Merry Christmas to all

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto M. Maceda - The Philippine Star

A very Merry Christmas to all our friends and readers. Thank you for following my column. May the Lord bless you and your family with a happy and healthy life.

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Christmas visitors

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Tacloban and distributed gifts. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also visited Tacloban and distributed school kits to children.

Women legislators led by Congresswomen Gina de Venecia (Pangasinan, 4th District), Linabelle Ruth Villarica (Bulacan, 4th District), Rosenda Ann Ocampo (Manila, 6th District), Mary Ann Pernes (Siquijor, Lone District), Magnolia Rosa Antonino-Nadres (Nueva Ecija, 4th District), and Victoria Noel (An Waray Party-list) distributed 6,000 packs of relief goods in Palo, Leyte.

Taipan Lucio Tan and officers of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry distributed relief in Tacloban over the weekend.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda is leading a 179-man Team Albay to spend Christmas Eve with survivors of typhoon Yolanda in Basey and Marabut, Samar. He will be bringing clowns and magicians to entertain the children. Salceda asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to prepare Christmas packages for the children.

Quezon City Mayor “Bistek” Bautista, together with Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte visited and distributed relief packs to survivors in Tolosa, Sta. Fe, and Palompon, Leyte. Quezon City has committed to reconstruct the municipal and legislative buildings and Rural Health Center of Tolosa. Mayor Bistek pledged to donate an ambulance and one hundred boats, for Tolosa fishermen.

Luiza Carvalho, United Nations Resident Coordinator pledged to give food aid until March.

Twenty big business corporations have formed Tabang Visayas to help in the rehabilitation of Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas and Cebu.

Tabang Visayas include the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), Philam Foundation, Unilab Foundation, Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), Habitat for Humanity (HFH), Hands on Manila (HOM),  Metrobank Foundation, Kaya Natin, and Zuellig Family Foundation.

Willie Revillame held a Christmas concert last Sunday in Tacloban.

Bea Rose Santiago, Miss International 2013, is also scheduled to visit Tacloban.

Meanwhile, Philippine Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) Chairman Cristino Naguiat, Jr. donated P2 billion to the Department of Education (DepEd) for the building of schools.

Man with a big heart

Mayor Joseph Estrada visited former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her detention suite at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC), 3 p.m. on Sunday accompanied by daughter Jackie Ejercito-Lopez. In 2001, then President Arroyo visited President Erap at the same VMMC suite.

Mayor Estrada said, “I believe in compassion. I pity her.” He said the visit was in line with the spirit of Christmas. “She looked pale and has really lost weight,” Erap observed.

Atty. Ferdinand Topacio said she served a merienda of spaghetti, Pampanga ham, and cake. Topacio, spokesperson for FG Mike Arroyo issued this statement: “The Arroyo family is truly grateful for the concern shown by President Joseph Ejercito Estrada regarding the health and well-being of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as manifested by his taking extra effort to visit her at her hospital suite during this hectic holiday season. President Erap is truly a man with a big heart and of tender, Christian mercies, an example which the present administration would do well to follow.”

President Gloria Arroyo’s sister, Cielo Macapagal-Salgado and her husband were also present during the Erap visit.

Ransom paid

Malaysian newspapers reported that a ransom of $300,000 was paid to the Abu Sayyaf for the release of Taiwanese hostage Evelyn Chang An-wei, contrary to the Aquino administration “no-ransom policy.” The ransom payment was also widely reported in Taiwanese media.

Evelyn Chang An-wei’s husband was gunned down during the kidnapping, which happened on a Malaysian island by four Filipino gunmen identified as Abu Sayyaf rebels.

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding 16 hostages.

A forgotten crisis

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on donor nations to give more aid to the Philippines as he noted that only 30% so far of the $791 million target has been delivered.

“We must not allow Yolanda to be another forgotten crisis,” Ban announced at a presscon, with DFA Secretary Albert Del Rosario as he ended a 3-day visit, which included a stop at Tacloban.

He said he was deeply moved and inspired by his visit to Tacloban, where despite the many challenges, people are working hard to recover. “I was very impressed by the strong resilience of the people. The villages are coming slowly to normalcy. People are more  motivated.” Ban Ki-moon said the UN stood firm in its commitment to help out the Philippines.

Smuggling going on

Customs old timers again claimed that Customs officials are in connivance with several big “players” who control smuggling activities. They are identified as Mam T, Big Mama, Boss C, The Saint, and Mr. T. The biggest smuggling items still continuing is oil and rice.

The jury is still out on whether new Customs Commissioner John “Sunny” Sevilla can stop the smugglers. So far, Deputy Commissioner General Jessie Dellosa has not made any major apprehensions.

Tidbits. Happy birthday to Senator J.V. Ejercito.

President Aquino visited Zamboanga City and pledged P3.5 billion for the rehabilitation of the city.

Looks like the anti-Binay campaign has started, with Malacañang and Senator Alan Cayetano issuing statements on the Dasmariñas-Banyan gate incident.

A sincere thank you to the PAF C-130 pilots who worked overtime to deliver “Yolanda” personnel and relief.

The Philippines finished in 7th place at the SEA Games, its worst performance ever in 36 years.

The latest death toll from “Yolanda” is at 6,109.

An LBC branch was held up in Sampaloc.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada is spending his Christmas and New Year holidays here in Metro Manila.

Special Christmas greetings to Sister Gloria Nash, R.V.M., Nilo and Nina Raymundo, Dr. Rene and Joy Cheng, Kenneth and Annabelle Ching, Albert and Vivian Yang, and Lito Lopez.


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