Monday, December 15, 2003

slain fil-am soldier - asian journal article

Slain Fil-Am Soldier Laid to Rest

By Momar G. Visaya

APPLE VALLEY - Lanny and Remy Davis clasped their hands and held each other during the final moments of their only son's funeral Saturday, December 13. Flanked by their daughter Lisa, the couple stared at their fallen son's silver casket as it was lowered down. It was a long moment of silence, broken only by intermittent sobs coming from family, friends and relatives who were mourning the untimely and senseless death of Richard Thomas Ong Davis.

Davis was a 25-year-old Filipino-American who served in the military and engaged in some of the worst battles in Operation Iraqi Freedom earlier this year. He fought through 25 days of continuous combat in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable.

More than a hundred relatives and friends gathered at the Sunset Hills Memorial Park to say their final farewell to the slain soldier. Sixteen soldiers from his unit, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, including his Commanding Officer, Capt. David Taylor, flew in from Georgia to pay their last respects to their comrade. They carried his flag-draped casket and fired a 21-gun salute.

"I really had a hard time accepting the news," Davis' mother Remy, a former medic at a military hospital in Washington, D.C. told the Asian Journal, while recalling those days when they first found out that Richard was missing. It was a lot harder when they were informed that police have found his decomposing body.

Spc. Richard Davis survived the war in Iraq. He did not die in combat. What he did not survive was a fellow soldier's attack on him moments after they were thrown out of a club.

Authorities say Davis was stabbed to death in Georgia by fellow soldier Alberto Martinez days after their mid-July return to the United States from Iraq. Three other soldiers - two from Texas, one from Florida - are accused of concealing Davis' death.

Investigators say the group, while celebrating their homecoming, went to a topless bar but were kicked out after Davis supposedly insulted one of the dancers. The soldiers began fighting, and Martinez allegedly pulled out a knife he used to kill Davis.

Army investigators found Davis' beaten, stabbed and charred body in a wooded area on Nov. 7.

In an earlier interview with the Associated Press, Lanny Davis, Richard's father said, "I want him remembered as a war hero, not as someone killed as part of some bar fight. He should be remembered as a hero because he earned it."

Richard did not call his parents when he made it to his home. "He wanted to surprise us,"Remy said, while telling stories on how Richard would just knock on their door and surprise everyone that he's already home.

'A Dreamer, A Creator'

News reports have said that in Missouri, he was tormented and taunted in high school because of his mixed-race appearance - his father is white, his mother Filipino. Richard Davis by most accounts found acceptance in the military.

He "was a dreamer, a creator," Army Sgt. Matthew Delisle said in eulogizing the man he served with in Iraq. "He was a man who saw things differently from the rest of us."

Case in point: During the U.S.-led march to Baghdad, Delisle said, Davis concocted an elaborate stove system to cook everything from foods to coffee. He gave away his last cigarette to a fellow soldier he thought would enjoy it more.

He often spoke of his father, a retired military policeman. To Delisle, Richard Davis was the good son and soldier, the kind of guy "who covered you on the left and on the right." And when the bullets flew and tensions flared, Delisle said, Davis had a knack for levity.

"In times of stress, he was the one you could always count on," Delisle said on a day his dead friend was awarded a commendation medal that an Army lieutenant gently placed on the closed casket.

No Bad Blood?

The alleged soldier-on-soldier slaying has put the Army on the defensive. Davis' family accuses Fort Benning of writing him off as AWOL and failing to investigate his disappearance until the fall.

And some question the investigators' conclusion that the killing was simply the result of a brawl gone bad, wondering if traumas from the battlefield led to bloodshed at home.

''All of the evidence says there was no bad blood'' between the soldiers, said Mark Shelnutt, a defense attorney for Pfc. Douglas Woodcoff, one of the accused men. ''They've all been to Iraq, they want to have a few drinks. ... You can't help but wonder. If this had happened a week before they deployed, would the result have been the same?''

Davis returned from the Middle East on July 12 from his second deployment since May 2002. His unit - 1st Battalion, 15 Infantry Regiment of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division - had spent most of the past 14 months in the region training, fighting and waiting to go home.
Davis never called his parents to tell them he was back. He had no wife or girlfriend in Columbus. So he piled in a car with four other soldiers from his company for a night out to celebrate.

They headed to the Platinum Club, a topless bar about seven miles from Fort Benning, where mirrored walls reflect women dancing around a rickety poll wearing only G-strings, high heels and various tattoos.

The soldiers had a few drinks. They got kicked out of the bar.

''It's in the evidence that Richard Davis said an inappropriate remark to one of the employees of the club, a dancer," said Lt. Steve Cox, head of major crimes for the Columbus Police Department.

Davis's fellow soldiers later told police getting bounced from the bar made them angry. They started brawling in the parking lot. They left, but kept trading punches in the back of the car.
The soldiers drove about three miles from the club before Pfc. Alberto Martinez pulled his car over by the woods next to Cooper Creek Park.

Two of the men, Pvt. Jacob Burgoyne and Pfc. Mario Navarrete, got out and continued to fight Davis with their fists. They told police that Woodcoff, the fifth soldier, watched without joining the brawl.

Davis' Last Moments

Then Martinez pulled a knife, stabbing Davis several times, Burgoyne and Navarrete told investigators.

The four soldiers left Davis' dead body, drove to a convenience store and bought lighter fluid. They came back, doused the bloodied corpse and tried to burn it. They left the body concealed in the woods.

The account of the deadly brawl came from Burgoyne, Navarrete and Woodcoff in interviews with police following their arrest Nov. 8, the day after Davis' body was found.

Cox said police don't believe the soldiers' combat experiences were a factor in the killing. ''There are murders committed every day and most murders are committed by people who know you,'' Cox said. ''We see best friends killing each other all the time - civilians, military, all walks of life.''

Davis' father doesn't buy that argument. He's not sure why his son was slain, but insists it wasn't a simple, perhaps drunken, argument.

'You don't go out and stab a guy and set his body on fire after you beat him half to death because you got kicked out of a bar,'' Lanny Davis said. ''You don't go out and kill your buddies. There was something else that happened.''

Lanny Davis didn't find out his son had come back until a soldier from Fort Benning called him in Missouri ask if his son had come home. The father replied he thought his son was still at the Baghdad airport.

Murder Indictments Sought

Lanny Davis traveled to Fort Benning a month later to ask about his son. The Army had listed him as AWOL, absent without leave, though he'd left his toothbrush and new clothes bought at the post exchange in his barracks.

Fort Benning didn't investigate Davis' disappearance until the fall, after Lanny Davis sought help from his congressman, Rep. Kenny Hulshof of Missouri.

'The unit conducted an investigation and apparently they turned up some soldiers who implicated the four,'' said Fort Benning spokesman Rich McDowell, who said the questioning took place ''shortly before the body was found.''

Col. Steven Salazar, brigade commander for the 3rd Infantry at Fort Benning, has said Thursday the Army ''followed all procedures necessary ... and even took additional measures'' to find out what happened to Davis. After discovering his death, the Army reinstated Davis for his family to be able to receive his death benefits.

But the slain soldier's father remains angry.

''I've been screaming ever since that lieutenant colonel came and told me they found my son's skeletal remains,'' Lanny Davis said. ''We don't even have the chance to see my son's face ever again.''

Investigators still aren't sure exactly what day Davis was killed, though they know it was within three days of his return. It may have been less than 24 hours after he got back, Cox said.
Burgoyne of Middleburg, Fla., Navarrete of San Juan, Texas, and Woodcoff of San Antonio, Texas - all 24 - last week had their charges reduced by a judge from murder to concealing a death, a felony. District Attorney Gray Conger said he may still seek murder indictments for all four soldiers, but declined to comment further.

Davis attended schools in Kansas, Missouri, and California. After high school, he joined the US Army training in 1998 at Fort Sill, OK for basic training and field artillery. He was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas shortly thereafter.

The young soldier continued serving his country when he was sent to war-torn Bosnia. He decided to leave the army after September 11, 2001 but rejoined three months later. He was sent to Kuwait for Operation Desert Spring in 2002 to prepare for the war in Iraq.
Born in Germany to parents who both served in the military, Richard Davis was a dedicated man in uniform. On the day of his funeral, his parents gave him one final salute. (with AP wire reports)

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Friday, November 28, 2003

indebted but happy

it's the day after thanksgiving and i'm at work. hah! not doing the usual black friday stuff.

i'm deep in debt but i am happy. i have a new iMac! yey! now i can edit stuff. probably go to press at home?


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Wednesday, September 24, 2003

california recall elections - balitang america

Candidates in California's recall election continued to court voters, in the two weeks before the reinstated October 7th recall election date, and with all legal challenges swept aside.

In Los Angeles, Filipinos believe that the federal court’s decision to reinstate the recall election is right because there is no need to further prolong the uncertainty. A number of Fil-Am voters are not afraid of being disenfranchised due to punch card voting machines, which research points to being error-prone.

Los Angeles County is one of six counties with this voting machinery, which prompted the litigation. The others are the counties of Mendocino, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Clara and Solano. These counties represent about 40 percent of the state's registered voters.

In the 2nd debate of the election, held in early September, 3 of the frontrunner replacement
candidates answered questions on issues affecting California’s minorities, including Filipino Americans.

Armed with graphs and tables, Green Party candidate Peter Camejo explained to Balitang America why California’s state budget is in the doldrums, when it should be enjoying a surplus instead.

[CAMEJO: This is at the most that could possibly be needed to maintain a balanced budget. In the history of California, a 6% compounded, this is the general fund money; this is how much money came into the state of California.//CUT HERE.]

Camejo also proposed reversing the cutbacks in services and education along with calling for higher taxes on the wealthy, who, according to him, have not been paying as much taxes as they should have been.

[CAMEJO: …this is the poorest 20% in our state. They pay the highest tax rate, 11.3. The wealthiest 1% pay the lowest tax rate, 7.2.//CUT HERE]

Gabriel Lerner, one of the event’s media panelists and the State and National news editor of La Opinion, the country’s largest Spanish-language daily newspaper, felt that there was not enough time for each and every candidate to fully expound on their answers.

[INSERT LERNER INT HERE]

Jay "Stone" Shih, anchor of China Crosstalk over KTSF says....

[INSERT JAY SHIH'S INTV]

For Balitang America, Momar G. Visaya in Los Angeles.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2003

father tanilong story - balitang america

Filipino Priest Pleads Not Guilty on Molestation Charges

A FILIPINO American priest assigned to the Parroquia De Nuestra Senora De
Guadalupe in Santa Ana, California pled not guilty during his arraignment
at the North Orange County Court last August 12.

71-year-old Father Gerardo Tanilong was arrested last July for allegedly
molesting a 15-year-old girl.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Fr. Tanilong will next appear
in court on September 19th for pre-trial and October 1st for the
preliminary hearing.

Fr. Tanilong was interviewed on July 14th at the Anaheim Police Department.
He was arrested at the conclusion of the interview for charges of child
molestation.

Fr. Tanilong was booked at the Anaheim Police Department and later
transferred to the Orange County Jail. The priest posted $50,000 bail the
next day and moved in with relatives.

The Philippine-born priest was ordained in 1962. He moved to Orange County
in 1986 and has served in various parishes. He has served at Our Lady of
Guadalupe, a largely Spanish-speaking congregation in Santa Ana, since
1999.

Reporting for Balitang America, this is Momar G. Visaya in Los Angeles.

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Thursday, August 14, 2003

lionizing trillanes?

weeks ago, some military men took over glorietta and mounted a siege. they were led by an officer named antonio trillanes.

a lot has been said about the uprising. my 2 cents' worth? they should not have done it. they should not have made a fool of themselves. oakwood? what were they even thinking?

my favorite writer jessica zafra wrote something about the putsch. i agree completely.

TWISTED
By JESSICA ZAFRA

On one hand, it's touching to see that ideals still count for something in this cynical world, and that soldiers will risk their careers and maybe their lives to denounce corruption and deceit.

On the other hand, their methods are unpardonable, their grip on reality is tenuous, and they do not have the guts to finish what they started. In standing up for their principles, they only managed to squish our economy.

Thanks to these drama queens in fatigues, no one will ever take Pinoys seriously again. I'd like to shake their hands and then kick them in the head. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!? Were you even thinking?

Here are some things the aspiring plotter should bear in mind.

1. Just because we took to the streets to overthrow governments twice before doesn't mean we'll automatically do it again, even if you are cute.

2. If your group has actually met with the President and been in the headlines for two weeks, you cannot convince people that you have no other way to air your grievances.

3. A coup d'├ętat is "the violent overthrow of an existing government by a small group." A press
conference is a meeting called for the purpose of making a statement to the media. It is not necessary to occupy a building to get reporters to show up. Sometimes a phone call and drinks will suffice.

4. Do not contradict yourselves by announcing, "This is not a coup," then declaring that you are prepared to die fighting. Press conferences do not usually have a body count.

5. If you cannot string three words together without faltering, you should probably get someone else to be the spokesman.

6. When choosing a reason to overthrow a government, make sure it is significant, compelling and fairly recent. Yes, it' s terrible that the military sells bullets to rebels (as alleged), but in the light of the other stuff we've heard and are ready to believe, it's piddling. Also, Fr. Cirilo Nacorda in Lamitan, Basilan, made those same accusations over a year ago.

7. Rumors of the impending declaration of martial law are not likely to freak out people who not only survived 14 years of it but also hear such rumors on a weekly basis.

8. Lining up and doing snappy quarter-turns before the cameras reminds people of beauty contests, and should probably be avoided during a military rebellion.

9. When you take over a hotel or a full-service apartment building, you' re supposed to take hostages, not send them away, especially if these include ambassadors of other countries.

10. Send your parents out of town so you are spared the agony and embarrassment of seeing them on TV, beseeching you to give up.

11. Of course it' s all right for guys to cry in public; we like sensitive males. However, we would
prefer that you cry after you've actually done something. Otherwise you just look like a wuss.

12. Don't say "microcosm." Just don't.

13. If you want the citizens to rally to your cause, do not alienate their affections by barring access to the mall.

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Sunday, July 06, 2003

on the friendster train

nasa friendster na ako!

my friends have been bugging me to join this new site called friendster and today, i did.

i'm looking forward to reconnecting with old friends i have not seen in ages and to make new ones in the process.

why did i not think of this? hehehe.


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Thursday, May 22, 2003

epiphanies

woke up quite early today. this is another attempt at having/maintaining a journal - something that i've been doing on and off since i was in grade school.

so what's up? i've been having some epiphanies lately but i don't think it is the right time to discuss them. :D

clay aiken lost to ruben studdard at the season finale of american idil last night. damn. we had a bet/pool in the office. i was the only one in the clay train, against four who thought that ruben was the man. oh well. there goes lunch for 4 people. bad gambler!

got an email today from an x friend. j greeted x a happy birthday. he thanked josaw and sent the reply to all of us. wala lang. still hate him. sagad to the bones.

looking forward to the long weekend. i hope it will be a blast. reno, here we come.

i have stuff to do. can't find the time to do them.

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Monday, January 27, 2003

ping lacson report - balitang america

> BALITANG AMERICA - PHONE PATCH REPORT
> MOMAR VISAYA - LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
>
> STORY: Lacson in US to Appeal Court Order
>
> Philippine Senator Panfilo Lacson stated in an interview last week that he
> is going to appeal a California court's prior ruling that had declared him
> in default of the cases filed by handcuffs supplier Blanquita Pelaez.
>
> The case, filed against Lacson before the Superior Court of California in
> Alameda County stemmed from the balance nonpayment of some 41,000 handcuffs
> ordered in 1996 by the Philippine National Police from US-based Smith and
> Wesson Company. Pelaez was the exclusive supplier. Lacson was then the
> chief of the Philippine Police.
>
> On Jan. 10th, Judge Julie Conger ordered Lacson to pay more than 3 million
> dollars in damages to Pelaez after Lacson failed, despite several
> summonses, to answer a civil suit Pelaez had filed. He now has until March
> 5th of this year to file an appeal. On that day, he is scheduled to appear
> in court to present proof of his US assets to the plaintiff and her
> lawyers. This will enable Pelaez to get the 3 million dollars that Lacson
> has not paid yet.
>
> Lacson said during the interview that revisions in the business contract
> with Pelaez made the PNP responsible for paying Philippine customs and
> duties. These were supposed to be paid by the supplier instead. he
> therefore considered the deal grossly disadvantageous to the Philippine
> government
>
> A potential presidential candidate in the 2004 elections, Sen. Lacson also
> clarified during the interview hat there is "no formal declaration" yet
> from the opposition that he will be the party¹s official standard-bearer in
> the 2004 presidential elections.
>
> While he announced as early as November last year that he will seek the
> presidency, Lacson, in the interview was a bit coy, saying that he does not
> want to sound presumptuous and that the ultimate decision to run in 2004
> rests with his political party. He added that there are talks but nothing
> is official yet.

(Full Disclosure: The preceding report was what I filed for The Filipino Channel's Balitang America when they requested me to be one of their correspondents in California. A week earlier, I had the opportunity to interview Sen. Ping Lacson exclusively for the Asian Journal. It was held at Picanha, a Brazilian restaurant in Burbank, CA. Lacson was with his lawyer Siegfred Fortun.)

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