Wednesday, 01 June 2016 00:06

Pinoys Launch First Miss Gay Montreal

by Krystle Alarcon in Montreal 

Joseph Dadua couldn’t muster up the courage to try on a bikini at a women’s lingerie store in Montreal. 

It took two of his fellow gay friends to encourage him to go to the dressing room of La Vie en Rose. 

“It was an unforgettable experience,” the 24-year-old recalls, “everyone was accepting and open.” 

Dadua says preparing for the Filipino community’s Miss Gay Montreal 2016 was a process that helped him embrace his effeminate side. 

Miss Gay Montreal, held May 28, was the first of its kind for the Filipino community in Montreal. 

It was a joint effort between Montreal’s largest Filipino group, FAMAS (Filipino Association of Montreal and Suburbs) and Pinoy LGBT. 

Dadua and his three rival candidates all identify as “gay cross-dressers” he says.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Dadua and his three rival candidates all identify as “gay cross-dressers” . . .[/quote]

For the competition, they chose a pretend country of origin and an existing female model’s name for the night – a tradition borrowed from gay beauty pageants in the Philippines. For example, Dadua (pictured below) wanted to be addressed as Leila Lopes and Miss Angola. 

All the craze 

Beauty pageants are a cultural frenzy in the Philippines. Last year, the country won two titles in international competitions for Miss Universe and Miss Earth, and two crowns in 2013 as well. 

Blogger Raul Dancel aptly describes this obsession pointing out that the Philippines has a local beauty queen for each of its 40,000 small towns. 

“There are a bevy of titles that will befuddle future anthropologists, including: That’s My Boy, Little Miss Philippines, Mr. Handsome, Little Miss Handsome, Miss Gay Philippines, Miss Supranational, Manhunt International, Mr. Marketplace and Super Mermaid,” he writes. 

This is why when FAMAS approached the members of Pinoy LGBT to put together the event, the organization got on board immediately. 

Adiva Estinozo, one of the main organizers of the pageant, identifies as a transgender and transsexual woman. She says she hid her gender identity and sexual orientation from her parents. 

“I was scared of being isolated. That’s why I moved to the [gay] Village [in Montreal] on my own. I didn’t want to wait for the isolation to happen.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It helps parents to understand. It shows parents that their kids are having fun on stage.”[/quote]

She understands firsthand how a contest can help build self-esteem. She won the Pista Sa Nayon singing contest in Montreal in 2002. 

The grand prize was a trip to the Philippines and an appearance on a comedy TV show there, Home Along Da Riles. Upon returning to Montreal, Estinozo came out. 

She says Miss Gay Montreal has also helped some of the candidates be their true selves. 

“It helps parents to understand. It shows parents that their kids are having fun on stage,” Estinozo says. 

Being seen and being seen equal 

The LGBT community is quite visible in the Philippines, with celebrities like femme gay comedian, Vice Ganda, achieving top box office sales for his satirical films. 

But for Mark Simbulan, co-founder of Pinoy LGBT and Estinozo’s co-host for the event, visibility does not translate to equality. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The Philippines should be allowing gay marriage — not in terms of a religious basis, but on a human level."[/quote]

“The Philippines should be allowing gay marriage — not in terms of a religious basis, but on a human level. They should have human rights to love and be able to marry who they want to marry,” he says. 

Simbulan says Pinoy LGBT is working on ways to promote gay marriage in the Philippines. 

Asked what’s the main difference between a women’s pageant and a gay men’s one, Simbulan says, “not much, but ours is more fun.” 

Indeed, the audience squealed with laughter at certain moments during the show. But candidates rode a fine line between mockery and entertainment. 

Axl Hernandez, also known as Tyra Banks and Miss Venezuela for the night, used comedy to slam opponents. 

“Not all horses belong in the stable,” Hernandez says in Tagalog upon grabbing the microphone. “Because you just saw one (the previous candidate) and there are two more.” 

Another candidate who blurred the lines between ridicule and spectacle was Jerrieval Mark Garcia, a.k.a. Adriana Lima or Miss Brazil. During the talent portion, Garcia dressed in a black sequin cocktail dress performing a cabaret dance — then midway, he turned around, put on a baseball cap and tight boxers and fluttered his pelvis like a male stripper. 

In the end, Dadua took home the crown. 

To critics who think beauty pageants are objectifying and do not promote equality, he says, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I’m not going to say anything against them. We need to focus on our own lives. If it makes us happy then why not. For me, they’re dedma.” 

Dedma is a Taglish slang term mixing the English word ‘dead’ and Tagalog word ‘malisyoso’. In other words, he’s feigning their malice.

Editor's Note: This copy has been updated to correct a mistake in the spelling of Adiva Estinozo's name and the explanation of the word 'dedma'. NCM regrets these errors.


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Published in Arts & Culture

by Marieton Pacheco (@marietonpacheco) in Vancouver, British Columbia

Ever since Dr. Rey Pagtakhan served as Member of Parliament from 1988 to 2004, first from Winnipeg North and then Winnipeg North - St. Paul, no one of Filipino descent has been elected to the House of Commons.

But the drought may be about to end as at least five candidates from the community are running in October’s federal election.

“They’re in for a tough battle,” says Aprodicio Laquian, former University of British Columbia (UBC) professor and author of Seeking a Better Life Abroad: A Study of Filipinos in Canada.

“Filipinos in general don’t vote for other Filipinos just because of shared heritage. They’re a lot more critical, their network allows them to easily identify who’s running … and if they’re running for their own selfish interest, they don’t vote.”

Laquian says that despite an estimated 700,000 Canadian residents tracing their ancestry back to the Philippines, there is also no real “Filipino town” or single riding in Canada where they make up a big chunk of the population. 

Winnipeg North, the riding that first sent Pagtakhan to Parliament, is the exception as an estimated 40 per cent of the population is of Filipino descent. 

Levy Abad, a human rights activist and singer/songwriter of Filipino heritage, is contesting there under the New Democrat banner and sees the demographic advantage only as a leg-up.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[A] Filipino running for office should not only depend on the support of one group but should engage all communities.”[/quote]

“Although it helps to have the support of the Filipino community, I think a Filipino running for office should not only depend on the support of one group but should engage all communities,” says Abad. 

Pagtakhan says ethnicity is only one of many factors. “While a particular community will likely support a candidate and party if they champion policies dear to their hearts, their combined credibility and qualities will also be considered.” 

Abad believes that his job as a multicultural outreach officer in Manitoba’s Ministry of Multiculturalism and Literacy has prepared him for the run. He says he knows the issues affecting all groups in his riding and would be their collective voice in Parliament. 

Facing negativity

In Vancouver Kingsway, a riding with half its population made up of visible minority groups, Conservative party candidate Francisco “Jojo” Quimpo does not have any advantage because of his ethnicity.

Quimpo will compete for votes of Chinese-Canadians who are the dominant group at 43 per cent of the population followed by fellow Filipino-Canadians at 11 per cent.

“I am running not just because I’m a Filipino. I’m an immigrant; my story is many other people’s story,” says Quimpo. “I can relate with many, I know the issues and challenges.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“This is about the future of Canada, not only Filipinos, but also all Canadians.”[/quote]

A community leader, he is best known for organizing the annual Pinoy Fiesta that celebrates Philippine culture.

But ever since announcing his intention to run, he’s had his share of critics from within the community; some have even flipped on an earlier promise to support him by putting up lawn signs of his NDP rival, incumbent MP Don Davies.

Quimpo believes Filipinos as a group are turned off by politics due to their negative experience of the process back home. He wants the community to participate more in politics and to realize its positive impact here in Canada.

“To be comfortable with this kind of electoral process … you have to be passionate and committed with the values you represent to the people so they can understand. This is about the future of Canada, not only Filipinos, but also all Canadians,” says Quimpo.

Old-style Philippine politics

Nevertheless, Quimpo says the community members’ historical dislike for politics does not prevent them from resorting to old-style Philippine politics by seeking favours in return for votes. 

Since starting his campaign, he’s received requests for assistance ranging from helping a sick relative back home to expediting immigration applications. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I received so many questions on why they need to pay when I’m the one asking for their support!”[/quote]

“I was running for the party nomination and was asking for kababayans [fellow Filipinos] to pay and become a member of the party so they could vote for me … I received so many questions on why they need to pay when I’m the one asking for their support!”

In Winnipeg Abad says he’s heard of similar stories during his campaign, but has no experience of people asking for favours outright. 

“The residents of Winnipeg North have a lot of concerns like poverty, crime, housing that should be properly addressed and offering paltry solutions will not help.”

Fielding Filipino candidates

In Mt. Royal, Quebec, basketball coach Mario Rimbao is hoping residents will see him beyond sports.

The challenge of finding available daycare prompted him to enter politics under the NDP banner. He wants to do more for immigrants with a focus on family reunification.

“We need to be heard; this is the time. We’re trying to make history together,” says Rimbao, who has no demographic advantage in a riding where over 60 per cent of the population is Jewish and white.

Rimbao’s only consolation from an ethnic vote perspective is that at over nine per cent, Filipinos lead the rest of the minority groups in a riding seen as a Liberal bastion.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][P]arties are still trying to figure out how to tap into [the Filipino] voter group.[/quote]

Also bereft of any ethnic affinity advantage is Julius Tiangson who hopes his experience serving different communities will make him the Conservative MP for the Mississauga Centre riding with a large immigrant population.

An active community leader, Tiangson is co-founder of the Gateway Centre for New Canadians, which focuses on the economic integration of newcomers. 

The only independent candidate in the running is Jesus “Jayjay” Cosico from Nepean, Ottawa. A former politician in the Philippines, he seeks to be the voice for “pro-life” issues in Parliament.

With a community far from mature in understanding Canada’s political process, Laquian says parties are still trying to figure out how to tap into this voter group. Fielding Filipino candidates is just one of the arrows in their quivers.

Pagtakhan believes Filipino Canadians are actually far more interested and involved in Canadian politics than the overall population.

“We can persuade even more to participate when we succeed in lending credibility to the nobility of politics as a means to make salutary differences in the life of fellow Canadians,” he says, adding, “Yes, it is a tall order.”


Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post

 

Published in Politics

Canada has announced an additional P128 million (C$3>58 million) of security assistance to the Philippines to further support the Bangsamoro peace process and address regional and global security threats.

Canada will deploy additional Canadian police officers to chair the Independent Commission on Policing for the Bangsamoro to provide strategic advice on the development of policing options for the Bangsamoro under the National Police.

This was made following its deployment of Randy Beck, former assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“These police support projects will further strengthen relations and connections between Canadian and Filipino law authorities facilitating cooperation and information sharing on transnational organized crime, which is expected to improve safety conditions in Canada and the Philippines.” - Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder[/quote]

Canada will also provide training to Filipino police officers to address transnational organized crime, including major case management, evidence handling and interview techniques.

These projects, valued at P54 million, are funded by Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs’ Trade and Development’s Anti-Crime Capacity-Building Program and Global Peace and Security Fund.

“These police support projects will further strengthen relations and connections between Canadian and Filipino law authorities facilitating cooperation and information sharing on transnational organized crime, which is expected to improve safety conditions in Canada and the Philippines,” Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder said.

“This additional commitment from the Canadian government was announced during the meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Aquino held in Ottawa last month, and we are committed to working with trusted allies and partners to address international security issues,” he added.

Future Initiatives 

Two other security-related projects were announced during President Aquino’s state visit to Canada.

Announced were the capacity-building for port and maritime security in the Philippines project worth P41 million and the counter-improvised explosives devices training that will cost P33 million.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Canada will work with Filipino officials to build tactical and operational relationships.[/quote]

Funded by the Canadian government’s Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program, the three-year project to be implemented by the International Police Organization (Interpol), is part of an ongoing effort to address the threats of piracy, terrorism and organized crime to maritime security in Southeast Asia.

The project will seek to enhance front-line law-enforcement institutional capacity by strengthening the ability of the Philippines to gather, collect, analyze and share essential law-enforcement data. This will help ensure that the Philippines can provide more information to Interpol’s database, thus benefiting other countries in their efforts to counter terrorism worldwide.

The three-year counter-improvised explosive devices training, led by Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) with the Canadian Armed Forces’ Joint Counter Explosive Threat Task Force as implementing partner, looks to increase Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) institutionalization in the Philippines and increase the survivability of C-IED first responders.

As part of this project, Canada will work with Filipino officials to build tactical and operational relationships. DND will undertake subject matter expert exchanges and exercises to assess current C-IED capabilities with a view to developing detailed project plans. Canada will also provide training sessions focused on building individual technical skills, as well as training a cadre of trainers so that C-IED programs remain sustainable.

Published in Partnership with The Filipino Post.

Published in The Philippines

by Florence Hwang

Canadian families looking for caregivers or nannies will have a harder time, thanks to the federal legislation that is capping overseas applications, according to Migrante BC.

Between December 2014 and March 2015, the federal government only approved 92 of the 880 applications for the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) (which an employer needs to obtain before hiring overseas caregivers).

“We say it looks like this because only three per cent of applications for overseas caregivers were approved by the federal government recently,” says Hessed Torres, who came under the Live-in Caregiver Program.

“For caregivers like me who are already here, this is a big problem because it means I might not be able to complete the 24 months of caregiving work needed for me to qualify as a permanent resident applicant,” says Torres, who is also a Migrante BC member.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Caregivers are treated as fairly as any other workers who require work experience in Canada before applying for permanent residency. In fact, Caregivers are the only workers who have direct path to permanent immigration.” - Bruce Hicks, Citizenship and Immigration Canada[/quote]

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change estimates about 70,000 workers had to leave Canada as of April 1, 2015. Workers who have been employed for four years cannot apply for another work permit for another four years, nor can they re-enter Canada for that time frame.

Torres notes that if the time (about four to six months) it takes to process applications is factored in, it might mean people applying for the program could run out of time to qualify for the program and be forced to return to their home country.

'Revolving Door Immigration System'

The four-in-four-out rule is the government’s entrenchment of a “revolving door immigration system,” says Syed Hussan, Coordinator of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

“A well-trained workforce will be replaced by people who are new, and less aware of their rights. The real solution is permanent residency on arrival, now,” says Hussan in an interview with The Philippine Reporter.

In response to the extraordinarily high rejection rate of Filipino nannies, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) media spokesperson Bruce Hicks stated that this year CIC will aggressively be attacking the backlog of applicants. Hicks said CIC will be admitting 30,000 caregivers (and their spouses and dependents) as permanent residents by the end of 2016.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The massive red tape to hire foreign caregivers hurts parents and families in need of elderly and disabled care. Furthermore it puts caregivers already in Canada in difficult positions as they are not allowed to legally work until they receive their work permit and it can take six to seven months at the moment. In reality, who can afford not to work for six to seven months?” -Manuela Gruber Hersch, International Nannies & Homecare Ltd.[/quote]

Furthermore, the government says in 2014, there was a record set of 17,500 permanent resident admission levels for caregivers.

“Caregivers are treated as fairly as any other workers who require work experience in Canada before applying for permanent residency. In fact, Caregivers are the only workers who have direct path to permanent immigration,” says Hicks.

Manuela Gruber Hersch, General Manager and Regulated Immigration Consultant of International Nannies & Homecare Ltd. points out that the government's Permanent Residency backlog should be seen as a separate process from people receiving a LMIA.

“The PR backlog of caregivers was created by this Government and based on the CIC website, processing is now up to 45 months,” she says.
She wants to know how the government " aggressively" attacking the backlog? She notes that many 2010 applicants are still waiting for their PR and the medical of their family members in the Philippines has expired.

“There is a shortage of qualified Canadians who have solid childcare experience and references and the massive red tape to hire foreign caregivers hurts parents and families in need of elderly and disabled care. Furthermore it puts caregivers already in Canada in difficult positions as they are not allowed to legally work until they receive their work permit and it can take six to seven months at the moment. In reality, who can afford not to work for six to seven months?” says Gruber Hersch.

New guidelines for caregivers looking after children and seniors include:

  • Having two years of full-time work experience in Canada as a care provider within the past four years
  • Having at least one year of a Canadian post-secondary education credential or equivalent foreign credential
  • Having a minimum language requirement of ‘initial intermediate’ by meeting the Canadian Language Benchmark 5 in a designated third-party language test

Published in Partnership with The Filipino Post.

Published in The Philippines

by Ted Alcuitas (@Ted_Alcuitas) in Vancouver

With Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s recent visit to Canada, the Philippines have been more widely reported on in mainstream media. Still, many of the diaspora’s stories and news go widely uncovered by major news networks. Aquino, himself, was covered quite differently by Philippine outlets than in the mainstream. In this edition of PULSE, find out about what’s been making waves in the Philippine media.

Aquino’s Visit to Canada: Not All Positive

The recent visit of Philippine President Aquino generated its fair share of coverage from the mainstream media – generally concentrating on the ‘positive’ side of the visit, trade talks, etc., while treating protesters with muted interest.

But Filipino outlets covered the negative aspects as well; in fact, even before he arrived.

Bern Jagunos (pictured to the right), a writer for the Toronto-based Philippine Reporter, wrote on May 1 that it appears Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not heard that the President’s aura has “irreversibly dimmed,” thanks to what she called Aquino’s, “atrocious human rights record, dismally inept leadership and the unbridled corruption of his administration.”

President Aquino’s popularity back home has sunk to a record low, Jagunos claimed.

Jagunos also referred to a study by Global Witness that quotes the International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) saying that, “under President Aquino’s leadership, the Philippines ranks third among the most dangerous countries in the world for citizens who advocate for the protection of the environment. In 2014 alone, 15 Filipinos were killed by state agents because the Aquino government considered their opposition to large scale mining and other destructive resource extraction projects a threat to the state.”

Meanwhile, after he arrived in Canada, ethnic media continued to provide critical commentary of his visit.

The Philippine Reporter called Toronto’s event at Roy Thomson Hall welcoming Aquino to town, a “political rally”, inside its article published in partnership with New Canadian Media. Most of the invited guests cheered Aquino and Harper on, the article stated, but many others were upset the more difficult issues of rights abuse, poverty and temporary foreign workers were not raised.

On the other hand Vancouver’s Philippine Canadian Inquirer reported that Aquino had a “rousing welcome” from the Fil-Can community, but failed to mention the protests outside.

Filipinos Want to Stop Deportations

According to the Pilipino Express, activists from across Canada stepped up their fight efforts to stop the deportations of thousands of temporary foreign workers caught in the federal government’s “4-in-4-out” rule that came into effect April 1.

Migrant workers who have been in Canada for four years will be barred from returning to Canada under the same program for another four years.

It is estimated that as many as 70,000 workers will be forced to leave, according to the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It’s appropriate to sympathize with individual temporary foreign workers, because, quite simply, they’ve done nothing wrong.” - Gil McGowan, head of Alberta Federation of Labour[/quote]

Workers in managerial and professional occupations, or under international agreements such as NAFTA, and those who have already received approval letters for their permanent residence applications, are exempt.

Critics have condemned the April 1 implementation as an April Fool’s joke for the thousands who expected to be deported.

Veteran immigration consultant Michael Scott, writing for the Pilipino Express in Winnipeg, praised Gil McGowan — the head of the Alberta Federation of Labour — and quotes him speaking about the basic compassion held by Canadians: “It’s appropriate to sympathize with individual temporary foreign workers, because, quite simply, they’ve done nothing wrong,” McGowan said.

McGowan pointed out that the expansion and abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is a result of the Harper government’s approach to the shortage of skilled workers inside Canada.

He added that the Conservatives created a “two-tier labour market in which unscrupulous employers are allowed to use a vulnerable underclass of workers to drive down wages, displace Canadians and avoid their responsibilities related to training.”

International Outcry Wins Reprieve for Mary Jane Veloso

Canada was caught in the international outcry surrounding Indonesia’s aborted execution of Mary Jane Veloso, who a firing squad was scheduled to execute on April 28. 

The mother of two won a reprieve from the Indonesian government after Philippine President Aquino reportedly broke protocol by speaking directly to the Indonesian Foreign Minister on the sidelines of an Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting.

The migrant’s rights group Migrante Canada, which has organizations in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C., spearheaded the Canadian effort to lobby for Veloso’s release, alongside organizations like Migrante International, the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), Bayan Canada and the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS).

According to the Philippine Asian Chronicle, members of Migrante B.C. (pictured above) rallied outside the Indonesian consulate in Vancouver on April 24.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Migrante B.C.] held Aquino’s government accountable for Veloso’s near-execution and criticized him for his continued inaction towards other cases involving Filipinos on death row abroad.[/quote]

In a press release, Migrante B.C. coordinator Jane Ordinario said that although Veloso had already been transferred to ‘Execution Island,’ the group would not give up hope, adding that many individuals and organizations were calling on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to grant her clemency.

The group held Aquino’s government accountable for Veloso’s near-execution and criticized him for his continued inaction towards other cases involving Filipinos on death row abroad. 

Ordinario added that the group had met with the Philippine Consul General, Neil Ferrer, to submit its demands.

Migrante held a noon vigil on April 28 in front of the Indonesian consulate followed by a community prayer at the Multicultural Helping House Society to celebrate that Veloso’s execution had been cancelled.

Michael Davantes Voted Most Beautiful Filipino-Canadian

Mabuhay Montreal TV (MMTV) anchor, Michael Davantes, has been named the ‘Most Beautiful Filipino-Canadian’ in Canada.

The Montreal-based North American Filipino Star’s Fely Rosales Carino writes, “The word beautiful can be defined in many different ways. It commonly describes those with physical attributes; however, it can also describe someone who has demonstrated an extraordinary achievement or success.”

The International Professional Entertainment Network chose Davantes, because as Carino reports, the network honours those who have made an “impact in the community, or even in somebody else’s life.” The Network has made it clear that it believes Davantes to be a beautiful person inside and out.

The fifth annual Most Beautiful Filipinos in Canada Awards ceremony was held in Toronto on January 31, 2015. There, Davantes received an award of recognition.

In the past, the anchor has been a recipient of Vanier College’s “Life Award” for scholastic achievement and tremendous community service. He has also held the “Outstanding Graduate of the Year” title by the Philippine Benevolent and the Scholarship Society of Quebec (PBSSQ) and been recognized as one of the “Most Outstanding Filipino-Canadians” by the Bb. Pilipinas World Pageant for helping build a positive image for Filipinos in Canada.

Calling him “dynamic” Carino’s article also lists all of Davantes’ many talents as he has worked as a medical lab technician, model trainer and agent, international pageant director, public relations and marketing consultant, musical theatre actor and an environmental columnist in the past.

Manila: A Dangerous Place for Lawyers

Just as Philippine President Aquino left Canada last week, The Law Society of Upper Canada said it is deeply concerned about the ongoing human rights violations faced by lawyers and judges in the Philippines, reported the Filipino Post.

The Post article speaks to an incident last summer when an unidentified motorcycle gunmen killed lawyer Rodolfo Felicio (pictured to the left) on August 24, making him the fifth member of the Filipino activist group, National Union of People’s Lawyers, to have been killed in the past 10 years.

Reports indicate that at least 41 lawyers and 18 judges have been murdered in the Philippines since 2001. An increasing number of lawyers and judges have been harassed and attacked.

The Law Society urged the government of the Philippines to put an end to all acts of violence and harassment against human rights lawyer and defenders in the nation, and guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological safety and integrity of all human rights lawyers and defenders, according to the article.

According to the Basic Report on the Human Rights Lawyers under Continuing Threat in the Philippines, in these cases “only very scarcely a perpetrator is arrested and nearly never prosecuted or punished by the courts.”

The Post makes note that in its World Report 2015 Human Rights Watch stated that Aquino continues to send “mixed signals” about his administration’s commitment to improving human rights in the Philippines.

“While human rights was a key agenda for Aquino when he took office in 2010, he has failed to make good on many of his commitments, chiefly his expressed intent to end killings of activists and journalists and bring those responsible to justice,” stated the report.

Photos sourced from the original stories that were summarized from ethnic media outlets cited.


Ted Alcuitas is former senior editor of the Philippine Asian News Today and currently publisher and editor of philippinecanadiannews.com.

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Published in The Philippines
Friday, 08 May 2015 21:30

Aquino Skips Winnipeg

by Ted Alcuitas (@Ted_Alcuitas) in Vancouver

Philippine President Benigno Aquino is bypassing Winnipeg, home to one of Canada’s fastest growing and oldest Filipino communities, as he heads to Vancouver tomorrow for the final stop in his state visit.

“I couldn’t care less,” says Monina Relano, by telephone from Winnipeg.

Relano, who was one of the pillars of the anti-Marcos movement, August Twenty One Movement (ATOM) in Winnipeg, during Aquino’s mother Corazon’s time as president, minced no words in her distaste for Filipino politicians, including Aquino.

“I’m not very impressed with PNoy – he’s just one TRAPO politician,” says the retired teacher. TRAPO, which means ‘rag’, is the derogatory description of traditional politicians used by Filipinos.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Clearly the importance of this visit cannot be overemphasized and would have given the President a chance to see and experience the vibrant Filipino community in Winnipeg.” - Reis Pagtakhan, immigration lawyer[/quote]

Yet, some members of Winnipeg’s large Filipino community say they’re disappointed their city isn’t on Aquino’s itinerary this week.

“I was disappointed to hear about it, given the growing Filipino population, not just in Winnipeg, but in Manitoba itself,” says immigration lawyer Reis Pagtakhan (pictured to the right), by phone from Winnipeg.

“Clearly the importance of this visit cannot be overemphasized and would have given the President a chance to see and experience the vibrant Filipino community in Winnipeg,” Pagtakhan explained, adding that Winnipeg and Manitoba has a lot of ‘firsts’ (referring to the many elected Filipino politicians). “[We] have a lot to offer as to how Filipinos can contribute to this society and to the home country.”

Pagtakhan also mentioned that there was even some discussion last year to having a direct flight from Winnipeg to Manila by Philippine Airlines (PAL). 

“It’s unfortunate that he’s not visiting here,” said Jon Reyes, an aspiring provincial politician and former president of the Manitoba Filipino Business Council. “A lot of Filipinos were anticipating seeing him.” 

Reyes is facing a nomination meeting tomorrow (May 9) for the Provincial Conservatives in the Maples riding where two other Filipinos – former Member of the Legislative Assembly, Cris Aglugub, and perennial candidate Jose ‘Boy’ Tomas are challenging him. 

“I guess he has too much in his plate,” said Reyes who received an invitation from the Prime Minister’s Office on May 1 to meet Aquino in Ottawa yesterday. Reyes couldn’t make it. 

Poorly Planned Visit: Critics 

The fact that Aquino is not stopping in Winnipeg comes as a surprise since Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself announced the foreign president’s visit at Winnipeg’s Jimel’s International Cuisine on April 23.

“Personally, I think it would’ve been a very good gesture,” Pilipino Express editor-in-chief Emmie Joaquin told the Winnipeg Free Press in an interview. 

Joaquin said she heard Harper say Aquino would be stopping in Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Filipino newspaper editors in Toronto complained as early as April that they were not properly briefed as to the details of the visit.[/quote]

Having worked in Filipino media for decades, Joaquin said this is the fastest she’s seen a president’s visit to Canada announced and planned.

Earlier visits by former Philippine presidents, including Corazon Aquino, were announced months in advance, with detailed itineraries spelled out, she said.

For this visit, she added, the trip appears to have been planned on short notice. On May 6 she received an invitation to a reception in Toronto with Aquino on May 8.

“I was happy to be invited, but that’s really short notice,” she said.

Some people in the community have criticized the Philippine Consulate for the lack of preparation.

Filipino newspaper editors in Toronto complained in early April that they were not properly briefed on the details of the visit.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We do not welcome him here at all. The points we’ll raise tomorrow include his government’s grim record of human rights violations, environmental destruction, corruption and continued neglect of the rights of Filipino migrant workers.” - Jane Ordinario, Migrante-BC[/quote]

In Vancouver, Philippine consulate officials were tight-lipped, and there appears to be confusion as to where the venue for the Vancouver reception will be.

The Vancouver Sun reported the Vancouver Convention Centre, while other outlets said it would be at the Pan Pacific Hotel

Our e-mail to the Vancouver Consulate was not answered by deadline.

Meanwhile, Migrante B.C. will be going ahead with its planned demonstration against President Aquino’s reception tomorrow at the Pan Pacific Hotel.

“We do not welcome him here at all,” says Jane Ordinario, Migrante-BC Coordinator. “The points we’ll raise tomorrow include his government’s grim record of human rights violations, environmental destruction, corruption and continued neglect of the rights of Filipino migrant workers.” 

She added that Harper’s role in worsening the conditions for temporary foreign workers in Canada would also be highlighted along with other issues.

“Prime Minister Harper is also sadly mistaken if he believes inviting President Aquino might boost his popularity with the Filipino community. Many are actually clamouring for President Aquino’s ouster and his latest satisfaction rating is at its lowest ever,” she concluded in the statement.

New Bilateral Initiatives Announced 

While some groups like Migrante-BC question Harper’s motives when it comes to Aquino’s visit, Canada's PM announced the new bilateral initiatives that emerged on Parliament Hill today. These initiatives, in the area of trade, investment and global security, are what both leaders stated was the primary purpose of the trip in the weeks leading up to it.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The initiatives announced today clearly demonstrate that both countries are committed to further enhancing our bilateral relationship with a particular emphasis on commerce, development and security.” - Stephen Harper[/quote]

One such trade initiative announced was the launch of discussions exploring a Canada-Philippines free trade agreement, which would aim to strengthen economic ties between the two countries. Canadian businesses and exporters are expected to greatly benefit from such an agreement.                                                  

Also announced were three specific initiatives aimed at enhancing collaboration with the Philippines to counter regional and global security threats, including capacity building for port and maritime security, as well as police officers, in the Asian-Pacific country.

“Canada and the Philippines share a close friendship based on shared values and significant people-to-people ties,” said Harper. “The initiatives announced today clearly demonstrate that both countries are committed to further enhancing our bilateral relationship with a particular emphasis on commerce, development and security.”

Aquino will conclude his three-day state visit to Canada May 9 in Vancouver.

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Published in Top Stories

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