Got Facebook or Twitter? It Could One Day Jeopardize Your Travel Visa, Green Card Or U.S. Citizenship Application.

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Who would have thought that in 21st Century America, the president would call for the establishment of a Muslim registry, shut the country’s doors to refugees, or ban the re-entry of foreign nationals who have been granted green cards after having gone through a rigid vetting process. All in the name of “making America safe.”

Judging by just the first week of Donald Trump’s presidency — with the issuance of executive orders that undermine or deny health care, women’s right to choose, free speech, free trade, safe drinking water, freedom from torture and other human rights — we could expect worse.

I can almost see that under the Trump administration, your Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts could be used against you when applying for a federal job, or worse for non-citizens, when seeking a travel permit, green card, or even citizenship.

It has been reported that the government will start scanning Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts of thousands of federal employees and contractors applying and re-applying for security clearances in a first-ever policy released last week. You don’t even need to provide your password; all that’s needed is for investigators to search your public posts.

While you can on your own try to delete all your social media posts that you think might be incriminating to you, the fact is, most of what’s on the Internet stays on the Internet. Like Las Vegas.

Already, the Trump administration has suspended the visa interview waiver program in which foreign nationals who have been granted multiple entry visas to the United States need not appear for a face-to-face interview with a consular officer when renewing their expired visas.

It is not far-fetched that your scanned social media posts will be a subject of that interview that’s now required for visa renewal.

That’s just for people who have freely come in and out of the U.S. How much more for new tourist visa applicants, green card applicants, or applicants for U.S. citizenship?

You’ve been forewarned!

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Donald Trump, You Are No Rodrigo Duterte

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It is better to cuss…

Than:
to legislate women’s right to choose,
to take away the health care of millions of people,
to take away the freedom of speech,
to poison people’s drinking water,
to obstruct free trade,
to reinstate torture,
to turn away refugees,
to attack an entire religion,
to deny people their legal immigrant rights
to appoint a Supreme Court justice who will rubber stamp all of the above.img_8798

Donald Trump, you are no Rodrigo Duterte

Oh, and while we’re at it, Duterte won the popular vote. You didn’t!

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Where Is FilAm Millionaire Loida Nicolas-Lewis On What’s Happening Under Donald Trump?

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It is no secret that Filipino American millionaire Loida Nicolas-Lewis has publicly called for the resignation of Rodrigo Duterte, citing the Philippine president’s failed campaign promise to solve the illegal drug problem within 3-6 months. She was very critical of the killings and “human rights violations” related to the war on drugs.

It is no secret either that Nicolas-Lewis is a supporter of Vice President Leni Robredo, openly campaigning for the Roxas-Robredo tandem during last year’s Philippine presidential elections.

In calling for Duterte’s resignation, she believes that it was time for Robredo to take over the presidency.

Well, we also know that Nicolas-Lewis, a dual citizen, campaigned hard for Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump.

Trump promised to make “America great again,” except that everything he has done in just the first week of his presidency had been the exact opposite. Trump, in his series of Executive Orders and pronouncements, has acted to repeal Obamacare, curtail free speech and free trade, build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, give the green light to poison the water along the Dakota pipeline, restore torture, create a Muslim registry, bar refugees and green card holders from entering or re-entering the U.S. and outlaw the freedom of choice. And he’s not done yet.

So why is Nicolas-Lewis the American being quiet on the Trump issue and his emerging horrible record on human rights?

She has said that just like Filipino overseas workers (OFWs), she had all the right to criticize the Duterte government. As an American, she has exactly that same right to criticize Trump.

Shouldn’t she also use her prominence and financial resources to publicly call for the resignation of Donald Trump?

We look up to her to use her bully pulpit to call for the ouster of Trump like she did with Duterte.

Or is her silence an admission that in America, she matters not?

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This Thing Called Cyber War

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Credit: awgraphics.net

First, there was this war of words between the mainstream news media and the Internet blogs. Now it’s between blogs from the opposite sides of the political arena — the Duterte supporters on one hand, and the anti-administration on the other.

It has become an ugly war of survival of the fittest, of who has more followers, which has the most netizen engagement, and who can best influence the taking down of social media accounts.

But this so-called cyber war is also about  guts.  Who has the guts to come out in the open, and who prefers to hide behind the anonymous label.

In this era where lines of communication — or propaganda for that matter — have become easily accessible to anyone who has thoughts and opinions to share to the rest of the world, there is absolutely no reason to act like crabs in a bucket: if I can’t make it to the top, why must you?

Even our politicians have been drawn to the conflict to the point of making censorship part of their legislative agenda.

Politikal Pinoy believes that all netizens (well okay, most) can decide for themselves whether what they read on the Internet is true or troll, legitimate conviction or paid hack, intellectual or plain stupid. The bottom line is that each one of us is entitled to the same freedom of expression.  I have often said that the responsibility lies in the messenger as much as in the recipient of the message.

We cannot let this cyber war go on forever, because ultimately, the people that would suffer are the very people that the opinion makers are trying to influence.  Social media is as much their venue as it is ours. Let people freely express themselves and let the readers decide.

Let’s focus on the issues and not this useless back and forth on who’s right and who’s wrong, and worse, on who is more of the  bully and who’s not.

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Donald Trump’s Immigration Order And Filipinos – Potential Immigrants And Tourists

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump said that the U.S. must suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until the vetting methods are improved.

Well, we now know that he’s making good on that campaign promise. Not only has he stopped the entry of refugees into America, he has also ordered not only the scrutiny but also the barring of green card and U.S. visa holders from entering or re-entering the country.

Sure, the order concerns individuals from specific Muslim countries (except those that the U.S. has business relations with), but who’s to say that Trump’s list will not be expanded to many others, including the Philippines? After all, he once specifically mentioned an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines who was let into the country and was convicted for plotting to join Al Qaeda and the Taliban. With the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines being linked to Al Qaeda, who’s to say that Trump won’t consider including the country among those that “have been compromised by terrorism?”

Trump’s immigration policy is bad news for Filipinos, including the hundreds of thousands who have been waiting in line to have their immigrant visas processed.

There is already a huge backlog for immigrant petitions involving Filipinos.

The January, 2017 visa bulletin from the U.S. State Department shows the following:

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This means that if you are an unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen, your immigrant petition will be processed only if it had been filed on or before October 1, 2005!  For brothers or sisters of adult U.S. citizens, only petitions filed as of June 8, 1993 are currently being processed!

The sad truth is that Trump’s immigration “policy,” will not make the long wait any easier.  On the contrary, the process of legal immigration, as slow-paced as it already is, could face further scrutiny, especially with Republicans controlling both houses of U.S. Congress.

Lastly, Filipinos should be concerned not only about immigrant petitions.  Those seeking to visit the U.S. on a tourist visa could face challenges as well.

Already, Trump’s Executive Order suspends the U.S. Visa Interview Waiver Program.  This is a program for foreign citizens who are frequent visitors to the U.S.  When their visa expires, they will now have to have a face-to-face interview with a US consular officer.  Previously, they can  just simply drop off their passports at a consulate to get their visas renewed.

Filipinos with multiple entry visas to the U.S. would face the same requirement once their visas expire.

Oh, you’re a dual citizen you say?  You’re not totally secure. Who knows what Trump will think of next.

Already, the Executive Order also applies to people who originally hail from the identified countries but are traveling on a passport issued by any other nation. That means, for example, that Iraqis seeking to enter the U.S. on a British passport will be barred. British citizens don’t normally require a visa to enter the U.S.

Could this be part of Trump’s “America First” pronouncement?

Under Trump, the “American Dream” is looking more and more like an “American Nightmare!”

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Duterte Vs. Bacani: Bluff and Bluster

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In Catholic Philippines, politics crosses over into religion and vice versa.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the ongoing word war between President Rodrigo Duterte and Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani.

It all started when Duterte lashed out at the Catholic Church and said that the clergy has no moral ascendancy to lecture him because they also commit sinful acts. He singled out Bacani who has been vocal in criticizing the administration’s bloody war on drugs.

Duterte accused Bacani of having 2 wives, to which the prelate fired back, offering the president a P10 million reward if he could prove his allegation.

This may be a case of bluff and bluster.

Duterte is known to speak his mind when it comes to his critics, often resorting to cussing and verbal threats. But despite his many controversial statements that make for juicy news media headlines, we all know that it is the president’s kind of rhetoric. He himself has called his statements “hyperbole.”

But what about Bacani?

Should the news media also believe that he, indeed, has P10 million to offer Duterte? Or that what he says is the truth, just because he wears a cleric’s robe?

Politikal Pinoy thinks that Bacani’s P10 million offer is somewhat ironic because we all know that the Catholic Church in the Philippines has millions if not trillions. Financial investments are an open book so there is no point in trying to prove or disprove this fact.

And despite the church’s overflowing coffers, what concrete things has the church done to help alleviate poverty or help the downtrodden — yes, including drug addicts or victims of this pervasive illegal drug trade? How many local churches have opened their doors to the homeless or their facilities and resources for the rehabilitation of drug addicts?

And let’s not even go into “moral ascendancy.” Sex scandals and abuse by priests and church leaders — kept under wraps for so long — have now become an open book. For starters, go see the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight.”

So, in this word war between Duterte and Bacani, who’s bluffing and who’s blustering?

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The Inconvenient Truth About Undocumented Filipinos In America

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(Photo credit: New America Media)

It is estimated that there are at least one million undocumented Filipinos in the United States who face uncertainty under the new Donald Trump administration.

Even during his presidential campaign, Trump has always been clear about his stance on immigration, not just in terms of America’s southern neighbor Mexico, but also with regards to other nationals whom he considers a threat to national security such as refugees from Syria, immigrants from other Muslim countries, and undocumented individuals with criminal records. It is not far-fetched that with Trump’s ‘America First’ policy, immigrants from other countries like China, India and the Philippines will face as much scrutiny.

Many Filipinos and Filipino Americans are questioning President Rodrigo Duterte’s stance that undocumented Filipinos in the U.S. will not get any help from his administration because of the policy not to interfere with the laws of other countries. This policy is, of course, consistent with Duterte’s pronouncements that he will neither allow other countries and governments to interfere with the Philippines’ internal affairs.

To expect Duterte to take any action on behalf of undocumented Filipinos in the U.S. reflects a lack of understanding not just of Trump’s policy but of U.S. immigration policy in general.

It is no secret, for example, that the Obama administration has a record of having deported more undocumented immigrants than any of its predecessors. Illegal immigration is an issue that has haunted every White House administration.

The sad truth is that there is nothing much that Duterte or Filipino immigration advocates can do about the uncertain future of undocumented Pinoys.

We commend the work of immigrant rights groups in the U.S., including Filipino advocacy organizations that are doing all they can to help the undocumented.

But the law is the law, and Politikal Pinoy understands that regardless of who is president, the United States has always pursued policies and actions that are not always favorable to undocumented immigrants. As a matter of fact, a U.S. Congress ruled by Republicans does not bode well for foreign nationals in pursuit of the American dream. It can only further complicate Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

The best that can be done by Duterte and immigrant rights groups is to advocate for more humanitarian policy as well as the pursuit of and adherence to due process when dealing with the undocumented community. And that is the inconvenient truth.

Two Popes, VP Leni Robredo, And Condoms

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In a previous post, Politikal Pinoy challenged Vice President Leni Robredo’s recent statement that condom distribution in public schools and health centers will only promote a “culture of promiscuity.”

We pointed out that Robredo’s assertion had no factual basis as we laid out study after study that shows condom distribution programs aimed at dealing with sexually-transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy have not increased sexual activity.

Of course, we respect Robredo’s personal opinion, especially because we know she is a devout Catholic. So let’s talk about the Catholic religion and two popes at the helm of the Catholic community.

After decades of fierce opposition to the use of all contraception, Pope Benedict, in 2010, ended the Church’s absolute ban on the use of condoms.

He said it was acceptable to use a prophylactic when the sole intention was to “reduce the risk of infection” such as HIV/AIDS.

While Benedict restated the Catholic Church’s staunch objections to contraception because it believes that it interferes with the creation of life, he argued that using a condom to preserve life and avoid death could be a responsible act – even outside marriage.

His successor, Pope Francis, has also suggested that using artificial contraception in countries afflicted with the Zika virus would be OK for women worried with how the disease is linked to rare birth defects.

Calling it a “lesser of two evils,” Francis indicated that choosing to avoid pregnancy altogether would be the better alternative to abortion.

Abortion “is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil at its root, no? It’s a human evil,” he told reporters following his six-day visit to Catholic-heavy Latin America, which is grappling with a Zika outbreak.

“On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil,” he continued. “In certain cases, as in this one (Zika), such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear.”

More recently, Pope Francis has struck a blow for “reform” within the Catholic Church by weighing in on the side of the progressives against the traditionalists in a “condom row” involving the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Both the order and the Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis had accepted the “resignation” of the order’s Grand Master, Englishman Matthew Festing, who had been involved in an internal row about the distribution of condoms.

This most recent row began last December when Festing sacked the order’s No. 2, Grand Chancellor, German Abrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, arguing that the latter had been guilty of a serious breach in that he had allowed the order’s Malteser International group to become involved in the distribution of condoms via anti-HIV and family planning programmes.

So there you go Madam Leni. Both science and religion do not back you up in your opposition to condoms.

Perhaps you should concentrate on advocating for sexual education in schools and communities, but one that is based on facts and realities, not on your misguided personal opinion — especially when you are expressing it using the pulpit of the Office of the Vice President.

Maybe, we can’t make it a religious policy, but condom distribution is a proven, good public policy.

COA Report Puts VP Leni Robredo’s Recent Statement On Disaster Relief To Shame

img_8662Politikal Pinoy, in a recent post, criticized VP Leni Robredo for her statement practically encouraging local governments in the Bicol region to seek financial aid directly from foreign sources like UNDP and EU to help with relief and rehabilitation efforts on behalf of those affected by Typhoon Nina.

Robredo all but suggested that local governments bypass the national government which has so far refrained from seeking foreign assistance because it felt that the country had the capacity and resources to deal with the calamity efforts independent of outside help.

In that post, we reminded the Vice President of the not-so-favorable record of both national and local government  units — during the time of her colleagues in the Aquino administration —  in managing foreign donations as well as relief and rehabilitation efforts for victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

Now, a newly-released report from the Commission on Audit (COA) concluded that Local government units (LGUs) and the Department of National Defense (DND) were the biggest violators of rules on the use of disaster relief funds in 2015.

According to state auditors, 22 LGUs failed to allocate at least P124.95-million funds for the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (LDRRMF).

The COA said LGUs failed to conform with Section 21 of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act of 2010, which requires that 5 percent of revenue be set aside for disaster preparedness and mitigation.

In effect, the COA report puts to shame Robredo’s assertion that LGU’s can seek foreign aid directly because it casts serious doubt on the ability of government units to effectively and transparently manage foreign aid, should any be provided by international governments and agencies.

Another Misreporting By The News Media: President Trump Didn’t Fire All U.S. Ambassadors, Certainly Not U.S. Ambassador To The Philippines Sung Kim.

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Ambassador Sung Kim

I’ve been searching all over the Internet trying to find news reports concerning President Donald Trump’s “order” that all U.S. Ambassadors — without exception —  vacate their posts as of noon of January 20, 2017, Inauguration Day.

I was particularly interested in the status of U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, who was sworn in on 11/04/2016 and who presented his credentials to President Rodrigo Duterte on 12/06/2016.  It would have been one of the shortest terms ever by a U.S. Ambassador.

Today, I attended an event for U.S. citizens living in Baguio City. Held at the Forest Lodge inside Camp John Hay, it was billed as a “Meet and Greet” with U.S. Consul General Russell J. Brown.

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Consul General Brown

During the open forum, I asked Brown to confirm if indeed Ambassador Kim has vacated his post in accordance with Trump’s “order.”  He answered in the negative and remarked that the news reports were “overblown.”

Here are the facts:

President Trump didn’t fire all U.S. ambassadors and special envoys — but Trump’s transition team indicated that no extensions would be approved for politically appointed ambassadors to remain in their posts beyond inauguration day.

Claims that Trump fired all ambassadors in a break with tradition are misleading because it’s not uncommon for all political appointees to leave their overseas posts by inauguration day while career diplomats are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Ambassador Kim, while appointed by President Obama, is a career diplomat and as such, was not covered by Trump’s directive.  He has not left his post and remains as the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines.

The United States has 170 embassies and 11 missions around the world headed by ambassadors. There are 188 U.S. ambassadors. Non-career, “politically appointed” diplomats fill about 30 percent of those positions, and career diplomats fill about 70 percent.

Kim is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor. Prior to his Philippine post, he was U.S. Ambassador to Korea.  He is the first U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines who is of Asian heritage.

Both the local and international news media were quick to cover Philippine President Duterte’s pronouncements about re-examining the Philippines’ relationship with the U.S., yet they failed to follow up on a related news issue, one that’s precisely the most important symbol of that relationship — the ambassadorship.

Once again, the news media failed us.