"MISUNDERSTANDING" MARS INVITATION
By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
(© 2018 Journal GlobaLinks)
CHICAGO (JGL) – Filipino American leaders Loida Nicolas Lewis and Rodel Rodis had clarified that their U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance had not authorized USPGG-Michigan's Willie
Dechavez to invite former Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada at the latter's annual general membership meeting in Sterling Heights, Michigan on May 20, 2018.
In an official statement to the media, Ms. Lewis, chair, and Mr. Rodis, president, of the national USPGG, respectively, said, “This news is erroneous. USPGG Willie Dechavez did not invite Jinggoy Estrada to speak in Michigan under USPGG nor in any program being planned by USPGG Michigan since Willie Dechavez is on vacation in the Philippines.”
Ms. Lewis said when Mr. Tony Antonio, former Provincial Editor of Manila Bulletin and former president of the National Press Club of the Philippines, asked Mr. Dechavez to invite Jinggoy, “it could only be done in his (Mr. Dechavez') personal capacity, not as chair of USPGG Michigan because he needs consultation with his group in Michigan. He (Mr. Dechavez) was unaware of Tony Antonio's (sic) news article until we emailed it to him.”
Last Monday, the Sandiganbayan in the Philippines, allowed Mr. Estrada to leave the country for one month despite a pending plunder case in connection with the multibillion-peso pork barrel fund scam.
The anti-graft court gave due course to the motion filed on March 16 by Mr. Estrada, who presented to the court a letter inviting him to attend the “annual general membership meeting to be held in Sterling, Michigan on May 20, 2018” by the USPGG-Michigan.
USPGG NATIONAL CHAIR:
ATTY. LOIDA NICOLAS LEWIS, National Chair, U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)
“MISUNDERSTANDING WITH TONY”
The letter hand-carried by Mr. Antonio to Mr. Estrada was signed by Mr. Dechavez.
Mr. Dechavez, who is now attending a high school reunion in Sorsogon City in the Philippines, clarified that when he authorized Mr. Antonio to invite Mr. Estrada, there was a “misunderstanding with Tony (Antonio). USPGG is a non political org...being a 591 c3 (sic). We are supposed to invite Jinggoy personally.”
Reached for comment, Mr. Antonio told Ms. Lewis and Mr. Rodis, “Willie and I now realize that USP4GG national should have been consulted on the matter as I understand that any activities by USP4GG chapters reflect on the image of the USP4GG national. We also now realize that it was a mistake on our part not to inform you about it. For this, I am sorry.
“As it stands now, the invitation to Mr. Estrada was done in our personal capacity. Upon the arrival of Willie here in Michigan, we will hold a board meeting to discuss the matter.
“We humbly request the USP4GG national to come out with guidelines on what the chapters can do on their own or cannot do so that similar mistakes could be avoided in the future.
USPGG NATIONAL PRESIDENT:
ATTY. RODEL RODIS, President, U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)
“Hoping for your understanding, I remain, Respectfully yours, Tony Antonio."
“MEDICAL CONSULTATION” ALSO HELPED COURT DECISION
Mr. Antonio added, in hindsight, aside from Mr. Dechavez' letter, the court might have also been swayed by Mr. Estrada plan to come to the U.S. for “medical consultation.”
In a hearing Monday morning, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division granted in open court Estrada's motion to travel to the United States from April 30 to May 30 despite the vehement objection of the Office of the Ombudsman's prosecution team.
Mr. Estrada attached in his motion an invitation letter signed by USP4GG president William Dechavez.
"Our members would like to know the latest development in the Philippines, particularly those pertaining to the issues over extrajudicial killings, Dengvaxia mess and federalism plan," the letter read.
MR. WILLIE DECHAVEZ, President, US Pinoys for Good Governance-Michigan
"We know that you are in the thick of all these developments, and we are certain you can discuss the said issues thoroughly and accurately," it added.
USP4GG is an organization of Filipinos based in the USA. The group said the event will be attended by at least 80 of is members.
Estrada also told the court that he will also have a medical consultation with an orthopedic surgeon at Stanford Hospital in connection with his recurring shoulder pains.
He said he will be accompanied by his wife Precy and their children Janella, Jolo, Julian and Jill during the trip.
In his email to Ms. Lewis and Mr. Rodis, Mr. Antonio said, “It is with deep anxiety that I am writing this letter to you regarding the issue about an invitation to former Philippine Senator Jinggoy Estrada to be the guest speaker at a USP4GG-Michigan event to be held here in Michigan on the third Saturday of May 2018.
OLD FRIEND OF SEN. JINGGOY:
MR. TONY ANTONIO, Editor, Filipino Star News-Michigan
“I would like to explain my role in this matter.
“I have known Mr. Estrada since my days at the Manila Bulletin where I had been the provincial news editor for 20 years. When he was granted bail in the plunder case filed against him, one of his close aides called me to inform me that the former senator is planning to come to the US to seek medical treatment.
“While in the US, he would like to meet Filipino-American groups to discuss issues affecting our homeland. Likewise, he would like to explain why he was incarcerated for more than three years. The aide said Mr. Estrada would appreciate it if we could invite him to come to Michigan to speak before a gathering of Filipinos.
“At that time, I liked the idea of inviting Mr. Estrada because as a journalist (editor of the Filipino Star News-Michigan), Mr. Estrada’s visit to Michigan would give me an opportunity to have a lengthy interview with him.
“As I am the PRO of the USP4GG-Michigan, I talked to Mr. Willie Dechavez about Mr. Estrada’s request. Mr. Dechavez granted the request, and so a letter for the purpose was prepared by me. I also talked to two USP4GG board members about it, and they said they see nothing wrong about the request.”
USPGG Official Press Statement
Marlon L. Pecson, Chief Coordinator/Strategist of USPGG Chicago, said, “USPGG Michigan should have been more circumspect and must have acted with extreme caution in inviting personalities. Let's always be reminded that USPGG stands for Good Governance advocacies and not for Grand Grafters.”
According to Philippine Star, Estrada said he had long promised his family, especially his son Julian, a vacation in the US after the boy graduated from high school in March 2015. Estrada was at that time still in detention over his plunder case.
The Fifth Division granted Estrada's motion despite the prosecution's objection pointing out that because the former senator failed to submit a detailed itinerary for entire the trip, thus, it would be difficult for authorities to locate his whereabouts.
Estrada is facing a plunder case and 11 counts of graft before the Fifth Division in connection with the alleged misuse of millions of pesos of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel during his term as a senator.
SEN. JOSE “JINGGOY” ESTRADA had a photo-op in his Senate office in 2005 with USPGG Chief Coordinator/Strategist Chicago Marlon L. Pecson (left) and journalist Joseph G. Lariosa (right) of philamessenger.com. (JGL Photo)
He is accused of receiving P183-million worth of kickbacks from the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles in exchange for allocating portions of his PDAF from 2004 to 2012 to the latter's bogus foundations for the supposed implementation of his livelihood projects.
The Ombudsman, which filed the cases in June 2014, said Estrada's projects turned out to be “ghost” or fictitious.