MAY 2017


.."First elected Fil-Am judge in Illinois pleads 'not guilty' to mortgage fraud"

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Her indictment, which was carried by major news outlets, stated that O'Brien and a fellow defendant, Maria Bartko, 49, allegedly concealed relevant facts from lenders including Citibank, New Century Mortgage Corp. and First Magnus Financial Corp. to obtain more than $1.4 million in mortgages on two investment properties in Chicago that she and Bartko had purchased in 2004 and sold in 2007.

While O'Brien was working, then, as a special assistant attorney general for the Illinois Department of Revenue, she also reportedly held the position of chief counsel to the Illinois Lottery. She also worked as a part-time loan officer at Amronbanc Mortgage Corporation in Lincolnwood, Illinois where Bartko was a loan originator.

At the same time, the future judge also owned O’Brien Realty, LLC, where the indictment alleged, she falsely stated in her application that she had a profit of $100,000. In addition, she falsely stated that she made $6,800 a month as an Illinois Department of Revenue attorney.

Further, federal prosecutors alleged that she and Bartko omitted in their loan application a $260,000 loan that they owed on another property they had previously bought.


O’Brien and Bartko were charged with one count of mail fraud affecting a financial institution. Prosecutors alleged that O’Brien mailed a check for $297,208.96 via UPS to Chase Bank in relation to their scheme to defraud—a federal offense.

O’Brien was also charged with one count of bank fraud resulting from O’Brien’s false loan declarations that caused Citibank to give her a $72,000 loan for the purchase of one of the investment properties cited in her case against them—another federal violation, according to the prosecutors. Their statement in the indictment indicated that each carries a punishment of up to 30 years in prison.

O’Brien came from Cebu to America at the age of 16. She has a bachelor’s degree in hotel and food administration from Boston University. She landed a top managerial position with a multinational company supervising thousands of employees involved in food preparation.

In 2008, she decided to change her career and later earned a Masters of Laws in Employee Benefits and Taxation from the John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

She became the first Asian-American president of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois in 2015.

According to the website, Diversity Scholarship Foundation, where she was a board member, “Judge O’Brien is a contributing editor for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and has a column entitled, ‘Making It.’

The purpose of her column is to inspire readers of people’s journey to success. The foundation has been giving scholarship to law students from various ethnic communities.

Presidential award

Later, she won former “President Barack Obama’s Call to Service Award in recognition for her more than 4,000 hours of volunteer service over the past decade,” according to an online biography.

O’Brien has served in roles where she oversaw prospective lawyers and helped select judges, including a term on the Illinois Supreme Court’s “Character and Fitness Committee,” which examines candidates who apply to join the state bar.
In a 2016 profile on O’Brien for ABC-Channel 7, her boss, Judge Timothy Evans, called O’Brien “open … optimistic … tenacious” and “committed to justice,” adding “we want to see more like her.”

In another irony for the local community, the Fil-Am Lawyers Association of Illinois which O’Brien co-founded and headed, was holding a seminar on “How to avoid investment scams” on April 12—the day when she was indicted.

Filipino Americans expressed shock but many hoped that Judge O’Brien will emerge from this disturbing development in her life as an even better person.

Israel Desierto is another Filipino American Judge at the Circuit Court in Cook County. Unlike, O’Brien, Judge Desierto was appointed to his position.



..."Filipino American chef says NO to"

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"Sharing my story with a brand and family that silences our same voices is futile," she said. "Thank you for the consideration."

In an interview with the Daily News April 14, Dimayuga said she considered simply ignoring the inquiry but decided it was a chance to speak up. She said her goal was never to pick a fight by "targeting" the writer or Ivanka.

"My goal was to state where I was coming from and why her brand didn't align with my views," Dimayuga said. "There was an opportunity to say why it was weird for them to reach out when there wasn't any alignment with my values. I felt like it was absolutely necessary to identify why we don't align."

Dimayuga opposes much of President Trump’s political platform, like the visa and travel ban for people from certain mostly Muslim countries, and efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

Despite the negative response from the Trumps’ followers, others’ online and in-person response to Dimayuga's letter has been overwhelmingly positive, she claimed.

World-famous chef Anthony Bourdain commented on her Instagram: “My hero!” Major dailies and public television reported favorably on her take on the subject. Dimayuga said she was part of the march in Washington day after Donald Trump was sworn-in.

"This is a perfect, professional, thoughtful and powerful response. Well done!" author and YouTube star Paige McKenzie wrote.

"There has been a bit of negative feedback, but only because of how far it's reached," Dimayuga told The News.

"That's kind of how it goes, and I'm okay with that. I didn't set out to change anyone's mind. My goal was to just share who I am," she said.

In another report, it was mentioned that Dimayuga's Filipino parents worked corporate jobs to send their six kids to private school. They always made time for food, and tied it closely to the idea of family.

That environment fostered Dimayuga's open mind about food. As a chef in the New York branch of the noted “Chinese Mission” restaurant, her cuisine often borrows from different cultures and fuses food ideas together. She’s even come to terms with belonging to a category called "fusion,” because she's realized that’s what American food is at it's core.

Further in Catherine Whelan’s article in PRI’s “The World,” it stated “Food is a central expression of identity for the chef, just as her note to Ivanka Trump was. And she seems satisfied with her role in leading the way. 

"I think what I see is that people are looking for ambassadors and appointing them. And I feel like in a way I've been appointed," Dimayuga says.



..."Centenarians increasing in number; Benefits await those born in PH"

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The centenarian population is projected to accelerate globally, according to the report. China’s population is expected to age rapidly in future decades so they are targeted to have the largest centenarian population by 2050. This will be followed by Japan, the U.S., Italy and India, the report said.

So far, eleven Filipino centenarians living and dead worldwide have been recorded, according to Wikipedia. Among them are Whang-od Oggay, 100, a tattoo artist; Manuel Rodriguez Sr., 105, a printmaker; Jessie Lichauco, 105, wife of the late diplomat Marcial P. Lichauco who helped secure Philippine independence from the US, and Helena Benitez, 102, administrator of the Philippine Women’s University.


In September, President Duterte signed into legislation the Centenarians Act of 2016 or (RA) No. 10868, granting additional benefits and privileges for Filipino Centenarians.

Recently, the Philippine Embassy and the Commission on Filipinos (CFO) sent out a memo to Filipino centenarians living abroad informing them to claim a monetary award of P100 cash (equivalent to $2000). To avail of it, they must reach out to their consular jurisdictions and fill out an application.

Factors that contribute to an individuals’ longevity are lifestyle, gender, genetics health care, hygiene, diet and nutrition, exercise and crime rates, according to the Gerontology Research Group, a global group of researchers in various fields that verifies and tracks supercentinarians, people aged 110 years or over.


.."Fil-Am Guzman concedes Aurora, IL mayoral race"

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Mayor-elect Irvin called Guzman "a talented and smart guy" and said he thanked Guzman for a good campaign.

"He made me a better candidate," Irvin said. "Although we disagreed on a lot of things, we both have a commitment to our city." Irvin added that he now can "make a smooth transition to being the 57th mayor of Aurora."

Guzman, 39, said he is "at peace" with the outcome and said he felt good to have gotten the support and trust he did and "to have gotten this close."

"I ran for mayor because I believed that I could make a difference," he said. "But I also know I don't have to be mayor to make a difference. That is one of the ways, but by no means the only way."

Guzman, whose Filipino father came to the U.S. in 1970, urged his supporters to "work collaboratively with one another — and with our new mayor-elect, Richard Irvin."

There are no fewer than 1000 Filipino Americans living in Aurora where Guzman worked as assistant chief of staff to the immediate past mayor, Tom Weisner, who endorsed and campaign for Guzman.

This is Guzman’s first try to run as mayor compared to Irvin’s fourth. The two emerged as the top vote getters in the February primary where seven vied for the position.

"I still believe that Aurora's greatest days are close at hand," Guzman said. "We are a city of rich history, opportunity and cultural diversity unlike nearly anywhere else. Aurora has a unique ability to become a place where everyone is valued, where everyone contributes — and where more and more people want to invest, to work and to live."

Meanwhile, another Filipino American, Arnulfo Noble, was decisively defeated by the incumbent, 3-1, in the April 4 mayoral derby at Oakbrook Terrace, a small village , west of Chicago, where only 500 voters went to the polls.

The election results do not become official until they are canvassed by the Aurora and DuPage County election commissions.


Morton Grove, Illinois Village Trustee Ed Ramos (left) and Village Mayor Dan di Maria won reelections by wide margins (75 to 25) in the April 4 elections due to the solid Fil-Am votes. PINOY/Anong Santos


Steven Schmidt, 39, in an emotional statement, attributed his victory to “the support he got from Filipino voters,” who crossed party lines to deliver the 110-vote margin of his victory. His party mates got only 25 percent of the ballots cast in this village north of Chicago.

On the other hand, Kenneth Mantel, the son of a Filipino mother from Cavite, came in 340-votes short of becoming a park commissioner in the Village of Skokie, also north of Chicago. Anyways, Mantel, 38, expressed appreciation for the support from the Filipino American voters and vowed to fight for their interests in his other capacity as a community advocate.

In the conservative DuPage County, Robert P. Tolentino was one of the four Republicans who swept the election for all the trustee slots in the Bloomingdale Township.

Tolentino unsuccessfully ran in 2005 for mayor of Glendale Heights, a position held by the late Joven Fajardo, the first and, so far, only Filipino American elected mayor in Illinois.

More concerned citizens

In the hometown of Hillary R. Clinton, Park Ridge resident Aurora A. Austriaco was one of the four candidates who won in the contested election for Maine Township School Board. Maine East High School, from where Clinton graduated in the late 1960s, is part of the township. Austriaco was formerly president of the Chicago BAR Association.

In Peoria, Illinois—home of Caterpillar Industries—two brothers, Lito and Allan Capati, also ran for seats in two school boards. Allan won a seat but not Lito. The Capatis have been business owners in the area for the past 30 years, supplying metal parts to various U.S. industries.

Many in the Filipino American community in Illinois are glad to see more members running for elective positions. Notably, it has been a long struggle to convince Filipino immigrants to participate in civic affairs.

Morton Grove Trustee Ed Ramos bewails the “silly attitude” of those who refused to register and vote because of their unfounded fear that they might be called for jury duty.

A fellow villager of Ramos added, “So what if we were called to serve as jurors? They should see that as a privilege and honor.”

But with the recent electoral developments, many are expressing optimism that Filipinos are evolving from just hardworking immigrants into more concerned and involved citizens.






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