"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bagumbayan Movement launched, raise P17 Million in contributions.

A national movement composed of more than 30,000 volunteers was officially launched today (April 27) at the historic Manila Hotel on the occasion of the 488th anniversary of the Battle of Mactan, the nation's first victory against the colonial invaders.

Leon B. Herrera, president of the Bagumbayan-Volunteers for a New Philippines Movement, said Bagumbayan's grand launching was timed on the anniversary of the Battle of Mactan because Lapu-Lapu, the first Filipino hero, is one of the movement's inspirations.

"Lapu-Lapu courageously defended his community against the colonial invaders. Like Lapu-Lapu, Bagumbayan volunteers seek to defend our country from corruption, immorality and transactional politics so that we can have a New Philippines, a Bagumbayan," he said.

About 2,000 delegates who paid for their own way from all walks of life and every corner of the country including overseas Filipinos flocked to the movement's grand launching and national convention that raised P17 Million through individual contributions and which was graced by Independent Senator Richard Gordon, the keynote speaker.

In his speech, a teary-eyed Gordon said there is a need to abandon the “transactional politics” of the country’s “corrupt leaders.”
“Change ourselves first, before we change our leaders,” he said.

The senator was joined by other guest speakers, to wit: world flyweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr., CNN Hero nominee Efren Penaflorida, Journey band lead vocalist Arnel Pineda, and Chikka.com founder Dennis Mendiola.

They were chosen for being ordinary people who went on to do extraordinary things.

“Nonito, Efren, Arnel and Dennis are ordinary people who made a difference in their lives and the lives of others. We have many of them in our midst, and we will surely see several of them as volunteers of a new Philippines, our Bagumbayan,” Herrera said.

"Senator Gordon has been one of Bagumbayan's inspirations. With his impressive track record in bringing about positive changes wherever he went, Gordon's forward-thinking ideas tie in with our aspirations," Herrera added.

Bagumbayan is a movement of individuals united by a common vision for the nation, inspired by the courage and bravery of Lapu-Lapu and the ideals and wisdom of Jose Rizal, and empowered by the spirit of volunteerism.

"We in the Bagumbayan movement seek to break the walls in our minds and depart from a transactional society. We work for genuine transformation in our country through the collective efforts of the society anchored on the strength of volunteerism," Herrera said.
The Bagumbayan Movement started as a volunteer group whose members served in the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), which Gordon chaired in the 1990s.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Unveiling of Wenceslao Vinzons' bust at UP Diliman

Calling him his idol and a true hero of the Philippine Republic, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon led the unveiling ceremony for the bust of Wenceslao Vinzons at the Vinzons Hall in UP Diliman.

"It moves me sometimes that very few of those truly deserving to be called a hero have their deeds lost and causes forgotten. In unveiling this likeness of Wenceslao Vinzons, we hope to begin the re-telling of his life and how he died defending the country which too many of us take for granted," said Gordon.

Vinzons was a student leader and editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian and chairman of the UP Student Council in the 1930s. He became the youngest delegate of the Constitutional Convention of 1935. Gordon like his idol was also a student leader in UP when he topped the student council elections in 1969 during the First Quarter Storm and subsequently while still a law student was elected as the youngest delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention.

Vinzons was among the first Filipinos to organize the guerrilla resistance after the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 1941. After having killed more than 3,000 of their troops, Vinzons was betrayed by a guerilla-turned-informant and was seized by the Japanese military together with his father on July 8, 1942.

He refused to pledge allegiance to his captors, and was brought to a garrison in Daet. It was there, on July 15, 1942, that Vinzons was bayoneted to death after refusing to cooperate with the Japanese forces. Shortly thereafter, his father, wife, sister and two of his children were also executed by the Japanese.

"Unlike others during the Japanese Occupation, Vinzons did not capitulate or bow down to the foreign power that laid siege to our country," Gordon said.

"Others were only too willing to make friends with the enemy if only to secure their wealth or to gain wealth. Vinzons gave up his life, the only thing he truly owned, in the fight to keep his mother Philippines free," he added.

The bust unveiled at the Vinzon's hall was created by sculptor Juan Sajid Imao, a 2001 TOYM Awardee and a UP Alumnus himself. Imao and Gordon had previously collaborated on the Monuments of Lapu-Lapu in the National Park and General Miguel Malvar in Batangas.

Apart from the bust, Gordon has also filed a resolution supporting the centennial celebration of Vinzons' natal anniversary. (30)

Salute to the bravery of Marines

The Marines who were killed and wounded fighting the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) that took three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Jolo, Sulu on Jan. 15 were commended by Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon.

In salute to the brave Marines, Gordon, also chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), has filed Senate Resolution 1004 lauding the members of the Philippine Marines for their extraordinary bravery and courage in the call of duty.

"They deserve to be honored and remembered for their unparalleled dedication to the military service by rendering the ultimate sacrifice of laying down their lives in the call of duty," he said of the Marines killed.

"The Philippine Senate proudly honors and remembers them for their valiant efforts to defend and uphold the peace and order situation in Mindanao," he added.

The bloody encounter between government forces and the Abu Sayyaf bandits resulted to the deaths of Corporal Jo-Kris L. Fegura, Corporal Jeflor Q. Dela Torre, and Private First Class Franklin B. Castillo.

In an effort to secure the release of ICRC workers, Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, the Marines cordoned a hilly jungle near the town of Indanan, Sulu, where the Abu Sayyaf are reportedly holding the hostages.

Firefight ensued on March 16 when Abu Sayyaf gunmen led by Albader Parad tried to break out of the loose cordon and resulted in the death of the three Marines and the wounding of 19 other members of the military contingent.

Wounded were: Lieutenant Cademer D. Cabrera; Sergeants Leonardo B. Payba and Cresinciano R. Despida; Corporals Reydinel T. Dagasgas, Winston D. Gupaal, Roland G. Ordanel, Jolly O. Espera, and Philip O. Verzosa.

Also wounded were; Charlie D. Rodriguez, Rommel A. Cea, Onofre R. Bolante, Joel H. Bermejo, Ian R. Reobilo, Terejohn B. Cadosale, Marco A. Torres, Eric F. Habla, Arnel A.. Balnao, Ruel E. Talisio, and Reymundo T. Olayra, all Private First Class.

"The Philippine Senate proudly recognizes and commends them for their bravery and dedication in maintaining the peace and continuing the government's efforts in curbing kidnapping incidents in the country," Gordon said of the wounded Marines.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Restore Luneta's old name to Bagumbayan

Restore Luneta's original name--Bagumbayan--to correct what he believes may be a historical sleight of Spanish colonizers in the Philippines, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon reiterated his previous proposal today.

As a student of history and government, Gordon pointed out that some accounts say that the park was named "Luneta", which means "little moon", because it was said to be shaped like a half moon in Spanish times.

However, the senator contends that to get at the real meaning of the names given to places, one must take into account what the place was used for and what historical events were situated there.

"The place the Spanish called Luneta served as the execution site of our people and its soil was red with their blood. This is where the Spanish colonizers sought to quell our early struggles for freedom, which they described as lunacy," Gordon said.

"It is just as likely that the Spanish named Luneta for being the place where they executed those whom they called lunatics for leading a revolution against Spain - hence, Luneta," he added.

The senator said that unknowingly, all Presidents who have been sworn to an oath of office were swearing on the grounds pejoratively named by former colonial masters.

"In swearing an oath here, our Presidents may be swearing themselves to lunacy. We should correct this and return the name of Luneta to its original Filipino given name of Bagumbayan," Gordon said.

He explained that written in the pages of the country's history are significant events of heroism and unwavering love for the nation that transpired in Luneta. The most prominent is the execution of Jose Rizal on December 30, 1986.

It also the place where Filipino priests Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora (Gomburza) were executed on February 17, 1872 by Spanish colonial authorities on trumped-up charges of subversion arising from the 1872 Cavite mutiny.

Official ceremonies proclaiming a fully-independent Republic of the Philippines were held on this site on July 4, 1946. The highlights of the event were the simultaneous lowering of the American Flag and raising of the Philippine flag to the tune of both nations' national anthems

We are a nation of heroes

The Philippines is a nation of heroes, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today said as he urged the Filipino people to take pride and inspiration from their heroism wherever and whenever they are in the country or elsewhere around the world.

Gordon made the exhortation as he led the unveiling ceremony of Wenceslao Q. Vinzons' bust held at the Vinzons Hall of the University of the Philippines, Quezon City attended by the UP student council and administration officials.

"It is sad and unfortunate if we allow stories about the great sacrifices of our heroes to be buried into the pages of oblivion. The tapestry of our country must be painted by the brave and courageous sacrifices of our heroes and their stories must be passed on from one generation to the next," he said.

"If we want to move our country in the right direction, we have to look back at our rich history as a nation and as a people, for then and only then can we ably declare that we have conquered our future," he added.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate tourism committee, has earlier filed a resolution in the Senate calling on different government units to prepare for the nationwide centennial celebration of Vinzons' natal anniversary on Sept. 28, 2010.

Vinzons, one of the country's most notable patriots during World War II (WWII), organized an armed resistance in the Bicol region against the Japanese invasion army and led a raid against a troop of Japanese soldiers in Basud, Camarines Norte.

Later on when Vinzons' forces grew to around 2,800 strong, he led these forces to successfully liberate the provincial capital of Daet, killing around 3,000 Japanese soldiers since their first attack which made his capture one of the primary objectives of the Japanese army.

Even as a student, Vinzons already showed exemplary leadership abilities when he became president of the UP Student Council and editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian.

He advocated the unification of Southeast Asian nations with a common Malay origin in his oratorical address entitled "Malaysia Irredenta," which won him the Manuel L. Quezon gold medal for excellence.

After passing the bar exams in 1932, Vinzons founded the Young Philippines Party which advocated the grant of Philippine independence from American rule.

Like Gordon, Vinzon was elected as the youngest delegate to the 1935 Constitutional Convention and became instrumental in prescribing Tagalog as an official language of the Philippines .

Gordon said it was regrettable that noble people in the course of history like Vinzons, who gave up their lives so the country would be free, have yet to be declared as National Heroes.

An official communication from the National Historical Institute (NHI) shows that in 1995, nine Filipino historical figures were selected to be declared as the first cluster of Filipino National Heroes. They are Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, and Apolinario Mabini.

The list also included Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Sultan Kudarat, Juan Luna, Melchora Aquino and Gabriela Silang. Of the nine historical figures, three of them - Rizal, Bonifacio and Sultan Kudarat - are already decreed by law as National Heroes.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Statement on the release of ICRC worker Andreas Notter

We are very much relieved that Andreas Notter is now out of harm’s way, and we are very happy and relieved for him and his family that after 92 days, he is finally now with us and alive. This is indeed an answered prayer for the country and the Philippine National Red Cross, especially among the volunteers who never gave up on him.

I have briefly spoken with him, and he was relieved that he is safe, alive and looks forward to returning to his normal life. Like many of us, Andreas is thankful to all the people who, in one way or another, have contributed efforts to secure his freedom since Day 1. We particularly commend the soldiers, policemen and local public officials for their efforts. We also thank those who offered prayers and sacrifices for him. Andreas, however, is very, very much concern over his colleague, Eugenio Vagni, who seriously needs immediate attention. We are again asking for prayers as we reiterate our appeal that Eugenio, along with other hostages, be also freed unharmed, unconditionally, and in soonest possible time.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Public grows indifferent towards political parties

In a period when political parties in the country seem to be mere organizations that promote personalities rather than ideologies, the public has grown indifferent to it, seeking for a party that truly promotes the people's welfare, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today said.

Gordon said political parties have been considered by many as an essential part of a national candidate's political campaign. However, he continued, these political organizations do not declare what they truly stand for.

"What do political parties in our country stand for? Do they stand for what the country and the people truly need?" he said.

"A political party should not just be a tool for political interests. It should be a movement that has a vision for the country, guided by the right values and encourages the people to be one with the government to effect the kind of change our country needs," he added.

Gordon noted that a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey in November 2006, months before the 2007 mid-term elections, showed that 67% or two-thirds of the 1,200 respondents nationwide said no party promotes their welfare.

He said the result of the survey shows that political parties in the country do not reach out to the people. They only serve as part of the political machinery of candidates running for public office, but they do not present visions, policies and platforms.

He added that this forms a scenario where people become indifferent towards political parties and instead, they support the resurgence of movements working for good governance and good electoral exercise.

"The public seeks for a party that has vision for the people, promotes values formation, and moves for social transformation through volunteerism. This is what the Bagumbayan Movement is all about," Gordon said.

"What do political parties in the country stand for? I know what Bagumbayan stands for. It stands for responsibility, good governance, law and order, strong and growing economy, education, health care, jobs, homes, family and environment," he added.

Bagumbayan is a grassroots organization committed to work towards change in the country by pushing for voters' registration and campaigning for poll automation to achieve clean, honest, orderly and credible elections. It has 30,000 card-bearing members from all over the country and is still counting.

"Bagumbayan is anchored on a simple formula of 'Vision + Values + Volunteerism = Victory'. It is a New Philippines where everyone is enabled, ennobled and free; a community of people who think, speak and act for the common good," Gordon said.

Revisit RP values to bring about genuine change

A paradigm shift in the way the Filipinos think, speak and act to bring about the kind of change that the country desperately needs is imperative, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today said.

Gordon said a community of people who think, speak, and act for the common good is what the Bagumbayan Movement, which he started, aims to create.

"It's time we change the paradigm. It's time that we have a Bagumbayan," he said.

"Kailangan natin magkaroon ng tapang at ng pagbabago sa paraan ng ating pag-iisip at pag-uugali upang tuluyan nating mabago ang ating bansa," he added.

Gordon explained that the Bagumbayan Movement seeks to rediscover and revitalize the Filipinos' identity by having a vision grounded on values and empowered by volunteerism.

The senator stressed the need for change so that the country may depart from its current state where corruption is committed with impunity and perpetrators go unpunished.

He said that change can start by electing the country's leaders through a clean, honest, and credible election which can be brought about by an automated system of elections where everyone can be certain that their votes will be counted.

"Dapat may sarili tayong pag-iisip, tayo ang magdedesiyon. Mahalin natin ang ating boto. Kahit pa sabihing matatalo ang kandidato mo, kung naniniwala ka doon sa kandidato mo, 'yun ang iboto mo," Gordon said.

He also said that it is time for the Filipino people to start breaking the walls in their minds by regaining confidence in their capabilities and being courageous about the future.

"Our quest is not for the victory of one man or woman in the 2010 polls. Our quest is for the victory of all Filipinos for Bagumbayan is where we Filipinos will find our future, not in foreign shores, but in our very own native Filipinas," Gordon said.

"We must have a vision for where we want our nation to be and mold ourselves to the values that will help us achieve this vision," he added.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Voters urged to validate registrations, get biometrics taken before 2010

Filipino voters must be encouraged to go to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office in their respective areas and have their biometrics taken to validate their registrations before the 2010 polls said Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon.

Gordon, author of the amended Automated Election System Law, made the call as he noted that preventing ghost and multiple voters from taking part in next year's elections will address the problem of retail cheating.

"The automation law would help eradicate wholesale cheating. While we may be modestly successful in reducing irregularities in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) elections, there is much work to do," he said.

"The existence of flying or ghost voters, or underage or other ineligible voters, has remained prevalent because of insufficient safeguards to reliably identify and separate between legitimate and illegitimate voters," he added.

To ensure that both wholesale and retail cheating will no longer mar the next elections, Gordon filed Senate Bill 3065 which seeks to amend RA 8189, the law which rendered ineffective and inoperative the certified voters list used in the 1997 barangay elections.

The law also authorized the poll body to conduct a general registration of voters, adopt a system of continuing registration and to computerize the registration process. In 2003, Comelec started to capture the biometric information of all voters under the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).

However, a Comelec report showed that only 24 million, or half of the 48 million registered voters, are now covered by biometric listing, while its officials claimed lack of sufficient funding, among others, prevented the poll body from fully utilizing the machines.

The senator's proposed amendment seeks to require the submission by new registrants or voters previously registered under the old application procedure of their biometric information.

The bill also seeks to mandate the Comelec to use the computer-generated registration record as its official certified voters list.

It also proposed the extension of the prohibitive period for the conduct of voter registration to give the poll body sufficient time to prepare and undertake post-registration activities such as hearing by the Election Registration Board (ERBIBoard), and preparation and posting of the certified list of voters.

Gordon stressed that cleansing the voters list will contribute to clean, honest and credible elections in 2010.

"The Comelec should also intensify its efforts to purge the voters list by deleting double or multiple registrants," he said.

"All these efforts are expected to lead to credible, clean, and orderly presidential elections in 2010," he added.

Polling precincts in 2010 must be disabled-friendly

Batting for the active participation of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in May 2010 elections, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to ready disabled-friendly polling precincts all over the country.

Gordon, author of the amended Automated Elections System (AES) Law, issued the call as the Comelec gears up for the full automation of the country's electoral exercises on May 2010.

"As early as now, we must ensure that the more than eight million Filipinos with various disabilities can have full and active participation in our country's most vital democratic process," he said.

Gordon, former co-chairman of the Congressional Committee on Automated Elections System, pointed out the one of the objectives of the amended automated elections law he authored was to enable more disabled Filipinos to exercise their right to suffrage.

"We must enable them to participate in elections so that they can themselves protect and further their welfare and interests. As we move to automate the May 2010 elections, we should have persons with disabilities foremost in our mind," he said.

Government's conservative estimates reveal that as of 2000, there are only about 942,098 registered PWDs all over the country, the bulk of whom are from Southern Tagalog with 144,289, while about 109,236 are in the National Capital Region.

He said, for instance, voting machines should be able to read out the names of candidates for the blind.

"We are working to ensure that the Automated Election System Law is implemented in a way that will give our disabled brethren a greater voice in our elections because their voice truly matters," said Gordon.

Apart from voting machines, he also said Comelec should ensure that there are adequate access ramps for people in wheel chairs and personnel who can assist people with disabilities.

Barangays, he said, may even organize a shuttle service that will ferry the disabled from their homes to polling precincts.

Gordon pointed out that the Comelec should ensure the PWDs' participation in the electoral process since the country is a main sponsor of resolution 56/115 on the "Implementation of the World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons: Towards a society for all in the 21st Century."

Furthermore, he cited that the Accessibility Law, or Batasang Pambansa No. 844, was passed to increase the mobility and access of a group of disabled persons to public offices.

Gordon also cited Republic Act No.7277, also known as "An Act Providing for the Rehabilitation, Self-Development, and Self-Reliance of Disabled Persons and Their Integration into the mainstream of Society and for Other Purposes," passed in 1995.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Use 'good skills' to improve your lives, Gordon urges urban poor

The urban poor must use "good skills" instead of depending on dole-outs from the government to improve their lives and uplift their dignity, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today urged.

Gordon made the call at the graduation rites of the livelihood training under the Bigay-Buhay Para Sa Bagumbayan Program of the Simulaing Gabay sa Entrepinay (SIGE) Foundation.

"Ang kamay na nasasanay sa pagtanggap ay mas mababa sa kamay na nag-aabot. Pati ang inyong katauhan ay bababa, ang inyong values ay mawawala, ang inyong ambisyon ay mawawala," he said.

"Kaya ngayong araw na ito, nagkaroon kayo ng good skills na matuto na gamitin ang utak at mga kamay at lumikha ng mga produkto. Huwag niyong mamatahin yan," he added.

Gordon was invited as guest of honor and speaker at the graduation held at the Batasan National High School , Covered court in Barangay Batasan Hills, Quezon City .

The Bigay-Buhay programs aims to train women from various cities, provinces and municipalities nationwide on various livelihood technologies in an effort to provide alternative employment to combat the effect of the global financial crisis.

After the training, the participants will go to various barangays to hold seminars on livelihood programs, such as Chinese dimsum making, meat processing, home bakeshop, balloon making, and candy making.

Gordon, who filed Senate Bill 2402, also known as the Health and Education Acceleration Program (HEAP), stressed the importance of education and hard work in attaining a better life.

"Ang unang gagawin kapag may pera, pag-aralin ang mga anak.. Kahit magsimula sa maliit, basta may pagsisikap kayang umangat," he said.

Gordon filed the HEAP bill in a bid to address the need to beef up the country's public educational and health care systems, such as the shortage of classrooms, totaling to 57 million nationwide.

'Text-for-Change' bill to address health woes among pupils

The problem of undernourishment among 16% of pupils in public schools could be solved with the approval of a proposed "text-for-change" measure, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon said today.

Gordon said that the Department of Education's (DepEd) current programs to address malnutrition in grade school pupils can be strengthened, lengthened and made available to more students if more funds are allocated for that purpose.

"Millions of school children are afflicted with preventable and treatable but potentially fatal diseases, making most of them miss out on school days. Worse is that many of them do not eat enough of the right food they need," he said.

"Our pupils need not only quality education but also health and nutrition programs to ensure that they will perform well in school because they are properly nourished and physically fit," he added.

DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus said about 16% of students in public schools are undernourished. Such condition leads to absenteeism, which is a major deterrent to the consistent productivity of the pupils.

To address this problem, the DepEd launched supplementary feeding programs that aim to improve the nutritional status of the children and increase retention rate. The program has duration of six months for kindergarten, grades 1 and 2 students.

This problem of malnutrition among students, along with other pressing problems plaguing the country's educational and health care systems, has led Gordon to file Senate Bill 2402, the Health and Education Acceleration Program (HEAP) Corporation.

"The inadequate fund for feeding programs is just part of a bigger problem. We also have to address the lack of school clinics and clean comfort rooms and the shortage in health manpower," Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprise, said.

Under the HEAP bill, a corporation will be established to manage funds that would be remitted by giant telecommunications companies from a small portion of their net revenues from local text messages which reportedly reach two billion daily.

The funds would be used to fill the gap in the country's health care and educational requirements.

Government statistics show that the country's public school system is confronted with a shortage of at least 12,000 classrooms, four million seats, 63 million textbooks, 39,000 teachers and 8,000 principals.

Meanwhile, the country's school health profile shows that aside from malnourished pupils, school children aged 6-12 years old suffer from iodine deficiency (11.4%), iron deficiency anemia (37.4%), Vitamin A deficiency (36%), worm infestation (67%), and dental caries (97%).

A large gap in school health personnel is also evident with a ratio of one medical officer to 80,000 students; one school dentist to 20,000 pupils; and one school nurse to 5,000 students.

"With this HEAP measure, we can resolve all the problems in our educational and health care system. If we effectively implement this program, in five years' time there would be a big improvement in the quality of our country's education," Gordon said.





Honoring Bataan heroes' gallantry and bravery

Joining the people of Bataan in reliving the spirit of the Death March of Bataan as the nation celebrates the 67th Araw ng Kagitingan tomorrow is Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon.

Gordon will attend the celebration of the event in Bataan to commemorate the Filipinos who fought alongside American soldiers in the World War II. He will attend the "Parangal sa mga Bayani" in tribute to the sacrifices of Bataan war veterans.

The celebration will also feature the Parade of Floats which will depict the important events that transpired in Bataan during the World War II and the Death March Reenactment.

Gordon had been one of the prime movers in getting the United States (US) give recognition to some estimated 13,000 Filipino veterans who fought alongside American soldiers in the WWII.

He authored Republic Act (RA) 9499, which effectively amends RA 6948, or An Act Standardizing and Upgrading the Benefits for Military Veterans and their Dependents.

For years, the passage of the Filipino WWII Veterans Equity bill had been thwarted in the US Congress by US lawmakers who demanded equal responsibility. The granting of benefits by the US government, according to previous Filipino laws, would cancel out benefits being granted by the Filipino government.

To remedy this, Gordon authored Senate Bill 142 which became RA 9499. The law allowed Filipino veterans to continue receiving pensions and benefits from the Philippine government without rescinding similar benefits from the US government.

He also lobbied in the US Senate and the US House of Representatives for the passage of an equity bill which could remove much of the stain and dishonor done by the US government to the dignity and true sacrifices of Filipino WWII veterans and of the Philippines as a nation.

And finally after 65 years, US President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that contained the Filipino Veterans' Equity provision which provided a tax-free $15,000 for each of the Filipino veterans who are US citizens and $9,000 for each of non-US citizens, mostly living in the Philippines .

But the senator's support for the veterans did not stop even when the Economic Stimulus bill was signed into law.

Mindful of unscrupulous individuals who may take advantage, Gordon filed Senate Resolution (SR) 894 which urged the government, particularly the Philippine Veterans' Affairs Office (PVAO), to protect eligible Filipino veterans and their families from fixers who may take advantage of them in availing their benefits.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Keep lifeline of communication open for 2 ICRC workers

The importance of keeping communications line open to ensure the safe release of the two remaining International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) hostages was stressed by
Independent Senator and Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) Chairman Richard J. Gordon today.

Gordon, a governing board member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said there is a need to tread carefully in this extremely dangerous situation.

"At this point, talk is a lifeline in this extremely dangerous situation," he said.

"This is not a location shoot for a movie. There is no Take 2 if things do not turn out right," he added.

ICRC workers - Swiss Andrea Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba - were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf near the Sulu provincial jail in Patikul, Sulu last Jan. 15 after coming from a humanitarian mission.

Lacaba was released last Thursday after 77 days in captivity. But Notter and Vagni remain captive by the Abu Sayyaf.

Their captors have reiterated their demand for a large-scale military pull out or they would behead one of the remaining hostages.

Gordon stressed that it would be a great loss for the country if the Abu Sayyaf would carry out their threat to behead one of the remaining hostages.

"If the hostages are harmed, the door to life will be closed. The Red Cross and humanity will lose. But the loss could be even greater for our nation. Mark my word," he said.

The PNRC chairman also pointed out that he has a personal and institutional responsibility to ensure the safe release of his colleagues, hence his voicing out his frustrations on the military's way of handling the crisis.

"Ako ay may personal at institusyunal na responsibilidad na gawin ang lahat upang matiyak ang ligtas na pagbabalik ng mga nabihag naming kasamahan," he said.

"Kung ako ay nagpahayag ng pagkabahala sa gobyerno at sa patakaran o aksyon ng militar sa Sulu, ito ay dahil sa panganib na nagbabanta sa buhay ng mga nabihag naming kasamahan sa Red Cross," he added.

On being a meddler in the ICRC hostage crisis

"The words used by Secretary (Gilberto) Teodoro to describe our efforts to help save the lives of the hostages in Sulu are careless and unfortunate.

The lives on the line belong to the Red Cross. I have a personal and institutional responsibility to do everything I can to secure the safe return of the hostages. If I have expressed concern about government and military policy or action in Sulu, it is because of the danger they, both the military and the Abu Sayyaf, pose to the lives of the hostages. The hostage-takers talk to us, not to Mr. Teodoro or the commanders there.

I will not cut off communication with them just to avoid being described as a meddler. At this point, talk is a lifeline in this extremely dangerous situation. This is not a location shoot for a movie. There is no Take 2 if things do not turn out right.

If the hostages are harmed, the door to life will be closed. The Red Cross and humanity will lose. But the loss could be even greater for our nation. Mark my word.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Statement on the safe release of ICRC worker Mary Jean Lacaba

We are happy and relieved that our colleague, Mary Jean “Nene” Lacaba, is finally safe and free. After spending 78 days in the jungle of Sulu, Nene is finally reunited with her family. Her ordeal is more than a story of human suffering, but a triumph of human spirit. Hers is a lesson for us all and hopefully we shall take this tragic reality to heart. But, for now, we are happy she is alive and well.

We thank all those who have – collectively and individually — made her release possible. We thank the military chain of command, especially our soldiers – those who sacrificed their lives and those who are still fighting in the field, and also the members of the Crisis Committee in Sulu.

Nene’s safe and unconditional release is a proof that talking things through, using peaceful and diplomatic means available to resolve conflict, is better than using bullets and bombs. Life is precious, even the life of those who have declared themselves as our enemies.

In seeking the release of Nene, Andreas Notter, and Eugenio Vagni, we hold firm the belief that keeping the lines of communication open at all times and the faith in the inherent goodness in each one of us all will enable us to succeed.

Our constant prayers as a nation of Christians and Muslims show that we all pray to one Supreme Power. It also proves that no matter what province we may come from or what heritage we may bear, we are all Filipinos first.

The euphoria we feel today is however weighed down by the continued struggle of Andreas and Eugenio. Nene’s release fills us with hope that our two other colleagues will also be released soon. Nevertheless, we must continue with all peaceful efforts and remain steadfast in praying for their safe release.

We shall never relax our efforts for the freedom of Andreas and Eugenio. But when this episode is over, we will certainly be in a position of full peace and development offensive.

We have been to Basilan, Sulu and other parts of the country where poverty and desperation has bred violent conflict. What is needed is a new paradigm shift for bringing the peace to these areas. Instead of retreating, the government should move forward and ensure that development initiatives as well as government services are provided in full and unrelenting waves.