APRIL 2018

Convicted Fil-Am Jessica O'Brien refuses to step down from judgeship

PINOY Newsmagazine

CHICAGO--Despite a conviction by a federal jury on Feb. 12 of bank and mail fraud, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Jessica Arong O’Brien has not stepped down from her judicial position.

A sitting judge who has been convicted, according to Illinois law, can no longer practice their judgeship.

Judge Jessica Arong O’Brien. (Chicago Tribune, Phil Vasquez)

O'Brien's attorneys in early April filed a motion in the Illinois Supreme Court, saying that the court doesn’t have the authority to force her out, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report. They argued that the state constitution allows only the Judicial Inquiry Board and the Illinois Courts Commission the authority to remove a sitting judge, the report said.

Her attorneys contend that no action should be taken due to the fact that she hasn’t had the “opportunity to exhaust her due process rights” in the place where she was convicted — U.S. District Court. That’s because she’s still fighting the guilty verdict.

Prosecutors claimed she earned $325,000 as a result of falsifying loan application documents amid a $1.4 million mortgage scheme.

O’Brien, 50, is the wife of Cook County Judge Brendan O’Brien. Her sentencing is set for July 6. She has been assigned to administrative duties. (Chicago Sun-Times report)

What you should know about new Medicare cards;

But beware of scams

In April, the government will start sending out new Medicare cards, launching a massive, yearlong effort to alter how 59 million people enrolled in the federal health insurance program are identified.

Historically, Medicare ID cards have been stamped with the Social Security numbers of members — currently, about 50 million seniors and 9 million people with serious disabilities. But that’s been problematic: If a wallet or purse were stolen, a thief could use that information, along with an address or birthdate on a driver’s license, to steal someone’s identity.

For years, phone scammers have preyed on older adults by requesting their Medicare numbers, giving various reasons for doing so. People who fall for these ruses have found bank accounts emptied, Social Security payments diverted or bills in their mailboxes for medical services or equipment never received.

The new cards address these concerns by removing each member’s Social Security number and replacing it with a new, randomly generated 11-digit “Medicare number” (some capital letters are included). This will be used to verify eligibility for services and for billing purposes going forward.

Such a major change can involve bumps along the way, so there will be a transition period during which you can use either your new Medicare card or your old card at doctors’ offices and hospitals. Both should work until Dec. 31, 2019.

(Read more "What you should know about new Medicare cards")


$94 million in property tax refunds available

CHICAGO--Cook County property owners can recover $94.1 million in tax overpayments by going to www.cookcountytreasurer.com, Treasurer Maria Pappas said March 22.

The money is unclaimed even though since 2009 nearly $544 million in overpayments has been refunded or prevented by the Treasurer’s Office.
Because refund claims often are disputed among different payers, including mortgage companies, banks, buyers and sellers, the application requires proof that the refund applicant paid the taxes.

Pappas has revamped cookcountytreasurer.com so that property owners can now search by address as well as Property Index Number (PIN) and get an instantaneous response for available refunds going back 20 years.

The redesigned site puts key information about your property in a single place.

To see if you are entitled to a refund, go to the website:

• Select “Your Property Tax Overview”

• Search by address or by Property Index Number (PIN)

• Look for the results under “Are There Any Overpayments on Your PIN?”

• Complete the online application if you believe you are entitled to a refund

By Illinois law, the total annual payout of refunds that arose before 2009 is capped at $2.5 million. The money available for refund has been distributed to Taxing Districts. If a refund is granted, the Treasurer’s Office recovers the money from the appropriate local government.

Equifax’s massive 2017 data breach keeps getting worse

By Brian Fung

Equifax said March 1 that 2.4 million more consumers than previously reported were affected by the massive data breach the company suffered last year, adding to an already stunning toll.

This means that as many as 147.9 million consumers have been affected in some way by the breach, which amounts to about half the country.

The affected people's compromised information involves partial driver's license data. It does not include Social Security numbers, which was the focus of earlier analyses of the breach and the reason this group of consumers was not identified sooner, according to the credit reporting company.

“This is not about newly discovered stolen data,” said Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., Equifax's interim chief executive. “It's about sifting through the previously identified stolen data, analyzing other information in our databases that was not taken by the attackers, and making connections that enabled us to identify additional individuals.”

This is not the first time Equifax has expanded its estimate of the breach's impact, which initially was put at 143 million consumers. In October, the company raised its estimate by 2.5 million, to 145.5 million.

(Read more Equifax's massive 2017 data breach keeps getting worse)


D.C. Fil-Am students, teachers sound off on school shootings

By Jon Melegrito

WASHINGTON, DC — Sixteen-year-old Fil-Am Sydney Allison Avelino walked into a packed auditorium at her school in Oxon Hill, Maryland, listening to administrators and teachers talk about the need to keep places of education safe. Around the same time, thousands of high school students in the metropolitan area were walking out of school and marching to Capitol Hill demanding changes in the nation’s gun laws.

It was their way of observing National School Walkout Day and honoring the 17 shooting victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. There were 3,000 protest actions across the U.S. on March 14.

When Oxon Hill High opened for comments, Sydney was the first to stand up. She recalled how horrified she was when she, as a 6th grader, learned of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting five years ago. She thought to herself that the government had to do something to prevent another tragedy.

“But there have been more than 15 school shootings since then, and more school children killed in only two months,” she told a hushed audience. I should not fear going to school. I should not fear for my little sister, Sharon Anm, an 8th grader, who goes to middle school.”

Referring to the Parkland students who were killed, Sydney said she was heartbroken that “those freshmen who were killed are never going to experience the joy of being a senior. And those seniors will never experience what it is like to be a college student. And those students who could have been college students will never learn what their career or passion could be. I cannot wait for our generation to rise and become that change.”

(Read more "DC Fil-Am students, teachers sound off on school shootings")

"Those freshmen who were killed are never going to experience the joy of being a senior. And those seniors will never experience what it is like to be a college student."

APRIL 2018 


Let our hearts be the cradle of these heroes’ nobility

By Mariano "Anong" Santos

PINOY Publisher/Editor


I made sure when I went back home to the Philippines last February to visit my father’s sole surviving brother ,Tito Manny—Manuel D. Santos, who turned 88 that month. He was the youngest of a dozen siblings born to Canuto Santos of Arayat, Pampanga and Albina de Guzman of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija.

Actually, Lolo Canuto’s first wife was from the big Rivera family—who were among the American missionaries’ first converts to Protestantism in Arayat--a town known as “seradong Catoliko.” Three children were born to them including my father, fondly referred to by everyone as “Cuyang Nonong.” Mariano Rivera Santos, Sr. was their third child—making him the youngest of the first batch that lost their mother very early in his childhood.

My Lolo moved on to Cabanatuan to be the overseer in a vast hacienda owned by the landed De Leons—Donya Sisang of the LVN Pictures was a prominent member. Yes, the accomplished actor, Christopher, is a descendant. It was in the Cabanatuan where all the nine half-siblings of my father were born—de Guzmans on the maternal side of their family—all spoke Tagalog unlike the first three who were Kapampangans.

Map shows in yellow the towns and provinces where the defenders of Bataan were evacuated and imprisoned.

Tito Manny in his early 20s was my father’s booking agent for the films shown at the Mt. Arayat Theater in the 1950s when our family brought Hollywood in the town which was then the hotbed of the Huk rebellion in Pampanga. I grew up savoring westerns like “High Noon” and “Shane” and knowledge of the spectaculars like “The Greatest Show on Earth” of Cecil B. de Mille. Before I was ten years old, I idolized Gary Cooper, Alan Ladd and Audie Murphy.

Manuel D. Santos, 88, talked about his brother Pedro who survived the Bataan Death March only to die at Camp O’Donnell as a prisoner of war on July 4, 1942.

To no one’s surprise, the Filipino films shown were mostly productions of LVN Pictures, because of our family’s connection with Donya Sisang de Leon who headed the legendary studio. My father’s venture into the world of cinema did not last long. In a town where almost half of the population is either relatives or drinking buddies of my father, movie passes were issued liberally. (Read more “Let our hearts be the cradle of these heroes' nobility"...)


APRIL 2018

Editorial Cartoon by Jym Andalis


Millennials Rising

By Jon Melegrito
Guest Editorial
PINOY Newsmagazine Special

It was called the “Birmingham Children’s Crusade.” On May 2, 1963, some 800 students (high schoolers all the way down to first-graders) walked out of classrooms to join a civil rights march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They braved police dogs and fire hoses. Knocked to the ground, they kept coming back, standing up again to face the torrents until they were herded into squad cars and taken to jail.

These children changed America. Their crusade helped pave the way for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It turned the tide of the movement in a protracted struggle for change.

It’s been more than 50 years. But when high school students from Parkland, Florida led a nationwide walkout on March 14 and a “March for our Lives” protest on March 24, they were following in the footsteps of the children from Birmingham. Children willing to risk their lives to fight for change. And they succeeded.


That history comes alive today with a bold message: “Never Again!”
In 1963, adults organized the children’s marches. In 2018, the children are telling the adults to get their act together. They point to politicians in Congress who have dragged their feet and done nothing to change the nation’s gun laws.

These students are moved by the same idealism and hope that inspired the children of Birmingham. They refuse to be another statistic about mass shooting in America. They want change, now.

On March 14, students from Maryland’s Oxon Hill High School joined the National School Walkout by holding an assembly to have a conversation with teachers and administrators. Among those who spoke was 16-year-old Filipino American Sydney Allison Avelino. She recalled how horrified she was when she, as a 6th grader, learned of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting five years ago, how she kept thinking the government had to do something to prevent another tragedy.

(Read more "Millenials Rising"...)


APRIL 2018

Letter from Washington

By Jon Melegrito



Filipino youth activists to Duterte: 'Stop the killings!’

Shama Bulangis and Justine Balane spoke about Duterte’s “War on Drugs” at the Sensible Drug Policy international conference in Baltimore. (PINOY photo by Jon Melegrito)

Justine Balane, 22, and Shama Bulangis, 23, are two activists from the Philippines who were in the Washington DC area recently to speak about the impact of President Duterte’s “war on drugs,” especially on Filipino youth.

Of the more than 20,000 people killed since Duterte was elected, the activists noted, many of them are young people, including a 4-year-old child. “They call it collateral damage,” Balane said.

“The number of casualties have become so real -- seeing and being on the front lines of the things that have been happening has been really tough. That’s why there is no point just standing by or sitting on the fence. You have to act because you eventually hear stories from people about how they are dehumanized.”

Bulangis remembers one incident when a member of their organization was shot and killed. “We had to claim his body and investigate what happened in their house,” she said. “The police broke the gate and forced their way in, held his wife at gunpoint and riddled his body with five bullets.”

(Read more "Filipino youth activists: 'Stop the killings!'"...)


APRIL 2018


By Fr. Tirso Villaverde

Jesus’s example of forgiving

For those of us who are Christians, we have come once again to the holiest time of our faith when we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. In the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar—the season of Easter actually lasts for 50 days until the feast of Pentecost.

As we come together this month celebrating the salvation of the human race, I would like to share with readers a couple of quotes that I used at the parish at the start of Lent.

The first quote goes something like, “Pain that is not transformed will only be transmitted.” The second quote was something like, “The closer God comes to us the more luminous and human we become.” I heard both of these quotes given by Sister Miriam Heidland, SOLT when she recently spoke to the priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The second quote was from Bishop Robert Barron from the LA Archdiocese. 

..."In refusing to play the victim, Jesus transformed the way pain is received. Jesus did not seek revenge. Instead of fueling the fire of hate with more hate, Jesus smothered hate with so much love that evil had no other choice but to flee. "

We know the truth to the first quote. We have seen that anger leads to more anger if we do nothing about it. Hate will only cause more hate if we do nothing about it. Violence will only beget more violence if we do nothing about it. The only way to transform those types of pain is to follow the example of Jesus.

How did Jesus transform pain so that it is not transmitted? First, he did not play the victim. Oftentimes, when we feel as if we are the victim the tendency is to seek revenge or to fight back. To be clear, standing up for ourselves is sometimes necessary and is also a noble thing. However, what can tend to happen is that we play the victim to the point that we allow the hatred and the pain to build up inside of us. This then leads to the trend that I already mentioned.

(Read more "Jesus’s example of forgiving"...)


APRIL 2018

How to choose a good immigration lawyer

By Alberto Gonzales

Immigration Attorney

(708) 916-3077

Note: This article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to constitute legal advice. This article provides a general overview only and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with an immigration attorney.

For many immigrants, moving to another country is already a life-changing, anxiety-provoking experience. Unfortunately, having a bad immigration attorney can needlessly prolong, complicate, or even hinder one’s immigration journey.

In my practice, countless clients come to me after another immigration lawyer had already given them errant advice, missed an important deadline, or filed an incorrect application on their behalf. On the other hand, having a good attorney can help facilitate a smoother immigration process or can help explore other immigration possibilities for the intending immigrant.

So, with so many immigration practitioners out there, how do you choose the right immigration attorney for you? This in fact is a two-part question, as follows:

(1) do you even need an immigration attorney? and

(2) how do you find an immigration attorney who is right for you? 

..."Countless clients come to me after another immigration lawyer gave them errant advice, missed an important deadline or filed an incorrect application on their behalf."

Some immigrants would prefer to go through the immigration process on their own for a variety of reasons. They feel that there is enough information out there sufficient for them to complete forms and applications on their own. Others find the cost of hiring an immigration attorney to be too expensive. Some believe that attorneys cannot be trusted and do not have their clients’ best interests at heart.

While these may be valid reasons, I strongly advise clients to always consider retaining a good immigration attorney when dealing with the immigration process, even if their cases seem straightforward and more so if there are complications in a case (i.e. criminal or deportation record, etc.)

(Read more "How to choose a good immigration lawyer...")





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