, criticizing the majority’s opinion for ignoring “the deliberate - and successful - effort on the part of agents of the Executive Branch to frustrate the congressional purpose and to deny substantive rights to Filipinos such as respondent by administrative fiat, indicating instead that there was no affirmative misconduct involved in this case. The record does not support that conclusion.”

The dissent in the Haw Hibi case inspired many Filipino veterans in the US to file their applications for naturalization by arguing that they were denied their Due Process and Equal Protection rights under the US Constitution when the executive branch of the US government thwarted the will of legislative branch which “mandated” that a naturalization examiner be present at the US Embassy in Manila to process naturalization applications.

The Renfrew Decision

In 1976, a number of Filipino WW II veterans, including noted Filipino kundiman singer Ruben Tagalog, filed their applications of naturalization in the US District Court in San Francisco after their applications were denied by the INS. (INS officials refer to the Filipino veterans as "Hibi Veterans.") Their cases were consolidated into one (In the Matter of 68 Filipino War Veterans) and assigned to US District Court Judge Charles Renfrew.

Aside from hearing from the government's attorney and from Donald Ungar, the immigration lawyer of the Filipino veterans, Judge Renfrew also allowed Philippine News publisher Alex Esclamado to present oral arguments on behalf of the Filipino veterans. Esclamado's impassioned plea and Ungar's legal arguments combined to cause Judge Renfrew to rule in favor of the Filipino veterans.

Even though the US government appealed the Renfrew Decision, the administration of then US President Jimmy Carter subsequently withdrew the appeal and allowed the 68 Filipino veterans to be sworn in as US citizens. Following the Renfrew Decision, hundreds of other Filipino war veterans then filed their applications. The large number of applicants eventually caused the Carter Administration to reconsider its position.

In 1978, the INS denied the naturalization application of Dr. Sergio Mendoza, a veteran who then petitioned the US District Court to grant his naturalization application. The District Court obliged, ruling that the government was “collaterally estopped” from opposing the naturalization of Filipino war veterans because it withdrew its appeal of the Renfrew Decision. The government then appealed the Mendoza decision to the Ninth Circuit, which affirmed the lower court’s decision.

No Collateral Estoppel

The government then elevated the Mendoza case to the US Supreme Court. On January 10, 1984, a unanimous Supreme Court rendered a decision, penned by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, reversing the lower court’s decision and ruling that the doctrine of collateral estoppel applies only to private litigants and not to the US government.

The Supreme Court’s Mendoza decision did not deter other Filipino WW II veterans from applying for naturalization. Four years after Mendoza, the US Supreme Court in 1988 was faced with the Filipino veterans issue once again, this time involving 16 Filipino war veterans (INS v. Pangilinan) who had successfully argued that federal courts, as courts of equity, could provide an equitable remedy to a legal wrong, which was that the executive branch of the US government had subverted the mandatory language of the 1940 law enacted by the legislative branch of the government by revoking the authority of the Vice Consul at the US Embassy in Manila to process naturalization applications.

Once again, the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the Filipino war veterans. In a decision penned by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court ruled that courts do not have the "equitable" power "to confer citizenship in violation of the limitations imposed by Congress in the exercise of its exclusive constitutional authority over naturalization." Pangilinan effectively ended all efforts by Filipino veterans to obtain naturalization through the courts. Relief would now have to come from the US Congress.

Relief sought in Congress

Concerned that hundreds of Filipino war veterans who had applied for naturalization would now be subject to deportation, members of the US Congress led by US Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Rep. Melvyn Dymally (D-California) and Rep. Tom Campbell (R-California) sponsored bills granting naturalization to Filipino WW II veterans. In 1990, they succeeded in getting the Filipino veterans naturalization bill included in the omnibus Immigration Act of 1990.

To secure its inclusion in the omnibus bill, the sponsors assured their colleagues that the naturalization bill would not involve veteran benefits equity issues. At a hearing on the bill, Rep. Campbell stated that giving the Filipino veterans citizenship will not “make them eligible for federal benefits which they do not receive.” The immigration act that was passed by the US Congress and signed into law by US President George H. Bush specifically stipulated that the law “shall not be construed as affecting the rights, privileges or benefits” of the Filipino WW II veterans.

The Filipino veterans had believed that the Rescission Act's discrimination against them was based on the fact that they were not US citizens. Once they became US citizens, the veterans thought, they would now be eligible for the same benefits enjoyed by their American counterparts. Unfortunately, the law retained the discriminatory provisions of the Rescission Act. US citizenship did not solve the problem.

Finally, 61 years after passage of the Rescission Act, the surviving Filipino war veterans may see its end.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Pulling the Ladder Up

Conceived and born of a marriage of convenience between liberal and conservative parents from the White House and the Senate, the immigration test tube baby known as “The Grand Bargain” died on June 28, 2007 of severe complications from a procedural vote. Two-thirds of the Senate Republicans ganged up to claim credit for the death blow, explaining their vote with the simple talk radio mantra that was effectively used to kill it – death to amnesty!

Perhaps its defeat was a failure of marketing. If it had been labeled "Registration of Illegal Aliens Act," it might have exploited the rationale provided by President George W. Bush–that the national security interests of the US required the federal government to be aware of the identities and whereabouts of at least 12 million people living and working in the US.

The two Republican senators who led the assault on the bill, Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) and Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), hailed the bill’s defeat as a “victory for the American people.” That was a victory, the New York Times editorial opined, “if you favor semi-porous borders, rotting crops, and millions of people growing old overseas as they wait to enter legally. If you want federal officials to keep thimble-dipping the immigrant ocean with raids and detentions that shatter families and cripple businesses, and state and local government to go on erecting a ramshackle grid of disjointed immigration policies, then this debacle was for you.”

For the Filipino community, this was an enormous defeat. The bill contained the Akaka Amendment, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) that would have provided at least 35,000 immediate relative visas to the married and unmarried offspring of Filipino WWII veterans with approved immigrant visas. If the bill had been approved, they would have had a chance to join their veteran fathers in the US while they’re still alive. With their octogenarian fathers dying at an exponential rate and their petitions being extinguished with their fathers' deaths, the chances are slim for most of them to immigrate to the US.

Along with this number are approximately 400,000 other Filipino relatives in the Philippines with approved immigrant visas “growing old overseas” while waiting decades for their priority dates to be current so that they can immigrate to the US. The bill contained a provision that would have added additional immigrant visas to clear the backlog within four (4) years.

The bill’s defeat is especially painful to the estimated 600,000 Filipinos in the US who are “overstaying tourists,” what Filipinos humorously refer to as TNTs, folks who are tago ng tago (hiding and hiding) and takot na takot (very fearful of being caught). There’s nothing at all humorous about their marginalized existence, working for minimum or even below-minimum “under the table” wages, unable to obtain drivers licenses, always worried that each morning might be their last free moment in the sun if they are apprehended by federal immigration agents.

The immigration reform bill would have provided them with probationary Z visas and a path to eventual legalization after a decade of good moral conduct (no criminal acts), being regularly employed, paying taxes and learning to read and speak English.
Perhaps no one gloated more gleefully at the defeat of the immigration bill than right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin, who has made a career of bashing illegal aliens in her columns which regularly appear in over 200 newspapers in the US and in her regular TV appearances on The O'Reilly Factor and in Hannity & Combes.

The irony of course is that this right-wing pit bull was born as Michelle Maglalang to a Filipino physician father, Dr. Apollo Maglalang, and a Filipina schoolteacher mother, Rafaella. Her Filipino parents immigrated to the US in 969 as a result of the passage of an immigration reform bill in 1965, co-authored by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), the same co-author of the current immigration reform bill opposed by Malkin.

Malkin and other right-wing ideologues like Pat Buchanan favor the old immigration law in existence from 1920 to 1965 that capped annual immigration at 150,000 a year and which provided immigrant visas to people who easily assimilated into the American fabric. The favored immigration policy of right-wingers was heavily slanted towards European immigration as the quota for each country was arbitrarily based on the percentage of immigrants who entered the US through Ellis Island in 1920. Thus, if Germans were 35% of the total percentage of the people who immigrated to the US in 1920, they would be allotted 35% of the total number of immigrant visas doled out each year.

Until 1965, the rest of the world, outside of Europe, would be limited to no more than 50 immigrant visas a year. This restriction even included the Philippines after the country became a US commonwealth in 1935. If Sen. Kennedy had not persevered in pushing for the liberalization of US immigration laws to allow for expanded family immigration and the inclusion of professionals from countries like the Philippines, Michelle’s parents would never have had the opportunity to immigrate to the US and Michelle would never have been born in the US.

In fact, tens of thousands of Filipino physicians in the US who have registered as Republicans (like Michelle’s father) would not have been able to immigrate to the US if it wasn’t for Sen. Kennedy, who is regularly bashed by these very same Fil-Am Republicans. What's that about our utang na loob (debt of gratitude)? Unfortunately, like Michelle, many of these Filipinos who’ve made it in America have chosen to pull up the ladder that brought them to success in America to prevent others from climbing up as they did. It was a ladder that others before them worked to set up for them.

Those Filipinos seeking to climb up the ladder to make it in America, as Michelle Maglalang and her parents have done, must organize themselves to have a voice in policy, to counter the relentless bashing of Michelle Malkin. While millions of undocumented Mexican immigrants have organized themselves into a political force, demonstrating in rallies throughout the US and presenting
a human face to their issues, the Filipino TNTs have stayed in the background, out of the radar, not wishing to speak out about their issues and their plight. In part this is cultural as it is an Asian belief that the nail that sticks out is the one that gets pounded.

But this cultural belief runs counter to the old American saw that the greasy wheel gets the grease. If you don't speak up and speak out, as the undocumented Mexicans have done, you won't get the attention you need for your issues. The 600,000 Filipino TNTs in the US (1 out of every 5 or 6 of us) have to organize themselves to make the issue of their legalization a top priority for the community, just as the passage of the equity bill for Filipino WW II veterans issue has been in the past few years.

They must ask that Filipinos, who came up the ladder laid for them by others, also to work to keep the ladder down for others to climb as well.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Farewell to ConGen Weng

While attending a high school reunion in Manila last December, I was asked by puzzled classmates why Filipinos in the US generally hold a favorable impression of the Philippine government. They noticed the marked difference, they said, in the Internet postings of Filipinos in the US who exhibited a generally positive attitude towards the government instead of the usual denigration that people in Manila are more familiar with.

They wanted to know if it was plain ignorance or just general lack of information. They wondered if perhaps we are just too busy with our lives in the US that we don’t have the time to be aware of what is really happening in the Philippines. Wrong, I said. When Manila’s newspapers are laid out at midnight and sent to the printing press for the early morning run, they are posted online instantaneously. It is about 9AM in San Francisco and the west coast, 12 noon in New York and the east coast, when the Manila papers are posted on line. While you folks in Manila are still snoring away, I said, we have already digested the latest skirmishes between President Gloria Arroyo and the political opposition.

Distance provides perspective, I explained. From here in the US, we can readily discern the Philippine forest from the trees and we can even distinguish the trees from their individual parts. While folks in Manila are bugged by their daily “in your face” encounters with crooked branches and twigs and are always obsessed with what lurks beneath the bark, from afar we can just sit back and appreciate the splendor of the trees and the majesty of the forest.

But there is another reason for the positive attitude, I said. Folks in the Philippines form their negative impressions of the government from their daily encounters and interactions with its national, provincial and local representatives. If the tax collector extracts a bribe to lower the person's tax bill, if a police officer asks for coffee money to tear up a traffic citation, if the mayor gets a cut from the private garbage contractor, then one cannot fault poor Juan De la Cruz for concluding that the Philippine political system is corrupt.

The primary, if not sole, contact of Filipinos in America with the Philippine government is the Philippine Embassy and its consulates all over the US. If Filipinos in the US who seek consular assistance are asked to pay a little under-the-table fee just to obtain their Philippine passports or to have a document notarized by the consulate, then similar negative impressions of the Philippine government will develop in the US.

But mercifully, at least in San Francisco under Philippine Consul-General Rowena Mendoza Sanchez, whose three year term began on July 1, 2004, that has not been the perception nor the reality of people’s experience with the institutional representatives of the Philippine government.

Talk to anyone of the 500,000 Filipinos in the San Francisco Bay Area and you will be hard-pressed to find one critic of the Consul General known affectionately as “ConGen Weng.” People who regularly deal with the Philippine Consulate have expressed admiration for the consummate professionalism of consular officials and staff and this starts at the top.

What impresses local people is not just what ConGen Weng does as part of her job, but what she does in her spare time. Folks remember the time when she brought consulate volunteers with her to the Walnut Creek warehouse of Dan and Nancy Harrington’s Books for the Barrios project to pack thousands of books to ship to Philippine elementary schools throughout the country.

But no project has consumed ConGen Weng more than lobbying for passage of the Filipino Veterans Equity Act. She has personally spoken with members of the US Congress to lobby them to support the Filipino WW II veterans. In the annual June 12 Independence Day celebrations sponsored by the Consulate, she has reserved a special place by the stage for the veterans. In the most recent one, she noted how their numbers have diminished over the three years that she has been consul. We have to do something now before they all are dead, she
Passionately implored the audience.

Although the popular “Consulate on Wheels” program was initiated by previous San Francisco consuls, it has been personally enhanced by ConGen Weng who has traveled from Alaska, Utah, Idaho, Colorado and the outlying areas of Northern California to provide consular assistance to Filipinos who may not have the time or resources to go to 447 Sutter Street in San Francisco.

When Consular officials announced that their Wheels program would assist Filipinos to obtain dual citizenship, not a few Filipinos lined up to apply for American citizenship to go with their Philippine citizenship. The Consulate had to explain that they meant Philippine citizenship only. Those folks would need to find a “path to US citizenship” in the Senate Immigration Reform Bill.

After it was announced that ConGen Weng would be leaving San Francisco in July to move to her new posting in Shanghai, many Filipinos sought to convince her to lobby to extend her stay in San Francisco. But she quickly discouraged any such move. “I cannot harbor personal attachments to a post, let alone request an extension because that would be unethical in the Foreign Service," she said. “I just have to take up the China post with the highest level of anticipation and eagerness … I have to move on."

Filipinos in the San Francisco Bay Area can harbor a personal attachment to her, however, witnessed by the large number of tributes that have been held for her in the last few weeks. As SF Public Utilities Commissioner Dennis Normandy noted, the number of despedidas (farewells) to ConGen Weng in the last month exceeds the combined total of all the despedidas accorded the 20 San Francisco Consul Generals who preceded her. It's just as well that she's moving on to Shanghai because only the Great Wall of China is large enough to hang all the plaques, certificates, proclamations and framed resolutions that have been affectionately bestowed on her in the last few weeks.

When told at these events that her professional dedication and patriotism have inspired Filipinos in the Bay Area to love the Philippines and help the Motherland in any way they can, she humbly declares that it goes both ways. She says the enthusiastic love of Filipinos in the US for their ancestral home has similarly inspired her and the Consulate staff to do much more to help the country.

Long after Weng has left for her new post, people here will still recount fond stories of her time as ConGen. Some will recall the time she attended the dedication of a monument to our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal where the Knight Commander exhorted the audience to support the “monumental erection of
Dr. Jose Rizal”. While everyone giggled and guffawed, ConGen Weng maintained her professional composure.

That unflappable quality was nurtured in her youth when young Rowena traveled the world as the child of a Philippine diplomat, the late Consul General Ruben Mendoza, performing Philippine dances in Australia and other countries. It was honed in her 30 years of service as a professional diplomat in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in posts in Washington DC, London, Ottawa and Chicago as well as in executive positions in the DFA home office.

Not a few have openly expressed the hope that ConGen Weng will return to San Francisco one day as Philippine Ambassador to the US Rowena Mendoza Sanchez.