POSTSCRIPT / October 21, 2004 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Top brass afraid to lift lid off logistics scandal?

SLOW DRAG: At the rate the military top brass are taking their time developing a case against Army Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, the former finance chief of the armed forces would have beaten them to retirement and jumped out of the military’s fence.

It is obvious that the top brass and their confederates, caught in a quandary, are not in a hurry to subject Garcia to a court martial.

If the stench of foul logistics procurement and “conversion” (of materiel to cash) is traced to its source, no-nonsense prosecutors could catch a whole slew of generals, “mistahs” (classmates at the military academy) and well-placed civilians.

Whatever it was that Garcia did, he certainly did not do it alone.

In fact, he was right in saying under oath before the House inquiry last Monday that he was just acting on the basis of prior approval of higher authority.

It is interesting to watch how the grand coverup would be carried out. This early, we are predicting that no general and no mistah will go to jail for this case.

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SELF-INCRIMINATION: It is amazing that a top justice official, invoking jurisprudence, is saying that Garcia may not refuse to answer questions in a congressional inquiry by invoking his right against self-incrimination.

The same opinion, btw, was reportedly given by lawyer Leonard de Vera, incoming president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. I hope they were misquoted.

I’m not a lawyer, but I also read the Constitution. Its Article III (Bill of Rights) says in Section 17: “No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.”

That is clear enough for me. Any person may refuse to answer a question whose answer, especially under oath, can be used against him in a criminal procedure.

As this is a guarantee cast in iron under the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, no statute, administrative directive, rules of order, court decision ora legal opinion may revise or reverse it.

Garcia invoked this right, correctly I would say, for at least 20 times in last Monday’s inquiry in the House.

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HARBORING TNTs: Some columns back, I recalled how some US immigration officials were asking me when I was living in San Francisco about the unusual (to them) psychology of Filipinos willing to harbor overstaying friends or relatives despite their being in violation.

I tried explaining that if I were a US citizen and a friend or relative in trouble showed up, I was expected by the folks back home to help him any way I could. I added that if I did not look after him, I would never hear the end of it back in the hometown.

From home, I would hear something like I had been “Americanized” finally or that “napunta lang sa Amerika akala mo sino na siya!” (Sorry, but I won’t translate this.)

I got a wave of readers’ email on that. Half said we should not harbor law violators or illegal aliens, while the other half sustained the line that, wherever we Pinoys find ourselves, we should help one another when in trouble.

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IN TROUBLE: In Brookfield town in Wisconsin, a FilAm couple was charged the other day (Oct. 19) with harboring an illegal alien — a maid claiming that for 20 years she has not been able to leave the couple’s palatial house without an escort.

The persons facing charges were identified as physicians Jefferson and Elenora Calimlim. They live in a $1-million house in Brookfield.

The maid, Erma Martinez, said in an affidavit that the couple had agreed to pay her $100 per month from 1985 to 1995 and $400 a month thereafter.

Federal investigators are checking if the couple had sent money to the maid’s family in the Philippines over the years, as they promised. The housekeeper said she has never seen money sent.

The Calimlims were charged with one count each of harboring an illegal immigrant and conspiracy to harbor an illegal immigrant in a grand jury indictment handed down Tuesday in federal court in Milwaukee.

The maid said she is “not free to leave the home without an escort, with the exception of going to the mall.” Her employers, she added, do not allow her to date, go to the movies or socialize outside the family unless the couple finds somebody trustworthy.

She added that when she asked the Calimlims for help to return to the Philippines to visit her sick father, the couple said they would help her secure a visa but do not do it.

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CALIMLIM SIDE: A lawyer representing Jefferson Calimlim said that Martinez was not held against her will and that her wages were sent to her family in the Philippines.

“It would be a significant stretch to say that this lady could not have walked away any time she wanted to and that there weren’t innumerable times that she was totally on her own and couldn’t have walked way or said something,” the lawyer said.

He added that the maid shopped alone, walked to church alone and been left alone at home when the Calimlims were on vacation.

The lawyer said the complainant was 15 in 1985 when she moved to the US and was hired as a domestic for Elenora Calimlim’s father, also a physician. Investigators said that after Elenora’s father died, Martinez began working for the Calimlims.

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ARRAIGNMENT SET: Martinez told investigators that the Calimlims pay her small amounts that they deduct from her monthly wages sent to the Philippines through a hawala system, an informal remittance network.

The lawyer said the Calimlims consider Martinez part of their family and “want her to do whatever she wants to do and always have.” He said the couple told the maid that if she returned to the Philippines, she would be denied reentry to the US.

Justice authorities are keeping Martinez in a safehouse. The Calimlims have been released on recognizance bonds, after surrendering their passports and on condition that their travel be restricted to eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

They are scheduled to be arraigned on Monday. If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, $500,000 in fines and possible forfeiture of their house.

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CRAB MENTALITY: Another column item that reaped emotional reaction was the mention by Perry Diaz of Sacramento, California, of variations of “crab mentality” among Filipinos, specifically of FilAms working to put down compatriots trying to get ahead in America.

Without saying that this is another case of “crab mentality” at work, I am quoting part of an email of CRTandoc writing from California. He said:

“I am a newly arrived immigrant in the US. I have worked in almost all types of construction works since 1963 in different countries before coming here, an experience that I think very few people with engineering background can equal. (I graduated from UP with an engineering degree and an MBA). But when I arrived here, I found out that even people close to my family could not offer me an iota of help.

“I was in Florida last year where a member of my daughter-in-law’s family lived. They were running an employment agency for more than 10 years, but when I asked their help to introduce me to any of their contractor clients, I was given the shrug.

“I had to stay there, spent my well-earned dollars running around on my own, looking for work. I didn’t know my way around the place so I had to depend on the newspaper and the Internet. I was not even offered use of a car although I have a US driver’s license.

“I am now in California where my brother lives. His wife is a civil engineer working for the L.A. Public Works. I needed information on available engineering jobs in the area and considering the fact that she has been here for almost 30 years, I was optimistic she could help me in finding a badly needed job.

“I have the qualifications, better than most, but what do I get? She offered me a job as a custodian, a position that is a little bit better than a janitor. It’s like being slapped. Of course I took it as an affront.

“I have been always vocal about our countrymen who came here illegally (or for that reason, to any other country) because they have put the Philippines in a bad light and it affects us who follow the legal paths in acquiring residencies.

“In my two years in the US I still have to see some sort of closeness among the Filipinos, like what I had experienced when I was in Iran, or Bahrain, or even in Bangladesh. I don’t know what or why, except maybe selfishness or envy, or just simple crab mentality. I know that if I get a job I’ll be better off than them in the long run.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 21, 2004)

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