Telltale Signs: The Blacklist Controversy

by Rodel Rodis on November 29, 2004

Three SF State professors barred from Philippine President’s recent appearance at USF

Did the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco draw up a “black list” of local Filipinos who were to be barred from attending the November 18 University of San Francisco (USF) convocation conferring an honorary doctorate on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA)? The charge that the Philippine Consulate maintained such a “black list” first appeared in the Philippine News column of Emil Guillermo last week (“Scholars from USF Ceremony”, Amok, November 17, 2004) where Guillermo claimed that three San Francisco State University professors were placed on a “barred roster” to prevent them from disrupting the USF convocation.

“I’ve learned that the list was put together by the Philippine Consulate with the help of the Philippine Secret Service, which feared the group’s agitation against GMA,” Guillermo wrote, basing his information on a reliable anonymous “tipster”. Dr. Dawn Mabalon, one of the professors on the “barred roster” referred to by Guillermo, issued a press statement claiming that she and two other professors were “disinvited” from the convocation because they were on “a list given to [the Philippine Consul] by the Philippine secret service.”

The Critical Filipina and Filipino Studies Collective, a group of Filipino American instructors and students, declared in a press statement that Dr. Mabalon’s account led them to believe that “the blacklist was prepared by a U.S. government agency and was submitted to the Philippine representatives.” In a November 17, 2004 statement, Dr. Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, assistant professor of Asian American Studies at SF State and one of the “barred” professors, recounted that she had accepted an invitation to attend the USF ceremony and was informed that the tickets would be “procured for her by a USF colleague”, who was later identified as Ms. Lorraine Mallare, an instructor in the Philippine Studies Program at USF.

Tickets to the USF convocation were divided between USF and the Philippine Consulate with USF being allocated 1,150 and the balance of 650 provided to the Consulate. On Wednesday, November 10, Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales reported that she was informed by Ms. Mallare that the Philippine Consulate had requested that her tickets be returned because she had been “identified”, along with San Francisco State University professors Danilo Begonia and Dr. Dawn B. Mabalon, as among those who might disrupt the convocation.

Dr. Titiangco-Cubales then informed Dr. Mabalon, who called the Philippine Consulate and spoke with Vice Consul Anthony Mandap on Friday, November 12. Dr. Mabalon claimed that “Vice Consul Mandap admitted that the Consulate had concerns about SF State faculty and students, and told her that the Consulate had received information from anonymous sources at USF” that SF State professors and students were intending to rally against President Macapagal-Arroyo.

In a telephone conversation, Vice Consul Mandap told me that he spoke candidly and truthfully with Dr. Mabalon, confirming Ms. Mallare’s account that there indeed was a meeting at USF with USF officials and representatives of the U.S. Secret Service to discuss security concerns regarding the visit of President Macapagal-Arroyo. (“Contrary to Emil Guillermo’s claim, there’s no such entity as the Philippine Secret Service,” Mandap said.) At that USF meeting, according to Mandap, USF officials expressed concern that a group of students from San Francisco State would cause a disruption at the USF convocation.

The Consulate, Mandap said, advised USF officials that it was “not a problem” as there were sufficient safeguards in the ticket guidelines to discourage any planned disruption. “We told them that we can’t believe any Filipino would cause a disruption in a church which was where the convocation was scheduled to be held,” the Vice Consul explained. Vice Consul Mandap assured Dr. Mabalon that “there is no list of barred professors and students” but she refused to believe him. In her statement, Dr. Mabalon speculated that the Vice Consul’s denial was based on “possibly fearing the kind of public backlash a list of this kind would elicit.”

Vice Consul Mandap disputed the group’s statement that he had asked them to return tickets that had been given to them. “We ran out of tickets when Ms. Mallare asked us for additional tickets so they never got any tickets,” he said. Though the Consulate’s tickets had already been distributed, Vice-Consul Mandap claimed that he still offered to obtain tickets for Dr. Mabalon and her colleagues. He said his offer was rejected by Dr. Mabalon who demanded that the Consulate issue a “formal public apology” to her and to her fellow professors.

In their press statement, the San Francisco State professors charged that the Consulate’s action “is a slap in the face to all of us who are community advocates, educators, and professionals* This exclusion from the event is not only embarrassing, it could also cause unreasonable risk of harm to our professional careers, personal reputations and work in the community.” Vice Consul Mandap contacted Ms. Mallare at USF to investigate the “black list” charge. Ms. Mallare denied that she ever used the term “black list” but did acknowledge that she told Dr. Titiangco-Cubales that she was “identified” as a potential disruptor. In a telephone conversation, Ms. Mallare told me that she had used up her USF allocation of tickets so she could not provide tickets to Dr. Titiangco-Cubales and other instructors at SF State who requested tickets from her. When she contacted the Consulate to ask for tickets to accommodate their request, she was informed that the Consulate had also run out of their allocated tickets.

“I never gave Dr. Titiangco-Cubales any tickets so I don’t know how she could declare in her statement that she was asked to return the tickets and that she returned them when she never had them in the first place” she said. Though Philippine Consulate officials steadfastly maintain that they did not draw up a “barred roster”, the Philippine government of President Macapagal-Arroyo has been hammered in the press and in the Internet by critics of her government. “She’s doing political profiling, just like Marcos did during martial law,” charged Jay Mendoza, the National Coordinator of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON). “She wants to silence any perceived voices of opposition*It reveals to the American public the dark side of Arroyo—a side of her well known in the Philippines, but not so well known here.”

I asked Vice Consul Mandap why the Philippine Consulate wasn’t taking a more pro-active stance to explain its position and to clarify the fact that it does not have a black list. Vice Consul Mandap replied that they are doing what they can to clear up the misunderstanding. “But we recognize that to those who doubt us, no explanation will be sufficient. To those who know us, no explanation may be necessary,” he said.

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