Monthly Archives: September 2008

Ben Menor To Plead No Contest To One Charge, 2 Other Charges To Be Dismissed: Sentencing Rescheduled October 9; Charge To Be Expunged

Thank you for the prayers! What a roller-coaster ride it has been these past five years — with many lessons learned and true friendships cherished… Greg B. Macabenta, veteran journalist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Ang Panahon and Filipinas Magazine, who witnessed Ben Menor’s September 18 sentencing, wrote this special news article. To contact Greg, email him at [email protected]

Sentencing rescheduled October 9; charge to be expunged

The much-awaited verdict on the three cases filed against San Jose, California community leader, Ben Menor, which was to have been handed down on September 18, was moved back to October 9, following an agreement between the District Attorney’s Office and Menor’s counsel, Charles Hendrickson of the Public Defender’s Office, before Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Ray E. Cunningham, that Menor would plead No Contest to one charge, while the two other cases would be dismissed.

The postponement was because the Department of Probation was not prepared to present the necessary documents that would have facilitated the immediate resolution of the cases.

According to Hendrickson, in a briefing to media after the proceedings, the dismissal of two of the three cases against Menor had earlier been offered by the DA’s office on condition of payment of restitution of $46,862 and of Menor pleading No Contest to the charge of making a false statement on a financial report.

At the September 18 court appearance, Menor’s counsel informed Judge Cunningham that a payment of $51,000 had already been made to Santa Clara County by Menor, thus satisfying the first condition. Other fees and charges account for the excess payment.

Hendrickson further explained to the media that the No Contest plea would result in the charge being reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, with no jail term, and in its being immediately expunged. Based on the provisions of Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code, that would amount to a dismissal of the case.

“In effect,” said Hendrickson, “it would be as if the case were just being initiated and the defendant were to enter a plea of not guilty.”

The cases against Menor were filed by the City of San Jose based on allegations that Menor, as President and CEO of the Filipino-American Senior Opportunities Development Council and Executive Director of the Jacinto Tony Siquig Northside Community Center, had used funds and facilities of the City and of the center for unauthorized and illegal purposes, and that he had submitted false financial reports concerning payment of services rendered by the center.

One of the charges was for grand theft, allegedly because Menor had used City and center funds for the August 2002 national conference of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), a national organization of which Menor is a member. The other charge, also for grand theft, alleged that Menor had arranged for services that benefited his parents at the expense of the center.

Based on the evidence at hand, the District Attorney’s office offered to have the two grand theft cases dismissed, provided that Menor paid restitution amounting to around $14,000 for the case involving NaFFAA and around $32,000 for the case involving his parents, or a total of $46,862.

The other condition was for Menor to plead No Contest to the third case, which alleged that Menor had unlawfully over-charged the city for services rendered to the center’s clients. An uncertain reading and interpretation of the rules on charging for services may have been the reason for the agreement to reduce the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor and its immediate expunging from the court records.

The Jacinto Tony Siquig Northside Community Center, on North 6th Street in San Jose, is a 16,500 square ft. facility consisting of the center itself and an apartment for senior housing. It serves all ethnicities, although up to 80 percent of beneficiaries are of Filipino descent.

Menor led the efforts to raise the money – totaling $8 million for the center and $17 million for the senior housing – from grants from the City of San Jose, Santa Clara County, the state of California and other sources, including funds made possible by the Community Reinvestment Act. Construction of the facility began in 2001. It was inaugurated in 2003.

Menor had been connected with the Filipino-American Senior Opportunities Development Council since 1993. He left in 2006 when the charges against him were filed.


Sanny Leviste (from honors Yosemite Valley

Updates on May 19, 2011:

Thank you, Robbie Fabian, for introducing me to Sanny Leviste. He has truly been like a slightly-older brother who keeps me on my toes with his intellectually-stimulating activities and sense of humor (he’s become my favorite pun-ologist, someone who likes to pun). From being a champion of the fisher-folk and environmental concerns to dabbling in politics (yeah, Mario Leviste did run for the Philippine Senate, and at that time, he was the youngest to do so), Sanny doesn’t miss a beat working both his left and right brains in his purpose-driven life. La Salle and Ateneo found a brother who chose not to engage in traditional college rivalry. Although he focuses on programs at Heartbridge International Foundation, Sanny finds the time to appreciate nature through his photography. I have many of his nature shots on file, with permission to use them whenever I need them. Recently, he used infrared photography to record his journey to Yosemite Valley. So, here it is.


Philippine Coral Reef Exhibit Opens At The New California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco

The staff members at the Philippine Consul General’s Office in San Francisco are very good in making sure that the Filipino American media is updated with consulate-supported events and activities. Consul General Marciano Paynor (an adopted son of Cebu) wanted to be sure I would be at one of the latest media briefings but I am so sorry, Amba, I was stuck somewhere in San Jose, wilting under the Indian Summer’s rays of the sun, yet engaged in an interesting conversation with Jasjeet Singh of World Sikh News and Amritsar Times… Surely, as a community publicist (ok, a volunteer community publicist who takes the time to promote non-profit projects that make the Filipino community proud, yehey!), I would keep hearing about really awesome undertakings that we have been waiting for in the past three years — or so.

Yesterday, I received an email from an old friend.

Hi Lorna!!

How have you been?? Hope all is well with you and your family. Im writing you from Manila. You must have heard about the soon-to-open new California Academy of Science at the Golden Gate Park featuring the Philippine Coral Reef as its permanent exhibit. Malou Babilonia heads the Filam Focus Group which supports it and Im in the Steering Committee with Tita M, Voltaire Guingab, Susan Po- Rufino, Nenuca Ortigas and others. Would you please help us spread the word about this great Philippine pride by forwarding these articles to your million and one Filam contacts and the movers and shakers from the East Coast to the West? Let me know of your great help so I can update Malou and the Focus group about your valued assistance which will surely make a lot of difference. Will forward you succeeding press releases as well. Can I count on you, my dear Lorna?
Thanks and best regards!! Celia

Celia C. Cuasay

So, Celia, here it is… Let’s start with a press release that you sent me. I can’t wait to see the wonderful photos!


SAN FRANCISCO — The world’s deepest living coral reef exhibit opens at the new California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park on September 27, 2008. The Philippine Coral Reef Exhibit, in a 212,000-gallon aquarium tank, will be home to a variety of soft and hard corals, black-tipped reef sharks, rays, and more than 4,000 reef fishes that are native to the Philippines. Visitors will be able to view the reef and its inhabitants from the surface as well as from five different underwater windows.

The Academy chose to feature a Philippine coral reef because the reef systems in the Philippines are among the most diverse in the world. Despite their global importance, most people on the planet have never seen a living reef. With the opening of the new Academy building, over a million visitors a year will be able to experience the splendor of a living Philippine coral reef and learn what they can do to help save coral reefs around the world.

With a 40-year history of research in the Philippines, resulting in the discovery of dozens of new animal species and publication of a comprehensive guidebook to Indo-Pacific invertebrates, the Academy is partnering with local education and conservation groups, such as Pusod, a non-governmental organization based in the Philippines and Berkeley, whose mission is to preserve and enhance the ecosystems of the Philippines and show their significance to the world.

Both organizations are committed to scientific, educational, and outreach efforts regarding the coral reefs of the Philippines. These efforts will be targeted toward the Filipino community in the Bay Area and abroad, fostering their appreciation for and personal connection to one of the world’s critical biodiversity hotspots.

According to Dr. Terry Gosliner, Senior Curator at the Academy, “Our goal to reach a broad and diverse audience is the reason we have this wonderful evolution of interaction with Pusod and the Filipino community.”

The Academy and Pusod have organized a group of San Francisco Bay Area Filipino Americans to generate interest and excitement about the exhibit, and to get the Filipino community involved. The group, Reaching out through Environmental Education to Filipinos (REEF), has a marketing team that has been aggressively promoting the exhibit to different sectors of the Filipino community. Recently, it participated in the Pistahan parade in San Francisco with a marine-themed float.

Dr. Meg Burke, the Academy’s Director of Education, comments that it is wonderful how the Filipino community has been so cooperative and excited about the Philippine Coral Reef Exhibit. She says she is overwhelmed by how much support the Academy has received from the Filipino community in making the exhibit a spectacular possibility.

“Because the Philippines has more marine biodiversity than anywhere else in the world,” says Malou Babilonia, Pusod Founder and Trustee, “the Filipino community needs to take action in any way to protect, preserve and enhance our marine environments. It is so important that Filipinos everywhere immerse themselves in the Philippine Coral Reef Exhibit at the Academy.”

For information:
Send inquiries to: [email protected]