When I was a wee slip of a lad, I remember Imelda Marcos coming to New York on an antiques-buying trip with her entourage, carrying bags full of cash, and looking to me like she was somebody's down-at-the-heels maid. This would have been in 1980-81, and what a flurry her arrival caused downtown!
I also remember Albert Nestle on 57th Street refusing to open his door to her. He explained to me afterward that he just found it over the top. I didn't understand him then, but boy do I now. Albert wasn't concerned with the IRS so much as with the CIA, and he wanted nothing to do with that dark and nefarious world. Plus, Nestle Inc. didn't need her---he was doing fine in the beautiful, wide exoteric world, brilliantly lit by the pricey chandeliers, sconces and torchiers he specialized in. And, I'm sure, he paid his share of taxes.
Talent; and integrity. I hadn't thought of Albert for a very long while, but that's what he mentored to me and that's what matters now. God bless him and men of his caliber.
December 21, 2000, Filipino Reporter, Aide asks German mag for ransom proof,
An irate presidential adviser Robert Aventajado dared Sunday the German magazine Der Spiegel to substantiate its charges that he and President Joseph Estrada pocketed about $6 million in ransom payments to the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf earlier this year.
This developed as former President Fidel Ramos urged the government to investigate the allegations, which he described as "very serious."
Andreas Lorenz, an editor of Der Spiegel, was among local and foreign journalists abducted by the Abu Sayyaf terrorists while covering the six-month hostage drama in Jolo, Sulu earlier this year.
Aventajado, who acted as chief government negotiator with the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers, angrily denied the accusations. "These are all lies. I have never received any money (from the ransom payments), much less the President. They have to bring out whatever evidence they have."
Quoting the German secret police, Der Spiegel in its issue released Monday claimed that Mr. Estrada and Aventajado took 40 percent and 10 percent, respectively, from a $20-million ransom payment for the freedom of certain hostages of the Abu Sayyaf.
The German weekly said the secret police obtained the information by tapping satellite telephone conversations between Aventajado and the kidnappers.
"I flatly deny it and I guess I can also speak for the President since I was the chief negotiator," Aventajado said as he noted it was timed for the start of the impeachment trial against Mr. Estrada.
"If it were true there were taped conversations, then I should be given a medal because they could listen to the sacrifices I've made," Aventajado said.
He also tried to turn the tables on the Germans by saying the German secret police planned to abduct Renate Wallert, one of the 10 foreigners snatched by Abu Sayyaf gunmen from a resort in Sipadan, Malaysia last April 20, from the negotiators' custody and demand ransom from their own government.
Aventajado said upon receiving the report, he ordered a tight security for Wallert to foil the kidnap plot.
He also said it was possible that a Filipino journalist related to a ranking member of the Makati Business Club was behind Der Spiegel's allegations.
He said he has been consulting with his lawyers on the possibility of filing libel charges against the German magazine.
Press Secretary Ricardo Puno Jr. said the Palace stands by Aventajado's denial even as he noted that Der Spiegel's accusations were vague.
"Let's see first if someone is coming out and make this specific accusation if the money was really paid. This could again later be denied," Puno said.
Meanwhile, Ramos said his sources in Jolo have told him dollars were awash in the island shortly after the foreign hostages were freed, but government authorities repeatedly denied ransoms were paid.
Ramos, who has joined mounting calls for Mr. Estrada to step down, said European and German law enforcement agencies were generally very "conservative and cautious" about making such statements, and for them to be attributed as the source makes the allegations very serious.
"Somebody must come clean about this from within the Philippines," Ramos said in an interview with ABS-CBN.
Abu Sayyaf gunmen snatched 21 Asian and European hostages in April from the Malaysian resort island of Sipadan.
The kidnappers, led by Ghalib Andang alias Commander Robot, reportedly raked in millions of dollars for the release of the captives.
More people were seized later including a handful of journalists covering the drama, prompting the military to launch an all-out rescue operation to end the hostage crisis which lasted six months.
The assault resulted in the safe recovery of 12 Filipino preachers headed by evangelist Wilde Almeda of the Jesus Miracle Crusade.
An American Muslim convert and a Filipino dive instructor remain in the hands of the bandits.
Batangas Rep. Ralph Recto said the country's image as a "pariah, among international investors" would be boosted if Mr. Estrada failed to credibly refute the German magazine's accusation.
"This certainly adds fuel to the fire. In the scandal meter, this is ten times bigger than the bribery and corruption charges the President is facing in the impeachment trial," Recto said in a statement.
The Batangas Congressman, who bolted the ruling Laban ng Masang Pilipino following charges that Mr. Estrada received more than P400 million in bribes from illegal gambling operators, said the new scandal "will not only hurt the country's already battered image, but its battered economy as well."
"The Philippines will not only suffer a black eye from these charges. Its whole body will be black and blue," Recto said.
Now read the following. If the Masons were the drum majors and the Jews wrote the marching song, who do you think manned the field in the 9/11 mega-ritual? I've long been aware of the role fundamentalist Christianity played, but here, in the year leading up to our date with destiny, we see the full push of their agenda, with a flowering of an underlying diabolical ethic, meant to frame and destroy a fellow child of Abraham, so evil, so corrupt, and so base, that I sit in awe at its revelation. This story of the dreaded Islamist "Abu Sayyaf" movement in the Philippines, and its supposed connection with our faux-universal enemy Al Quaida, is so contrived, so blown up out of hot CIA air, and so foul in its every aspect and particular, we needn't debate who will get a trouncing at the hands of these profoundly stupid "Christian," misfits.
October 16, 2000, Newsweek International, Praying for Miracles.(Jesus Miracle Crusade), by Mahlon Meyer,
It is nearly midnight in a crumbling, open-air stadium on the outskirts of Manila. But the thousands of worshipers packed in for an all-night prayer rally held by the Jesus Miracle Crusade are just getting started. They raise their arms, palms outward, as if to receive divine energy. On the pulpit, in the center of the arena, a stringy-haired woman tells how she was cured of cervical cancer and near-blindness through prayer. She then bursts into tears and cries out, "Hallelujah!" A tall, gawky man in a checked shirt with glasses steps forward next. He suffered from kidney disease, hypertension and Bell's palsy. "Half my face was paralyzed," he says. One of his sons was suicidal, but after praying with the Evangelical Jesus Miracle Crusade, he says, everything was cured "immediately." A band starts up under a tent. "We have a complete set of instruments," Brother Raf Blanco, a 39-year-old preacher enlightened 17 years ago, says triumphantly. "They are a very strong weapon."
Musical instruments and prayer aren't the only weapons the Jesus Miracle Crusade has at its disposal. With a nightly television show boasting millions of viewers, 100,000 tithe-paying members in Manila alone and a growing public profile, the Jesus Miracle Crusade is gaining strength in the Philippines. And not just for healing the infirm. Despite its fervent devotion to prayer, the Crusade is sometimes overtly political. So are other groups like it. El Shaddai, a nationwide evangelical movement, supported Joseph Estrada during his campaign for president.
The Jesus Miracle Crusade got caught up in the prolonged hostage crisis on the southern island of Jolo. Eleven Crusade members--including the group's charismatic leader, a 55-year-old faith healer named Pastor Wilde E. Almeda--were captured by the Abu Sayyaf bandits.
Last week one of the Crusade's "prayer warriors" escaped and told Army soldiers where he and the others had been held. A subsequent military rescue mission freed all of them. (Five people remain in captivity somewhere in the jungle of Jolo: an American, a Filipino and three Malaysians.) Almeda suffered a stroke during his captivity, but last week he shared the spotlight with Estrada at a press conference. Almeda lay partially paralyzed, and had trouble speaking. But he didn't need to. Estrada proclaimed, "This rescue shows the strong power of prayer."
Faith and prayer are nothing new in the Philippines. But the evangelical movement attracts an especially zealous group of followers. Many come from the province of Mindanao, where the Crusade was founded in 1975. At one of the organization's camps in Zamboanga City, plywood shacks patched with plastic tarps sit next to a dirt square. Wives and children stand talking under a tree. Above a stage, the word Jesus is written in bold letters.
What's it all about? "The most common theory for the rise of such groups is that they administer to the real needs of an economically deprived population," says Randy David, a sociology professor at the University of the Philippines. "It's the desire for a better life." Almeda's 28 year-old daughter, Anna, agrees. A gospel singer, she's married to an American minister at a faith-healing church in Indiana. The miracles she witnesses in his U.S. church, she says, are less extraordinary than the ones in the Philippines. "Asians are more apt to believe miracles than Caucasians," she says. "Americans have easy access to medical [centers]. They can go to hospitals if they get sick."
Until recently, the Jesus Miracle Crusade was known to outsiders primarily for its strident anti-communist stance. In 1998 Almeda condemned President Estrada for his womanizing reputation and supported his opponent in the election. The international hostage crisis has brought the group its greatest publicity yet. While being held by the bandits, Almeda agreed to dispatch one of the Crusade hostages on a secret mission to Manila. The idea was to sidestep government negotiators, who had refused to meet Abu Sayyaf demands for money, and win the hostages' release. Brother Danny Cuarteros, 33, got a wary reaction at Western embassies, but on a second trip he found a receptive audience at the Libyan Embassy. Libya paid about $10 million, and the bandits released 10 hostages. But the Jesus Miracle Crusade may have been exploited; immediately after the deal was brokered, Abu Sayyaf went out and grabbed a few more hostages.
Don't tell that to the believers. They insist that the group's intentions were good--and now that the Crusade hostages are safe, they are in a joyous mood. Brother Blanco calls Almeda's rescue "the greatest moment of my life." He says his "beloved pastor" cured him of homosexual urges--and arranged for him to marry a matronly church worker. He now preaches to the congregation with a newfound fervor. Will there be more converts? He expects so, after Almeda regains his health and starts testifying about his jungle ordeal.
November 21, 2000, Manila Bulletin, Jesus Miracle Crusade backs Erap, by Genalyn D. Kabiling,
Jesus Miracle Crusade (JMC) evangelist Bro. Wilde Almeda pledged support for President Estrada in a prayer rally Sunday at the Luneta in his first public appearance since his release from Abu Sayyaf captivity in Jolo.
Almeda, who just recovered from a stroke, called on JMC followers to rally behind President Estrada.
Citing Bible passages, Almeda said the President is in need of people's support, especially with the upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate.
Almeda assured Estrada that he is "100 percent" behind the Chief Executive.
He urged the opposition groups, including Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, to stop agitating people to fight the government, and calling for the resignation of Estrada.
He called for sobriety among Filipinos and urged them to let the constitutional process take its course.
Although President Estrada failed to make it to the rally, Flagship Projects Secretary Robert Aventajado attended the rally.
Known as a supporter of former presidential candidate Jose de Venecia in the 1998 elections, Almeda has become an ally of Estrada since he and his 11 "prayer warriors" were rescued by the military from the Abu Sayyaf.
During the rally, JMC Assistant Pastor Lina Almeda, wife of Wilde, commended the 12 prayer warriors who risked their lives in spreading the word of God in Sulu.
The JMC flock celebrated the success of the spiritual mission of the prayer warriors which involved prayer and fasting for 40 days for the safety of the foreign and local hostages.
Almeda also urged his flock to continue to pray for peace and an end to the political and economic crisis in the country.
"God is with us. Do not be afraid," Almeda said.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday said the collapse of the economy will bring down President Estrada.
"I think it is not so much any peaceful, legal process that will bring down President Estrada and force him to resign, but the economic crisis that began long before 'juetenggate' will pull him down. Because it is either the economy of the country or the personal interest of the President," CBCP President and Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo said.
In the CBCP's weekly radio program over Radio Veritas, Quevedo said in the long run, when the economy is down, the President himself would have to realize that he has to step down.
"The reason is that the blame of the downfall of the economy is placed without question on the President himself, on his governing style, on cronyism," Quevedo added.
The CBCP president believes that another President will surely bring back or restore confidence to the country. (GDK)
The El Shaddai Catholic Charismatic Movement yesterday denied the accusations of the Catholic Church that they have been engaging in partisan politics, particularly in openly supporting President Estrada.
"We are not pro-Erap. We are just supporting the Philippine Constitution," Fr. Anton Pascual, spiritual director of the eight-million strong El Shaddai group, said in an interview.
"It does not mean that when we are supporting the Constitution, we are already pro-Erap," Pascual clarified.
El Shaddai leader Bro. Mike Velarde, who has publicly supported Estrada despite the contrary stand of the Catholic Church, has urged his flock to respect the Constitutional process in the wake of the political and economic crisis in the country.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday warned Velarde for being allegedly involved in partisan politics.
"I understand that among the leaders of the El Shaddai group, there is a serious questioning of the partisan position of their overall leader, Bro. Mike (Velarde)," CBCP President and Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo said in an interview.
The Archdiocese of Manila has already sent questions seeking Velarde's explanations with regard to his alleged involvement in partisan politics.
Quevedo said the sanctions to be imposed by the Church hierarchy will depend on the explanations given by Velarde, also the spiritual adviser of President Estrada.
He claimed that in the different dioceses, the El Shaddai groups closely follow the position of their priests and bishops regarding the present crisis.