Consul presses NYC on safer city streets

POSTSCRIPT - Federico D. Pascual Jr. - The Philippine Star

Philippine officials conveyed on Wednesday to the New York City Police Commissioner the concern of Filipinos over the spate of anti-Asian hate crimes and street violence that has resulted in the death the other Friday of Filipino nurse Maria Luningning Ambrocio.

Consul General Elmer G. Cato and PCol. Wilson Joseph Lopez, police attaché at the Philippine embassy in Washington DC, met with NYC Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, who gave assurance that the NYPD has been addressing street violence.

Ambrocio, 58, a cancer nurse at Bayonne Medical Center in New Jersey, was strolling in Times Square with friends when slammed by a man who was fleeing after snatching a cellphone of another victim. She fell and hit her head on the pavement. Taken to Bellevue Hospital with a traumatic brain injury, she died Saturday.

The snatcher, Jermaine Foster, 26, crashed into a police officer who arrested him. He was held on charges of murder and robbery on Sunday. Cato described him as mentally disturbed and homeless and should have been taken off the street long ago.

New York’s mental health problem has seen people with serious mental illnesses committing crimes that include shoving subway commuters, killing the homeless in their sleep and assaulting people of Asian descent.

Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and Democratic nominee for mayor, blamed Ambrocio’s death on the criminal justice system which he said has failed to identify dangerous persons and remove them from the streets.

Foster is an example. Arrested in September and charged after groping a 30-year-old woman, also in Times Square. Prosecutors asked for a $3,000 bail, but a judge released him.

Before the Ambrocio incident, Foster broke into a 30-year-old woman’s apartment in the Garment District, destroyed furniture and demanded money, leaving only after being given $15, police records said.

Consul general lauds ‘Luningning’

In the memorial mass Monday for Ambrocio at the St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City, consul general Cato said:

“At the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year, Luningning posted a Facebook profile photo of her in scrubs, face mask and face shield with a caption that read: ‘I cannot stay at home, I am a nurse!’

“And like the thousands of Filipino nurses and other health care workers across the United States, Luningning was there on the frontline against COVID-19.

“A woman of courage and compassion, matapang at mapagmalasakit, she did her part in saving lives the way she had been doing in the 25 years she took care of cancer patients in New Jersey.

“At the Bayonne Medical Center, Luningning was known as ‘a caring nurse and a wonderful person’ who went out of her way to help others. She is remembered by colleagues for how she mentored the younger nurses.

“One even described her as an ‘angel sent by God to guard and be with her during her long and difficult journey to a foreign land,’ and ‘who gave her the hope and courage to live and survive the harsh conditions of the concrete jungle of New York City.’

“There are many more testimonials and anecdotes that would reveal just how much Luningning was loved and admired and how much she brightened people’s lives, ultimately measuring up to her name – Luningning, which means sparkle or brilliance in Filipino.”

Other street attacks recalled

Cato said further: “Three days ago, Luningning was taken away from us in an unfortunate incident that could have probably been avoided had the streets of New York been made safer.

“She was taken away from us at a time when violence against members of the Filipino community and the larger Asian and Pacific Islander community – whether induced by pandemic-exacerbated xenophobia or by mental illness – remains on the rise.

(FDP: The latest US census counted 4,211,440 Filipino Americans in the US, making them the third biggest immigrant sub-groups of the 23,241,740 Asian Americans, after those with Indian and Chinese ancestry.)

“Since January, at least nine members of the Filipino community have been at the receiving end of unprovoked acts of violence that have been reported to or monitored by the Philippine consulate.

“We started the year with a 72-year-old Filipina who ended up in the ICU after she was assaulted while entering her apartment building in Queens.

“This was followed by the face slashing of a 61-year-old Filipino on a subway train in Manhattan and the violent attack on a 65-year-old Filipina who was walking to church also in Manhattan.

“A few weeks ago, a 67-year-old Filipina nurse was also assaulted while distributing face masks on a subway train also in Manhattan and, more recently, a 75-year-old Filipina was badly injured after she was shoved while exiting a subway station in Queens.

“Most, if not all, of those who were behind these acts of violence are mentally ill and homeless individuals and, according to reports, there are more than 12,000 of them in the streets of New York City.

“This afternoon, as we mourn the passing of Maria Luningning Ambrocio, I reiterate our call for authorities to take more effective steps to make the streets of New York safe again for all of us.

“While we know that authorities are doing their best, we hope that they exert more serious efforts and make more resources available to make this happen.

“The Filipino community stands in solidarity with many others who have been calling on the city to give more focus on improving mental health care as well as in strengthening ‘Kendra’s Law’ so that dangerous people could be taken off the streets.”

(FDP: “Kendra’s Law” was named after Kendra Webdale, a 21-year-old aspiring screenwriter who was killed when a deranged man shoved her in front of a Manhattan subway train. The state law, effective since 1999, allows a judge to compel a mentally ill person to submit to medication or treatment.)

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NB: All Postscripts are also archived at ManilaMail.com. Author is on Twitter as @FDPascual. Email: fdp333@yahoo.com

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