POSTSCRIPT / December 14, 2004 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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FPJ as instrument of peace and unity

COMMUNAL SPIRIT: It is sad that the condition of former presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr., who sank into a coma after suffering a stroke Saturday night, is being used by some politicians to fan partisan fervor.

Let us not miss this golden opportunity to use the popular actor as an instrument of peace and unity.

With everybody on both sides of the fence paying vigil and praying for Ronnie Poe’s recovery, we see one of those rare moments when disparate elements of the nation are brought together to face in the same direction with one unifying thought.

Stoking partisan emotions serves no useful purpose. It detracts from the communal spirit of the moment.

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RUTTED ROADS: Either the government has run out of money two weeks before the end of the (fiscal) year, or all funds have been diverted to the Aurora-Quezon calamity area, or the authorities have run out of political will.

These are the possible explanations I can see for the continued failure of the local and national governments to repair the badly rutted streets in the national capital.

Normally, as soon as the rains stop, repair crews would roll out to plaster those gaping holes with hot asphalt — a band-aid remedy for the eternal problem of substandard roads being washed away with every prolonged downpour.

But it has been more than three weeks since the rains stopped and the ruts are still there, getting deeper and wider as thousands of vehicles continue to roll over them in relentless punishment.

There another possible reason: Some officials responsible for road maintenance might be owners of auto repair shops rebuilding vehicles that have fallen apart while bumping around the potholes of Metro Manila streets.

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CHRISTMAS CHEER: In late November on to December, work gangs would normally be seen all over the place puttering with all sorts of rush projects.

The easiest project is repairing roads, especially the main thoroughfares. Contractors dig up even the roads still in perfect condition and repave them — in a mad scramble to use up whatever unspent funds there are.

At the end of the fiscal year, all unspent funds go back to the national treasury, so officials make it a point to use them all up.

Any department that does not spend all its funds is likely to get a budget cut for the following year. By not showing a zero balance at the end of the fiscal year, a department is seen as having been given excessive funding.

The December work frenzy is double purpose: To spend all the money budgeted, and to spread Christmas cheer.

The spirit of Christmas in the air is infectious. Contractor friends getting a yearend windfall turn extra generous with their friends in government who had helped them corner those easy contracts.

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TRANSSEXUAL PINAY: There is this interesting case of a Filipino immigrant who (1) had a sex-change surgery in 1981 in Colorado to become a woman, (2) got naturalized as an American in 1987, (3) brought in to the US her fiancé in April 2001, (4) married her fiancé in Nevada in November 2001 — in that sequence spanning almost 24 years.

After Donita (born Celedonio in Batan) Ganzon married her fiancé Jiffy Javellana (from Negros Occidental), the husband asked the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to grant him lawful resident status as husband of a citizen.

The CIS rejected Javellana’s application, withdrew the work permit it had earlier issued to him, and initiated deportation proceedings against him.

Reason given for such rejection was that the US government, particularly the CIS, does not recognize the transgender marriage as a matter of policy. If the marriage is not officially recognized, Javellana’s petition for permanent resident status will have no basis.

The couple sued in federal court in California last Nov. 29, asking that the CIS be ordered to recognize their marriage.

The precedent-setting case is being watched not only by the Filipino community, but also by proponents of same-sex marriage.

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C.I.S. IN ESTOPPEL: Being a non-American and a non-lawyer, I might be speaking out of turn, but I cannot help commenting on this interesting case.

I noticed, for instance, that Donita Ganzon has been truthful and transparent in all her official dealings with the immigration service and other US offices.

It has not been shown that she hid some vital information about herself and her husband, or that she lied or had committed fraud.

Having been apprised of Ganzon’s sex-change surgery and having recognized her declared (female) sex when she applied for naturalization and when she later filed a petition for her fiancé, the CIS cannot now say rather belatedly that it did not know or recognize her sex.

Since the CIS has recognized her being female, it is now estopped from saying it cannot recognize her marriage to Javellana on the basis alone of her having changed her sex to female (in a prior surgery that the CIS knew about and recognized all along).

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BACKGROUND: Donita was born Celedonio Secusana Ganzon on July 24, 1946, in Bataan. He had a sex change surgery on Jan. 7, 1981, by Dr. Stanley Biber at Mt. San Rafael Hospital in Trinidad, Colorado. That was almost 24 years ago.

When Ganzon, a registered nurse, was naturalized on July 21, 1987, her new sex (female) was openly declared by her and recognized by the CIS, which issued her a naturalization certificate.

As Donita, she petitioned the CIS on April 5, 2001, to have her fiancé, Jiffy Javellana, enter the US to join her. The petition was approved. (Javellana was born Nov. 9, 1977, in Negros Occidental.)

They were married Nov. 21, 2001, in Clark County, Nevada, one of many states that afford a judicial procedure for legal recognition of a change of sex. Javellana then applied with the CIS for permanent resident status as the husband of a citizen.

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REJECTION EXPLAINED: The Department of Homeland Security, which is on top of the CIS, explained the rejection in a letter to Javenella.

“Currently, no federal statute or regulation addresses specifically the question whether someone born a man or a woman can surgically change his or her sex,” it said.

The department cited an internal memorandum dated April 16, 2004, that said current policy “disallows recognition of change of sex in order for a marriage between two persons born of the same sex to be considered bona fide… .”

To support its position, the DHS invoked the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage for federal purposes as between a man and a woman.

Philip Abramowitz, the couple’s lawyer, said of Javenella and his case: “He’s in limbo, he has no alternative at all. He has no work permit and he lost his job last month because of that. Everything else was fine — she was a US citizen and the marriage was validly entered into.”

Another lawyer, Alphonso David, said: “I’m not aware of other cases where the INS (now CIS) is interpreting or disregarding someone’s sex reassignment. It’s a little problematic because they’re saying that someone who has been living as a woman for 24 years now will be treated as a male.”

David said the rejection also raises a conflict between state and federal law, because California is one of about 25 states that reissue birth certificates to transsexuals after sex change operations and legally recognize them as their new gender.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 14, 2004)

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